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

The serenity prayer

I’m absolutely struck dumb by what’s happening at the moment. New year is usually about setting goals in my diabetes management, upping my personal yoga practice and setting out a plan for the year. With my newsfeed and mind consumed with the unbearable tragedy of the bushfire crisis in Australia, the craziness of the presidency in the US and the spectre of the Climate Crisis, yoga is my rock of support.

It was in the aftermath of 9/11 that I learned that having a committed yoga practice could make a difference to how I responded to the crisis at hand. Yes, I made donations and did what I could to help others, but I also recognised I needed to care for myself. As the stress and tension mounted in the weeks and months after 9/11 we had the anthrax scare, the Iraq war and the very real destruction at ground zero. I remember feeling terrified to head out into the throng of NYC to teach. I forced myself to face my fears because I knew that teaching yoga and attending classes would bring me back to set point.

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Since that time, I have learned through the deeper teachings of yoga called Atma Vidya that the nature of self is peace. Peace doesn’t disappear. I do. I’m the one identifying with the fear, uncertainty and shock.  Yoga helps me to calm down and direct my energy towards what I can do to make a difference. It might be to share on my FB feed an article or story to spread awareness, a physical donation to an organisation, or something as simple and personal as nurturing a seedling in my garden.

Whatever I can do, I need to be calm and grounded to do it. Making decisions out of fear doesn’t work. When everything feels completely out of control, and there is no one to turn to for comfort because everyone is in the same circumstances, there is great support in taking responsibility for what can be done.

 “God Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”-serenity prayer

I consider prayer one of those responsibilities, and it’s something I work with daily in the form of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of surrender and devotion. Another way I take responsibility is to catch myself in the act of reacting to a situation, thought or circumstance.

This is what enabled me to act in the chaos of 9/11. Instead of dissolving into a puddle I took practical steps to cope with the feeling of overwhelm and devastation. What could I do to get our family home and safe? At the time walking over the 59th street bridge was the answer. Now in the midst of an obvious climate and ecological crisis, with Australia in the limelight, I am determined to do my best to take practical steps to be part of a global shift.

When I got married in the 90’s we built our house on an intentional yoga community out of mud bricks. I also built my own composting toilet. We had solar power, rainwater and huge veggie gardens. I had a home birth in water and brought my son up on organic food and a minimum of TV and tech. We spent hours outside in all types of weather. I read to him constantly. We baked and sang and lived very simply.

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By Jacob Zinman-Jeanes

Looking back, everything I did in my 20’s and 30’s was a blessing. I was healthy, grounded and idealistic. Little by little though my idealistic bubble began to burst. We needed to use pesticides to poison alien trees on the property, our solar batteries crashed. It was easier to run our new computer and other electrics on mains power. It was more convenient to have an indoor toilet. Cell phones came into being and we all know how things have changed in the last 20 years.

Our advancement seems to have been our undoing.

Going back to basics, starting a garden again, looking at how we can be more self-sufficient, recycling, reusing, reducing and travelling less are all good places to begin. However, there are still millions and millions of people out there who refuse to change their habits. It’s hard not to feel frustrated and helpless. I refuse to let it get me down. Instead I have added them into my responsibility prayers.

“Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.” – Serenity prayer

With great respect….

rachel

Please watch this very sad yet beautiful tribute to whats happening in Australia at the moment. You can find out more about how you can help the bushfire crisis here 

The 5 go-to yoga practices that saved my life

For todays post as part of Diabetes Awareness Month I am reposting a segment of an article I wrote for Beyond Type 1 in 2015. Make sure to read more on their site to find out what yoga practices are perfect for Diabetes management

I’ve been practicing Yoga since I was 17; right up until my sudden diagnosis of Type 1 at the age of 42, I was convinced that Yoga made me invincible. After my diagnosis everything changed. Instead of thinking Yoga would stave off the boogieman, I took responsibility and came to terms with the role that Yoga played in my life.

I discovered that Yoga is more than a good stretch. It’s a tree with many branches, each limb a path back to harmony and balance, a way to mitigate stress. Yoga is not a trend, it’s been around for over 5000 years.

The Yoga practices are powerful because they are subtle. The physical aspect is just one component of a multilayered methodology that looks at the flow of energy in the body. Life force and immunity can be cultivated and built through posture, breathing, meditation, the right diet and lifestyle adjustments.

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The word Yoga means, “wholeness, completeness, oneness.” Yoga is not a state. Rather it is the natural state of everything in the creation including ourselves. We are naturally peaceful, happy and whole. It’s only our thoughts about something, and our identification with those thoughts that create a sense of incompletion.

Yoga practice does two things — it pulls us out of the habit of identifying with our thoughts and reminds us of our true nature. When you feel all “zen” after class … it’s not the practice that’s doing it. The practices merely remind you that the peace, stillness and harmony you feel at the end of a practice are your natural state. For me, going deeper with Yoga has enabled me to better manage my relationship to diabetes and manage the stress associated with diabetes.

So what are my five Go-to Yoga practices that put me in the zone each and every day?

Read more  on Beyond Type 1

see you tomorrow…#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Chair yoga for everybody

There have been two times in my life where no matter how much I wanted to I couldn’t do yoga. Near the end of my pregnancy and 2003. Late stage pregnancy for me was a killer. Every joint and muscle had softened to the point where stretching just caused more pain. The baby was sitting low and towards the back of my spine. It felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball. Every try to do yoga with a bowling ball in your belly? Forget it.

2003 was the year the sh..t hit the fan with my nervous system. I had been having strange symptoms after 9/11 in 2001, but things really got heavy after holding my breath too long in a yoga class. A few hours later I was out with my girlfriends at dinner and started to get crazy dizzy. The six of us ended up in the ladies room, with me stooped over the sink feeling like my whole world had upended. A few days later I had some sort of heart arrhythmia in the middle of the night. My yoga mentor thought I might be dealing with a nervous system overload and looking back he was sort of right. It was most likely the beginning of my beta cell breakdown, but not knowing anything about diabetes I assumed it was some sort of spiritual emergency. You know…WOO WOO stuff.

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I now know it wasn’t but at the time I found anything that made me feel ungrounded which included yoga, breathing and meditation a no go zone.

Many of us diagnosed with diabetes struggle with all sorts of physical issues. We might have tight muscles, restricted joints, injuries or trouble getting up and down from the floor unassisted. Luckily there are simple ways to get around these challenges by practicing yoga on a chair.

When I work one on one I like to tailor a practice to what’s supportive and accessible. A group class doesn’t give me as much leeway, so in the practice below there might be some things that still feel challenging. I encourage you to do what you can and leave the rest.

As always your feedback is invaluable. Let me know how you travel.

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

World Diabetes Day…again

Today is World Diabetes Day and to be honest I’m flat.

The fire emergency here in Australia combined with higher blood sugars have kept me from my usual enthusiasm. But it’s not just that. It’s hard to put a positive spin on diabetes all the time.

All I can say is my daily yoga practice pulls me out of the doom and gloom. It reminds me that as much as I like to get lost in the details around my health management it’s never going to be perfect. Control is necessary but there has to be some wiggle room. Giving myself a hard time isn’t productive. I’ve learned to relax in the tougher poses, to breathe deep and find stillness. These mini lessons are perfect metaphors for the ups and downs of this disease. And believe me I need that right now.

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Today marks the birthday of  pioneer Frederick Banting and as such celebrates the discovery of insulin in 1921. Before 1921 they didn’t even know what insulin was. Every time I think of this I’m gobsmacked. 1921 is not that long ago yet I take so much for granted when it comes to all the available medication and tech. Here in Australia there is subsidy for our medication and equipment. I am stunned that this isn’t the case in other countries. No one should have to pay for life saving medication!

Luckily there is an initiative out there to help those in need. Its called Type 1 International and their mission is to support local communities by giving them the tools they need to stand up for their rights so that access to insulin and diabetes supplies becomes a reality for all.

Please join me today on World Diabetes Day in supporting this wonderful organisation.

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

The perfect injection

I was one of the lucky ones, or so I thought. When I was diagnosed with unusual blood sugar levels in 2008 I was told by my doctor that we would take a wait and see attitude. Waiting meant me measuring my blood sugar levels with a glucometer twice a day and having quarterly blood tests to see if there was either a reversal to normal levels or an escalation. Seeing was about hoping that I could reverse the symptoms through diet and exercise.

Looking back I’m not to sure how this ‘wait and see’ approach made me lucky. ‘Waiting’ meant I could go into further denial and ‘seeing’ took me into untold distress. When my doctor finally made the call  to start insulin therapy after acknowledging that what I had was a late onset form of Type 1 diabetes, I cried for two weeks straight. Not because I was worried or fearful (which by the way I was, no one wants to be dependent on medication for the rest of their life) but because I was relieved. Relieved that I had a diagnosis that made sense and that I would have control of my health again.

Up until that point taking insulin was my biggest fear. How would I travel having to carry meds with me everywhere, what if I reacted to the chemicals in the insulin, what if it didn’t work.? My doctor assured me that I would feel a whole lot better once I started injecting. He was right. It took 6 months for my levels to return to ‘normal’. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, or solve the problem, but it does alleviate the issue of not being able to assimilate food . When the body doesn’t produce an essential hormone you have to get it in there somehow.

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One of the first things I learned from my diabetes educator was to rotate injection sites. The reason being if I constantly inject in the same place that area starts to form scar tissue making it harder to absorb the insulin. Also the injection site changes the rate of absorption. I started by injecting in the fat layer on my belly, then after meeting friends who lived with diabetes I learned to inject in the fat tissue on the sides and lower back. Recently I’ve started injecting in the top part of my bum. I still haven’t worked up the courage to try my upper outer arms or outer thighs, but I’m getting there.

The hardest thing to remember is where I last injected so I switch sides. Left side of my belly in the morning and right side in the evening. Basically I feel like a pincushion covered in bruises. I like to think of them as a battle scars, a fight well won. Those bumps and bruises show me I’m still alive. I don’t begrudge taking insulin one bit. Taking insulin is a privilege. Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence.

What I’d really like to see out there in terms of help in rotating sites is some kind of way to make sure I’m injecting in a different spot each time. I’ve seen an idea for a temporary tattoos for kids  and there’s a grid you can use, plus apps and charts. But to be honest all these options hasn’t solved the issue.  One of the best options I’ve seen is placing a teeny tiny temporary flower tattoo after injecting, so eventually your whole belly looks like a garden. Sounds fun right?

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In spite of the daily dilemma I have around injecting, life goes on. Initially, I felt nervous and awkward, and unsure as to whether it would work at all. It was my doctor who reassured me, “you know in a little while you’ll forget you even struggled with this part of it. It’ll be as automatic as driving a car.”

And you know what? As much as injecting can be a literal pain in the ass, he was right. As I dial up the dose and inject that sucker I know everything is going to be okay.

see you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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6 tips to bounce back from a rebound high

The first time it happened I was clueless. People living with diabetes often talk about blood sugar roller coasters but I thought that just meant highs and lows in a short period of time. What I didn’t understand was that when I go low I also go high and not just right after correcting a low blood sugar. The high lasts for days. My body starts resisting the insulin I’m injecting and I need more insulin to manage the highs which means more risk of lows. When I was a kid I hated rollercoasters and for good reason. They made me feel sick, scared the begeezus out of me and I’d come off the dang thing with a sore throat from screaming my lungs out.

It took quite a few hypo’s for me to work out that the high’s that followed were to do with the lows. At first I just thought there was something wrong with the insulin, or maybe I hadn’t dosed enough. I even speculated that maybe my pancreas had finally hit the dirt and I really didn’t have an ounce of beta cell function left. Because I live with LADA ( latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) I still produce a minute amount of  insulin, this means that sometimes my body squirts out a tiny amount when I first start eating. It also means that if I am already low when I start eating I could go even lower and have a hypo. Not having the recipe as to what my pancreas will do when means there’s a lot of guessing going on. So when I’m high for days on end and doing everything exactly as I did it the days, weeks and months before it feels like I’m in the middle of a crap shoot. Lucky me!

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When people meet someone living with diabetes, the decision making and daily micromanagement is largely invisible. You might see a CGM or an insulin pump, but on the whole it seems as though the whole process runs smoothly.

Here’s what actually goes on most days for me. I wake up, inject. I eat, inject. Go a little below range, take a glucose tab. Go high, take some insulin.  I check my blood sugar every hour to be on the safe side except for at night where I place my faith in morpheus, the god of sleep trusting that the amount I take for my long acting insulin will keep me in range all night. 20 fingerpricks and up to 6 shots a day of insulin is not easy or seamless no matter how doable it is.

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What do I do to deal with the physical and mental blood sugar challenges during a rebound high? Here’s 6 things that have really helped me.

  1. Do some physical exercise which I know increases insulin sensitivity, like a walk with some hills,
  2. Do a yoga practice which works with the larger muscles of the body and includes standing hip openers and balancing postures
  3. Talk to myself in a positive and supportive way when I see a high number on my meter. I.e. This too shall pass, this is a normal response to a low blood sugar, everybody goes through this
  4. Do things in my day that give me joy, like writing, yoga, connecting with a friend or have some hang out time with my husband
  5. Go to bed early, there’s nothing more healing then a good nights sleep
  6. Reach out in the #DOC ( diabetes online community) to find out how my diabuddies deal with the same situation

And if you live with diabetes I’d love to know… How do you deal with a rebound high? Lets start a conversation in the comments below!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel