A yoga pose for our times

I am at a loss for words. Reading so many friends posts about the bushfires in Australia I notice that some feel guilty. Guilty that they are okay, living in relative comfort while others are suffering so much. Finding it hard to promote their 2020 offerings because who is thinking about that anyway?

I feel the same. That’s why I am grappling with “what next”. One thing I know for sure, the healing benefits of yoga, which by the way are free, work.

Breath, body, mind are free to use as we wish. Our hearts are also free. No one has taken our hearts hostage. It is the incredible outpouring of support and compassion which makes sense when nothing else does.

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I’m addicted, dumbfounded and political. Addicted to following what’s happening with a crazy cartoon president. Dumbfounded by our Australian Prime minister whom I’m convinced believes he’ll be saved while the world crumbles. And yes, even though experts might try to convince me that’s it’s bad for my brand to be political and take a stand. Screw that!

I am not happy with the state of things, period!

How do I cope with frustration and feelings of helplessness? My daily yoga practice. It helps to suspend the negativity, the constant identification with the thoughts and stress. Ultimately the practice reminds me, I am not this, not that. But the one in whose presence this and that takes place. It’s not about becoming the witness. It’s about knowing that the feelings of calm and peace are the natural state of every human being. Yoga gives me this insight. Day after day.

Today I want to share with you one simple yoga pose, which has helped me in so many ways. It’s from the Yin Yoga tradition. It’s called Saddle pose and it calms the nervous system. Opens the chest facilitating better breathing and also increases circulation into the legs and feet while stimulating specific energy pathways that link to the stomach and spleen. It also opens and frees the Psoas. If you have tight or muscular thighs or knee issues, this pose might be challenging. There are variations, which I will share in the video below.

Holding this pose for 10 to 15 minutes is a game changer. I can’t even begin to describe how it has helped me in all aspects of my diabetes management. After a long hold I sleep better, digest better and just plain FEEL better.

I hope you’ll join me in this short video tutorial.

With great respect…

rachel

Learning to colour outside the lines

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Yesterday we went for another delicious walk along our wild coastline to a pristine river. This time I was prepared for the inevitable hypo. It paid off. I hypo’d, downed 3 glucose gummies and in 10 minutes was back on track. It was deeply satisfying to know I handled the whole thing without freaking out.

It was in bed this morning having a D & M ( deep and meaningful) with my husband that I realised that managing diabetes is like trying to get good grades. As a kid I worked hard to get an A. I was more of a B+ kind of student but I knew that if I studied hard and went that extra mile I could do better. I liked the feeling of mastering the challenge. It meant getting my head around tricky hard to understand subjects and being rewarded for my effort.

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When I go off track in my diabetes management it’s not that it’s the end of the world, or that I won’t survive, its more that the goal I set for myself of staying in range is challenged. Taking my basal shot an hour later, or eating my dinner late, these things won’t make me sick, but they’ll change the landscape of the days to come. Questions like; will I need more or less insulin to manage the change in routine, how will my energy levels be, what should I eat? Things people without diabetes don’t even have to consider. It’s the mental energy needed to dissect the situation that can be frustrating and confusing.

It’s easier just to stick to my routine and forget about it.

Life however needs to be lived in full colour. 2020 for me is all about pushing the edges of my own ideas about management. These long nature hikes are part of it. As is experimenting with when to dose. I’ve taken to dosing at the start of a higher carb meal (I used to dose at the end of the meal) and am seeing less of a post meal spike (duh) and also seeing a flatter line up until my next meal. I may not have as good an A1c as I did mid 2019, but I am seeing flatter lines, less spikes and better overall control.

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Learning to colour outside the lines isn’t one of my strong points when it comes to living with diabetes, but I’m giving it my best. When friends and family are along for the ride I am learning that rather than expecting them to understand what I am going though it’s up to me to understand how I react and respond to my situation. If I’m cool with stopping mid walk to treat my hypo than naturally everyone else will be too. My tendency is to feel like my condition puts out other people’s plans. It’s a myth I’m determined to bust.

As I head into my 12th year with diabetes my New Years resolutions are simple. Try new approaches to management, do things that push the boundaries and most importantly put myself first.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year

With great respect…

rachel

P.s these were the gummies I downed on my walk. So easy and quick, better than glucose tabs overall and actually yummy with no artificial flavours or colours or preservatives. Highly recommend them!

 

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation

Yesterday was the start of my holiday. Piercing blue sky, slight breeze, the swell of the ocean and a day planned walking through the forest to a remote and pristine river. I was excited and frickin scared. I packed my backpack to overflowing with glucose tabs, insulin, lunch, phone fully charged, an extra and accurate blood testing meter and rescue remedy. My husband would have to carry my bathing suit, sarong and water bottle.

I love walking and I do it every day. 20 minutes hits the spot and lowers my levels just enough so that I cruise into dinner steady and in range. If I go beyond my 20 minute cruise I often end up high. Seems like the liver kicks in and releases more glycogen aka sugar into the blood stream.

Honestly, I am not a fan of long hikes. The last time I did one was before I started short acting insulin in 2018. That’s why I was scared. How would it work to walk for more than 3 hours, on a sunny hot day? Would my insulin stay cool? How would I dose for lunch when I knew I’d have to hike up a hill after our planned picnic at the river mouth. So many questions, so many unknowns. While my friends and husband were excited to walk I felt like I was jumping off a cliff.

As much as I use yoga to keep me balanced, it’s these normal everyday things that get me. I can’t take a vacation from diabetes. EVER!

In spite of my trepidation we went. The first hour was awesome. The forest was alive with wild flowers, trees dripping in moss, singing birds and dappled sunlight. I felt connected and alive. Our forest is 50 million years old.

IMG_0491By the end of the 2nd hour we had reached the lookout. My blood sugar was a steady 6.0 mmol. I started the walk with a 1/4 of an apple and didn’t take any insulin to cover.  Things were going well. We had to cross the river to get to our picnic spot. On went the bathing suit. With my backpack and shoes held above my waist we waded across. The water was brrr cold. Here in Africa the water is clean and crisp, full of prana, amazing!

As everyone else munched on snacks I pulled out my prepared lunch, enjoying every bite, it was crunch time. Would my usual two units be best considering that in an hour I’d  be climbing a steep hill followed by an even steeper descent? I opted for just under 2 units and an extra 1/4 of an apple. Then threw myself in the river, cold refreshing water. So good!

I started the next part of the walk around 5.7 mmol. It took 30 minutes to hit the dreaded low. 3.9 mmol with a downward pointing arrow. I took two and half glucose tabs, while gazing at the most beautiful view in the world. We waited for 15 long drawn out minutes.  My friends asked me what would happen if it didn’t come up. I’d take more tabs and wait some more. Waiting is the worst. On the plus side I was so tired from the walk I couldn’t feel the low or my fear. I was peaceful, relaxed and grateful. Grateful for my husbands arm around me, the patience of my friends, and the beauty of our surroundings. My levels returned to normal and we completed the walk. Topping it off with a dip in the wild ocean. It couldn’t have been a better day.

IMG_0505Back at home my husband reminded me, holidays are all about dropping the every day stresses. Time to take a break from normality, hang out with friends, talk about whatever, spend time in nature. I get it, I used to have that freedom, even took it for granted. Since diagnosis I’m a work in progress. I take each day as it comes. I work with what I have without expectation. Rather than define my ‘vacation’ by what everyone else does. I do relaxing my way.

Preparation, practicality and cautious expectation.

Have a wonderful holiday season

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

Just drop it

Writing every day about diabetes for diabetes awareness month is giving me the opportunity to share my innermost thoughts and feelings about diabetes. Hopefully it also sheds some insight into the inner world of anyone dealing with a chronic illness. Whatever crisis or challenge we face, it’s the ability to overcome, that transforms into a shared wisdom. I know for myself when I’m feeling at a loss as to how to deal with an aspect of diabetes management, finding out how someone else approached that same issue helps me enormously.

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I’m someone who likes to get it ‘right’. What I am learning ( slowly but surely) is that right is just a word I have been conditioned to believe in. There is no right way to do diabetes or anything for that matter. There is only what works for each individual.

Today I had an injection blunder. I put the needle for my long acting insulin in and it bounced straight back out squirting blood and insulin everywhere. When something like this happens it’s totally different to say dropping a pill on the floor. If I fumble and drop a pill, I just brush it off and swallow it. An insulin mishap however is totally different. I can’t determine how much insulin actually went in, so if I take another injection it could mean a hypo at some point in the future. All future bolus (fast acting insulin) calculations need to be taken into account. I’m hopeless at math so that’s a big issue right there. My motto for this one is better safe than sorry. So no extra insulin for me today which means possible higher levels all day. Total bummer!

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Stepping on my mat for practice it dawned on me that in spite of my earlier mishap, I make up the rules. I can’t change what happened, but I can change my reaction. A story from my teacher in India comes to mind. “When you hold something in your hand,” and he demonstrated the example by holding a red hibiscus in his hand, “holding it takes effort. But how much effort does it take to let it go? Dropping the flower is effortless.” He demonstrated this by letting go of the flower. As it effortlessly fell to the ground he added, “This is just like us. We hang on tight to our ideas, beliefs and ideologies until we are shown how easy it is to let go.”

Exactly my plan for today!  Just drop it.

See you tomorrow for #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Staying in range

I’m feeling motivated to get my levels back to where I want them. Not that their not in a good range, its just I know I can do better. At the beginning of the year I worked with the Diabetic Health Journal. It’s a great way to stay accountable, set goals and track patterns. When I was using it my Hba1c went from over 6% to 5.5%. For anyone living with diabetes that’s a perfect number, but really hard to maintain. As much as I know that time in range (keeping my levels between 4-8 mmol) is ideal, there have been a few too many peaks and troughs for my liking. So when I opened the journal and set my goal for the week, I thought I’d try some intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is different to a regular fast. I’m still eating, just spacing out when I eat. The last two days I had my last meal at 7.30 pm and broke the fast with lunch at 1.00 pm. That’s 18 hours between meals. The idea with IF is that it increases insulin sensitivity. It means I assimilate the insulin I am injecting better and blood sugar levels are lower. When I’m really sensitive to insulin I can even reduce the amount of insulin I’m taking which means less low blood sugars events. It’s a win win.

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The only issue for me is I am a huge fan of my avocado and egg breakfast. Day 1 was easy because I distracted myself by going to yoga. Day 2 (today) was harder. I was pretty hungry from about 10.00 am onwards.  I also haven’t seen any concrete results yet. I.e lower levels and increased sensitivity. Patience Rachel Patience…

After I started taking insulin in 2014, I came across a book by Ginger Vieira called Your Diabetes Science Experiment. I read it from cover to cover and learned a lot about the variables that affect diabetes. I learned that even though there are  guidelines and formulas for managing diabetes, it’s not one size fits all. Flexibility and a willingness to experiment are key assets. I’ve been using my yoga practice for years as my personal laboratory to see what my body is capable of. Having diabetes has made things tricky. Sometimes I’m not sure what’s affecting what. Is the sequence or practice supporting what I am doing or is a day of higher or lower levels affecting my practice?

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I feel like I am drawing a giant question mark on a blackboard.

Not having all the answers is something I’ve grown accustomed to.  I was the child that had to be ‘right’ or else. I thrived on competition. That’s why having diabetes has been a bonus in my life. It’s taught me to stop comparing, be kinder to myself and take a gentle approach.  So even though I’ve set a goal for myself to get back to the numbers I feel healthiest at I’m also open to the possibility that where I’m at now is absolutely fine.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Catching a relax

Today the whole of our shire is blanketed in a smokey haze. The smoke is everywhere. It’s awful and there doesn’t seem to be much respite on the way. Meanwhile life seems to continue as normal…or does it? It’s pretty hard to ignore what’s happening not just on a local but global scale. The word that comes to mind is chaos.

When I think of managing diabetes I also think of the word chaos. Not because I can’t manage it, because overall I do that really well. Rather its the unpredictable nature of diabetes that keeps tripping me up. One day I’m struggling to stay above 4 mmol and the next I can’t get under 9 mmol (in range numbers are between 4-8 mmol). There is no X=Y with diabetes. The pancreas is a strange and elusive animal which doesn’t like stress. And how many times have I been stressed without even knowing I’m stressed? A lot.

The opposite of stress and what the pancreas loves is relaxation. Recently I’ve been catching those moments when I’m relaxed. Noticing a nice deep relaxed breath, a feeling of calm, soft tingles through the body, mind slow and centred. Every time I feel a ‘relax’ coming on I remind myself with a verbal prompt. This is me relaxed, this is what it feels like. Simply acknowledging these moments has helped me to sleep better, digest better, even think better. In fact, Relaxing makes everything better.

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This morning I went to a yoga class with my teacher and friend Louisa Sear. Her classes are hard. Not because there are complicated postures or sequences, more because she asks you to be in the pose with every fibre of your being. She instructs the class to hold the pose, fix the gaze and still the mind. Every pose is taught like this so that by the end of the class there is a sense of being cleansed from the inside out.

The ultimate agitation is our habitual need to identify with the moving miasma of the mind. Thoughts will always be there, including thoughts about diabetes, its up to each one of us as to whether we uptake that thought or not. Thoughts don’t have power. You do!

Understanding the triggers for relaxation and  fixing the gaze on that is a profound way to deal with the constant stress of living with diabetes. Instead of focusing on the tension you’re experiencing, mentally, emotionally or physically try and find somewhere in your body that is at ease. It could even just be your big toe. As soon as your mind goes there all the awareness and focus goes there too. When I do this, within seconds I’ve forgotten what the problem was.

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As I write this I’ve decided to take my own advice. There’s not much I can do about the external factors such as the choking smoke or annoyance with erratic levels. What I can do is take a full breath, be kind to myself and catch a relax.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The number of tests?

“How many times do you test per day?” this was the question put to me this morning by the Accuchek Guide rep while I was trying to replace my meter. “About twenty,” I replied adding that my blood sugar can tend to be volatile. The rep murmured a sympathetic sound. But I wondered what she really thought.

I know what my Endo thinks. He’s mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I am obsessed with checking.  Do I really need to wake up throughout the night to check? Ummm…YES!  It’s not like I set an alarm or anything, I seem to naturally wake up between 1-3 times per night anyway so why not check?

Overnight lows are the worst. In the days before I had the whole diet thing mastered I’d wake up and have to eat at 2 am. Nothing worse than sitting by myself in the kitchen watching the clock tick over while I wait for my blood sugar to rise.

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And what about in the day? Do I really need to check every hour? I actually don’t check every hour, it depends on whether I’m insulin resistant or have had some sort of injection blunder. Most mornings I can go from breakfast to lunch without even checking. I know my liver is doing its thing, dumping some extra glycogen into my system so it’s rare for me to drop. It’s usually between 12-5 pm that I like to be vigilant. I can never seem to get my lunchtime bolus right, and then there might be some extra exercise thrown in the mix around 4 pm.

Checking vigilantly when you live with Type 1 Diabetes is a make or break situation. Especially if you can’t tell when your low. Its called hypo unawareness, it happens when you have too many lows and the body stops recognising the feeling of being low. Like my horrible hypo two weeks ago, before I knew it I’d dropped to 3.2 mmol. Scary!

It was also after that horrible hypo and sharing it here that some friends encouraged me to use a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). This is something I would love to have but sadly here in Australia there is no subsidy for someone like me. To be eligible for the Dexcom or Medtronic CGM you have to be hypo unaware and admitted to hospital more than once or under the age of 21.

The Freestyle libre flash glucose system is also on offer here, but this has no subsidy at all. I have written before on the blog about how much I love this product. Sleek, discreet and accurate using it has increased my peace of mind and saved my finger tips. I’ve attended  product launches and #dx2Melbourne and can honestly share the company, its ethos and care are palpable. I’ve even lobbied the government to make access affordable for people like me and had a small feature in the Noosa News. In spite of my passion and efforts, I still can’t justify spending $100 every fortnight.

But wait ho… my wonderful parents, after reading my blog, gave me the best early christmas gift ever! A 6 months supply of the freestyle libre. I am touched and grateful.

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Here I am ready to launch. So excited to have some time off from the drudgery of test strips and the ability to see whats actually happening minute by minute with the food I am eating, the insulin I am taking and the sleep I’m sleeping. I’ll probably put one in starting next week so stay tuned…

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Meditation for diabetes

Yeah so diabetes is no picnic. I think I’ve pretty well established that in the last 10 blogs. There are however so many ways yoga can help. Working with a strong focus for the mind through sound and imagery is one. When we give the mind something to do and draw it out of its habitual need to identify with thoughts, our sense of individuality is suspended leaving us with SELF, the nature of which is peace, contentment, oneness or more aptly put, YOGA.

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I learned the beautiful meditation in the video below from my teacher Alan Finger when I was living in NYC. I invoked it quite often, especially after being in 9/11. I found that taking my feelings and releasing them back to source was a profound way for me to come to terms with all the emotions that seemed to be piled up on top of each other as my body worked to release the shock.

My diabetes diagnosis was also another moment where I worked with this meditation. I was actually terrified at diagnosis, felt ashamed and alone and had no idea how I would recover from something that I knew had no cure. These feelings of helplessness dissolved into the simple focus of the practice and soothed my worried heart.

If you live with diabetes, or are just needing something to soothe and support your nervous system I invite you to join me for the meditation below

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Diabetes is an opportunity

It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.

I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.

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In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated.  But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.

Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.

You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.

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The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.

It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.

Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.

In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.

More on that tomorrow…  #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

7 Things or thereabouts

There are a lot of things that influence blood sugar.  42 to be exact, according to Adam Brown from diatribe.org . If you’re keen to know what those are you can check out his handy chart here.

In the spirit of Diabetes Awareness Month and to share more about what its like to live with diabetes, I’ve put together my own short list based on personal trial and error. For those who don’t have diabetes and are just coming along for the ride, your blood sugar levels might also be influenced by these ‘things’ the only difference between you and someone with diabetes is. When your blood sugar rises your pancreas produces insulin to lower your blood sugar level, mine doesn’t. So unless I inject insulin or do something else to lower my level like exercise, I can’t just kick back and let my body do the work. When blood sugar levels go low in a non-diabetic , the liver kicks in with a drip feed of glycogen, to bring them back to homeostasis. My liver kicks in too, but as there is no insulin to meet the liver dump my blood sugar goes up again, hence the need for more insulin and round and round I go. Fun, fun fun…NOT!

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So here’s my list in no particular order.

  1. The Sun. Every time I lie in the sun for more than 20 minutes, I have higher levels for 24-48 hours afterwards. Apparently its the oxidative stress. It’s a double edged sword because if I avoid the sun I don’t get enough Vitamin D. I’ve worked out that if I limit exposure to 15-20 min and only sunbathe every two days I stay in range.
  2. High Fat Foods. I absolutely love my avocados and olive oil. I also love Haloumi and Feta cheese. My blood sugar however is very fussy when it comes to what I eat when. I’ve learned to avoid fatty dairy products before bed because I go high over  night and for 24 hours after. Avocados are a little more friendly, they actually help me keep my blood sugar from tanking while I sleep. So I load up on a hefty avocado with my dinner. But sometimes it backfires and I am still high when I wake up. I’m still trying to work out how to dose for fat. I feel like if I could figure it out I’d eat pizza again.
  3. Not enough sleep affects everything. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night for me definitely messes with my levels. I wake up about 1-2 times a night too so not sure what would happen to my levels if I was able to sleep through the night. I’d probably have lower levels in general.
  4.  A Daily Walk can either reduce my blood sugar level, which can be a bonus when I’m high, or raise my blood sugar level which is not ideal. When I walk, for how long and at what pace is also a factor. Walking directly uses the thigh muscles which burn glucose for fuel. It’s suggested that when levels are higher, or you’ve had a carb heavy meal, a walk will help insulin to work more effectively and reduce blood sugar. In my case a long walk (over an hour) on flat terrain  raises my blood sugar whereas a short 20 minutes hike up and down hills reduces my levels.
  5. Cleaning definitely drops my blood sugar in spades. All I have to do is look at the vacuum and I’m low. No joke!
  6. Travel. This is also very specific to the type of travel. When we travel by car anywhere over long distances I have lows. When we fly I usually have lows and then struggle with a stubborn high when we land. Jet lag is included in travel and wreaks havoc.
  7. Any kind of stressor like unexpected news, seeing a snake on the path, (that  happened yesterday) a loud noise, change in routine, fears, emotions, frustrations. So that covers the gamut right? All of this always gives me higher levels. Especially emotional outbursts.

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The one thing that doesn’t affect my levels is my yoga practice. That includes postural yoga, breathing and meditation as well as adhering to an ayurvedic daily regime. No matter how often, or how intense the practice my levels stay steady. In fact they flat line. That’s why I personally use yoga as my goto when I’m getting stressed out about my blood sugar levels. It’s like pushing the reset button.

It may not lower a stubborn high or fix a scary low, but it will calm me down enough to handle it.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel