Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Rachel Zinman of Yoga For Diabetes at Abbott’s Diabetes Exchange in Melbourne. Rachel and I both began blogging in early 2015, and we first connected during Diabetes Blog Week. Rachel lives and breathes Yoga, and since her diagnosis with LADA, is passionate about helping others to realise the power of yoga in managing diabetes. She spends half the year based in northern NSW, and the other half of the year in South Africa teaching Yoga. Later this year, she will also be kicking off a tour across the US to launch her book, Yoga For Diabetes.
Rachel is one of the most generous and enthusiastic people I’ve come across in the Diabetes Online Community, with a great respect for other’s opinions and ideas. For some crazy reason she is one of my biggest fans, and I’ve greatly appreciated all of her support and encouragement over the years.
Rachel is kicking off a 7 day online Yoga challenge on September 1, Better Diabetes Management in 7 Steps with Yoga, which you can learn more about here. Today, she joins me here at Type 1 Writes to answer a few questions about the challenge.
Frank: Yoga and diabetes. They’re not two things that I would automatically put together in my head. You’ve obviously been practicing yoga well before diabetes came along. Tell me a bit about how yoga has helped you to manage your diabetes?
Rachel: I started yoga in the the early 80’s. Back then yoga wasn’t trendy at all. I did it because I had a lot of pain in my lower back from being a professional dancer and my chiropractor told me it could help me. I noticed the calming and healing aspects straight away. I felt more energised after a class, my mind was calm, my digestion improved and I found myself letting go of unhealthy habits and being more positive.
When I was diagnosed I focussed on bringing additional energy into the body through strong breathing exercises. I also practiced postures to tone the digestive organs including the pancreas. I worked with the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, to find a practice that suited my physical type (I am very fiery) and the type of diabetes I have, LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults).
- Improved sleep.
- Better and more stable blood glucose levels.
- Increased insulin sensitivity.
- Resilience in the face of stress.
- Better digestion.
- Stable weight.
- A positive attitude.
Frank: Obviously, you’re kicking off a 7 day yoga challenge on September 1. Tell me a bit about the challenge, and what I would be doing every day if I signed up. How easy would it be to take up the challenge, and what sort of time commitment would I be looking at?
Rachel: The challenge is all about how to incorporate yoga into your life and your daily diabetes management plan. So each practice is between 3 and 10 minutes long and most can be done sitting in a chair or comfortably on the floor.
The practices are designed to reduce stress. A lot of people think yoga is a physical practice to increase flexibility. But there is so much more to yoga than that. There are a variety of tools we can implement to meet the demands of a life with diabetes.
The first step is to discover your Ayurvedic type. On the first day you’ll fill in a questionnaire and read a bit more about your type. Then we’ll explore a different practice each day to calm the nervous system.
Sound, visualization, hand gestures, breath, a simple yoga practice done lying down and on the hands and knees to improve circulation. You’ll also learn a traditional ayurvedic foot massage, which I think is the best part of the challenge.
Frank: The biggest draw card for me when looking at the yoga challenge is mindfulness. I often go to bed with a million thoughts on my mind, and don’t take a lot of time out. Tell me a bit about how taking up your yoga challenge could help there.
Rachel: As I mentioned each practice in the challenge is designed to reduce stress. The biggest stressor is our tendency to get carried away with our thoughts. So whether we are breathing or working with sound, or a visualization or even the physical practice, the guidance is to continually bring our minds back to the task at hand. The more we can bring our minds into a one pointed focus the easier it is to pull ourselves out of our habitual tendency to identify with thoughts.
It actually doesn’t take much to get the mind to be present. We just need to train it. I love that saying, “wherever the attention goes that’s where the energy flows.” So if we are getting caught up in our thoughts about diabetes or anything that stresses us out, that’s where the energy goes.
Bringing our minds to a sound, image or the breath etc. the mind is focused and calms down and energy flows effortlessly.
In my personal experience, these simple yoga practices are the first step in mind mastery and teach that it’s easier to master the mind then we think. We just need to set a few minutes aside and have the willingness to take that first step.