Today, we're turning the 'Mine mic over to Rachel Zinman, a longtime type 1 who's originally from the United States but has lived in southeastern Australia in the state of New South Wales for about three decades now.
Rachel was diagnosed with the LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) form of type 1 almost a decade ago in 2008. Fortunately, she'd been practicing yoga since her teen years and has continued with that -- along with maintaining a passion for music that led her to release a devotional CD to help herself and others cope with diabetes. Those active in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) may have caught her writings over at the Yoga for Diabetes blog and at a number of other D-sites through the years. Most recently in October 2017, Rachel published her first book, Yoga for Diabetes, and she's been doing a book tour here in the States.
Without further ado, here's what Rachel has to say... as well as a quick review of her new yoga book!
Yoga: A Mission in Life with Diabetes, by Rachel Zinman
I’m a yogi. That doesn't mean I can bend myself into a pretzel, it means that yoga and yoga practice have been the cornerstone of my life for the last 34 years, given that I started when I was a teenager.
But there have been bumps along the way.
The biggest one being my diagnosis at 42 of Type 1 LADA. The diagnosis floored me. For months afterwards I was in denial, convinced the doctors had made a mistake because I had very few symptoms. I wasn’t thirsty, hadn’t lost weight and wasn’t peeing all the time. I was just so fatigued one day that I couldn’t get out of bed. It was my husband who urged me to get blood tests. I thought I was the picture of health. After all, I did yoga every day didn’t I?
When I was first diagnosed my blood sugar levels were still fairly stable. Although the tests showed that I was producing islet antibodies, my levels were just above normal. My doctor encouraged me to lower my glycemic food intake and to keep up my daily yoga practice. With regular checks and by managing my diet, I managed to keep my levels in range for almost six years after my diagnosis.
But then things got tough.
I stopped going to the doctor and missed a few lab blood tests. I was still testing my blood sugar regularly but I noticed the numbers creeping up. Instead of seeing 5-7 mmol (90-126 mg/dL) on my meter, I was looking at 12-18 mmol (216-325 mg/dL)! I kept telling myself that tomorrow would be better. If I just climbed one more hill and ate one less carb my levels would come back down. No matter how hard I tried “naturally” to lower my levels nothing worked.
And then my hands started buzzing.
After a visit to the neurologist, I was told I had mild nerve damage and that if I didn’t get my blood sugar in range the damage would be permanent.
That’s when I hit my all-time low. I had no idea how things could have gotten so out of hand. Having put in my all for so many years I couldn’t try any harder. My way of giving up was to stop having regular visits with my doctor and to deny the actual numbers on my meter. Recognizing this was my wake-up call. Two weeks later, I took my first dose of insulin and within months I was back to my energetic and positive self.
During my journey from diagnosis to denial and finally acceptance, I kept up my yoga practice and focused on some of the deeper aspects of yoga. Having solid tools in my toolkit to reduce stress, increase my sensitivity to insulin, help me sleep better and stay happy, literally saved my life.
One of those tools was devotional chanting from the tradition of Bhakti Yoga. I discovered this form of yoga when my teacher had given me specific sounds to balance my nervous system. I found that singing with an emphasis on gratitude and releasing emotion through the medium of Kirtan (aka: call and response chanting) opened my heart and helped me to surrender more to what was happening to me and it even helped to lower my blood glucose levels.
Reaping the benefits from incorporating the postures, breathing practices, meditation, the science of Ayurveda (individual healing), visualizations and devotional chanting helped me manage my condition.
Now, I just want to spread the word and share that yoga is the perfect compliment to a daily diabetes management plan and that anybody can do yoga.
That's what led me to write a book, to share my story and passion for yoga and it's ability to support people in managing their diabetes. My new book is Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda. I wrote this because after scouring the Internet for books about yoga and diabetes, I couldn’t find one single book by a yoga teacher who also lived with diabetes. It was the perfect opportunity for me. Living with this condition means I know first-hand how important it is to have simple tools to manage my health.
Aside from my personal story, the book also dispels quite a few myths about what yoga is and what it isn’t.
For example, you don’t need to be fit or flexible to try yoga because yoga is not just a system of exercise. It’s an ancient science designed to detoxify the body, strengthen immunity and balance the nervous system with the ultimate aim of reminding you that wholeness, oneness is the nature of who you are.
There are so many different kinds of practices that someone living with diabetes can use to support well-being. Breathing, mindfulness, working with sound and visualization, and even hand gestures. Most practices can be done seated in a chair and can be implemented anywhere, any time.
So why does yoga rock my world?
- Gives me an anchor throughout the highs and lows
- Shows me that life doesn't just happen to me, rather I am inseparably part of the flow of life
- Gives me permission to soften, release and relax when I think I should fight my way through
- Teaches me that the thoughts about my condition often stress me out more than the condition itself
- And finally, no matter what happens to my body, no matter what diabetes throws at me, I am strong enough to handle it
Knowing this and sharing this is my core mission in life.
We thank Rachel for sharing her story! Her new book is available on Amazon in paperback form for $27.95.