Back on track with yoga

A few days ago I hurt my back. I was overzealous and lifted a couch and twisted slightly the wrong way. Immediately my back went into spasm and I had to lie down. Never mind the fact that I had to teach two classes the next day, or that I hadn’t even landed in our new home or unpacked my bags.

I don’t hurt myself often but when I do I get annoyed. The frustration is in the fact that I could see it coming. I am a compulsive over-doer, overachiever and I have been working for years to curb my enthusiasm. My husband calls me “Squirrel”. He says it’s because I never stop moving.

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In yoga, the ones who love to do are called Pitta types. Pitta is composed of fire and a small amount of water. We are literally on fire, passionate, hot and often don’t stop until it’s too late.

With all the excitement of the last 9 months, I am so glad I live and breathe yoga. Without my practice, I’d probably have done more damage than strain my back for a day or two. No matter what goes on in my life, no matter how tough things get having a variety of yoga practices in my toolkit means I never hit empty.

My first stop is always the breath. Whether it’s waiting for my levels to come up from a low, or dealing with a dreaded hot flush ( yep… I am post-menopausal) or just feeling like it’s all getting too much. Stopping, dropping and taking ten slow breaths are my kind of pushups.

And it’s not just any kind of breaths it’s ten full complete breaths. I wrote about it a while back in this post and video practice. You’ll love it!

Next, I get my stretch on. Stretching is much more than just a feel-good exercise. It super connects you to the highway of your nervous system. The nervous system is designed to be your ally. When you need energy it ignites you so you have the fuel you need to get stuff done. It’s also your ultimate chill pill, enabling you to move through life without ‘sweating the small stuff”. The nervous system takes quite a beating when you live with diabetes. All the fluctuating blood sugars wreak havoc throwing you into the fight or flight response. Most of us, diabetes or not spend about 80% of our time in flight or flight. It should be the reverse. Stretching signals the nervous system to relax. Clasping your hands and reaching your arms up overhead and leaning from side to side is enough to bring you back to the relaxed part of your nervous system.

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My last and most favorite practice is to work with Mudra. Mudras are hand gestures which also work with the nervous system. Bringing the hands into specific positions concentrates the mind and calms the emotions. Learning to do yoga with your hands is the easiest and best kind because you don’t have to be fit or flexible to practice. Recently I shared a mudra sequence with patients recovering from various forms of cancer. Most had limited mobility and energy. Being able to bring the hands into a shape was blissfully relaxing and restorative. Here’s a short mudra practice I posted on the blog if you’d like to try it.

With some deep breath work, stretching and my mudra practice I’m no longer flat on my back. Phew, it feels good to be pain-free again.

I love how Yoga always gets me back on track!

with great respect…

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Yoga mudras for diabetes

When most people think of yoga they think of a physical practice involving stretches and strengthening exercises to create flexibility and balance.  But there is another way that yogis approach their practice. Rather than seeing the practice as postural, they think of the practice as a way to build energy. This energy is called Prana and it’s our life force.

The physical postures help to detoxify the system while the breathing practices cleanse and purify the system. Once energy flows freely we can start to absorb prana more readily and seal it into our nervous system. The more prana we retain the easier it is to manage our stress.

In yoga, mudras are the postures we use to seal energy into the body. These can be physical postures or they can be hand gestures.

Mudras have been around for thousands of years. In fact, before there was language we used gestures (sign language) to communicate. That’s why we still use our hands when we talk.

Mudras are the perfect way to calm the emotions and settle the mind and they are super easy to do. No prior experience needed!

Perfect for supporting us in our diabetes care.

I decided to create a vlog of a short mudra sequence that you can practice right away.

Want to know more about how I used yoga to help me come to terms with my diagnosis? Check out my free ebook Surviving Insulin. Would you like to find the perfect practice to make living with diabetes that little bit easier? Why not work with me

Mudras Rachel Zinman Yoga

Take my hand

Don’t you love it when someone takes your hand and holds it lovingly? It could be your partner, a child, a friend or that handshake when you meet someone new. The sense of touch is essential to our development. Studies have shown that children learn better when they are hugged and touched by their parents because touching releases oxytocin, the feel good hormone.  In Yoga there is a practice called Mudra which involves the hands. Mudras are hand gestures that act like switches and turn on the part of the brain responsible for movement and emotion. By bringing fingers together, interlacing them or holding them in certain positions the mind and emotions relax. Instead of holding someone else’s hand, you hold your own.

In Yoga each side of the body has a different quality. The right side is the sun energy and is active, masculine, heating and relates to our rational and logical side of the brain. Whereas the left side of the body is the moon energy and is reflective, passive, feminine, cooling and relates to the creative and receptive side of the brain. When we bring the hands into different gestures we balance the magnetic forces of the sun and moon in our own bodies.

Bringing the fingers together in a Mudra also has significance as the fingers relate to the 5 elements. There are some beautiful books available on the subject if you’d like to explore further.

Today the focus for our practice is to balance the emotions and nervous system through three simple hand gestures that you can do every day either after a breathing, meditation or asana practice or whenever you need to relax and come back to yourself.

Anjali Mudra

Start with Anjali Mudra bring both hands together and feel the pressure between the left and right palms. Imagine the forces of the Sun and the Moon coming together, balancing your entire system. Gently close your eyes and breath normally. Hold between 2 and 5 minutes and let the thoughts come and go without judgement.

Lotus Mudra Rachel Zinman YogaBring the heels of the hands together and extend your fingers like a flower. This is Lotus Mudra. Imagine you are holding your favourite flower in your hands and smell its fragrant perfume. Imagine that all your emotions favourable and challenging are resting in the palm of your hands. Feel all the emotions coming and going in your presence. Gently close your eyes and hold the gesture between 2 and 5 minutes. Breathe normally.

Inner Mudra Rachel Zinman Yoga

Our last mudra is the Inner Mudra. Cross your hands at the wrists and bring all the fingers to touch resting the tips of the fingers at the sternum so that your cupped hands surround your heart. Feel the space between the hands and imagine your heart like a precious jewel shining in the centre. Feel how there is nothing you have to do to be yourself. Like the wave is naturally part of the ocean you are not separate from your thoughts or feelings. Without you, a thought or feeling means nothing. You are the meaning in every thought and feeling. Gently close your eyes and hold the gesture for 2-5 minutes and enjoy yourself, the stillness peace and beauty itself.

Open your eyes come out of the Mudra and have the best day…. with great respect Rachel