If you can breathe you can do yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with great respect…

rachel

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

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

DIY Yoga

I’m someone who learns on the fly. When anyone ever asks me how I learned to do anything in the age of the internet I’m not shy to admit I google. Just yesterday my publisher asked me for a fact sheet. What the heck is a fact sheet? So I googled… now I know what a fact sheet is!

A few days ago I watched a webinar on how to create a Facebook group. In the first 5 minutes, I was introduced to Liz and Jean and given this scenario. What If I could win a million dollars by assembling an Ikea bed in 30 minutes. If you’ve never bought anything from Ikea bear with me.

noah-ark-ikea A million dollars? That could come in handy right ?

So here’s the thing… Would I hire Liz? pictured in a foreman’s hat with a clip board, Liz is an expert in Ikea bed assembly. Or would I rather be Jean? pictured with hands pressed heavily into her temples and looking worried and try to do it myself.

Which would you choose?

It would make sense to hire Liz if it meant winning a million dollars. But here’s the thing… If I can master something that seems almost impossible it means I can do anything. And that includes managing my life with diabetes. The more obstacles I can overcome the more capable I feel. So when I master something like MailChimp,  MailChimp for me is like trying to assemble an Ikea bed, I feel like super woman!

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It’s the same with my yoga practice.

When I started yoga we didn’t have google. There was just me, my mat and a book called ‘Light on Yoga’ by B.K.S Iyengar. In the book, Mr. Iyengar, one of the modern fathers of yoga, demonstrates poses that look near impossible to execute. But being young and enthusiastic I tried them anyway. And slowly with determination, I mastered each pose and birthed my first home practice. Having a daily appointment with my mat, instilled discipline, self-care and the ability to feel into what was needed.

So even though I encourage my students to come to class, I’d actually rather they had a home practice. The more you can motivate yourself the better you’ll feel about yourself and your ability to do anything you set your mind too.

Today’s yoga practice for the online yoga challenge, Better Diabetes Management in 7 Steps with Yoga has been all about simple moves to increase circulation, something you can do at home every day. If you’d like to join us it’s not too late just head here

with great respect…

Rachel

Letting go and relaxing in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With great respect… Rachel

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