Diabetes and Mindset

Diabetes is tough! Especially right now while I am on the road spreading the word about how Yoga is a lifesaver when it comes to the day to day management of diabetes. I’m using test strips like there’s no tomorrow while navigating unexpected lows, raging highs and doing my best to stick to daily routines amidst early morning flights and media calls.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities but like anyone, there are good days and not so good days.

In the end, it comes down to mindset. How I respond to my life with diabetes is more important than the number on my meter, the daily grind of counting carbs or the overall physical drain from a week of higher levels or too many lows.

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What gives me the mental strength to weather the storm? YOGA

More specifically the art of meditation.

I started meditating when I was 23. It wasn’t something I had heard about or even planned to do. It was my best friend and my first yoga teacher who convinced me to try it. She suggested we head to a three-day meditation intensive with a former Buddhist monk. When I asked her what we would actually be doing she just smiled.

After sitting and watching my breath for three days straight and walking in slow meditative circles I soon discovered that meditation isn’t something that can be described. It’s intangible like space. Have you ever tried to describe space? Words like open, vast, infinite can’t really explain a feeling which has no words.

The feeling of meditating is very different to the act of practicing meditation which in yoga is called “concentration” or dharana. Dharana is described in the Miriam-Webster dictionary as “fixed attention; especiallya state of mental concentration on an object without wavering”

So what does that actually mean? Think about what it feels like when you do anything you love; it could be a physical activity like running, reading a book, performing a creative task like painting or writing, you couldn’t do that activity if it didn’t have your full attention. That’s exactly what’s happening when you practice dharana (concentration). You place your full attention on the breath, or an image or even a posture and immediately there is an opportunity for your mind to be in “the zone.”

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Ok…so when you are in the middle of a low is it appropriate to try and practice dharana? Let’s get real. It’s friggin impossible. Your brain is starving for glucose and you want to consume everything in sight.

Once you’ve treated the low you can make a start.  The more we teach the mind to focus in on one point the quicker the nervous system comes back into balance. Like training a dog, positive reinforcement and reminders enable the nervous system to find its feet faster and faster after a stressful event.

We are designed to be relaxed 80% of the time and to be ready to run from a tiger 20% of the time. In this day and age, we live the other way around. Put diabetes in the mix and it amps up the volume. Having simple tools to destress are super important.

But first, we have to want to relax. We need to know what relaxation feels like and understand how beneficial it is. Not only does it support the nervous system. We sleep, digest and feel better emotionally and mentally. Less stress means less cortisol circulating through the system and overall better blood glucose management.

I know for myself after years and years of being uptight, overly sensitive and riddled with anxiety, yoga was the only thing that gave me some respite. It’s taken years of mind over just about everything to get on top of myself. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t learned to meditate at a young age I’d be a basket case.

Knowing that meditation/concentration happens naturally helps to put the mind at ease. Anyone can meditate because anyone can relax. It’s about understanding what meditation is and what it is not.

Meditation is not a state or something that only happens when you are calm or peaceful. It is not a moment, place or goal to be attained.

The word meditation is interchangeable with the word peace, contentment, bliss, wholeness.

You being whole and complete…are the meditation itself.

You might not get what I’m saying right now but rest assured…nothing beats the feeling you get from taking time to slow down and be still.  Learning to concentrate is just the beginning.

For this week’s blog, I’ve included an excerpt from the chapter on contemplation from my new book Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda

151210_DAV6241The Soham meditation for pitta

As a fiery type, the act of trying to concentrate can often incite frustration. To balance that Pitta, we need to counteract that fire. And what counteracts fire? Water.

The sound of the ocean is like the sound of the breath when you cover your ears and listen carefully. To balance Pitta, you’ll be using sound (mantra) to focus your mind. One of the most profound mantras is the natural sound the breath makes as we breathe in and out. This is happening automatically 24,600 or so times a day. If you place your hands over your ears and breathe in, you’ll hear the sound So. Keeping your hands over your ears when you breathe out, you’ll hear the sound Ham.

The Soham Meditation is an ancient technique that works effectively to calm and cool the nervous system and mind.

Set an intention for your practice. It could be anything, something simple like “I want to feel relaxed at the end of the practice” or more personal like “I dedicate this practice to accepting things as they are”.

Technique

Engage ujjayi breath. Long slow inhalation, long slow exhalation.

Feel the breath become even. Even count for inhalation, even count for exhalation. Continue counting the breath.

Move the awareness to the pelvic floor, sensing the space between the pubic bone and the tailbone.

On your next inhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing up the centre of the spine to the middle of the brain.

On the next exhalation, for an even count, visualise the breath flowing down the centre of the spine. Continue like this for as long as is comfortable.

Add the sound (mantra) So on the inhalation and Ham on the exhalation.

Chant the mantra internally to yourself.

Keep breathing in the sound So and breathing out the sound Ham for about 3 to 5 minutes or as comfortable.

Want to know more about how yoga can help you manage your life with diabetes? Order your very own copy of my book here and if you love it I would be so grateful for a review 🙂

With great respect…

rachel

 

The Book is Here!

Ok… here goes…. this is my first ever shameless self- promotion post.

My book, Yoga for Diabetes How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda is in stock on Amazon and right now it’s on sale for $20.70 US that means $7 off the list price.

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This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! A chance to learn first hand how yoga can support you in living your best with diabetes. It doesn’t matter what sort of diabetes you have, your age or level of fitness you will love this easy to implement approach which includes the perfect tools to manage stress, reduce cortisol levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Find the right postural practice for you and your type of diabetes and learn basic breathing and concentration techniques to enhance happiness.

As I am currently in the US to promote the book you can also catch me live in stereo at an event in a city near you. Head to the events page to find out more

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And If you’re in or near Los Angeles why not come and join me for the official launch party at Mystic Journey Bookstore 6.30-8.30 pm in Venice.

I’ll also be talking about the book and my personal journey with diabetes on KTLA on Wednesday, October 11 at 9.45 am PST.  Tune in and be part of the virtual celebrations!

Besides all the exciting stuff to do with the book, my blood sugars have been misbehaving. My body craves routine, so early starts and late night flights are playing absolute havoc. Luckily I do practice what I preach so my twice daily yoga practice has been an absolute lifesaver. As I write, I’m back in range, but the reading below (on my way to the book launch at Book Passage in Corte Madera) was not ideal.

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I guess I just wanted to share that like anyone living with diabetes this is the reality.  Trying to think like a pancreas is no picnic.

And as I share in the book,

Throughout my life, I have always wanted to help others, but simultaneously found it difficult to take responsibility for helping myself. Taking up a yoga practice, eating wholesome and nurturing foods, living life with devotion and reverence are just some of the ways I consciously give back to myself on a day-to-day basis. My life as a yogi is not a fad. And having a disease like diabetes, I can’t afford to be part of a trend anyway. That’s why I feel strongly that the simplicity and discipline of yoga, plus the lifestyle guidelines from Ayurveda are the perfect starting point no matter what type of diabetes you have. The postural sequences, breathing and meditation techniques, thoughts on yoga and its deeper meaning, and the Ayurvedic lifestyle suggestions are there to support you in facing some of the challenges that come with the disease. And top of that list, of course, are stress and burnout. I am confident that like me you will discover that yoga is a life-changing and life-enhancing system. And a great friend and companion that will hold your hand through all the ups and downs you are bound to experience.”

With great respect,

rachel

Routine Routine Routine

As part of my 7-day free online challenge , Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga, I’ll be reposting some blogs with relevant content to the challenge. If you’d like to join us it’s not too late. You can sign up here. The theme for day 1 is getting to know your ayurvedic type…

Routine, we love to hate it, especially with a demanding disease like Diabetes which requires hyper-vigilance. No sane person would set their alarm to wake through the night to check their blood sugar, diligently count carbs before a meal or force themselves on the treadmill at 9 pm. But we do it because without the effort? The science speaks for itself.

So how can we turn a have to into a want to. This is where the sister science of Yoga, Ayurveda takes centre stage. The word Ayurveda means the science of life.  As a traditional Indian method of healing, it uses the natural world to help us understand what creates balance and imbalance.

Ayurveda works with the five elements; earth, water, fire, air and space. We have all 5 elements in our constitution but usually only two hold the limelight.The combination of elements are called Doshas. Vata dosha being the predominance of air and space, Pitta dosha, fire with a small amount of water and Kapha dosha, the predominance of water and earth.

It follows suit that Diabetes is not a one size fits all disease. In medical terminology we have type 1 (Juvenile onset) Type 2 ( Diet and lifestyle related) and 1.5 LADA ( Late Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood) and as I write more types of diabetes are being categorised.

In Ayurveda, Diabetes is classified by the Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Kapha Diabetes is treatable through diet and exercise. Pitta Diabetes can be controlled with strict management where as Vata Diabetes is much harder to treat and stabilise  My understanding after working with several different Vaidya’s ( ayurvedic doctors)  is that both Vata and Pitta Diabetes deplete the  nervous system. Whereas Kapha Diabetes clogs the system and is a disease of excess.

So what simple things can we do everyday to bring harmony and balance to our lives?

In Ayurveda, setting a regular rhythm is key. In our fast paced life it’s easy to ignore our natural rhythms . We go to bed late, wake up late, eat on the go, spend too much time on devices and work at odd hours. With a disease which is already depleting and/or clogging our systems it’s doubly challenging and we feel pressured to get it right.

Here are three simple ayurvedic practices you can implement right now no matter what your constitution.

Ayurveda for Diabetes

1. Wake up before the sun rises and greet the day with gratitude. Rising before the sun means you will have more energy available to you throughout the day. At dawn the prana (life energy) is still low in the atmosphere and easily absorbed by the body. Perfect for Type 1’s who need to build energy. For Type 2’s it’s a great time for dynamic breathing or a beach walk.

2. Sip hot water instead of tea throughout the day. Plain hot water is cleansing and eliminates toxins and is also warming and nurturing. For Type 1’s it lubricates and soothes the nervous system, for Type 2’s it eliminates accumulated waste.

3. Give your self a nurturing foot massage before bed. No matter what your type, massaging the feet before bed balances the nervous system and promotes sound sleep. In Ayurveda specific oils are used depending on your constitution. But to keep it simple any plain massage oil will work or any cream you use to keep your feet soft especially if you suffer from skin cracks or neuropathy. Make sure to massage the whole foot focussing on the pads of the feet, around the heel and achilles tendon and between the toes.

Implement these three simple practices every day and notice how you feel and stay tuned for more Ayurvedic tips along the way…with great respect Rachel

Being a force for positive change

For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be a force for positive change. Instilled in me by my grandfather, he would often remind us how important it was to speak our minds and to question. He taught me to be respectful, thoughtful and to give back and never ever take privilege for granted. Everything can change in a heartbeat.

Last night, when I was sharing with a fellow type 1 friend about my upcoming online yoga challenge, she said: “this challenge is so needed in the world!” It was a sweet compliment but it made me think.

I’ve always seen yoga and yoga practices as life changing, transformative and something that anyone can benefit from. In fact, I can remember when I started teaching teachers I had this goal of training enough people so that everybody in the whole world would do yoga. Nearly 17 years later just about everyone in the world does do yoga.

Well almost.

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So besides all the hype, how can yoga make a difference? Why is it so needed? Because whether we live with a chronic disease or not. We are all suffering from stress and burnout. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded. Bombarded with must do’s and have’s. Sometimes trying to decide where to put my energy, money and time is enough to make me want to sit down, cover my ears and scream, “Enough!”

In my personal experience if yoga can offer one thing it’s simplification

When I keep things simple and eliminate the complications it gives me breathing space. Instead of long drawn out yoga postures which include bending into pretzel shapes. I do the same easy routine every day. It’s nice to add in a more complex move every now and then but I’ve learned it’s not necessary. Some forward bends before dinner and a few moments of quiet reflection prepare me for a good night’s sleep.

Living with diabetes means it’s even more important to stay calm and balanced.

As a yogi and yoga teacher, I’ve learned that understanding how the mind works is key in handling stress and achieving balance. When I first started practicing I learned to meditate and observe my thoughts. Later I learned that watching my thoughts (mindfulness) is just the beginning.

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Even more powerful is knowing who is having the thoughts. Knowing the thinker. No matter how big the thought, the thinker has to be there. Without the thinker what thought?

When life gets overwhelming reminding myself that I am the thinker of the thoughts, puts everything in perspective.

We spend our whole lives obsessed with our thoughts, trying to banish them or tame them. And when we can’t resolve the thoughts our mental health suffers. I can sometimes spend way too long obsessing about my thoughts about diabetes. The quicker I catch myself going off the rails the better. I like to think of it as fishing for thoughts. If a thought starts to swim away I catch it and hold it close. When you try to hang on to a thought it quickly dissipates. Thoughts are ephemeral like that. But when you try not to think about something all you do is think about it more.

Yoga is so powerful in meeting the mind head on. Instead of trying to squash thoughts we can focus on something like the breath, or a sound, or a posture or even work with hand gestures. There are so many ways to bring the mind into a one pointed focus. And the cool thing is that these practices are for everybody.

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When I tell people that I teach yoga I can get a variety of responses but the most common one is Yoga? I’m not good at that. I love sharing that yoga is so much more than the physical practice.

In general, the physical practice is designed to:

  • detoxify and purify the physical body bringing it back to its natural state.
  • help the mind to slow down

On a deeper level, yoga practice suspends for a moment all the ideas, thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. That’s why we feel so good when we finish the practice. All the thoughts we’ve been getting lost in seem to disappear and we feel calm and peaceful.

Once the nervous system gets the hint that we don’t always need to be in the stress response (fight or flight) we spend more time in the relaxed part of our nervous system.  This means our tendency to habitually react to stressful thoughts, events and experiences also relaxes. This is so helpful when we live with diabetes. The more I can look at the numbers on my meter and stay calm. The less I react to my feelings about diabetes and the better I feel no matter what’s happening.

When I was putting together my upcoming yoga challenge, Better Diabetes Management in 7 steps with Yoga, I thought about what sorts of things I wanted to share. Rather than making each step about a physical postural practice I wanted to focus on the core of what yoga actually does, balance and calm the nervous system.

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In the challenge I’ll be sharing:

About Ayurveda and how to discover your ayurvedic type

A short physical practice to improve circulation

Mudras (hand gestures) for balancing the emotions

How sound (mantra) works to heal the nervous system

A calming breathing practice that you can do anywhere anytime

How to give yourself a nurturing foot massage that promotes deep sleep

And a creative mandala (yantra) exercise to inspire gratitude and devotion

These are the practices I do every day to be a positive force for change in my own life with diabetes and I am so excited to share them with you too.

If you’d like to join the challenge its free and you can sign up here.  

 

 

A week in the wild

I’ve just returned from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a vast tract of land teaming with wildlife. What a privilege to spend seven days watching the natural lifestyles of wild animals. And guess what…it’s all about the food.img_9488Animals are either ground grazers, tall leaf eaters or wild hunters (like leopards and lions) I’m talking rhinos battling it out in a nearly dry river bed, herds of elephants eating trees covered in thorns, giraffes crossing and re-crossing roads in search of the freshest and tastiest leaves. And not only do they eat, but they fight for the right to eat. We watched giraffes weaving their necks together, elephants pushing and shoving each other and kudus locking horns. My partner mentioned that it was all about survival of the fittest. If you win the battle you get your pick of the best. It made me think about living with diabetes and how we work twice as hard as someone with a functioning pancreas to stay fit and still we deal with that feeling that it’s never enough!img_9457Unlike our complex needs for exotic combinations on our dinner plates, animals keep it simple. Their primary directive is survival. If I can’t get it on the ground and I can reach it in a bush, I’ll eat that. Basically, like animals all a human body needs is nutrients to survive. I can get caught up in personal taste, be fussy about presentation, but if I was on a desert island? I’d probably behave like any wild animal and eat whatever!img_9555Besides watching all the munching and crunching there was a lot of digesting and sleeping going on too. We came across twenty crocodiles asleep in the sand along the banks of a watering hole, lions stretched out in a riverbed and a leopard straddling a high branch completely dead to the world.img_9496I never thought watching animals would be so soothing, fascinating and timeless. We spent over 6 hours in our car at one time and literally had to drag ourselves back to camp for a refresher before we jumped back in the car for more. Before the trip I worried that I’d get frustrated by sitting in the car all day. It’s completely against the rules to get out even for a pee (apparently a lion or some such other wild creature can come out of the bush at any moment and eat you up) But surprise, surprise it was easy. When you place your focus outside yourself time falls away and you forget all the little niggley things including the fact that your blood sugars might not be behaving.img_9631As the days went by I felt lighter and lighter and as a bonus my blood sugars levelled out. Maybe all any of us really need is a week away in the wild.

Check out these sweet little films below and if you’d like my free ebook on how I survived my first year on Insulin go here

Be the Sweetness You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about loving kindness. We are told by countless self-help gurus that in order to move forward on ‘the path’ we have to love ourselves. I can remember way back in the 90’s having a counselling session where I was told that unless I learned to love myself I’d never find a way to move forward in my life. Looking back all I can say is, hogwash! I’ve realized through trial and error that loving oneself isn’t an action. We can’t do loving because we are the love itself.

Rachel Portraits 2015-6 copyBut what exactly does that mean?

Love is such a powerful feeling. Think about how it feels when you hug someone. Tingles and warm shoo-shoo feelings in the heart and a sense of safety and completion flooding every ounce of your being. Feeling love for someone is so powerful that somehow we are convinced that that’s what self love should feel like too. But what if love isn’t a feeling. What if love isn’t tangible and what if… we are loving ourselves 24/7 and the only thing standing in our way is that no one has ever told us that love is not an action.

Put simply, love is being yourself. And how hard is it to be yourself? It’s easy… you’re doing it every single day.

As a reminder I often think about when my son was born. Just a few minutes after his birth I understood something I couldn’t have possibly understood before. Babies are pure love. They ooze love, exude love just by simply existing. So what’s the difference between a baby and you? Absolutely nothing. That love baby is still looking out of your own eyes how ever many years later. If there is anything that separates you from the baby it’s the ideas, beliefs and conditions you’ve innocently absorbed and taken on. Sometimes it’s described as the layering affect. You identify with emotions, feelings, situations as yourself and then you believe you are the shame, guilt, depression, misery etc. But you can never be those things…they are just things you have.

IMG_8952It’s easier to drop what you have than what you are. Try dropping your awareness? I dare you. Try to be unconscious right now! Unless you hit yourself over the head with a hammer it’s impossible.

So being love is a no-brainer and loving yourself is effortless. What’s effortful is clinging to your concepts about love, about what love should look like and what it takes to love yourself. Think about how many times you’ve berated yourself for not taking care of yourself, for not going that extra mile, for not getting it “right’. Whose imposed those expectations? Where are those ideas about what self love should look like coming from? Un-peeling the layers is not some psychological process it’s not even about letting go, it’s actually the opposite of that.

By being you and and simply existing in the creation you are enough. In fact, you’re more than enough.

Think about it. What do you take with you when you drop your body? Do you take an emotion? An object? A relationship? Money? An idea or belief? At the moment of death, quite naturally you let go of everything. And imagine understanding that by simply existing, you are enough. How loving would you feel? Where would you need to direct love? What work would you have to put in to love yourself?

Absolutely none!

IMG_4490Love is already gained; like a drop in the vast ocean of water. No matter how much the drop thinks it’s a drop it can only ever be water. No matter how separate you feel from love the truth is, love is all there is.

So being sweet to yourself is easy because without trying, without even knowing it you are the sweetness itself.

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

Do your best, get feedback and begin again

“Again! Let’s take it from D.” The young conductor was standing in front of a world class orchestra and a world famous conductor, my Dad and about to cast the first downbeat.

Young conductors know that this is the only way to improve. They do their best, get feedback and begin again. Watching the class and listening to my Dad’s comments it hit me; he has worked hard like this his whole life.

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When I was little, my dad was often hunched over a score at the piano making pencil markings, or waving his arms around with headphones on. I knew that we were supposed to be quiet and patient while Dad was studying, but I never quite ‘got’ why. I attended a dizzying amount of concerts and rehearsals as a kid and it all seemed so effortless.

It’s only now as an adult, living with diabetes, that I get it. What appears normal to others is actually a well thought out micromanaged existence designed to give the appearance of effortlessness.  If you knew that a conductor stopped the orchestra multiple times to correct a tempo, adjust the volume, or ask for more emotion, I wonder how you might listen to the final performance.

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes with my Dad makes me more sensitive and compassionate. These guys have worked their butts off. I also understand that making music is a true labor of love. Musicians use their bodies, their arms, legs, lips and voices to produce sound and hours of practice and effort takes its toll. Necks get sore, lips wear out, elbows get strained. But the orchestra keeps on going. The music survives and we the audience are entertained. It’s all worth it in the end.

DAD CONDUCTING

As someone who definitely micromanages their diabetes, I can relate. I’m not taking injections for meals yet, but I’m definitely on the verge. And I’m busy learning from my peers. I have to admit not only do I spend hours on my yoga mat, but an equal amount of hours reading articles on diabetes, chatting in facebook and twitter groups and staying abreast of the latest management strategies. Ideally I’d love to sit in on a master class with some of the greats.

Then last week it happened. I caught up with Hanna Boethius, a coach, writer and speaker who has lived with type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years. She offers motivational and inspiring ways to bring about change in diabetes management and has a profound understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle choices can balance diabetes.

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The first thing Hanna said to me, when I shared how often I check my blood sugar, was to remember that long acting insulin just slowly trickles through hour after hour. Without fast acting on board, I won’t suddenly drop low. If it hasn’t done it over the last 18 months, it’s not going to suddenly start now. With a gentle smile she suggested I trust my body more and give my fingers a rest.

We also discussed food and low carb diets. We both agreed that it has helped us immensely. But we also agreed it’s not for everyone. After nearly an hour and a half of sharing our insights on food and yoga in diabetes management, Hanna suggested we offer up our conversation as a webinar/google  hangout. We’d already planned a workshop in Zurich on how food and yoga can control diabetes, but thought it would be even better to spread our ‘masterclass’ to the worldwide DOC ( diabetes online community)

Hanna truly lives what she shares, which became even mores obvious when I headed over to her gorgeous and welcoming home on Lake Zurich for our webinar. She complained a little at the size of her kitchen, as it was too small for the amount of food they love to prepare at home, but we agreed that having a beautiful place makes up for it. She also shared with me later, as she walked me back to the train, that living in Switzerland has its perks when it comes to insurance. “I can have the sorts of medicines and equipment as I want and need it.”  I admit I’m envious. In Australia so many things aren’t covered (like CGM’s) and I would definitely have more confidence with my management if I knew I could afford to.

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Riding home after our webinar, reflecting on what I had learned from Hanna I thought again about my Dad and his mastery. When he steps out on stage and seamlessly conducts, the orchestra becomes one. One sound, One voice.

The word Yoga, as I described it in our webinar, also means oneness, wholeness. Understanding that the body is not separate from creation. Rather we are inseparably part of creation. And we can’t get out of creation either. Even if you get in a spaceship and head to Jupiter you’re still in creation.

With chronic illness we often isolate ourselves or feel like we’ve done something wrong. But the truth is there is no such thing as imperfection in creation. There’s just variations on a theme. In music those variations are celebrated, played with and teased out.

That’s how I work with my diabetes management as well.  In an upcycle (where my levels are stable) I think about what’s working and try and repeat that. In a downcycle (where my levels are more erratic) I can come back to what worked before or try something different to start again.

I can’t stress enough that no matter where you are on your journey with diabetes it’s important to reach out, be creative and keep exploring.  It’s something I learned from Dad when I was quite young and something I’m deeply grateful for today…

If you’d like to learn more about how food and yoga can help you control your diabetes check out our webinar below and if you want  to watch my awesome Dad go here

We’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

 

My secret weapon

It’s Tips and Tricks Friday for Diabetes Blog Week and today on the blog I can’t help sharing a little bit about why yoga is my secret weapon. I also want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for your posts, comments and blogs these past five days and thank you to Karen for initiating this profound project. I can’t wait till next year!

Let’s round out the week by sharing our best diabetes tips and diabetes tricks. From how you organize supplies to how you manage gear on the go/vacation (beach, or skiing, or whatever). From how you keep track of prescription numbers to how you remember to get your orders refilled. How about any “unconventional” diabetes practices, or ways to make diabetes work for YOU (not necessarily how the doctors say to do it!). There’s always something we can learn from each other. (Remember though, please no medical advice or dangerous suggestions.)

I’m someone who is super disciplined and diligent. I actually can’t imagine what it would be like to forget to take my shot, or leave the house without my meter or skip a meal. One thing I insist upon is having my meals at regular intervals and limiting snacks. Most people roll their eyes when I say this and think I’m weird. Or they feel sorry for me. Whatever people think, that’s their business. One thing that helps me manage my diabetes is finding ways to stay in control. Rather than judge myself or see it as a negative I feel it serves me immensely.

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The other trick that keeps me thriving is

Yoga

I use the physical postures to get the muscles to uptake glucose and increase my circulation, and to increase my level of fitness. I use the breathing practices to stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory system as well as increasing the efficiency of respiration and I use meditation and mantra (sound healing) and yantra (visualization) to calm my mind and relax my nervous system. With all these elements in play I have a sense of fulfilment and ease which makes it easy to be disciplined. In fact, I love it!

And I see my body as a laboratory. Noticing how the body reacts to foods, environment and stress. When the body reacts, I react and so do my BG levels. I can determine by observing my breath in a posture or how my mind is racing when I’m meditating that something isn’t quite right. I use the yoga practice like medication, perhaps changing to a more soothing practice, or spending longer on a breath practice to try and balance out the increased stress on the system. Not everyone has the mind set or will power to do this. But for someone like me whose done Yoga since forever, it works.

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I think the biggest thing that yoga has given me is perspective. When things get tough with diabetes, I have to step back, breathe through it and do my best. That’s all I can do especially when nothing seems to work. That and to understand that practice makes perfect. When I first started on MDI’s I was a nervous wreck. I kept thinking I’d do it wrong. But soon I learned that following a specific series of steps would help me to stay calm and remember what to do next. That’s what’s always helped me practice and teach yoga too. The power of routine. It’s the one thing I have always relied on and it’s the one consistent piece of advice I offer my students. Find a routine, stick with it and everything else will fall into place.

With great respect…Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.

It’s not my fault

Todays blog doesn’t go into the nitty gritty of gripes or issues I have with my health care team rather I wanted to celebrate what’s working and how my team has helped me heal and thrive. Here’s my Diabetes Blog Week story for Health Care Thursday

Most people who live with a chronic illness end up with a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with healthcare. How would you improve or change your healthcare experience? What would you like to see happening during medical visits with your healthcare team? How about when dealing with your health insurance companies? What’s your Healthcare Wish List or Biggest Frustration? Today is the day to share it all!

When I was first diagnosed I was shocked. I’d been doing Yoga since I was 17, it was my career and I’d always been health conscious. So at first, because I thought there was some mistake. I didn’t bother to find out more about my condition. In effect shutting out my medical support team. I’m loathe to admit it but that moment of disbelief, defiance and downright denial took me down a path I do regret.

After 6 years of criss-crossing continents to find alternatives, I landed back in my doctor’s office literally begging him to put me on insulin. The first step, he said, was to get educated and that I’d have to see a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator). I was excited to start my journey but totally freaked at the same time.  Would she grill me about my diet, my inability to maintain my levels or demand discipline without room for error?

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I had worked my self up into such a frenzy that by the time I was sitting in the CDE’s office actually having my appointment, I was balling my eyes out like a little kid. She asked if I knew why I was so upset. I admitted that I felt like a failure, that I didn’t know why I was there or even why I had diabetes. It all felt so wrong. She sat quietly and listened as the pain and anxiety poured out.

What she said next floored me.

“Rachel, you’ve done nothing wrong to get this and it’s not your fault.”

My jaw dropped. After nearly 6 years of being absolutely sure of a million reasons why I had diabetes, like eating too many lollies as a kid, or smoking way too many unfiltered cigarettes between the ages of 11 and 21. Or just being an untogether person in general. To actually consider it wasn’t my fault felt like putting on a rubber suit, in the middle of the desert in summer.  I was used to taking the blame for just about everything. It was always my fault!

She mentioned that usually type 1 diabetes is triggered during a stressful event. Did I recall any such event?

My whole life clicked into place in that instant. I’d been living in New York City during 9/11. I’d walked into the ash that was screaming up the avenues as the towers collapsed.

I never felt well after that day. Not emotionally or physically. I became more sensitive to foods, surroundings and I developed multiple chemical syndrome. My marriage suffered due to the fact that everything had to fit around me and my specific health needs. In the end we moved home to Australia in the hopes that a less polluted and more holistic environment would support me towards wellness. We never thought it could be something as serious as diabetes because none of the symptoms were there.

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Being able to share my story with the diabetes educator and to feel her total compassion and understanding made a huge difference in coming to terms with my diagnosis. Up until that point and even with my doctor I’d been battling to accept it. Understanding that something had triggered it and that it wasn’t my fault allowed me to be compassionate with myself.

It’s been nearly two years since I came out of denial and began insulin. Since then rather than seeing the medical establishment as something to shun or fear I have huge respect and admiration for the people that are supporting me on this journey. I know the system, isn’t perfect and doctors, nurses and even CDE’s could do better.  I get angry that insurance companies in Australia don’t cover CGM’s or that the government keeps changing how we access our supplies.

But in spite of all that there are real people out there who have studied their butts off to help people like me and I couldn’t be more grateful!

with great respect…Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Real honest to goodness truth

It’s hump day and I am full to the brim, feeling like there’s so much more to share in the DOC then I could ever imagine. Today is Diabetes Blog Week Wednesday and the theme is language and the words we use.


There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.

I’ll never forget my moment of diagnosis. It was one of the first times I can honestly say I felt abused. Rather than being gently informed that it looked like there were some irregularities in my fasting blood sugar readings my GP literally shouted, “You have diabetes! And it will take years to figure out how to fix it.”  But It wasn’t just the words he used, it was his attitude. He shoved some pamphlets my way and told me to Google diabetes.

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photo credit: ASweetlife.org

I drove home dazed and confused. I mean what the heck was I supposed to do now?  Between feeling absolutely devastated and completely horrified I also wanted to strangle the guy. Luckily his office was a good 40 minutes’ drive from my house.

It took years for me to admit I had diabetes and to think about how to label my condition. When someone asked about my meter and why I wasn’t eating dessert or so strict with my diet I’d kind of shrug it off and say I was dealing with blood sugar issues. I didn’t hide what was going on but I didn’t come right out and say it either. As I treaded the boards searching for answers from alternative health practitioners to endocrinologists not one person said, “diabetes.” They used euphemisms like blood sugar swings, or autoimmune condition, chronic fatigue, candida overgrowth, low insulin production.  I found so many ways not to have diabetes it wasn’t even funny.

Deep down I knew the truth. I was the one looking at my meter, watching how food affected my levels. I saw what exercise did and how hard it was to get that perfect number. I can remember my little brother mumbling, “why don’t you just go on insulin?” as he watched me make a spinach omelet for the umpteenth time. “It’s complicated okay!”

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I think everyone has a breaking point. When you know that climbing up the hill is going to be harder than just collapsing at the bottom. I was sitting in the neurologist’s office after having the nerves in my hands and feet tested. If you’ve ever thinking of doing that, it’s really not fun! They wire you up and pulse your nerves with tiny volts of electricity and you literally jump out of your skin. Anyway…back in the doc’s office he enquired as to my health. “You have diabetes right?”  “Well we aren’t sure” “What’s your A1c?” “I think it’s a little high” “How high?” “10.7” “That’s Diabetes. You have Diabetes! And if you don’t get that level down you’ll do permanent damage to the nerves in your hands and feet.” It couldn’t have been more real than that.

Real honest to goodness TRUTH. Needless to say the words finally hit home.

Recently I wrote to a prominent Australian diabetes organization about my new book. “It’s a book written by a diabetic for diabetics on how yoga can help you manage your diabetes.” The reply in my inbox made me feel embarrassed. Like when you’re a kid and somebody scolds you but you don’t really know what you’ve done wrong. “We don’t use that word “diabetic” anymore because it’s impolite. We say a person lives with diabetes.

Her reply made me see that I’m still assimilating what it means to live with diabetes. It doesn’t really matter what words I use to describe my condition, what matters is how I see myself, what my hopes and dreams are and how I can live gracefully no matter what lies ahead.

with great respect…Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.