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

4 easy yoga poses for diabetes

After last weeks passionate blogging for diabetes blog week it’s time to return to the main reason I’m blogging here in the first place. To help you get motivated and inspired to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan.

For me, yoga is my life. I really notice the difference in my blood sugar levels, mood, and overall well-being if I even skip just one day of practice.

So what do I do when I’m super busy, wake up late or travel?

I do a pose or two to reduce my stress and increase my sensitivity to insulin.

Recently I was asked to share what postures I feel are best for diabetes? It’s so hard to choose just a few because all the postures are of benefit!

But if you twist my arm…the following 4 poses in the video below are my absolute favorite.

Have a great practice!…Rachel

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

Yoga for Diabetes is not one size fits all

When I first started yoga in my teens I knew very little about the postures and practices. I would throw myself into the practice and hope for the best. Some days the practice made me feel great and other days it seemed to make me feel worse. It took almost ten years for me to learn that the type of yoga I was practicing wasn’t actually right for my type. Luckily providence steered me towards a teacher who knew exactly what I needed. He introduced me to the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda and encouraged me to slow down, cool down and practice poses that were nourishing to my system. Since my diagnosis, I’ve realised that there is a practice that’s perfect for my constitution and the type of diabetes I have. I’ve also learned that what might support me in lowering blood sugar might have the opposite reaction in someone else.

After a big spike in blood sugar levels this morning I did this VLOG  to share a bit more about why yoga for diabetes is not one size fits all.

If you’d like to find out more about Ayurveda and your constitution you can get the first chapter of my book for free here

with great respect…Rachel

Stretching is good for you

A while back I was asked to write an article about the value of yoga for people living with diabetes for Diabetes Health Magazine.  It was actually a challenging exercise because the editor asked me to cite research from various studies on yoga and its health benefits. Getting overly technical is not my forte but I gave it my best shot.

At one point while diving down the rabbit hole I discovered that restorative yoga does not switch on the relaxed part of our nervous system as I had previously been led to believe.

This floored me!

Apparently, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that lying around on cushy bolsters while your yoga teacher massages your temples with do-terra oils is of any use. Instead, the study suggested that the only thing that relaxes the nervous system is concentrated stretching of targeted muscle groups.

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To be honest, I am not interested in evidence based yoga. I am not even interested in evidence based science.  What gets me is that nobody really knows how the body works. We keep exploring the human body hoping to find answers and no matter how much we discover we are still a mystery.

Why are we here? Who are we? What is our purpose and our role in this vast creation? Do you know?

I can remember playing a game once where one person had to make a statement like, why is the sky blue? And the other person had to come up with a reason like because I can see it! Then the person would ask… and why can you see it? And the questions would go into infinite regress driving both players nuts!

Living with Diabetes is like that for me. Just when I think I’ve tapped into a reason why…I realize I haven’t got a clue

My yoga practice is a daily life saver, my solace and the place I go to be with myself. No matter what goes on with my levels or my emotions it levels the playing field. I finish my practice and I can face whatever comes.

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This week I’ve especially been focusing on stretching my inner thighs and hamstrings just to see if it really does help to relax the nervous system. We spend a lot of time sitting in chairs squashing the back of our legs and decreasing the venous blood return to the heart. It also limits circulation and can cause edema (swelling in the legs). Keeping the legs in one position may also hamper our ability to uptake insulin.

Stretching and opening the legs and inverting the body (taking the head lower than the heart) helps to relax the nervous system, increase circulation and lower blood pressure.

Fan posture is the perfect pose to facilitate all these things so I’ve put together an 8-minute sequence for you to practice. We head straight into the posture so if you’d like a warm up first I suggest you to do a few Sun Salutations or try my practice to beat insulin resistance .

I’ve made sure to add variations for beginners and advanced alike and remember continuous practice gets results. Give it a try and make sure to comment below. 🙂

With great respect…Rachel

Would you like me to design a practice specifically for you? Why not work with me this month. I’d love to be of service.

Beat Insulin Resistance with Yoga

I’m sitting here on the hottest day ever in the wilds of South Africa. I mean 38 degrees and climbing. They say when it gets hot like this here it’s a Berg wind blowing in from the desert. I’m trying to get excited about it, but it’s hard. The heat really affects my BG levels. They go high and then they go low…What to do!

Because I was diagnosed with type 1 well into my adult life I do battle with Insulin Resistance. It’s there on hot days, when I get sunburned, exercise too vigorously, don’t get enough sleep or inject too many times in the same place.

Instead of getting frustrated or feeling helpless I use my morning yoga practice to get my legs working so the uptake of insulin is more efficient. I find the routine below really helps.

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Being someone who regularly does yoga there are definitely some postures in this routine that are a little challenging for beginners so I suggest you watch the routine first and then decide which aspects you can do and leave out what’s challenging. I’ve included postures at the wall, seated and on the back for anyone who isn’t ready for the standing section.

I recommend you do this sequence every morning before breakfast for at least 7 days. If you can do it for longer that would be awesome!

Let me know how you go and have a wonderful start to 2017

with great respect…Rachel

If you’d like a personalized yoga routine to kick start your year and get motivated to incorporate yoga into your daily diabetes management plan why not Work with Me I have just 5 spots available for this month.

Staying Balanced

It’s been pretty quiet over here on the blog. Mainly because I’ve been in flux. First there was the awesome safari in Kruger national park and then flying home to Australia, recovering from jet-lag, preparing for my upcoming yoga teacher training and generally adjusting insulin, routines and more to the the new environment.

rachel-2016-2-2Throughout all the change my yoga practice keeps me stable. That and my strict adherence to routine.  Knowing my ayurvedic type means knowing what will easily imbalance me and what will easily bring me into balance.

Travel and change are some of the biggest hurdles when it comes to staying balanced as they increase vata dosha. Vata is the combination of air and space in the system. When we have too much we experience things like insomnia, anxiety, a feeling of being spaced out and difficulty concentrating. Physically the skin dries out, we suffer from constipation and our joints tend to pop and crack. Excess vata can also cause erratic blood glucose levels. Bringing the vata back into balance is good for everyone whether you live with diabetes or not. flower-offering-the-photo-forestBesides, eating well, sleeping at least 7-8 hours and drinking plenty of water I make sure I’m really warmed-up before starting my postural practice. Repeating movements that flow on the breath is a great way to start.  Lately I’ve been putting together short sequences on my iPhone and posting them on Instagram and Facebook just for fun. The one below is one of my favourite ways to get warm quick.

Check it out and let me know what you think…and if you feel inspired and would like to do more you can get a free yoga class here.
With great respect…Rachel

Do You Love a Challenge?

I’m in Switzerland to teach Yoga at the moment. I’ve travelled for most of my life and have always enjoyed the different experiences that travel engenders. I even secretly enjoy the packing and unpacking. But since my diagnosis in 2008 travel has forced me to go way beyond my comfort zone.

At first I had to watch my blood sugar like a hawk.  It was like walking on the edge of a slip stream. I didn’t have the help of Insulin, so all I knew was that If I stayed on a strict diet I could keep things in range.

Now imagine you’re a yoga teacher, you teach on weekends and are hosted by a variety of studios, some of whom you’ve never been to before. Not only do you teach in western countries like Australia and Europe you travel to India and Bali flying between 12- 24 hrs to get there. The diabetic meals on planes suck, so you travel with pre-cooked food and as soon as you hit the ground, you head to the nearest supermarket to stock up. And you hope and pray that the apartment you went to extra trouble to rent has decent cookware and a working fridge.

It’s not the ideal scenario for anyone, let alone a clean living, healthy yogini whose diabetic to boot!

I used to  tell my students and hosts that I had “ blood sugar “ issues. Then a bit later I admitted I was pre diabetic, emphasising that I had high hopes that it could be reversed. It was hard not to feel ashamed or guilty every time I taught.

But now thats all changed.

8 months on Insulin and I feel liberated! It’s like I’ve taken my top off and gone braless. I feel completely shameless in my classes sharing that I am an Insulin dependant Type 1 diabetic. And further to that it’s been incredible to have energy again. For the last 6 years I was practicing on empty. Trying to cultivate energy I didn’t have. Dragging my suitcase on and off train platforms and feeling somewhat of a fraud while I touted the benefits of Yoga.

Recently I had a really great conversation with Dr. Jody Stanislaw, an american naturopathic doctor who also happens to be a Type 1 diabetic. She has had profound results in supporting people to achieve optimum A1c levels. “ You know Insulin is your friend, because it preserves and protects your beta cells,” she shared while we were discussing the topic of exercise and diabetes, “ If you’ve got them you might as well hang onto them.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Once I started on long acting Insulin, my blood sugar levels changed dramatically. I felt like my cells did a happy dance and went back to business. I’ve become more sensitive in my practice again and I can feel how food, exercise and sleep are affecting my system. Before I was sensitive to my detriment. Everything I did felt like an attack on my immune system. Even the thought of trying to change was exhausting.

It’s been quite a learning curve keeping up my commitments as a traveling yoga teacher and educating myself on the ins and outs of managing blood sugars while on insulin.

But hey I Love it!

It’s why I chose to focus on challenging yoga postures and practices for this current tour.  I mean, how fun is it to master a tricky arm balance or handstand when you never thought you could. Or for beginners finally being able to stay in down dog for more than a few seconds without collapsing in a heap.

If you feel like joining me for a more challenging practice this week head over to AirYoga’s online studio and try the Kapha Balancing Practice…. with great respect Rachel

kapha Balancing yoga practice with Rachel Zinman

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The Slowness of Things.

Just outside our front porch is a rose bush with one resplendent rose. Over the last week it’s slowly opened, blossomed and dropped its petals. The slow unfolding of the rose, its delicacy and fragrance reminds me to take things slowly. I’d like to rush the process of healing but I have only been taking insulin for the last 5 months and my BG levels are only adjusting now. Starting Insulin was a big decision for me, not just because it meant going with allopathic medicine, but in taking it I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t cure myself or my condition. For years I told myself it was a parasite, an allergy or some such thing. It never occurred to me that I actually might have a genetic incurable disease and that no amount of herbs, homeopathics or Yoga exercises could fix me. I was so busy rushing to find a cure that I didn’t bother to actually find out what was going on.

Just a few days after starting Insulin I had lunch with a friend who is an Ayurvedic practitioner, Naturopath and Nurse , “ I’m glad you started Insulin, it’s going to be a whole new start for you. It will slow you down quite a bit, but you need that.” She couldn’t have been more right. Now that my energy has returned I have no desire to run around solving the worlds problems, it feels quite natural to take my time with things, to relish in a daily practice, to plan and prepare nourishing low carb meals and to think about what’s next without having to constantly consider my stress levels. It’s taken 6 years to admit I have a disease, I am not the disease.

Yoga for Diabetes

Just today my partner shared with me a beautiful thought, “The whole creation, including thoughts, emotions, ideas, beliefs, worries, joys all rise and fall in the presence of never-ending, eternal stillness. The stillness, peace, consciousness is unaffected by the thoughts, beliefs and comings and goings of creation. Just as the ocean is unaffected by the wave. Only we human beings with the ability to identify and name our experiences, take on the experiences, beliefs, thoughts  etc, thinking we must resolve a situation to come to peace. The question to ask is; does peace need a resolution to exist?

Sitting quietly, watching the breath, practicing slow mindfulness we experience ourselves as the peace itself. We think it’s the practice thats enabling the peace, but in reality we are never not peace. The body is peace, the thoughts are peace and all of nature, all that has come before and all that will ever be is peace.

Even a body riddled with illness is peace. When I was younger I wondered how people could overcome physical pain, trauma or extreme suffering. I always thought that either trying to ignore the pain or distracting myself would be the best strategy. It wasn’t until I gave birth that I experienced something different. In giving birth I couldn’t deny that the body had its own intelligence, the contractions were happening, the baby was coming and there was nothing I could do to rush the process. No matter where I put my mind the pain and the intensity kept increasing.  It was in between contractions that I experienced powerful moments of stillness and peace. Eventually the feeling of peace predominated over the pain, its ever present nature became the focus and then before I knew it the baby was there, in my arms.

In any moment whether peaceful or not peace is there. The question to ask yourself is what is preventing me from recognising this? Slowing down and taking time to “smell the roses” is the perfect way to stop and reflect.

Here’s a simple visualisation you can take into your daily asana practice or when ever you feel the need to slow down. 

If you’d like an audio version of the meditation here it is  

Come into pose of the child, if it’s uncomfortable separate your knees a little and let your torso rest between your thighs on the floor, you may want to rest your belly on a bolster

Become aware of your breath, feel the breath filling the belly, ribs and upper chest, now become aware of your heartbeat

Visualise a rose in your right hand, twirl the stem of the rose between your forefinger and thumb

As you twirl the rose imagine you are close enough to see the coloured petals of the rose laced in delicate dew drops, and imagine its fragrance rich and sweet

Become so focussed on the rose that you almost feel yourself becoming the rose

Once again become aware of your heart beat, come back to your breath, feeling it filling your belly, ribs and upper chest

Slowly come up, feel your body adjust and move into your day

Balance the nervous system with sun salutation

A Simple Start

I love the idea of keeping things simple, it’s something that really appeals to me about Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda. When you go for an Ayurvedic consultation you’re encouraged to ease into a new routine slowly.  When you add one thing at a time the body and mind have time to adjust. When we bombard ourselves with too many changes and go for the quick fix it’s hard to sustain and maintain. According to Science and Yoga it takes the body/mind about 6 weeks (40 days) to adopt a new habit or routine. Often we beat ourselves up for going too slowly, and call it procrastination. I prefer to think of it as determination. Keep it simple, take your time and eventually you’ll reach the goal. And by the way… did you ever stop to think that when you set a goal (somewhere to reach there and then) that THERE becomes HERE and THEN becomes NOW? 

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I like to ask myself what can I do HERE and NOW that will make a difference and help me to manage the ups and downs associated with having Diabetes. For me, it’s my daily Yoga practice. I actually find it quite hard to get on my mat every day because discipline doesn’t come naturally.  That’s why I use a simple Sun Salutation ( Surya Namaskar) with lunge to get me motivated. Sun Salutation does require a degree of flexibility and strength at the outset so if you’ve never done one before I would suggest you check out my previous post to start to build the strength to join in on the video below. I hope you’ll join me in A Simple Start …with great respect, Rachel

Rachel Zinman Yoga

Variations on a Theme

When I first started Yoga I didn’t have a clue what was going on. My body was tight and uncompromising  and I felt stupid moving my body into shapes that hurt. Don’t get me wrong I have always loved being physical, I was a dancer from a young age. But Yoga was a whole different story. As a dancer my body was athletic and muscle bound, years of jumping and minimal stretching plus weak arms meant that I broke a sweat in just about every Yoga posture.

So what happened? How did I change my attitude towards Yoga and start to reap the benefits? For that matter how have I managed to see Diabetes as a plus in my life?

I love a challenge, thats it ! If it looks like I can’t do something – that’s when I flip it around and try my best.  I figure if I don’t give it my all what’s the point?

I’ve been lucky, years of discipline as a dancer has given me the ability to persist against my own resistance and that’s what’s enabled me to stay disciplined with my eating habits and consistently checking my blood sugar levels. But for those of us who aren’t naturally disciplined? What’s the solution.

To make something a habit, there needs to be a desire to repeat the habit. What ever we do needs to feel good. This is how I overcame the initial stages of resistance to doing a daily Yoga practice. Rather than going for the end result I built up my strength and ability to hold a pose. I took the pose in stages until I was ready. Sometimes it took a few tries, sometimes it took years. It didn’t matter. We all know the old adage, it’s the journey not the destination.

To start our journey with Yoga today below is a short sequence to build your strength in one of the most popular Yoga postures, Down Dog. Down Dog is a great pose to strengthen your arms, open your hamstrings and stretch your spine. It’s an inverted pose so it lowers blood pressure, it’s good for the glandular system including the thyroid and it opens the lungs. I have put the sequence in stages and recommend that you start with the easiest variations first, stopping and breathing along the way. Have a beautiful practice… with great respect Rachel

Easy Sequence Rachel Zinman Yoga

Start in Childs pose take your seat to your heels and have your belly against your thighs. Reach your arms out in front and lift your elbows, Breath deeply so you can feel the back of your body breathing.

Half Dog

Come into Half dog. This is a perfect variation to Down Dog. Make sure your hips and knees are in line as you stretch you arms out in front. Place a blanket under your knees if they are sensitive. Rest your forehead on the floor.

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Another great transition pose is Cat pose. Have your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Breathe and relax here.

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from Cat or Childs pose send your sitting bones high to the sky. Keep your knees bent which helps to lengthen the spine especially if you are tight in the hamstrings. Make sure your feet are no wider than your inner hips. Bring your weight towards your hips away from your hands. Feel your spine long and extended.

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To come into  the full posture straighten your legs, make sure there is no pressure in your lower back or pain in the hamstrings. If there is, bend the knees again. Push the floor away from your hands sending the weight towards your hips. Engage your thigh muscles and breathe deeply into your chest. If you feel tightness behind the shoulders round your upper spine a little to relieve the pressure. Hold for 10 breaths unless you feel fatigued. Come down and rest in childs pose

IMG_5070If Down Dog is too challenging and you can’t do Half Dog because you have knee pain or its hard to get down to the floor, place your hands on blocks underneath your shoulders. Extend your spine and breathe. This is also a great variation if you have high blood pressure because the head stays level with the heart. If you don’t have blocks you can also do this with your hands at the wall with the arms extended. If the hamstrings are tight bend the knees.