If you can breathe you can do yoga

I’ve just returned from The Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women conference in Virginia which was jam-packed with inspirational seminars on all things diabetes. It was both moving and motivating and gave me a sense of how big our diabetes community is and how events like these nurture and support us in ways that online connections can’t.

I came away feeling deeply fulfilled especially because I got to hang out with so many of my diabetes heroes. Seeing them in real life shining and full of passion made my day.

I was assigned the task of sharing yoga at the conference. People came from all walks of life and all abilities and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt comfortable.

I truly believe that Yoga is for everybody. If you can breathe you can do yoga and you don’t need to be fit or flexible either. Yoga is an integrated system that includes every aspect of wellbeing from breathing to meditation, voice and hand gestures, creativity and more to remember your true nature, oneness, wholeness, whatever you want to call that feeling where time seems to stop and you just can’t get unhappy about anything.

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Postural practice is important because when you gently move and open the body the fascia (the sheath of tissue around the muscles) is stretched and directly accesses the nervous system. But postures are just one limb on a multifaceted tree.

I came to understand this for myself when I practiced a more vigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga.  No matter how much I stretched and opened myself, the bigger questions like why am I here, who am I and what is life about remained unanswered. And after being diagnosed with diabetes I had to admit that even the “physical” aspect of yoga could not fix me.

But that didn’t mean I gave up on yoga. I just had to view it through a different lens.

Yoga is not designed to fix anything, it’s a reminder that completeness is our birthright. We only need to remember this and yoga is that reminder. So whether you take a moment to stop and breathe, take the time to be mindful or whisper a silent prayer of gratitude that you’ve made it through another night. That’s yoga!

with great respect…

rachel

And speaking of introducing everyone to yoga I appeared on KTLA just the other day and had the anchor Frank Buckley down on the floor doing some postures.  So much fun!

Obviously I love Yoga

Blogging about Diabetes isn’t always easy. Sometimes I find my momentum waning. Like this week, when my email crashed and my camera wouldn’t load data onto my computer and my blood sugars decided to go up for no known reason.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that even though I want to quit… diabetes never does!

I find it fascinating to think that this disease has been with us for who knows how long. In India, they’ve been treating diabetes for over 5000 years!

When I went to India, just after my diagnosis (literally 3 days after) the cook at the retreat center where I was staying worked diligently with me to keep my blood sugar in range. Back then we didn’t know it was type 1, but the things she did worked. I ate something called Bitter Gourd every day, drank potions, modified my diet and massaged myself daily with sesame oil, Abhyanga, to relax my nervous system.

One of the most challenging things for anyone who has to mimic the action of their own pancreas is to keep stress to a minimum. Those initial days in India helped me to establish a daily routine with food and exercise…Yoga being the biggest support.

Like everyone else, it’s not easy to stay motivated, I find that when I step onto my mat it takes a few moves before I’m in the zone. I can’t say I directly notice an instant effect on my blood sugars from the practice but I do believe it trickles down. Overall my levels are stable and manageable because the practices of yoga enable to me to relax and be myself.

Obviously, I love yoga!

Goa Shoot (12 of 18)

What if there was an easy way to feel better, have extra confidence and be more relaxed about managing your diabetes?

Yoga absolutely helped me and I’m convinced it can help you too

Join me on September 1, 2017 for my free yoga challenge

”  Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga”

With great respect…Rachel

 

Letting go and relaxing in

I’d been dreading my visit to the Diabetes Educator ever since I decided to split my basal dose over three months ago. When the day came I was so tense that I must have gone to the restroom about 5 times. Every time I washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror I told myself, “it’s going to be fine and even if your A1c isn’t perfect it’s not the end of the earth.”

As soon as I sat down in her office I burst into tears.

Handing me a tissue she asked me to talk about it. I explained how terrifying it was to split my basal, how I couldn’t seem to get the ratios right and that I couldn’t stand seeing higher readings on my meter. I admitted that I felt like a failure and added that when I read everyone’s posts on my diabetes facebook groups it made me feel even worse. “People seem to achieve such balance and even with everything I know it feels crazy that I should be struggling.”

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She listened compassionately and reminded me that people always put their best face forward on Facebook. She said that in reality, I had no idea how those people were achieving their awesome A1c’s and besides it’s not a competition. She suggested we look at the cold hard facts before we passed judgment on how I was managing my health.

When she had loaded up all my data she pointed to the flat line on the screen and said, “see that? You’re flat lining, no peaks and valleys, this means you have a high protective factor. Even though overall your levels are higher than we’d like they don’t fluctuate much, a sign that your body isn’t under constant stress from crashes and peaks.”

She added that the yoga practices, low carb diet and simple daily regimes are doing wonders to keep me balanced.  “It takes time for the body to adjust to a new regimen. Let’s give it another three months to see what happens before we adjust things further.”

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I felt so much lighter when I left the clinic and lucky to be able to work with someone open and progressive. She didn’t tell me to eat more, inject more or change my approach. Instead, she encouraged me not to give myself such a hard time and to trust the process.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve always encouraged my students to learn to relax. Some postures facilitate opening and others force us to work harder. If someone has a tendency to overdo things I always give them practices to chill down whereas if I can see a student finds it hard to get motivated I push them and cheer them on.

The practice I am going to share with you today is all about relaxing and letting go. I find that hip opening and inner thigh stretches are perfect for this. This sequence takes 4 minutes and definitely stretches and frees up the hips. I’m pretty open in the hips so just be aware you might find your body might not go as far as what you see in the practice.

I also filmed it spontaneously so yeah.. it was a wild hair day… But rather than get my self all made up and look glam. I thought better to show the real deal. I was doing my practice that day to cheer myself up after some hectic highs…. forcing myself to chill down and release my frustrations.

As always I’d love to know how it feels so drop me a comment below…

With great respect… Rachel

DIY wedding bells and diabetes

Last weekend I attend a three-day farm wedding with a twist. I can’t actually put into words what it means to see someone you love give their heart and soul to someone else.  But what I am bursting to say is… this was the best wedding I’ve ever been to!

The happy couple wanted all their friends to come together, meet each other and experience community and the power of co-creation. A Do-It-Yourself wedding.

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Gone were the wedding planners, elaborate tents, hired caterers and contracted musicians. Forget celebrants and fancy rings. Imagine 58 people staying in busses, tents and haylofts. From the moment we arrived the farm was a hive of activity. The farmhouse kitchen spilled over with home-grown lettuces and courgettes, homemade cakes and breads. Once we unpacked we were encouraged to roll up our sleeves and join in.

A huge barbecue was lit, picnic tables were erected and people began putting together vegan foil parcels to throw on the grill. By the time the sun went down the grill turned into a massive fire pit surrounded by laughing, smiling eyes.

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The next morning under a clear blue sky about 15 people showed up for early morning yoga. At the end of the practice I asked the group to place their hands on the earth and imagine planting seeds for the bride and groom. I decided to join in on the exercise and imagined them living a successful and heartfelt life together. It was hard not to cry.

After Yoga everyone contributed to brunch. Someone had made a giant fruit salad, someone else had cut slabs of cheese, the breads remerged as did vegan pancakes. My partner and I slipped out for a walk into the surrounding wheat and corn fields and by the time we returned the wedding preparations were in full swing. People were hanging photos of the happy couple from trees, Others were busy setting up a photo automat booth with costumes and an old fashioned camera. There was an activity to make a “memory game” with hand drawn cards and a close knit group were busy decorating the area for the ceremony with paper flowers (hand made of course) and flags. There was literally an army of people cutting up vegetables for the vegan feast to come after the ceremony and then there were the cooks busy making the food.

IMG_8972I decided to get involved in the flower arranging with the bride. She wanted bouquets for the parents and flowers for the tables and an elaborate garland to decorate the table for the wedding party. As my hands touched each stem and I began to bring the flowers together I thought of her grandmother who had a gift with growing and arranging flowers. We both agreed this was actually the best part of the preparations, being knee deep in roses, cornflowers and baby’s breath. What a pleasure to watch her create her own bouquet and choose the flowers for her headpiece.

When it finally came time for the ceremony we were greeted with a classical trio of flute, cello and violin for the wedding march (the cello player was one of our cooks, the violinist had made the lights for the trees and our flautist had created the wedding cake.)

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We heard the story of how they had met, they exchanged their vows and rings and planted a tree together. Then it was our turn to sing a song and offer our congratulations. As the ceremony merged into the celebration dinner there were speeches, skits, movies, stories and more amidst the cutting of the cake and the first dance. The celebrations continued till the early hours and there were still a few stragglers greeting the dawn when I woke up to make my breakfast.The morning after was yet another marvel as the group banded together after another amazing brunch to slowly ‘bump out’.

IMG_9047On the train ride back to Berlin I took a moment to reflect on the whole experience, especially as it was the first time I’d done something like this since I was diagnosed. It wasn’t easy to cook my food or eat at regular times while having on average five hours sleep each night but to my amazement my blood sugars managed to stay level. In fact, on the Sunday I woke up slightly low.  It was quite a surprise and contrary to my idea of what makes a perfect diabetes day.

Perhaps a dose of joy, love and celebration is just as good as a controlled diabetes management plan.

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photo by Jessica Zumpfe

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or send me a message and if you’d like a free copy of the first chapter of my new book click here …. with great respect, Rachel

Travel ain’t for sissies

It’s been a while so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve been in South Africa for two weeks and besides the stunning landscape, incredibly pure air and peace and quiet, my body has been on strike. Within three days of arriving I had a head cold, outrageous levels and my internal plumbing backed up. I’m using a euphemism to save face but seriously, international travel ain’t for sissies.

Just to set your mind at ease my levels have returned to normal and my cold is gone. But my digestion has been slow to move. I’m chalking it up to the drier environment (we are in a Mediterranean climate here), the change in food and the fact that travel can rough things up quite a bit.

Now that I’ve totally exposed myself and the machinations of my digestion, I thought I’d share with you a sequence which has helped me to get things moving again. It’s fast paced and you will need some knowledge of yoga postures to move through it, but it definitely works. It’s also a great abdominal work out!

Check it out and let me know what you think

with great respect…Rachel

Getting into your breath

Happy Spring!

When I started this blog 16 month’s ago my aim was to share tips and tricks on how yoga can help you manage your diabetes.  I was going to upload practices each week and create a body of work that would eventually lead to an online resource. Well … in my excitement I kind of got off track. I came across so many inspiring people who live with diabetes and do yoga that I wanted to share their insights too and then I wrote a book, which by the way is on the cusp of being ready.

But besides the diabetes related stuff I do I actually have a day job. I travel nationally and internationally teaching yoga workshops, retreats and teacher trainings with my partner and fellow yoga teacher, John Weddepohl.

Last month our work took us to Japan. It was my 10th visit and Johns 1st and besides teaching a ton of yoga we visited temples, Mt. Fuji, saw plum blossoms and went bowling! It was cold but refreshing and my blood sugar levels staying in range for the entire trip. You can imagine how exciting that was.

After spending 30 days writing, talking and sharing all about my life as a type 1 LADA diabetic in order to raise funds to publish the book, I had almost forgotten that most of the time my focus is on sharing yoga with people who don’t have diabetes. My trip to Japan was a great reminder. No matter what’s going on, yoga works. It worked for me before my diagnosis and it definitely works for me now. My emphasis on why might be different, but the results are the same.

As part of my day job I also teach private sessions and am currently working with someone who wants to increase their breath capacity. It’s been amazing to see instant results when I share how to feel and find the breath. Like how certain poses open up the chest to increase the lungs ability to take in more air, or how some postures release the muscles that can tighten up and restrict our breathing.

In my book on Yoga for Diabetes I devote a whole chapter to breath and breathing. But for todays blog I just wanted to share 3 simple postures that can improve your breath capacity and calm and restore your nervous system.
With great respect…Rachel

And … If you’d like to find out more about when the book is coming out and how to get your hands on a copy you can sign up for my newsletter here.

open the chest for blog

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet placed firmly on the floor inner hip width distance apart. Raise your arms up over your  head, backs of the palms touching the floor. Keep the arms wide so there is no tension in your shoulders. Notice how easy it is to breathe into your chest in this position. Hold and breathe for 10 breaths. Then lower your arms and breathe normally and notice if your breath feels lighter.

breathing into the belly

2. Keeping your knees bent and your feet flat and have your arms relaxed alongside your torso, palms facing down. Raise your pelvis towards the sky. Make sure there is no pressure on the back of your neck. If there is, place a blanket under your shoulders. Begin to breathe into your belly. Watch it rise and fall. In this position your diaphragm (the muscle that sits underneath your rib cage and releases and contracts in order for your lungs to take in air) naturally releases. Hold here and take 10 deep belly breaths. Slowly lower your pelvis back down to the ground and relax.

Lunge to release psoas

3.  Come on to your hands and knees. Step your left foot in between your hands lining up the heel of your front foot with the base of your thumbs. keep your belly connected to your front thigh and breathe. Deepen the bend in the front knee making sure your front knee and ankle stay in a straight line. ( If you bend your knee too far and extend over your front ankle you could strain the knee joint!) Feel the stretch on the opposite front  thigh and groin. This stretches the psoas which is the only muscle in the body which connects the upper half of the body to the lower half. When the psoas is tight it also restricts your breathing. Hold here for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

 

 

A mini wave of bliss

It’s been a wild 33 days. A walk around the block and my friend convinced me to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to produce my book on yoga for diabetes and then BOOM it happened!

WE DID IT!

How does it feel when a dream comes true? AWESOME is an understatement. When the numbers ticked over and I’d met my target I started walking around in circles in my living room, wondering now what?

The beauty of life is it doesn’t stop for a second, no matter what endeavours we pursue, no matter what we achieve, there’s another moment followed by another…and another…

Diabetes doesn’t stop either. A fact one can’t ignore when blood sugar drops at an inopportune moment.

For me it was yesterday. The whole day had been frantic because my partner John and I had to put everything in storage, clean the car, check the mail and do all those ordinary little bits and pieces to head off on a yoga teaching tour.

At about 4 pm, I went to check my blood sugar. But wait… where’s my meter? I looked in my bag, looked around the car. Did I leave it at the storage? The car wash? At home? The most valuable and precious item in my life and for the life of me I had absolutely no idea where it was.

You know that feeling you get when you lose control of your car, it might only be for a second, but it seems like eternity. Everything goes into slow motion and you’re hoping and possibly even praying that you’ll survive this one while you start making promises about the things you’ll never do again.

You’re probably imagining that as a yogi I took some deep belly breaths, gazed at my third eye, dropped into the lotus pose and started omming.

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Are you kidding? besides feeling like an absolute idiot for misplacing a life saving device. I pulled out my emergency stash of almonds and started munching. They’d been in my bag for ages and were stale and gross. It was either that or nothing.

( note to reader: I am still only on long acting insulin and a low for me isn’t low enough to need a fast acting carb to bring my levels up. I can still get away with eating a bag of nuts)

John, being an absolute gem drove me straight home. Luckily I have a second meter as a back up. And guess what? I wasn’t even low. 8.9 mmol stared back at me. Must have been those pesky almonds – I think I’m actually allergic to them.

Anyhoo…. I began searching for my missing meter. I looked EVERYWHERE. No luck. I’d remembered getting the meter out to put in my bag, I was sure I hadn’t left it anywhere other than at home and still couldn’t find it.

Calling on my skills as a yogi, I decided to give up and move on. Instead of complaining about having to get a new meter, or getting all caught up in my thoughts about where I’d lost it, I got on with my evening.

And then…

I found it! I bet you’re dying to know where.

It was sneakily sitting on top of John’s carry-on bag. Both meter case and carry-on bag are black and had seamlessly blended together.

The happiness I felt on finding the meter was equal to the excitement of reaching my target for the crowdfunding campaign. Funny how a little electronic device could bring on such a wave of bliss.

If you’d still like to preorder a copy of the book its not too late! There are sill 11 hrs left before it finishes. you can find more info here http://www.pozi.be/yoga4diabetes

LOis tetimonial

What are your non-negotiables ?

Hello 2016! I wish I could say the year started off all calm and cosy, but it’s taken me nearly two weeks to get my levels down after our christmas day celebrations. Don’t even asked me why…  sometimes I just have to give myself a break and be okay about swimming upstream. Amidst the pure frustration of looking at numbers I do not like I’ve realized there are some things that I can rely on.  These are my non-negotiables and I’m absolutely sure they keep me anchored amidst my personal version of diabetes distress.

non negotiable at the ebach

I’m a stickler for routine. According to ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, one of the best ways to stay balanced and grounded is to create a routine and stick to it. Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. I say around because we can’t always predict when we’ll wake up or get tired. What I have noticed though, is that once you tell the body to sleep and wake up at specific times it actually does it. If you show the body whose boss it will acquiesce.

Be prepared with food. Life is so busy that skipping a meal or not having something healthy on hand can either make or break you. Planning out your meals and being prepared means you can go anywhere, be anywhere and relax. I can’t think of anything more stressful then being out somewhere and there’s absolutely nothing I can eat. I’m talking road stop, in the middle of nowhere and carbs carbs carbs. My non-negotiable is to always have snacks on hand that I like and make me feel good. A few months ago I wrote up a recipe for Bliss balls during diabetes blog week. These babies go with me everywhere and are packed with protein and good fats.

Get into an exercise regime that works for you and do it every day. The whole exercise insulin thing is quite a mystery. It takes time to find out how exercise affects your levels. And there are so many factors at play. For some people exercise reduces levels drastically, for others it levels everything out and for some it pushes levels up. It’s not a one size fits all.  Checking your levels before and after exercise and testing how exercise affects you at different times of the day can really help to give you more assurance that you’re not going to go low or high. I do a breathing practice in the morning, take a walk late afternoon and then do a short twenty minute yoga practice before dinner. How do I find the time? I just do. It’s my non negotiable. Yoga brings my mind and body together into a continuous stream of presence. Being present to what is happening in my body draws me out of fearful and distressing thoughts. If I didn’t give myself that luxury every day I don’t think I’d cope as well as I do.

My last non- negotiable is making as much time available as possible for fun. Fun could be anything. Right now it’s my addiction to watching the TV series, Nashville. I never thought I’d be a country music fan, but I’m having so much fun. I’m also loving summers here in Australia and a little afternoon walk through a rainforest to the beach. A simple swim and laugh with my beloved is priceless.

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With all the hype around the start of the year, new years intentions and all that jazz, we know that there’s nothing new about managing diabetes. But what you can do is make a fresh start and decide to add something new, creative and supportive to your daily management plan. That’s where Yoga comes in.  Yoga is so much more than a practice, its meaning and purpose is to bring you home. Home to your body, your breath and the simplicity of being. Being yourself.

So did I mention that yoga is my biggest non negotiable? That’s why I’ve spent the last year writing a book about how yoga can be the perfect compliment to your daily diabetes management plan. I’m in the final stages of production and I’d love you to be involved. I’m launching a crowdfunding campaign in late January so that you can pre-order copies of the book . I’d be thrilled if you would help me help people with all types of diabetes to get on top of their game.

If you’re interested in getting in on all the prelaunch excitement, I’ll be sending out emails to let you know when and how you can be involved.  Sign up here to find out more.

In the mean time. I’d love to know… what are your non-negotiables?

with great respect… Rachel

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

If you could give yourself the perfect gift what would it be?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the spirit of giving. Every year around this time I think about  what I can give to others. I love heading online or into a store and picking out little things to give to friends and family. While browsing I also check out things that I might like. A book, a dress, a new kitchen gadget. But usually, being quite unattached to ‘stuff’ I don’t buy anything. 

But all the shopping gets me thinking. If I was to give myself the perfect gift what would it be? What do I really want? Probably foremost on my mind would be a cure for Diabetes. But to be honest that feels impractical and certainly not something readily available. So instead, what about a wish list? Things like….

a home

a regular steady income

endless opportunities to share yoga with people who really can benefit from it

blood sugars in range

perfect digestion

a consistant cardio exercise program

ability to eat a wide range of foods while maintaining good blood sugars

time to write, express, share

time for fun with my partner

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okay so that’s THE LIST

But if I had to choose just one gift, material things aside, what would it be?

I mean what would you choose?

Self Love? Patience? Happiness? Peace? Beauty? Nature?

I’ll let you in on a secret.

Already the wholeness that you seek, nothing is missing. This is the meaning of YOGA. Already WHOLE, COMPLETE AND PERFECT JUST AS YOU ARE, you just don’t know it. In fact without you creation would be incomplete. Your presence completes the picture.

So what does that mean? To know this is the perfect gift. YOU are the perfect gift. What a hoot!

So here’s wishing you the best most satisfying holiday season ever and as a special gift from me enjoy this simple soothing yoga practice. Make sure you download it from dropbox so you can do the whole practice.

with great respect…..Rachel

It’s been a huge month

Just the other day I received a note in my inbox from a high school buddy expressing concern over the escalating posts on my feed related to Diabetes, “Are you okay?” he asked, “just want to check you’re not getting worse.” I had to think about my reply.

Am I okay? Well of course. Is my condition worsening? It’s just the same as it ever was. But isn’t it great that somebody noticed.

If just one person is made more aware of the millions of us out there dealing with this incurable and sometimes unmanageable disease is that enough?

Yoga for diabetes

This month I made it my business to step up and share in as many ways as possible why I feel more people should know about Diabetes. The more we can advocate, the more likely others will come onboard and help raise much needed funds in all sorts of arenas. It’s not just that we need to raise money for a cure. We also need to raise money for those in countries less fortunate, where Insulin is unaffordable or where continuous glucose monitors are unavailable.

Diabetes should never be a death sentence but for some, without adequate medication, it is. Before I was diagnosed I never even considered the fall out from this disease and I assumed like everyone else that Insulin was the next best thing to a cure. But I have learned so much in the last year about how complicated and difficult management is. From the outside it looks easy, but from the inside? Not so much….

With just two days left to the end of Diabetes Awareness Month I wonder… did I press the like button enough?

Urged by my fellow advocates I scrolled back over my FB activity log and had a look at what I’d achieved. Bear with me it’s a bit of a roll call.

Beyond Type 1 fundraising campaign

  • Joined the JDRF Type 1 looks like me campaign and changed my profile Pic and shared a link for Diabetes Awareness Month
  • Shared the Beyond Type 1 Million Dollar campaign and made a donation
  • My personal story of how I thrive was published in a #1 Best Seller called “Unleash your Diabetes Dominator” by Daniele Hargenrader and was interviewed by Daniele for her YouTube Series
  • Had my story published in Insulin Nation
  • Created a survey to find out what would motivate diabetics to bring yoga into their daily management program
  • Participated in the Insulin4all campaign to put the world back in world diabetes day – a program created by Type 1 International
  • Published 3 blogs, posted memes, filled out surveys, voted for funding for projects like The Betes
  • Wrote a piece for Beyond Type 1
  • Wrote a story for Diabetes Counselling online here in Australia
  • Started a Yoga for Diabetes YouTube Channel
  • Sent out my first Yoga for Diabetes Newsletter
  • Started a study with Type 1 Diabetics to see how Yoga supports them in their daily management
  • Connected my cousin who runs a program called CrowdMed to see if he could help a young woman with Type 1 who also has a mystery illness, get closer to a cure
  • Celebrated my 7 year Diaversary  ( anniversary of my diagnosis)
  • Donated to A Sweet Life

meme for a sweet Life

Looking back on the last month I can’t help but feel proud. I’ve stayed focussed and committed to spreading more awareness in ways that are meaningful to me as a yogini and writer.  As the work of the last month makes room for the holiday season, I hope all of us whether diabetic or not will continue to spread the word. Lets bring Both types of diabetes to the forefront of peoples minds and truly work together towards a cure!

With great respect….Rachel