May 4, 2016

Yoga is the Magic Word


I woke up at 4 am this morning to a Blood glucose reading of 4.9. Not really a big low for someone living with diabetes, but low for me, especially because I know my body. I know that if I go back to sleep I’ll be too low. I’ve been on long-acting Insulin for over a year now and I still feel like I’m on a learning curve, discovering what food trigger highs, how much insulin triggers lows and using diet and exercise to keep me stable.

It all takes discipline. Something that comes quite naturally to me. When people ask me where I find the motivation to stay so focused the answer is simple, Yoga.  My Yoga practice keeps me sane. I owe my passion for yoga to my teachers. As a young adult, I lived in a small town in Australia and took up yoga with two yoginis who had studied with Patthabi Jois in India. The practice they shared was like a dance. It transformed my body and shaped my mind and taught me that I could achieve anything. I couldn’t get on that mat early enough. It’s all I wanted to do and the only thing that really made me happy. I wanted to be like them and achieve what they did. Their mastery made me want to excel. I was competitive and I still am. But now I compete with myself. It’s like a game. I wonder some times if its dysfunctional to always strive to do better.

I often use the word hate. My partner is always pointing it out. He says no one should hate anything and insists things can be uncomfortable or challenging, but that hate is too strong a word.  Nevertheless, I hate having diabetes. I hate having to check my blood sugar, not being able to enjoy a variety of foods without fear of lows or highs. I hate that with all the new technologies there is no definitive cure and I hate going to sleep at night with the fear that I won’t wake up in the morning. I hate that this disease strikes children and that it’s so random and unpredictable. I hate, hate, hate diabetes!

There I’ve said it.

I truly feel that the expression of anger is a healthy emotion. My anger has helped me to accept my diagnosis.

And anger keeps me disciplined.

The other side of discipline is relaxation, the essence of yoga. With every moment of mastery in a posture, there’s a deep sense of letting go. As one muscle tenses the opposing muscles releases. The postural practice is one of tension and flexion, opening and closing, day and night, feminine and masculine. It soothes and invigorates and constantly seeks harmony. It’s the perfect complement to any challenge.

A yoga practice demands your attention, it pulls you out of the need to identify with all the thoughts, worries and anxieties about your condition. It gives you a mental and emotional break from living day in and day out with diabetes. Wherever you place your attention during the practice that’s where the energy goes.

So what kinds of practices work? Is it the postures? The breath? Being mindful? In my experience, it’s all of the above.  To practice correctly you have to execute the pose, breathe deeply and be completely mindful. It doesn’t matter what pose you do. If you are there, the magic happens. In fact, it’s impossible for you to be absent. Because without you there, present, there would be no yoga.

Yoga these days can be misrepresented. It’s splashed all over the media as something that young vegan, smoothie drinking girls do in bikinis on the beach.  Don’t get me wrong. I think those girls are beautiful, but that’s not yoga. The practice of yoga is for everyone, any size, any age. There is a practice that’s perfect for you. I encourage you to find a teacher you gel with and a practice that feels right.

Inspired to get motivated or want yoga to help lower levels? Choose an active practice like power or vinyasa yoga.

Want to relax, restore and rebuild your adrenals? Try yin or a slower form like hatha.

Ready to develop discipline? Choose a style of yoga that has the same set sequence. The mind loves repetition and routine.

Wanting to come to terms with your diagnosis? Explore nonphysical styles like Bhakti or Karma yoga. Both Bhakti and Karma yoga are styles which ask you to give of yourself in devotion or selfless service. When we step away from what’s in it for us and give. We forget our ourselves in the offering.

Want something practical you can do right here and now to get the ball rolling?

Try this quick breathing and moving vinyasa:

Sit in a comfortable cross legged seat, straddle a bolster, or if you have any knee or lower back issues sit in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor.

Interlace your fingers at the center of your chest


Inhale and extend your arms out in front


Keep inhaling and reach your arms towards the sky with the palms facing upwards. It all happens in one continuous movement.


Exhale, unclasp the fingers and release the arms down by your sides


Inhale take your arms behind you, clasp the fingers with the palms facing each other and reach your knuckles towards the ground


Exhale relax your hands on your thighs with the palms facing upwards


Repeat this sequence five to 10 times.

When you finish the vinyasa sit quietly observing the sensations in your upper body and notice the breath becoming calm and imperceptible

You can do this sequence any time you need more energy, or to get motivated to do a longer practice.

Rachel’s Bio:

Rachel Zinman is an international yoga teacher with over 30 years experience who was first diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 at the age of 42.  It took nearly six years for her to accept and understand her diagnosis of type 1 LADA diabetes because she refused to believe that she couldn’t cure herself with yoga and alternative therapies. Her personal journey from denial to acceptance led her to discover that even though yoga couldn’t cure her condition it could definitely help her to manage the volatility of the disease. Now her mission is to give back and share how yoga helps her to manage her health each and every day. To find out more about Rachel and her new book on Yoga for Diabetes visit  http://yogafordiabetesblog.com/yoga-for-diabetes-book/ and http://www.yogafordiabetesblog.com