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Rachel Zinman and Yoga for Diabetes

May 04, 2019 by Scott Johnson

Today’s guest, Rachel Zinman, is truly an inspiration. She was diagnosed with LADA, a form of type 1 diabetes, as an adult, when she was already an accomplished yoga teacher. Her struggles and journey have now put her in a position to help all of us find balance and self-healing.

If, like me, you’ve wanted to experiment with yoga, or if you like the idea of self-healing through exercise and meditation, you’ll want to hear what Rachel has to say.

This is a fun episode for us because our very own Marlis uses yoga to help with her diabetes (and peace of mind) almost every day!mySugr Bundle - Unlimited Accu-Chek Guide test strips

Summary

  • Rachel’s story with yoga, first as a student, then as a teacher
  • Scott’s goal of experimenting with yoga
  • Rachel’s diabetes diagnosis story
  • More about LADA (a type of diabetes)
  • Is yoga for everyone?
  • Rachel’s book and online resources
  • How mySugr helped Rachel

Video

Resources

Transcript

Scott Johnson: Has diabetes ever pushed you to your limits, testing your beliefs and your physical abilities? Well, stay tuned, because today’s guest has a story that might just hit home for you.

Scott Johnson: What’s up Monster Tamers? Welcome to another episode of “Live, with Scott!” Thanks so much for tuning in.

Scott Johnson: Now I don’t know about you guys, but I was getting really, really bored with the plain wall behind me in the other room, so I hijacked another meeting room here, and I haven’t told any of the other coworkers behind me here that I’m going to just try and change it up week to week, and maybe one of these weeks I’ll actually broadcast from out in the other room. So don’t tell anyone, but let’s see what we can do over the next few weeks here.

Scott Johnson: Anyway, my name is Scott Johnson. I have been living with diabetes since I was five years old. And the diabetes social media space, that’s you, by the way, has been a very important part of my wellbeing for a long, long time. Thanks so much for helping me along.

Scott Johnson: As your host today, I am thrilled to connect you with Rachel, because she has a fascinating story that I think you’ll enjoy, and I want to make sure you know about her wonderful book. It’s really something special. Now, while we get going, please share a quick hello in the comments, let me know where you’re watching from, and just love to connect with you. Now today’s episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, personalized support and more all for just $49 per month. Learn more at mySugr.com/facebooklive.

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Scott Johnson: Now a little more on today’s guest. I’m going to read this right from her bio intro that she sent me, so bear with me. Rachel Zinman was diagnosed with LADA, which is a form of type 1 diabetes. And we’ve had a few other guests on diagnosed with LADA as well.

Scott Johnson:  She was diagnosed with LADA, a form of type 1 diabetes in 2008 at the age of 42. She started yoga at 17 years old, and 30 years later, she still practices passionately, teaching teachers and beginners alike in workshops, trainings, and retreats internationally, and she is world renowned. She is a mother, an award-winning musician, which is something I didn’t know by the way, super cool.

Scott Johnson: And she’s a published author of her book Yoga for Diabetes: How to Manage Your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda. Her blog, Yoga for Diabetes was listed as one of the best blogs by DiabetesMine, and her articles on yoga and diabetes have been featured on sites you recognize like mindbodygreen, Elephant Journal, OnTrack Diabetes, Diabetes Strong, Insulin Nation, ASweetLife, Beyond Type 1, Diabetes Daily, and many, many more online and in print magazines. To find out more about Rachel after today’s episode, visit her blog, yogafordiabetesblog.com or RachelZinmanYoga.com. And we’ll link all that stuff in the show notes as soon as I can get off the camera and keyboard here. So let’s dive into this fun interview with Rachel.

Scott Johnson: Hi Rachel. Thanks so much for joining today.

Rachel Zinman: Hi Scott. I’m super excited to share, so thanks for having me.

Scott Johnson: Oh, our pleasure. Thank you so much for joining. So you are world renowned for your life with yoga, and I would love to spend some time talking about that a little bit. I’m hoping that we can introduce a whole new circle of people and audience that may not know much about you, and maybe that’s a great place to start. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Rachel Zinman: Yeah. I am a world, global yoga teacher. I’ve been teaching yoga since 1992. I started with prenatal yoga when my son was just in my womb. He’s 25 now. So I guess I can say that’s 26 years of teaching yoga. I actually started yoga when I was 17 in high school. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It wasn’t something that I really understood as yoga, but eventually, at around 19 I was recommended to try yoga by a chiropractor because I had a bad back. So I got involved in it then, and it probably took about five years for me to really go, wow, this is something incredible. This is really something that’s going to transform my life.

Rachel Zinman: So from the time that I was about 23 until when I had my son at 26, I had been doing yoga a long time but I hadn’t really immersed myself. And then once I got into teaching, that was when I really… You know, to teach you really have to practice. So I had a very steady, regular practice. At the same time, I also had a lot of health issues. I had a lot of things going on with my digestion, and just things that didn’t make sense to me, and the yoga seemed to really amplify that. So when I started doing yoga, I started doing a lot of detoxing as well, and I had crazy things, like flues that went on for months, and I had a gallbladder attack. Nobody could really kind of figure out why I was so sensitive and why I was having all these health issues.

Rachel Zinman: But it was much later, kind of when I went to New York… I was living in Australia most of my adult life up until then. I do have an American accent, so I did live in the states while I was growing up. I was actually born in Holland and lived there as well. But when I moved back to America from Australia, I met a yoga teacher who told me that I really wasn’t doing the right yoga for my type, and that was why I kept coming across all these intense symptoms, because I was pushing my body too hard, I was pushing my body to detoxify all the time, and I needed to find a practice that was right for me.

Rachel Zinman: And that was a huge change for me in my life as a yoga teacher and a yoga practitioner, was discovering that I’m a very fiery type, I push myself really hard, and really what I need is a grounding, relaxing, and calming practice. And also in that life as a yoga teacher, I learned about how to support other people who also needed to know more about their individual constitutions and how yoga could help them. So a lot of people come to me and say, “I can’t do yoga. I’m not fit. I’m not flexible. I don’t have the discipline.” And this is where I can come in and say, “No, but there’s a yoga that’s right for you, and I can help you to find that out.” So that’s really my story with yoga and how I got where I am today.

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Scott Johnson: I love that. So I have not tried much yoga. It’s interesting. I’m so excited to talk with you today because it’s been maybe about a year, a little over a year now since my family and I moved here to the San Diego area, and we’re in a little city about 30, 40 minutes north of San Diego called Encinitas, California. It’s a yoga hotspot of the world. One of the things on my list of many things to do is to experiment and try yoga. It just sounds so peaceful and so self-exploratory and so calming, but yet also there’s so much physical fitness and beneficial things.
A quick story, if I may before we keep going. I play a lot of basketball, and back in Minneapolis before we moved, there was this guy who was just really great on the basketball court, and he disappeared for, I don’t know, three months or so, and when he came back he was even better than when he left. Everyone asked him, “Holy cow, Tony, what did you do when you were gone?” And he said, “Yoga.” It was really amazing to me. So yoga is high on my list of things that I’m going to do in the near future. We’ll get into this soon, but you talked about doing the right yoga for your type, and you talk about finding your type in your book, Yoga for Diabetes. I imagine that was really revolutionary for you in your journey with yoga. Talk a little bit about how that… I imagine that just really transformed your life with yoga, right?

Rachel Zinman: Yeah, absolutely. When I found the right yoga for me, it meant that I wasn’t experiencing the intensity from the practice, but it also gave me kind of a way to look after myself, because being a fiery type, the tendency is just to push, push, push myself to the limit and not really know how to take a break, not really know how to rest. And so finding the yoga for me was about learning to calm down and slow down. So you know, like when you said, “Oh, yoga sounds so calm and peaceful and so healing, and at the same time it helps you with your physical fitness,” well for me it was like, just imagine I never did the calm, peaceful, healing bits. I only did the physical fitness bits, so that I was really strong and really fit and every muscle was really trained.

Rachel Zinman: But I just didn’t know how to slow my breath down. I didn’t know how to deal with stressful situations. I would meet those stressful situations, like with all that intensity and all that energy rather than being able to take a step back and say, “Hang on a minute. Let me just rest and relax and see what’s next. What’s the next step that I need to take?” And I wasn’t taking into account either the kind of mental aspects of yoga, which is understanding the meaning of yoga, the deeper meaning of yoga. So understanding what was right for me made me take a step back, made me contemplate, and allowed me to find out what’s the best way to nurture myself? That was the revolution for me, and the revelation.

Scott Johnson: And at some point in your life, not too terribly long ago, you bumped into diabetes. I imagine that that was… Well, diabetes is not an easy thing for any of us to bump into, but can we spend a little bit of time talking about that and what that was like for you?

Rachel Zinman: Yeah. So 25 years of teaching yoga, 25 years of really believing in yoga as a cure-all, thinking that I was invincible, dealing with different kinds of health issues, like I said, my digestion and all that, and really trying to use the practices, not just the physical practices but the breathing practices, the meditation practices. I worked with sound. I worked with visualization. I worked with other practices, Ayurveda, which is the science of health, to try and keep my system balanced.

Rachel Zinman: And then I started going into these hypoglycemic events, which I didn’t know what they were, but I was getting really dizzy every time I had sugar. I would have these blood sugar crashes where I would get really desperate and get really nervy and need sugar. I even ended up in the emergency room a couple of times with these episodes, heart palpitations, things like that. And everyone that I kept seeing, nobody really knew what was going on. My blood sugar would be tested. It was normal. So it was a very strange thing.

Rachel Zinman: And then one day, I just collapsed. I just was exhausted. I couldn’t get out of bed. I’d been having this very, very sweet metallic taste in my mouth, and I kept saying to my husband, “What is this? This is so weird. It’s so sweet. Do you have it?” And he kept saying no. Anyway, and then he said, “Look, this isn’t normal. You should get some blood tests.” And so I went to the doctor, I had some blood tests, and this was just one of those moments that I’ll never forget, where my husband came running into the room and he said, “I’ve just been to the doctor. My blood tests came back. They’re not great, but yours are really bad, and it’s something to do with your blood and you have to go to the doctor straight away.” I was probably in the middle of meditating or something, and it just kind of really shocked me. Of course, I didn’t know.

Rachel Zinman: So I went into the doctor, and you’ve got to imagine, I live in a very alternative community. It’s peace, love, and brown rice here in Byron Bay in Australia. My doctor was an alternative doctor. He played the didgeridoo and he went swimming with the dolphins, and he’s the kind of doctor you go to see where you just really don’t want to be told anything that’s normal. You just want to know what supplements do I need to take and that sort of thing. He’s not my doctor anymore, by the way.

Rachel Zinman: But the first thing he said to me when I walked in the room was, he sat me down and he just said, “I tested your blood sugar. It was a little abnormal. I looked at your A1C, and you have diabetes, and you’re going to figure out how to cure yourself,” and he just shoved a whole bunch of pamphlets at me. I remember trying to like, amidst the shock of this news that I didn’t even understand, trying to take notes, and then him saying, “You might as well just go home and google diabetes.”

Scott Johnson: Oh my.

Rachel Zinman: There was just no information. There was nothing to say it might be type 1, it might be type 2, this is what type 2 diabetes is, this is what type 1 is, this is what we need to monitor, let’s have a look. There was just nothing, and I just kind of went home in the car thinking, what do I do next? I was in shock. And the worst thing was three days later I was booked to teach a yoga teacher training in India with a whole group of Japanese people who had never been to India before. I couldn’t cancel the trip. It was all booked and paid. And I was with this piece of paper in my hand saying, “You have diabetes.”

Rachel Zinman: Luckily, my son’s best friend’s father was the local endocrinologist, and my husband wangled me an appointment like immediately, and I was able to get into this endocrinologist, and he said, “Look, I’ve had a look at all the blood tests. Your A1C isn’t that high. It’s still kind of just above the normal range. Your blood sugars are a little bit higher. Your fasting blood sugars are a little bit higher. But let’s just keep an eye on it. Let’s get you a glucometer, get you a letter that says you have prediabetes so you can get on the plane with your glucometer and you can test your blood sugar. Let’s just keep an eye on it.” And that was my initial diagnosis. So at that point, I had no idea that I had type 1, that it was latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. I thought I had prediabetes and that I could reverse it, and that was really where I started.

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Scott Johnson: And from there, I imagine that, and please course correct me where necessary, but you mentioned thinking that you could reverse it and that you could, I’m assuming, fix it through yoga.

Rachel Zinman: Yes, absolutely. And that was the conundrum for me, was oh, well I do yoga already and I’m so fit and healthy, so number one, how could this have happened to me? I’m a yoga teacher. I don’t know any other yoga teachers with diabetes. I’ve never heard of this disease really, and I know nothing about it. So it just didn’t make sense to me. So I kind of went into this, I would say I went into deep denial, and I just did what I could. I got advice from so many different alternative health practitioners, who all agreed with me and said, “There’s no way you’ve got diabetes. They’ve made a big mistake.”

Rachel Zinman: No one had ever heard of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults in Australia in 2008. Everywhere I went, it was just from the wackiest people to the most reputable people, they all agreed I was not the type to get diabetes. Anyway, that’s a childhood thing.

Rachel Zinman: And so it was very easy for me to retreat, to not talk about it, to just do as much yoga as a possibly could. And I would say I did go into that hyperactive mindset where I just kept doing more and more to try and resolve the issue. Things would work for a while, and then I’d go back to the blood test and then my blood sugar might go higher. I also started getting thyroid issues. But everything that kept happening, I just kept trying this thing, trying that thing, trying this thing, and eventually, that just didn’t work.

Scott Johnson: And that must have been really, aside from physically hard for you, because it’s not working and so you’re feeling poor physically because you’re experiencing the symptoms of it not working, that must have been also quite hard to deal with emotionally and mentally too.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah. Well, I just felt like such a failure and I felt so embarrassed, being this yoga teacher and getting up there in front of people and talking about health and wellbeing and how beneficial yoga is when I couldn’t control my own health. There was a lot of shame. There was a lot of guilt. There were just all these huge emotions that would overwhelm me. I didn’t necessarily get depressed because I had this fighting attitude like I’m going to beat this and I’m not going to stop until I beat this kind of attitude. But there was definitely anxiety because every time I’d go and get the A1C and it wasn’t looking good, I would think, oh my god, all those things that I just tried the next three months haven’t worked. What next?

Rachel Zinman: But you see, it still wasn’t bad enough for the doctor or me to say, “Okay, now it’s insulin time or now it’s medication time.” I was also frightened of any kind of medication. I’d never taken even a Tylenol in my life. I was just… Nothing. I just looked after everything through my diet, through my disciplines, through the routines that I had in my life. I just thought, if I go on insulin or I take some sort of medication, it’s going to kill me. I was so frightened.

Rachel Zinman: But then eventually, you know, the big thing that changed was I started to actually get neuropathy, and I got this tingling in my hands and my feet whenever I was touching anything, and I went to the doctor and I said, “Oh, this must be B12 deficiency or zinc deficiency.” And he said, “Well, I’m not so sure. Maybe you should go to a neurologist and actually get it checked out.” That was really the turning point. He said, “We might as well test your A1C as well.” And at that point, Scott, I was peeing probably all day. I was at the lowest weight I’ve ever been. I was probably like 96 pounds or something like that. I was probably thirsty. I didn’t notice that symptom so much, but I certainly was going to the bathroom a lot. And I felt drained, I felt tired.

Rachel Zinman: So when I went to the neurologist and he tested my nerves, which, for anyone who has ever had to go through that, it is so unpleasant, having your nerves tested. And then I sat down with the neurologist and he said, “Look, you do have mild nerve damage, and your A1C is 10.7, and if you really want to maintain your nerves or reverse this, you need to get your A1C down. You have diabetes.” I kind of, that was really that moment I guess of total, “okay, this is it, now I really have to deal with that” moment of total transformation, because I just hit rock bottom.

Rachel Zinman: I was in such a crisis, and I didn’t know how I let it get that bad. Not only was I a yoga teacher, but I hadn’t even been listening to my own body, and it was telling me, you are really sick, you need to do something about this, or it’s going to a problem. And I was waking up with fasting blood sugars of probably, you know, 300, 350 every day and just saying, “Oh, tomorrow it’s going to come down. Tomorrow it’s going to come down.”

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Scott Johnson: It’s also too, and again, please steer me back on course, but I know myself, when I’m in the process of troubleshooting something, and oftentimes troubleshooting my diabetes, I can justify or talk myself into reasons why such and such might be working, or oh, this isn’t working, I’ll try this, or these things, I can talk myself into why it might be working or not working until the cows come home, especially if the thing that I’m facing is something I don’t really want to face up to, you know? And so I can see myself easily getting lost in that justification loop in my own head quite easily. Maybe there was something like that going on.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, a lot of denial keeps one able to keep just telling yourself the same story over and over. When I finally went to the endocrinologist and he said those words to me, “Have you heard of LADA? Have you heard of latent autoimmune diabetes in adults?” And I thought, well, no, and you never told me. And he said, “That means that you actually have type 1 diabetes and you need to go on insulin and we’re going to start you on insulin straight away.” That was also a piece of information that I probably should have heard much earlier, which would have enabled me to do more research, to understand really the difference between type 1 and type 2. And I know that a lot of people were diagnosed around the time that I was, especially in Australia, that they’re much more on board with it all now and there’s a lot more information 10 years on.

Rachel Zinman: And that point also, when I was told you’re going to go on insulin, was the point where I started thinking, you know, I wonder if there’s any other yoga teachers out there or people interested in yoga who have type 1 diabetes. Let me do a google search. I did this google search and I found this woman in Minneapolis named Cynthia Zuber, who was giving a talk at a diabetes conference in Minneapolis on yoga and diabetes. It was just amazing.

Rachel Zinman: And I actually reached out to her and we connected, and that was my first dia-buddy, the first person I met that was like me, that liked yoga and that had diabetes, and that was sort of the beginning of my reaching out, coming out of isolation and realizing that I’m not alone in this, because a lot of people that I meet even now, who have just been diagnosed, who are dealing with or who have dealt with diabetes a long time, they just tried to be normal and haven’t actually reached out and found other people like them for that peer support.

Rachel Zinman: So besides being brave and going on insulin and trying all that and realizing that there’s nothing I did wrong, there’s nothing that I could have done wrong, that this was totally out of my control and yoga had nothing to do with it. In fact, probably the yoga is what enabled me to go so long without actually being detected, without it being discovered and preserved quite a bit of the beta self function over time, that also, that reaching out was a way for, that me inspiring other people and encouraging other people to reach out and find other people living with this could can absolutely rock your world and change your life.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. I think it’s so fun that Cynthia is someone that you connected with. She’s someone that I also know from my time in Minneapolis. She is a very special young woman and a gift to the world. So it makes me smile to hear that she was able to help you so much. That’s great. I think it might be nice for those who aren’t so familiar with LADA, maybe if you can explain that a little bit more and just tell the people that might be curious about what that is.

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Rachel Zinman: Okay. So this is a type of type 1 where it’s a very slow onset. The breakdown of the immune system, in other words, the autoimmune attack is very, very slow, and so it can happen over years, over decades, where just slowly, slowly, slowly the immune system is being attacked, and so it’s very hard to detect it. It also has elements of type 1 and type 2, in that you can have quite a lot of insulin resistance with LADA, and it comes on much later. So it might come on in your 30s or 40s, or even 50s. The other thing is that you might still have some beta cell function, especially if you start taking insulin soon enough, it can actually preserve the beta cell function.

Rachel Zinman: So I still have, according to my C peptide test, 0.01 percent of beta cell function, which means that when I take injections of insulin, sometimes my pancreas can decide to work. The beta cells decide to do their job and I actually have over injected for that moment, so then I experience more lows than maybe somebody who doesn’t have that, because I can’t really predict how much of my own body is going to produce insulin, how much I’m going to produce and how much I need injection wise.

Rachel Zinman: So the dose that I take are much smaller because I just have to really factor that in. So sometimes you might take less insulin.
Scott Johnson: So hard.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah, yeah. You might also take Metformin or some other complementary medication alongside the insulin. For me, going on a pump isn’t really the best thing, just because that whole thing about having too much insulin running through the system, I find it’s much safer for me to just do the manual daily injections so that I can really control it. And even like sometimes with a pen, it’s too much insulin because they just do the one unit markings. So I sometimes even take half a unit or under half a unit, or sometimes like one and a little bit more. So it’s a lot of fine tuning with this could.

Rachel Zinman: And you just never know, because right now I’m experiencing a lot less inflammation in my body, so my blood sugars are lower. When there’s more inflammation, my blood sugars are higher. And that just depends on travel, the time of year. So I find actually that doing yoga and understanding a lot more about the yoga for my type and my constitution actually also helps me to manage that, because in summer, the body is more heated, in winter, the body is cooler, and that’s also affecting the blood sugar, and then I can do a practice to either bring more heat into the body or cool the body down. It’s just a nice little extra tool to have with this type of diabetes. I hope that explains it.

Scott Johnson: It does, yes. Thank you, thank you very much for that. And maybe with that, let’s shift a little bit into talking about the benefits of yoga for diabetes.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah. So I’ve already talked about how there is a yoga for your type, but in general, yoga is amazing for increasing sensitivity to insulin. We have these really big lower body muscles, like the thighs, the buttocks, the legs, and they literally burn glucose for fuel, so you know that when you’re burning glucose for fuel, then your own body doesn’t have to do it. So it kind of acts like insulin. So when we do yoga, we work those muscles and we contract them isometrically and really help the muscles to do their job better. So that’s one thing, is increasing insulin sensitivity.

Rachel Zinman: Another thing is really great for improving all the different physiological functions of the body. So it helps digestion, helps elimination, helps respiration, helps circulation. All of those things are affected by diabetes. The pancreas is also responsible for producing hormones for digestion. So our hormones, our digestion could be compromised when we’re living with diabetes, so it’s great to be able to squish organs and bring fresh blood into those organs. Our circulation is really problematic when we live with diabetes. We’re dealing all the time with we need to increase our circulation, especially if we’re dealing with some complications. So moving the body, holding positions, working with the breath, all those increase circulation.

Rachel Zinman: Respiration. A lot of times we’re dealing with just things to do with the tension that we’re experiencing, the way that we’re working with our breath. So learning to breathe fully and completely and bringing in as much oxygen as possible. They say that a beta cell needs oxygen to help it to do its job. So if you have any functioning beta cells, you want to get as much oxygen into the cells as possible, so the breathing is so powerful for that.

Rachel Zinman: And also, we’re dealing with taking medication. We want to deal with elimination and detoxification and really being able to eliminate efficiently. Weight loss is a really nice side effect. Better sleep. When you’re breathing well, when you’re moving well, when you’re digesting well, then there’s not as much activity in the mind, you’re sleeping better, switches on the relaxed part of your nervous system, which is that fight or flight gets turned off and the rest and digest gets turned on. Another really powerful and wonderful benefit is all the mental benefits, like better mood, less anxiety, less depression. I could keep going. I think that’s a lot.

Scott Johnson: I mean, that sounds like there are so many benefits that we would be silly not to try it, right?

Rachel Zinman: Yeah.

Scott Johnson: What about those who might think like, oh, my body is not right for yoga, or my type of diabetes isn’t right for yoga? Is yoga for everybody and every time of diabetes?

Rachel Zinman: Yes, absolutely. And I really dive into this in my book, explain how when Ayurveda, the Indian science of health and healing looks at diabetes, it doesn’t look at your type of diabetes. It looks at your constitution and says okay, if this is your constitution, if you have a bigger body, if you have softer joints, if you are kind of somebody who tends to like to do things in a relaxed way, then you need stimulation, you need motivation, and you need to do a stronger type of practice. Flexibility isn’t going to be a problem for you. You need to do things that are really active in the yoga practice, and that’s going to build your strength and build that motivation.

Rachel Zinman: If you’re someone who is very fiery and overheated and your blood sugars tend to drop very fast and you’re very muscular, so you call yourself somebody who is not flexible, then there is a way to work with your body, which is slow, calm, steady, that can really support you. If you’re someone who is very fast moving in your mind, quick, you get spaced out, you feel ungrounded, you suffer from anxiety, you have trouble sticking to a routine with your blood sugar management, then you need to work on grounding and stabilizing, sometimes a lot of restorative yoga.

Rachel Zinman: And then there are the people who say, “I just can’t sit still, or I just can’t go into poses.” Well, you can do yoga lying down. You can do yoga in a chair. You can do the more meditative aspects of yoga. Yoga isn’t just about being stretchy and bendy and flexible. And believe me, when I started yoga at 19, of course, I was flexible and bendy and I could do all that stuff just because I was a dancer. And then as I’ve gone through the different phases of my life, I’m in my 50s now, I don’t bend so well, I don’t stretch so well in the same way. I have had injuries, and I haven’t stopped doing yoga. I’ve just adapted. I’ve found things that I can do. Even just raising and lowering my arms with the breath can be enough sometimes for me to feel connected and to calm my nervous system.

Rachel Zinman: So there is a class out there for every person, no matter what their situation, their body type, they have injuries, their type of diabetes, and I’ve really seen that. I’ve really been able to work with a wide spectrum of people, different body types, different situations, and I’ve managed to turn all those people on to yoga by educating them and helping them to understand how effective it can be for whatever their situation or their age.

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Scott Johnson: Amazing. That’s so good to hear. So encouraging. A lot of what you’ve mentioned, and you’ve mentioned a few times, and I’m so glad you have, because I have my copy. Your book, I’m going to stick it right up in front of the camera for a second, this book is one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It is jam-packed of full color, layout, photos, and charts. I mean, this is a true treat to read through, and you will see… I mean, there’s just earmarked pages everywhere. Talk to us a little bit about what someone might expect in the book, why they should get the book, where they can get the book, all the good, juicy details.

Rachel Zinman: All right. I wrote the book because I really wanted to get across how much yoga can support you in your diabetes management. I thought, no one is going to read a book that’s just full of words and ideas. They’re only going to look at a book that gives them imagery that’s going to inspire them, that has a personal touch. So when you go into the book, there’s a short section about my story and my diagnosis story, but then it really goes into the meat of the subject, which is to understand your type.

Rachel Zinman: So the first thing that happens is, I share a little bit about Ayurveda and how Ayurveda has been treating diabetes for over 4000 or 5000 years, and then how you can find out your constitution related to the type of diabetes you have. And then it goes into how you can find the right yoga for you. That includes a questionnaire. So you go through a questionnaire, and then there’s a chart which explains the type of practice, the type of asana, the posture practice, the type of meditation practice, the type of breathing practice, and also the type of exercise and dietary guidelines, just an overview of what can really help you according to your constitution. And then, we just dive into those practices.

Rachel Zinman: And then if you can’t fully do some of the postures, there’s a whole section in the back with modifications, which I’m modeling, just showing how if you can’t do it this way, you can try it this way, and there’s the whole key. And there’s even a little section which is all about symptoms. So we have all sorts of symptoms when we’re living with diabetes, and then very specific poses for those symptoms, and also specific routines and postures that you could do. So it’s very comprehensive. It gives you just all the tools that you need from start to finish.

Rachel Zinman: And there’s also a chapter on thoughts and how thoughts work, and our thoughts around living with diabetes and how we can manage those thoughts. I talk about my first experience with meditation, how I was the worst meditator in the world and how I overcame that. There’s even a section on what to wear for yoga, how to setup your practice space, how to bring gratitude into your life, how to work with a daily routine, simple things that you can do every day to stay balanced and calm, that aren’t necessarily physical yoga practices.

Rachel Zinman: It’s just, as they say in Australia, chock-a-block, which means full, of lots of juicy things to support you. And a lot of people say to me, they just go back and back to the book. The idea is that you do the whole thing for your constitution for six weeks, and then you retake the quiz and see where you’re at and see if anything has changed, and then you might actually need to change the routine.

Rachel Zinman: So even though there are three postural routines in there, you might actually end up doing all of them at some point, based on your response to the questionnaire. So that’s what’s in the book, and it is available everywhere. You can go into your local store, your Barnes and Noble or your bookstore wherever you are in the world and you can ask them to order it in. It’s totally available. Or you can get it online from any of the online bookstores, from Amazon to Barnes and Noble to Booktopia to Book Depository. It’s everywhere. And yeah, that’s the book.

Scott Johnson: Awesome. I love it. It’s such a beautiful creation. I mentioned this to you right before we started recording the interview, but thank you so much for pouring so much of your heart and soul and energy into creating it. It’s a pleasure, and I’m so happy that it exists in the world.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah, and I am too. And you know what’s really beautiful is it’s created a community in ways that I hadn’t imagined. I mean, it’s led to me also being able to connect with other yoga teachers in the diabetes space, who, as I said, when I first searched I couldn’t find anyone, and now I just keep meeting more and more people who are either yoga teachers, yoga teacher trainers, people who have just graduated and are starting to teach, or people who like me were teaching first and then diagnosed. It’s just been an incredible way for me personally to meet people and connect with people living with diabetes, and it’s also been a wonderful resource for yoga teachers who knew nothing about diabetes.

Rachel Zinman: So it’s enabled me to become an advocate and an educator for yoga communities to help them to work with people who come to their class living with diabetes. And that’s a huge thing, because when I reached out into my yoga community to ask if they had any students with diabetes in their class, they said, “Well, maybe, but we wouldn’t know.” And now there’s a whole bunch of teachers, especially in Australia, who are armed with the information of how they can support someone who comes into their class so that they’re not going, “Oh, what’s that beeping sound? Can you turn it off?” That’s your CGM. Or, “Why are you eating in the middle of class. That’s not cool.” That they actually have compassion, they understand, and they recognize how important yoga is for that person living with diabetes.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, that’s really a beautiful thing. And that changes the world in ways that it’s really hard to know like where the ripple effect of that stops. So that’s really great. You also are very active on your blog and Facebook group and that is another way you stay very connected with the community. Tell the folks a little bit about that.

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Rachel Zinman: Yeah. So you know, when I was writing the book, I started the blog at the same time, not expecting that the blog would do so well. I just wrote the blog as kind of a creative outlet so that when I wasn’t so that I stayed in that writing sphere while I wasn’t writing the book. And I actually, there was the Diabetes Blog Week which came up, and that was just fantastic and a great way to get more exposure for the blog.

Rachel Zinman: The blog is really, it’s a mix of things. It’s my personal diary of how I am dealing with my diabetes on a week to week basis. I try and write every week. Some weeks I get to it, some weeks I don’t. And then it also has like little grabs, little snaps of yoga practices. So sometimes I’ll do a three-minute warmup in there, or I’ll offer a meditation, or there will be a breathing technique or a relaxation technique. This week’s blog is all about intimacy and diabetes and how we deal with that. So I try and just keep bringing in things that I think people will enjoy and that will help them with their diabetes management.

Rachel Zinman: And then I have a Facebook group, where I’m in there and where I’m offering things and sharing links about things or other things that other yoga teachers who have diabetes are doing. So it’s not just about me, it’s about being of service to the group. And then I’m on Instagram, which I love. I have a huge passion for imagery, as you can see from the book, and sharing the images of my life with diabetes and how I’m managing that. And a Facebook page where I do also just post little snippets of things that inspire me, and also a way that I can share what’s happening in the diversity of the diabetes community online because I just love seeing what everyone else is up to and sharing that. I’m passionate about networking and getting the word out there.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, that’s great. And we’ll have links to all of that down below and in the comments so people can, one, buy your amazing book, and two, get and stay connected with you. So thank you for continuing to share so much of yourself with the world. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about or I haven’t asked about that you want to mention?

Rachel Zinman: I’d love to talk about the app because it means so much to me if that’s okay.

Scott Johnson: Please, yeah.

Rachel Zinman: One of the big things that shifted for me last year was I was on just long-acting insulin and I was managing very well with long-acting insulin, but I really got to the point where I was like, I need to get… I guess it’s a little bit about looking at what everyone else is posting, and everyone else has got their A1C’s under seven. And I was thinking, you know what, I’m managing okay, and yeah, I’ve got this could, and I still have these blocks around taking short-acting, and I was afraid. And so I made this commitment to myself at the beginning of 2018 that I would start short-acting insulin and really work towards getting my A1C into a normal range. I kept saying, “There must be an app. There must be an app out there that I can use.” And someone said to me, “Try mySugr. It’s really great.”

Rachel Zinman: I was in America and I was touring and I saw that there was a diabetes coach that came with the app and the test strips. Just to let everyone know, living in Australia, we have a lot of subsidy for our test strips and things like that, but obviously I didn’t have access to them when I was living in the states, so I decided to go for the package, which included the diabetes coach, and I actually got to work with Gary Scheiner, which was just like… He was one of my heroes when I was first diagnosed. I read his book, so I was like, oh my god, oh my god, I get to work with this famous dude.

Rachel Zinman: And just through the app, we worked out exactly when I should take the injections and how it would all work, and it literally changed my life. All of a sudden, within a couple of weeks, I was able to manage my blood sugars in a way that I never thought was possible, and I did it in a really safe, measured way, checking in with Gary over time, making sure that everything worked. So it was a real game changer for me. And from that moment on, I just felt like, yeah, then I could really use that app to keep me kind of seeing how things were going, and I was literally watching week by week my blood sugars coming down, coming down, coming down. And that little A1C, average A1C thing switching over…

Rachel Zinman: And then walking into the endocrinologist’s office and just being able to easily email the data over to them so that they had all the data and they could see actually what was happening test by test that I was doing, and it all just seamlessly integrating with my glucometer and into the office. So I just feel, you know, it really has been and it continues to be… And people always say to me, “What’s that noise?” When you hear the too-doo-too-doo-too-doo, and I always go, “That’s my lifesaver. That’s what’s helping me stay on track.” I’ve had amazing results. I’ve got a quote-unquote normal A1C now, and I feel really confident with my diabetes management, and I certainly didn’t feel that way a year ago.

Rachel Zinman: So that’s just one thing I wanted to add, that I’m really grateful for the team at mySugr, everything they do. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone, especially people who are newly diagnosed who want to work one on one with somebody to help them manage their blood sugars. And you know, there’s nothing quite like being able to just type it into your app and get the answer pretty well straight away, as opposed to having to wait and get the appointment and go and see the diabetes educator. And you’re working with people in the app who are living with the could, a lot of them. It’s just very heartening.

Scott Johnson: Thank you. What a testimonial. Very much appreciated. Wow, thank you. Well, with that, you’ve also offered to give away a couple of copies of your book, so that is an amazing prize for everyone watching. Thank you so much. We’ll talk about details of that in just a second here. Thank you, Rachel, for everything. This has been a lot of fun. We’ll have to get you back on soon to talk about what the next few adventures have been for you.

Rachel Zinman: Yeah, I’d love to. There’s always something in my mind on the horizon to connect with the diabetes world, so thank you. Thank you so much for having me, so much.

Scott Johnson: Our pleasure. We’ll catch up soon. Thank you. All right, wasn’t that fun? As a special thanks to all of you watching, as you heard, Rachel is very, very kindly giving away two of her books. I would also love to give in a couple of fun mySugr tote bags with pop sockets, stickers, fun goodies like that. Pardon me while I indulge myself. I so enjoyed that chat with Rachel. I hope you guys did too. Please let us know what you thought of it in the comments, and by leaving a comment, enter yourself in the giveaway for one of two of her books and a couple of fun mySugr giveaways. That’s great. And then, before next week’s broadcast, I will pick lucky winners and announce them during the show.

Scott Johnson: So once again, today’s episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, personalized support, as Rachel talked about, and more, all for just $49 per month. Learn more at mySugr.com/facebooklive.

Scott Johnson: And then, be sure to tune in next week when we have the amazing and fun and funny good friend of mine, Chelcie Rice. He is a super cool and amazing diabetes advocate and comedian and speaker who I really think you’ll enjoy. We’re going to cover a lot of fun topics as well. So as always, thank you so much for joining today. Please give this video a like, share it with your friends if you think they might like it as well, and have an amazing day, and we’ll see you next time. Bye.


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