I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with fellow diabetes blogger, yoga instructor, friend, and now author Rachel Zinman in Sydney this May.
Rachel and I first connected back in 2015 during our first Diabetes Blog Week, and I’ve since ended up with a super fan that I can’t seem to get rid of! Despite the two of us having completely different backgrounds, Rachel is one of those people who is so easy to get along with. She is so warm, enthusiastic and really takes everything in around her.
Rachel has been a massive source of support, encouragement and inspiration in my blogging and advocacy efforts. She comes across exactly as I imagined her online, which I think is a true testament to her character.
I’ve been so inspired watching Rachel’s efforts in getting her book, Yoga for Diabetes: How to Manage Your Health With Yoga and Ayurveda, off the ground. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Rachel eventually got the attention of a publisher and has since been putting her energy into a book tour across the US over the Summer.
Since returning to Australia earlier this year, Rachel has been touring the East Coast teaching Yoga and launching Yoga for Diabetes. After asking where the best place was for me to buy the book, Rachel produced one for me from the back seat of her car.
Rachel opens the book with her own story, talking about the long hours spent in New York learning about and teaching Yoga under a mentor. After experiencing the horror of 9/11, Rachel moved back home to Byron Bay, Australia with her young family. As a health conscious person, Rachel was in disbelief upon learning that a routine blood test showed a slightly elevated hba1c at the age of 42. With a slower onset of type 1 diabetes (LADA), Rachel spent many years trying to cure herself with natural remedies before finally accepting her diagnosis and taking insulin.
The book has definitely been written in the spirit of inspiring beginners like myself that Yoga could be for me. Rachel delves into the concept of Ayurveda, which is an ancient ‘science of life.’ She talks us through the three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – which are elements that combine in our bodies in varying amounts.
Exploring the characteristics of each of these three doshas was pivotal in connecting me to the concept of Yoga. I could really relate to qualities of a Vata Dosha such as being enthusiastic, full of ideas, unnecessarily overwhelmed and thin (I already hear that more than enough!). To a lesser degree, I could also relate to Pitta qualities such as being very focussed and hardworking, while also feeling occasional frustration and burnout.
Knowing what dosha, or combination of dosha you are, is pivotal in identifying the kind of Yoga practice best suited to you. There’s a questionnaire later in the book that will give you an answer, followed by many beautifully illustrated sequences customised to your Dosha.
The book moves onto the mind, as Rachel explains that Yoga can help us to become more aware of our thoughts and get us out of our habitual need to identify with them. Especially when it comes to the thoughts about our condition, Yoga can help us to feel content, relaxed and not thinking about diabetes for a moment.
The breathing and meditation exercises illustrated in the following two chapters gave me a good idea of what Rachel was talking about in regard to the mind. Getting on the ground and practicing some of the breathing exercises left me feeling really relaxed, focussing purely on things like feeling breath moving from my chest to my belly.
So what can Yoga offer those of us living with diabetes? In Rachel’s own words:
“A simple break from the intensity of all that the body throws at us.”
“Practices, lifestyle changes and systems of thought that enable me to face this condition each and every day with a positive outlook.”
“A great friend and companion that will hold your hand through all of the ups and downs that you are bound to experience.”
Over the course of this year, self care has become a pretty big priority for me to avoid burning out (more on that soon). Knowing absolutely nothing about Yoga, I guess I was most intrigued as to whether this book might help me to find a bit more mindfulness in my life. While I don’t think I’ll become a devoted yogi like Rachel, I have found another awesome self care tool to help put my mind at ease, particularly during these short Winter days when I don’t get outdoors as often as I’d like.