Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel

 

Yoga; Beware All Ye who Enter.

My personal journey with diabetes was one of misdiagnosis and denial. It took me years to accept my diagnosis. When I did, my first step was to reach out and  find people like me who also practiced yoga. In the beginning, there weren’t many, but as my reach increased I found a community of practitioners and teachers thriving because of yoga. Anastasia Yatras is one of those lights. Her story is absolute gold and so inspiring! I can’t wait for you to read it. Take it away Anastasia

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In the grunge era of the 90’s, pre Instagram and Facebook, Yoga wasn’t as widespread as it is today. Back then, there was a clear division between alternative culture and the mainstream. In 1992, Yoga, along with shaved under cuts, sat absolutely in the first category.

In 1992, a university friend had invited me to yoga, in Newtown, Sydney, with the hook line that “Yoga made you sleep better”. As my life was a demanding schedule of missed lectures, all -nighters and endless rounds of stove- top coffee, I was intrigued.

With no idea what I was in for, (remember there was no You Tube Yoga back then), the exposed brick yoga room, felt austere.  The mysterious props including belts and wooden blocks, inexplicable. There may as well have been a sign above our Birkenstock sandals at the entrance, “Beware all ye who enter.”

To my novice ears, we were guided by elusive phrases such as “…outer skirt of the heel” and “something..something…asana”. I rushed to perform handstand with the grunt of an NRL player, breathing hard and fast, so as not to topple sideways with my jellied elbows. Lying with a wooden block underneath my shrieking sacrum (no foam bricks as yet), it felt akin to a medieval torture.

Yet, within the insufferably long silences, there it was, the gold; the gradual realisation that awareness could move to different parts of the body. It could be held there, diffuse or sharp pointed, and more so, it could be directed from the outside, in.

Those poses were a tangible reflection, not just of my body, but of something more profound, deeper still.

My friend didn’t return to Yoga. I never left.

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Diagnosis.

My relationship with Diabetes began 12 months before my official diagnosis. Tragically, in 1997, my then boyfriend’s dad, collapsed into a three day diabetic coma, until finally discovered by his second son.  A talented illustrator for Hanna and Barbara cartoons, I loved this man’s hallway- a veritable fortress of VHS cassettes.  For then reasons unknown, I studied the literature on diabetes, left abandoned by his dining room side table.

Precisely 12 months later, recalling those very symptoms I had read about, (excess thirst-tick, excess urination-tick, affected eyesight- tick), I took myself to the medical centre. “I think I have diabetes!” I pronounced, somewhat proud of my self-diagnostic abilities.  A blood test there and then showed a reading of 26 mmol/L and so off to the Illawarra Diabetes Service, I went, where I was shown how to inject with oranges.

It was November of 1998, the very year I had enrolled as an Iyengar Teacher trainee in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Upon my teacher’s advice, I took time off to “lay low”.  Upon returning to teacher training, I was unable to focus. “You look haunted” my teacher said. “Go home”. Yet, he also said, diabetes gave my yoga purpose. Through the nebulousness of my grief, I recognised the truth of those words. That Yoga was the big circle and diabetes was a smaller one within it and not the other way around.

Gradually, I began to see Yoga as a tool which could reframe how I saw diabetes; that I could bear a positive impact upon it rather than it all being a negative impact on me. Of course, it was a slow journey, full of trials, errors, failures and loneliness. No one else in class was worrying about their sugars testing frequently, afraid equally of an embarrassing hypo or of having to inject in full view.

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Turning Point.

In 2002, I was chosen as the diabetic student for a Sydney medical Yoga workshop given by the wonderful Iyengar teachers, Swati and Rajiv Chanchanni. This experience gave me a clear, systematic and confidence boosting framework which I continue to use to this day in my practice.

From the Iyengar perspective, it was taught that the pancreas needed to be taken through its full range of motion.

So, from a diseased organ, I realised my pancreas, was in fact, profoundly intelligent cellular tissue, fully capable of responding to precise adaptations within the regular poses, turbo charging blood flow and, equally, maximising relaxation and quietness of mind.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of Yoga as a means to cease the fluctuations of mind. This is my standard operating procedure when checking my blood sugar levels, when heading off a high reading or a hypo.  To respond neutrally as possible which doesn’t equally translate as complacency.

Yoga is also defined as skill in action, something which as diabetics, we are constantly asked to practice, every waking and sleeping moment of our lives, it seems!

However, as my teacher Pixie Lillas says, we are not merely given the end destination in Yoga (good health, a quiet mind.). Yoga gives us the tools to get there.

anastasia

BIO
For the past 20 years, Anastasia’s Yoga practice has revolutionized her approach to living with Type 1 Diabetes. She began Yoga in 1992 where it fully resolved her dancer’s knee injury. At 26 years of age, in 1998, Anastasia embarked on two major life journeys. Iyengar Yoga Teacher training AND a diabetes diagnosis. Following the medical principles developed by world renown teacher of Yoga, B.K.S Iyengar, Anastasia has maintained HBA1C (averaged blood sugar levels)  of normal range (5-6mmol/L).

you can connect with Anastasia here 

Experience counts

Whenever I settle somewhere new I make sure to head to a yoga class. It’s a great way to meet people and find out more about the town and its culture. Here in Bellingen, I found my way to the Bellingen Yoga Studio, a purpose-built space with a view of the mountains.

Whenever I take a new class I always introduce myself to the teacher and explain that I have type 1 diabetes and that next to me on my mat I’ll have a bottle of glucose tabs and a glucose meter. Sometimes they know about diabetes but most often not. With a quick check from the teacher to make sure I’ve got my diabetes handled,  I head to my mat to settle in.

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I love learning and I especially love learning about yoga. Every teacher approaches postural yoga in a unique way. What I especially love about the classes here in Bellingen is that they are taught by an experienced teacher. A grounded and strong woman who has been doing yoga forever and it shows.

Our teacher was in her early sixties. I was too shy to ask when she started yoga and to be honest I didn’t care. Her words and demonstrations, the way she adjusted the students showed her years of experience. Yoga had obviously worked for her and she was passing that knowledge on. In short, experience counts.

Experience counts in more ways than one when you live with diabetes.  That’s why learning from those who have gone before is crucial. I recognize that the way we manage our diabetes is unique but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask someone who’s been through the ropes.

I have diabuddies out there that I call on for support. It helps to hear that that weird high I had overnight might be due to poor basal insulin absorption or that turning the pen upside down to release a test shot means I’m not dealing with extra drops of insulin all over my belly. I love having different friends with different diabetes experiences, It means I can ask about anything and everything and try new things.

But I digress. This post is about yoga

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There are so many opportunities out there and so many avenues to try your first yoga class. There’s gym yoga, online yoga, yoga in the pub, goat yoga, CBD yoga, OMG yoga,  You get the drift.

Wherever you live you’ll most likely find a local yoga studio and a yoga teacher fresh out of his or her teacher training all fired up and raring to go with cool leggings, rad music and an Instagram account with over 20K followers. You might feel intimidated by this or even reluctant to start. How can a twenty-something yogini know about you and your diabetes? I’ll be honest. They don’t! But they can learn.

Any yoga teacher started where you are, at the beginning. Something our Bellingen yoga teacher shared with us was that we experience the most transformation when we first start yoga. We go from feeling uncomfortable or tight in our bodies to feeling light and open. We start to see the value in stretching and breathing and how soothing it is for the nervous system. As we advance in practice the tendency is to plateau, lose momentum or feel like nothing is happening. This is where going back to the foundation is crucial.

If your teacher is worth anything they’ll remember this and share this with you. Why they started yoga, how they approached a difficult pose. What yoga means to them and why. If a teacher stays glued to their mat and doesn’t even look at the students my advice would be, run. Living with a chronic condition means you deserve better. Why pack yourself into a wall to wall yoga class with someone just because they can do some fancy handstand or backbend. Real yoga is not based on popular demand.

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Personally, I love a teacher with a personalized and simple approach. At my age, I wake up creaky, achy and drained from the stress of changing blood sugars overnight. There’s often a feeling of toxicity in my body as I move through poses. Simply lying in postures and working slowly into muscles feels way more calming and supportive then sweating my way through a flow work out. But that’s just me. if you need a hard vinyasa work out to tame your blood sugars, by all means, go for it.  Yoga is not one size fits all.

After my super simple senior yoga class this week I thought it would be fun to share some of the moves I learned here on the blog. Join me in this 6-minute sequence below and hit reply to let me know how it made you feel.

with great respect…

rachel

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Yoga makes the difference

Diabetes sucks. I know I’ve said it before but this time I really really mean it. And it’s not just because of the endless needle pricks, the shaky blood sugars, the near-death episodes or dietary issues. It’s the financial side. Why does having diabetes cost so much? I get choked up when I hear about how people are rationing their insulin, how insurance companies change what type of rapid or long-acting you have insurance for against your best interests or that in some countries people walk miles to take just one shot a day because of lack of refrigeration in their homes.

Things I take for granted here in Australia like subsidized insulin and test strips are nonexistent in other parts of the world. So I know I should be grateful. And I am.

But sometimes I need to vent. Because diabetes comes with a price. Knowing I have to keep some funds aside each week to cover my test strips means keeping to a tight budget.  And that’s not accounting for a week of lows where I use test strips like candy. It often means saying no to something I’d love to do so I can live well another day.

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I’m a girl with a mission. Yoga is my lifeline. I am convinced it’s the reason why I have managed my health so well in spite of my diabetes.  It has given me a positive outlook and a wealth of stress management tools. Writing the book has been my way of giving back. But writing a book and having a mission doesn’t mean life is all rainbows and unicorns. It takes hard work, dedication, consistency and total conviction to bring a project like that to fruition.

And here’s the thing…

The more I push myself out there, the harder I work to share,  the more I am seeing that people living with any type of diabetes aren’t jumping up and down about yoga.  You know what they say in marketing? You find your ideal client by touching their deepest longing. The biggest faux pas is creating a product no one wants. Even worse is creating something they don’t even know they need.

Enter Yoga, the new kid on the block in diabetes management. Will medical institutions endorse it? Will the media expound it’s benefits? Will bloggers and podcasters rave about it?

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Eventually yoga for diabetes will go mainstream.

I know that a simple yoga practice makes the difference. I for one am going to keep creating quality content for you. Things you can do today that will make a difference to the numbers on your meter, to the way you feel about your diabetes and even more importantly how you relate to your health and wellbeing in general.

Even 5 minutes of a consistent yoga practice can make a huge difference to your day.

So… what’s on offer this week? A FREE 20 minute yoga practice designed to reduce stress.

All you have to do is click this link and you’ll get it in your inbox straight away.

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I can’t wait for you to join me

with great respect…

rachel

 

 

 

 

The Politics of Rest

Rest, we all need it. It’s one of the three essential ingredients in life. Along with food and water, we’d die without it. So why do we try and cheat the one thing we need the most?

In my younger years, I enjoyed staying up till 3 am while trawling the Sydney nightclub scene. Those were the days of pointy black boots and off the shoulder T-shirts and way too many Bloody Mary’s. I was a professional dancer and had to be in the class by 9 am. Sleep was something you fell into because not sleeping meant falling out of a pirouette the next day.

Being 19, I thought it was cool to dance, drink and sleep as little as possible. Luckily that attitude and approach didn’t last. Being sensitive my body suffered. My back began to hurt and a chiropractor recommended yoga and meditation.

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A few months later I took my first class. It was weird and awkward. The strangest part came at the end. The teacher told us to lie down and covered us in blankets. She didn’t say anything and the room went really quiet. After a few moments, I sat up, looked around and saw the teacher glaring at me. She motioned for me to lie back down. I felt like one of those kids in nursery school at nap time. You know the kid who is just too fidgety to stay still for more than two minutes? That was me!

Eventually, I got the hang of it. I went through stages of letting go. In the beginning, my mind would race from one thought to another, I’d feel a rush of energy through my nerves. Then slowly that sensation would fade. I’d begin to breathe deeply and visualize things that couldn’t be real. Like seeing people floating on clouds, or strange luminous lakes. After the visuals passed I’d hear myself snoring. Soft buzzing snores that kept me present but relaxed at the same time. Eventually, I’d disappear. The teacher’s voice would too and then the sound of singing, or gongs would bring me back. The rest of the day I’d feel more relaxed, more tuned in and rested. The relaxation at the end of a yoga class, called Savasana (corpse pose) was a reset for my body and mind.

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In 2018 the politics of rest has become an obsession. According to studies, we are exhausted. We are literally killing ourselves with lack of rest. In my personal opinion, it’s the lack of fresh air, organic food, and people interaction as well as the constant pressure to have and do more. I also think technology and our dependence on it plays a significant role.

We play, interact, eat and even sleep through our smart phones. Even if we want to rest we are encouraged to do it with an app. Just yesterday I saw an article with the headline “A sleep app on your phone? Maybe not such a good idea.”

This is where Savasana solves the problem, but not just any Savasana. Yoga nidra. Yoga nidra (yogic sleep) is a phrase to describe a deep and conscious state of rest. Unlike the corpse pose, you stay alert while relaxing different parts of the body, counting breaths and sensing and visualizing various physical and emotional states.

Benefits of yoga nidra are akin to going into a deep sleep. Our brain has the capacity to work in different states of awareness: waking state, relaxed state, dream state and deep sleep state. There is also a fifth state called the gamma state, which happens at the point of orgasm or during any ecstatic activity.

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Even though science has categorized these states as separate from each other, in reality, they’re all happening at once. We choose where to place our attention. For instance, when you’re hard at work nutting out a problem or completing a task you’re in the beta brainwave state. If you decide to take a break, watch TV or read a book, you can become so relaxed you’re nearly asleep. That’s the alpha wave. The alpha wave quite naturally takes you into the dream state which is the theta wave. Before you know it, you’re out for the count. This is the delta wave. Everything disappears. No thoughts, no ideas, no individuality, no problems. Bliss.

The theory behind yoga nidra is that as you are led through a series of steps, starting with relaxing different parts of the body, observing the breath and finally working with visualization, quite naturally you flow into the alpha wave, which relaxes the nervous system and reduces your stress.

What I love about this yoga practice is that anybody can do it. You don’t need to be fit or flexible. You just need a comfortable spot to lie down. You can do it in bed, or if you are at work seated in a chair with your eyes closed.

Join me in taking deep rest with this yoga nidra we recorded recently with my husband and fellow yogi John Weddepohl at Inhale Life in Sydney. The nidra is accompanied by the sound of singing bowls played by yoga teacher Romina DiFederico.

Start the practice by lying on your back.

Have your arms and legs slightly away from the body, palms facing upwards, feet relaxed and open.

Turn the head gently from side to side until it rests in the center.

If your chin juts up towards the sky, place a blanket underneath your head.

Relax completely.

Don’t worry about the breath or what the body is doing.

Feel how effortless it is to lie here.

10 awesome ways to get back your yoga mojo

If you’re like me you’ve probably spat the dummy on more than one occasion when it comes to living with diabetes. From feeling like you just can’t take another finger prick to wanting to consume the fridge, it can feel insurmountable.

When I was in total denial it was easy for me to ‘forget’ about my diabetes. But that only lasted for so long. Neuropathy was my cold hard slap in the face. As a yoga teacher I didn’t  want to lose the feeling in my hands and feet. I rely on that sensitivity.

Losing your diabetes management mojo is totally understandable. But what about your yoga mojo? Like when you tried yoga, loved it, signed up for that 6 week course and then somehow didn’t keep going.

Or maybe you attend weekly group classes but can’t seem to motivate yourself to practice at home. Once you’re stuck in a rut whether its blood sugar related or not it’s hard to see your way out.

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But here’s the thing. If you feel like you should make a change because you fear the consequences, you’ll never stick it out.  There has to be a strong motivator to step up.

So what are the 10 things I do when I feel like hiding under the covers?

  1. Keep my mat rolled out in quiet, clean spot. Preferably with a view and near a window
  2. Choose one posture that’s motivating, like down dog and hold it for at least 10 breaths. Then get on with my day
  3. Start with shoulder and arm stretches. Simply clasping my hands and lifting them up overhead immediately creates a feeling of expansion in the chest. It gets the prana (life force) circulating through the system.
  4. Head over to youtube and search for online yoga classes. There’s loads of free content on there. Not specific to diabetes, but supportive nevertheless. If you aren’t sure what kind of yoga is right for you check out this blogpost I wrote for Diabetes Sisters to get the gist. There are quite a few specific sequences on my youtube channel or you can head to our FB group and follow my live videos.
  5. Have a set practice, do the same sequence every day. You might want to practice at home but aren’t sure where to start. A set sequence takes care of that. This is the one I do every day.
  6. Invite friends over for a weekly at home yoga practice party. Share your favorite postures with each other. You don’t need to be teachers to do this. Roll out your mats, bring the kids, have fun and follow it with a bring a plate lunch. Yoga is all about community and what better way to get motivated than having fun with friends.
  7. Try a new style of yoga. Check out a new teacher or a new studio. Trying something new is a great way to get re-inspired to practice. Plus you can try out your new moves at home
  8. Go on a yoga holiday, retreat, weekend mini break. It’s amazing what a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life will do for you and your diabetes. We take diabetes with us everywhere we go but a change of scenery, down time and a focus on the yummy stress-reducing benefits can reinvigorate so many aspects of your day to day life. After a retreat, I am much more inclined to get on my mat. All of a sudden my reasons for practicing make sense again. If you live in Australia and would love to study with us check out our latest retreats and weekend getaways here 
  9. Read an inspirational yoga book. Reading about yoga, the why, what and how is an awesome motivator. My first yoga book was Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar. For an awesome yoga reading list go here. And if you want a great book specific to yoga for diabetes check mine out.
  10. Take the practice out into nature. Fresh air, sunshine, ocean waves, a cool forest,  and birdsong create the perfect setting to feel inspired to breathe and move with intention. Better yet practice outside at sunrise or sunset. This is the most potent time to practice because the prana sits low to the earth and is more easily absorbed into the system.

So that’s it 10 ways I inspire myself to get on the mat every day. And it’s not just about getting back my yoga mojo, it spills over into my diabetes management too. When I feel alive, refreshed and strong I can handle those diabetes curveballs any which way they come.

P.S I’d love to know how do you get back your Yoga Mojo?

Comment below

with great respect…

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5 poses to power up your practice

Something I struggled with when I first started yoga was having the strength to hold postures for longer than a few seconds. My wrists ached, I fell out of postures and my thighs buckled. I even found it hard to lift up when we did backbends on our bellies. I don’t think I would have persisted if I didn’t have my teacher encouraging me to do yoga more than just one day a week. At first, I just didn’t see the point in wasting time and money on things I didn’t think I could change.

It was my competitive streak that turned the tides. When my teacher moved effortlessly from handstand into a backbend or balanced lightly in headstand, then folded into lotus I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to do that!”

I set a goal for myself. I would do yoga every day for six months. if I hadn’t built up my strength by the end of that time. I’d quit. Six months of relentless practice paid off. I was stronger, focused, my physique had transformed and I felt like a new person.

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Not only had my body completely rearranged itself in shape and capability but my mindset had shifted too. I no longer felt like things were cut in stone. I now understood that it was my commitment and persistence that made the difference. If I could do this in six months what could I achieve in a year? I was 23 when I decided to make yoga my life. From my own personal practice to teaching others I haven’t looked back.

Every day on the mat is a new day. A day to come back to myself, to reawaken my muscles, to stay grounded and strong. And as part of my daily practice, I always include five postures to maintain my strength.

These five poses are also perfect for increasing insulin sensitivity, developing willpower, burning up toxicity and strengthening immunity.

Down Dog
Classically labeled as a posture to open your hamstrings this pose is also a wrist strengthener.  If you have wrist issues you can practice on your fists or even use a prop like a wedge or folded blanket under your wrists to take the pressure off your wrists.

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  • Start in child’s pose stretching your arms out in front of you.
  • Spread your fingers and line up the crease line of your wrists with the end of the mat ( the straight edge).
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your sitting bones high to the ceiling.
  • Bend your knees as you draw your chest close to your thighs taking all the pressure off your hands and arms.
  • You don’t have to straighten your legs if it strains your hamstrings.
  • Try and hold the pose for at least five breaths.
  • Eventually, build up to longer and longer holds in the pose.

Warrior 2
This pose is my absolute favorite. It’s a hip opener and thigh buster all in one. It’s really powerful in building strength in your thigh muscles and it supports your knee. It’s also a great pose for developing focus. The longer you hold it the stronger you feel. If you have inner thigh or hip issues or hip restrictions please take care. The wider your stance along the midline the less pressure on the hips.

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  • Begin by taking a wide stance so you face sideways on the mat.
  • Turn your right foot out and your left foot in.
  • Line up the heels with each other.
  • Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle making sure the front knee is stacked over the front ankle.
  • If it feels tight turn you back hip in towards your front foot and adjust the foot in even more.
  • Raise your arms to shoulder height and look over your middle finger.
  • Hold here for five breaths and build up to more.
  • Start with what feels comfortable.
  • Come out of the pose and repeat on the other side.

Chair 
I love the chair pose! It a total thigh strengthener, a forward bend and backbend all in one and develops core strength. It’s also awesome for getting the thigh muscles to uptake glucose for fuel helping to reduce blood sugars. Whenever I teach this in class my students grimace. They know we are going to hold this pose for a long time. Even better than being in the pose is coming out of it. You feel an incredible rush of energy through your whole body. After chair I feel stimulated, my mind is clear and my body feels warm and tingly all over.

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  • Start the pose with your toes touching and heels slightly apart.
  • Hinge at the hips, shift your sitting bones slightly back and imagine you’re about to sit in a  chair.
  • Make sure your knees are slightly apart and your chest stays open.
  • You can have your hands in prayer position at the heart, lengthened out in front our reaching overhead.
  • Keep your abdomen back to your chest and lengthen your lower back.
  • Breathe deeply and hold for five breaths.
  • Work up to a longer hold as you get more confident.

Plank
It’s time to get your plank on! This pose is perfect for building wrist, abdominal and shoulder strength. It’s also heating, intense and involves every muscle in the body. I love it because when I do it I feel like I’m doing something powerful. Even on the most challenging of days when my blood sugar feels out of control or I’m overwhelmed with the minutiae of daily diabetes management, plank gets me in the zone.

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  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • extend your right leg and then your left until you are balanced between the hands and the balls of the feet.
  • Press firmly into your thumb and forefinger and feel the weight spreading evenly throughout the palm of the hand.
  • Lift up out of the wrists in this pose
  • Round the upper back slightly to stabilize the shoulder blades on the back.
  • If it’s hard to hold, drop your knees to the floor.
  • Hold for five breaths working up to a longer hold.

Boat Pose
Boat pose is another great abdominal strengthener. It also works the inner thighs and opens the chest. Finding just the right place to put your balance for the pose is key. You’ll also want to make sure you keep your chest open to facilitate ease of breath. You can keep your legs bent or straight. Either way, you’re abdominals will get a workout. I often use my ability to hold this pose as a measure of how my strength is progressing. At first it can feel a little wobbly but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and balance like a pro.

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  • Start in a seated position, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Shift your weight slightly back behind your sitting bones and gently lift your feet off the ground.
  • You can start by holding behind your thighs with your hands to find your point of balance.
  • Gradually lift your feet to line up with your knees so they are at a right angle.
  • Keep your chest open and extend your arms alongside your thighs
  • Eventually, work towards straightening the legs so you are in a V shape.
  • Hold for 5 breaths, gradually testing to see if you can hold it that little bit longer

If you’ve just completed the practice, Brilliant! Including these five poses into your workout routine is a guaranteed way to power up your practice and feel energized and ready for anything diabetes and life throws your way.

With great respect…

rachel

P.S Want to know more about Yoga and Diabetes and how to find the right practice for you? Check out my new book or sign up for my newsletter here and get the first chapter for free.

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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…

rachelIMG_3616

Striving for gold

It’s been a long road. From my initial diagnosis in 2008, starting long-acting insulin in 2014, to finally biting the bullet by adding short-acting this past January,  I’ve reached a milestone. A thumbs up from my diabetes HCP.

I have never put so much hard work into anything in my life. Counting carbs, measuring up minute insulin doses, Intermittent fasting, diligently sticking to my twice daily yoga practice. Staying hydrated, sleeping 8 hours a night and doing everything I can in the middle of a non-stop book launch tour to avoid stress.

It’s been a marathon!

Hearing, “Your diabetes is under control.” didn’t make me hoot and holler or give me permission to drop the ball. Instead, I feel apprehensive. What if I can’t keep it up? What if it was a fluke? Even more pressing is the thought,  “I can do better.”

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But then what? Getting my levels in the ideal range is a worthy goal. As hard as I’ve worked in the last 6 months I know I’d have to work even harder.  The big question right now is; am I up for it? Or… is it okay to paddle for a while?

I’m ready to pause. Pause perfection, pushing, expectation, assumption, hope, striving.  Ready to receive, let love, reflection, acceptance and guidance flood in.

When I was studying ballet in my early teens and starting pointe work  I assumed that the elegance of balancing on the end of my toes would be the ultimate pinnacle. In reality, it was unglamorous. My toes were often bloodied and bruised. I developed bunions and callouses and would wince and limp for days and weeks after practice. I learned over time to distance myself from the physical pain and to shut down any feelings of inadequacy around the shape and strength of my feet. It was in the depersonalization that I mastered the ability to balance and turn. It wasn’t easy but I did it.

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I feel the same about living day in and day out with diabetes. Taking a few steps back, a breath, a moment of stillness when I feel everything backing up on me means I can pause and begin again.

Even though I’ve spent the last 6 months striving for the gold standard and achieved it. I’m ready to create and adjust.

That’s the essence of what it means to be flexible in yoga practice. When a posture feels insurmountable, you don’t push to your edge. Instead, you back off, warm up the surrounding muscles and work up to the pose over days, weeks, even months. A slow build yields lasting results.

So instead of cutting back more on my carbs, increasing my insulin doses and watching every mouthful. I’ve got a plan. I’m going to be like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, the Tortoise, and the Hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

with great respect…

rachel

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Yoga for Diabetes – Listening to your body, your heart and the world around you.

Today is World Diabetes Day and I’m in Atlanta right now which for me is one of my homes away from home. I used to come here every vacation to be with my grandparents. My grandparents have long since passed but my family is still here. It’s been really special to reconnect with them and feel their support.

Last night while our extended family gathered around the dinner table one of my cousins told me she ran into a friend who had type 1 diabetes. She told him about me and how I was touring the country to promote my book.

She thought he’d be super enthusiastic about my project, but his reply stunned her, “Isn’t yoga good for everything? What’s so special about yoga for diabetes?”

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His question isn’t new and I have to admit it’s been a challenge to address this on the tour. Why come to a specific class on yoga for diabetes? Why even buy a book on the subject?

Yes, yoga is great for everybody and there are no restrictions to practicing if you live with diabetes. But Yoga isn’t cookie cutter. You might think you’d benefit from a yoga class, but if the style isn’t right for your constitution you could be increasing cortisol and inflammation.

Understanding that there is a yoga that’s right for you is the key.  That’s why whenever I want to individualize my practice and manage my health better I turn to the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda.

Ayurveda means the science of life and it’s been working with health and wellbeing for over 4,000 years.

Rather than seeing Diabetes as Type 1 or 2, Ayurveda looks at the way that diabetes is manifesting in the organs and tissues of the body.  As such, It is seen as a condition of excess or depletion. Once the quality of the condition is assessed then the appropriate treatment is given.

What does that mean?

Homeopathic medicine.

If you are dealing with depletion, lack of energy, digestive issues, insomnia or even nervous system problems going to a power yoga class, or a hot yoga class is going to reek havoc because it’s too heating and stimulating. It would be better to practice calming and rejuvenating postures, try some restorative yoga, sound therapy, breath work, yoga nidra, and consider a change in diet and environment.

If you are dealing with excess, then stimulation and purgative therapies to get the toxins out of the system are best. You’ll want to increase your circulation through active yoga practices, like power and ashtanga yoga, have regular massages, eat a lighter diet, consider scraping your tongue, and even have enemas and irrigate your nasal passages. The more you can reduce the inflammation in the system, the sooner your blood sugars will come back to balance.

Another aspect of learning about Ayurveda is listening. Listening to your body, your heart and the world around you.

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Are you trying too hard? Frustrated and feeling burnt out? Ayurveda recommends going for a walk, practicing gratitude or even being of service to someone else in need.

Feeling spaced out, flighty and confused or anxious? Then bringing more routine into your life, eating at the same time every day, massaging your feet with black sesame oil and doing something creative will occupy your restless mind.

Feeling lethargic, slow, unmotivated or even depressed?  Be wild and spontaneous, call a friend, go out and dance and shake up your routine.

When you listen to your heart and approach each day afresh you’ll find that naturally without realizing it things get easier. It’s never going to be easy to manage diabetes, but you can take control of yourself and your habits and make each day the best yet.

Want to learn a simple calming meditation? feel free to check out my previous world diabetes day post here.

with great respect…

rachel