“Every action, every day, has a layer to it that is invisible to others. I listen to it, I respect it, I learn from it. My body is rich with messages and has taught me how to be powerfully empathetic. Living beyond is equal parts complex and easy, strong and subtle. I live beyond by being me: emotions, fears, interests, and dreams. I am a writer, a yogi, a friend, a vegan, a cyclist, and a person with diabetes. These make up the constellation that is me, as opposed to defining my potential or limits exclusively.”
It’s possible that I am biased.
As I finish up my Yoga Teacher Training certification through Seva Power Yoga and begin leading classes, it seems likely I would want to extol the virtues of incorporating a practice into one’s life. (My next goal, after getting some experience out in different settings, is to teach others with diabetes – particularly, with Type 1.)
But how could I not want to share what I have learned on the mat, especially in regard to how it has served me in better connecting my body?
Gaining insight into the physical self insists on responding to the needs of varied and confluent messages from our bodies: metabolic processes, emotional states, and corporal discomforts.
One beautiful practice that people can invite into their lifestyle achieve such an incredible-sounding goal is that of yoga.
Reaping the benefits of mindful movement becomes all the more tangible when you have type 1 diabetes to add to the mix. For example, seeing a direct correlation between insulin dosage or blood sugar trends and the time spent engaged in yoga seems like, …well, the coolest thing.
How could it not be, though? It is powerful to find another tool to use in managing your chronic condition, especially when it is something so simple as the application of intentional movement and stillness.
A recent blog entry on the JDRF website discussed many topics that arise when entering into yoga while having diabetes. The questions that they elaborate upon are worthwhile considerations: Where does your pump go if it is being worn? What if I go low? Will it be okay if I need supplies by me? (See their recommendation of the checklist of questions to ask an instructor prior to a class here.) With some research into what studio and instructor you may feel most comfortable with, these questions – like all the overwhelming things we allow ourselves to focus on, instead of truly experiencing the lightness and obviousness of the now – will find resolutions. Concerns about blood sugars can be experienced as you feel a symptom in that moment, as opposed to burdening yourself with all of the anxiety for yet-to-be-encountered glucose readings.
While, yes, it can be way easier said than done, keep in mind that diabetes blends into the yoga practice as a whole; it can enrich the meaning and healing of each pose and each practice to root into that.
The word yoga comes from Sanskrit. It is a term defined as “to yoke” or “to join, unite.” For some people, their bodies host an experience that features diabetes.
For us, joining into the full experience of the self will involve juiceboxes and glucose tabs being nearby. Who says there is anything less about that practice than another?
Controlling your sugars without a true image of where you are coming from and how fast you are getting there feels like working with one hand tied behind your back.
While a glucose meter offers an invaluable, quick snapshot of where your number is in an exact moment, it does not tell the whole story.
Offering a wiggly line graph to depict the rise and fall of your glucose, as well as assist in announcing the speed at which you are a– or de-scending, a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) gives a much more comprehensive image of why your number is where it is.
Fun to note, dextro-, in matters of both handedness (i.e., dexterity) and sugar molecules (dextrose) refers back to being on the right side in some way. One has to do with what hand we may use to write; the other, the “[s]o called because this form of glucose [dextrose] polarizes light to the right in spectroscopy.”
With that in mind, the Dexcom has become my right-hand guy as I’m about six full days into my first session of being continuously glucose monitored with a Dexcom G4 Platinum.
(I promise that is the only pun in this post.)
Admittedly, connecting the dots between a vegan lifestyle and type 1 diabetes can form a really ambigous shape.
However, that does mean that the two are unrelated or are not able to build upon each other.
While I may elaborate on some more points in the future, I think it’s a fun mental exercise to seek out how being vegan and having diabetes may work together.
More specifically, what are some ways that my life post-insulin-producing-pancreas benefitted my decision to clear my plate of all things animal?
Here are three ways.
1.) making menu adjustments
I already was comfortable with how to read a menu thoroughly when out to eat and comfortable with requesting adjustments at restaurants.
Having diabetes provided plenty of practice with this—everything from confirming my order’s ingredients to pitching variations of what was offered on the print menu.
I’ve learned that the Italian side of my family was either one of two things during my first years: feeding or decorating me.
Keeping with my grandparents’ aesthetic preference of seeing tiny pieces of gold on a child – after all, a bambina is this ultimate symbol of beauty and purity or whatever – I had both of my ear lobes pierced for earrings before I was little more than a year old. In addition to this, when both my sister and I were born we were gifted with a yellow gold bracelet featuring a flat plate engraved with our names, respectively.
As we grew, they grew with us; our parents had links added to the chains as the years passed.
We both worn them daily on our left wrists until, given the absurdity of allowing a child to wander about with precious metal so casually, we both lost them in our own seemingly-tragic accounts. My loss, I presume, occurred crawling through tubes and adventuring in a ball pit during a friend’s birthday party.
Aside from occasional nostalgic thoughts, I hadn’t much cared about that bracelet again until now.
Currently, a yellow gold bracelet is around my left wrist.
Like my former name-bearing one, this features a plate with text. The hand-pressed letters states TYPE 1 DIABETES, instead of a stylized version of Ashley.
I’ve not been much of a fan of medical ID bracelets, despite having a few over the years. I’d think things like how they stood out or they were too much of a signal for other people to treat me like I was different, even sick. Or, diseased.
If you’ve ever gotten the munchies when you’ve been high (blood sugar-wise, of course), you know how annoying it can be.
Doesn’t it always seem to feel like you can count on hunger to coincide with hyperglycemia, while low blood sugars seem to love sneaking up on you when you’re completely stuffed?
A recent discussion on /r/diabetes, the diabetes community of Reddit, focused on this topic and I was compelled to reply since I’ve come to know that there are certainly very real reasons for this occurrence, despite it just seeming like the ultimate practical joke of a metabolism.
“Because I have type 1 diabetes, I have to be conscious of what I am eating. Because I am a vegan, I am “picky” about what I am consciously eating.”
From few times I have been asked to elaborate upon the overlap between my medical condition and my lifestyle decision, I have found that this statement is a simplified way to cover everything — while usually, and perhaps more importantly, being met with a chuckle.
Having type 1 diabetes (T1D) for over 11 years means that I have involuntarily been committed to a relationship for half of my life. Needless to say, a bond that long is bound to imply a level of insight, even if just an entirely subjective one due to personal experience. It can therefore be difficult not to feel compelled to want to answer to every misunderstanding articulated around you about diabetes all at once.
A simple answer sometimes says the most.
Of course, if you’re interested in my simple answer being explained further, allow me to do so. (I mean, c’mon, you’d be hard-pressed to find a situation I wouldn’t end up complicating. Ask anyone close to me.)