Fitness Magazine

Yoga for Diabetes: A Personal Journey to Health and Wellbeing

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Rachel Zinman 

Yoga for Diabetes: A Personal Journey to Health and Wellbeing

Forest Path by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I’ll never forget my first yoga class—it was just me and the teacher. She asked me to move my body in ways that felt awkward and at 19 I remember thinking that yoga just wasn’t my thing. But a few months later one of my friends convinced me to attend a class in the Iyengar style. That class was a game changer! I’d never felt so serene and open and loved the detailed alignment cues. From that moment on I was determined to include the practice of yoga in my life. Thirty-two years later I am an avid practitioner, teacher, and teacher trainer. But that doesn't mean that there haven’t been ups and downs. I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve wondered about yoga’s ability to solve real-life problems. Let me explain. I was taught that the practice of yoga, including physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditations, were intended to support the body to find perfect health. So up until my diagnosis of Type 1 LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) in 2008 at the age of 42, I assumed yoga would not only cure but prevent all disease. That’s why my diagnosis was so shocking. I just couldn't understand how someone who had lived and breathed yoga all her life could get diabetes. What I didn’t realize was that my initial diagnosis was wrong. Because my doctor didn’t know that much about LADA he assumed that I had pre-diabetes or possibly type 2. He told me that if I ate well and kept up my yoga I could reverse my condition. After six months, further testing revealed that the cause of my condition was autoimmune. But the doctor never used the words “Type 1 diabetes” so I chose to ignore his diagnosis. My denial about my condition isolated me from finding out more. I had no idea that there was a wealth of support in the diabetes community both in person and online. When someone asked me about my diagnosis, I told them it was a mistake. It was easy to fool myself because my consistent yoga practice and modest diet kept my blood glucose levels in range. But when I hit perimenopause at 48, fluctuating hormones pushed my blood glucose levels to a breaking point and I suffered from mild nerve damage. And my endocrinologist gave me strict instructions to start long-acting insulin. I have never wept so much or felt so relieved. Finally, I let go and let modern medicine help. I had to admit that while yoga had definitely helped me, it wasn’t a cure all. Facing up to the truth was an important step in my healing journey. During those first few months of insulin therapy I used my yoga practice to keep my stress levels at bay. I was terrified both of having low blood sugar and of medication. At times I had to work hard not to feel like a failure or embarrassed about my condition. As part of my process, I used the deeper aspects of yoga to help me understand more about what was happening to me. Through my studies I learned that I am not my condition. I have a condition, just like I have a name, but I can never be what I have. I learned that I am not my thoughts either, especially my thoughts about my condition. Giving myself this little bit of distance emotionally and mentally from what was happening to me physically helped me to come to terms with my diagnosis. I also amped up my breathing, postural, and meditation practices. The results were encouraging. Stable blood sugar levels, balanced weight, increased insulin sensitivity, and long and deep sleeps. I was and am still amazed that amidst the throes of menopause and diabetes I feel better than I did in my twenties. Yoga also taught me that I’m stronger and braver than I think and softened me in the toughest moments, allowing me to be gentle and kind to myself. Now my yoga practice reminds me that life is a constant balancing act. No matter how much I want things to flow there are going to be highs and lows. My story and my passion for yoga and its role in helping people manage their diabetes is the subject of my new book Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda. I wrote the book because I know firsthand how important it is for someone living with diabetes to know that they’re not alone. Another thing I share in the book is how simple it is—no matter what type of diabetes you have or what age you are—to incorporate a yoga practice into your daily diabetes management plan. The book has an extensive explanation of how to find the right practice for your type, how to manage insulin and exercise, and how to get motivated to practice, and it suggests postural practices, breathing techniques, and meditations that are easy to implement. The book includes inspiring and motivating images so that anyone living with diabetes will want to dive in and explore yoga. Besides being a personal story and a how-to guide, this book offers a way to live with diabetes with dignity, grace, self-care, and gratitude. These principles have supported me to get on top of my health and live well with diabetes, and it is my dream to help others do the same. Now I'm excited to let you all know that I will be offering a yoga workshop and book launch at 4th Street Yoga in Berkeley, CA on October 8, 2017. A portion of the proceeds of the workshop will go to the San Francisco branch of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 
Yoga for Diabetes: A Personal Journey to Health and Wellbeing
Rachel Zinman is an internationally renowned yoga teacher and writer, who was diagnosed with Type 1 LADA diabetes in 2008 at the age of 42. She started yoga at 19 and 32 years later still practices passionately, and teaches teachers and beginners alike in workshops, trainings and retreats internationally. She is also a mother and an award-winning musician. Her blog yogafordiabetes was listed as one of the best blogs for January 2016 by Diabetesmine and her articles on yoga for diabetes have been featured in Mind Body Green, Elephant Journal, Insulin Nation, A Sweet Life, Beyond Type 1, Diabetes Daily, and LyfeBulb. To find out more about Rachel visit rachelzinmanyoga.com or her blog yogafordiabetesblog.com
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