I cannot imagine life without movement. I can remember being about three years old and how I was completely captivated by the feeling of twirling and swaying to music. For me, dancing was like breathing. As I got older and studied ballet and contemporary dance I realized that I was completely hooked.
When everyone else was busy after school with sport or homework, I was at the ballet barre. I had my sights set on making it as a professional dancer. It took a ton of hard work and years of practice to eventually reach my goal. But even once my dream was realized, it wasn’t easy making a living as a professional dancer. My body wasn’t perfect, I found it hard to always follow direction and the competition was fierce. I was always a nervous wreck when auditioning for a new part, never seemed thin enough and fretted often that I wasn’t dancing up to the standard that was expected from both our choreographer and company director.
Luckily at 19, I also discovered yoga. Yoga was the antithesis of dance. Non-competitive and available to everybody. There is no perfect body for yoga (even though Instagram or a fancy yoga magazine might suggest otherwise). Yoga and its tenets rescued me from the habits I’d been cultivating. Not just physical habits but mental habits like thinking I could never get anything right, over worrying and trying too hard.
For many years dance and yoga were my two passions until at 35, I did my last pirouette and dove into teaching yoga full time. My diabetes symptoms began just a year later. Back then, I didn’t know that my immune system was attacking itself. I just knew I didn’t feel normal.
In those years after giving up dance, and before my formal diagnosis, yoga was my refuge.
When someone tells me that they want to try yoga but can’t sit still or don't have the flexibility, I share my favorite motto; If you can breathe, you can do yoga.
My partner John, who has been practicing and teaching yoga for 46 years sees the physical yoga postures as the Ferrari of workouts. If your body were a car, which would you prefer? A beat-up old wreck? Or a Ferrari? Sure, some of us like the classic VW bug. But me? I like the effect of accelerating from 0-62 mph and then coasting at 199.
I’m convinced that yoga is the perfect way to get fit when you live with diabetes. One of the main reasons being it’s not a one size fits all workout. No matter your age, lifestyle, or type of diabetes there is a practice perfect for you.
Are you someone who goes low during a workout? Do you get hot easily? Are you a perfectionist when it comes to numbers on your meter? You might be a blood sugar burner and a fire type, which means sweaty workouts wouldn’t suit you. The more restorative styles like yin or hatha yoga are perfect for reducing stress, cooling your system and keeping blood sugar levels balanced.
Do you find it hard to get motivated to workout? Are you pretty flexible but don’t have a lot of strength? Do you feel more grounded and relaxed when it comes to dealing with diabetes? A calm and stable nature relates to the elements of earth and water. You’d thrive in a yoga class which is stimulating and challenging. Styles like power vinyasa, Iyengar yoga or even hot yoga would help you build strength and empower you to take charge of your diabetes.
Does your energy fluctuate? Do you change your workout style from day to day? Are you easily bored? Do you forget to check your blood sugar levels? These are signs of more air and space governing your system. It stimulates your creative side but can also make you feel like you’re never consistent enough. For you, a yoga practice which works with breath and movement would be perfect. You enjoy a challenge but also need to slow down. Slow vinyasa, yin or hatha yoga, restorative yoga, or Vini yoga would all be wonderful styles to support you in staying balanced.
Once you’ve found the right yoga practice for your type you can soak up all the juicy benefits that support your life with diabetes
-Increased physical strength
-More muscle tone
-Increased Insulin sensitivity
-Improved function of the internal organs
-Better blood circulation
-More balanced blood sugar levels
-General overall wellbeing
In my own life, I use my yoga practice as a barometer to gauge my level of stress in any given moment. When I go through the practice and keep falling off balance, can’t keep my mind on my breath or get lost in the silliest of thoughts, I know I need to slow down, get more rest and be more gentle with myself.
But don’t just take my word for it. Why not test it out for yourself? Set yourself a 40-day challenge and measure the results. It takes about six weeks for the body to adapt to a new exercise regime. I’m absolutely certain that once you get your yoga groove on there will be no turning back!