Last week's video was all about the vagus nerve and how stimulating it can improve your stress response, lower your heart rate, increase circulation, digestion and decrease insulin resistance.
The vagus nerve is responsible for your body's innate power to SELF HEAL.
It's no secret that type 1 diabetics are susceptible to overwhelm, anxiety, depression and it takes longer for us to recover.
Stimulating the vagus nerve is an essential self-care ritual that should be a part of
your daily practice.
This week I am going to show you how stimulate the vagus nerve and increase your ability to heal from the inside out. Whether your goal is to promote more internal homeostasis, be less reactive to external stimuli, have more energy for adventures, family and personal pursuits. The work starts here with breathing.
If you are short on time:
1:48 Explanation of how to breathe
2:40 Breathing practice begins
The science of yoga and diabetes
Some of most common daily side effects of type one diabetes are insulin resistance, anxiety and gastro-intestinal distress. Left untreated these common issues can turn into bigger problems like retinopathy, depression, heart disease and gastroparesis.
There is no cure just yet but in the meantime there is a simple and powerful way to improve and even resolve these common side effects with yoga.
The answer is vagal tone.
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve, the longest in the body. It is also known as the "wandering nerve" and connects the brain to the heart, lungs, diaphragm, stomach and digestive tract.
By toning the vagus nerve you can improve your stress response, increase circulation and reduces heart rate, inflammation and insulin resistance. Not to mention a healthy vagus nerve elicits parasympathetic response improving your brain function, reducing anxiety, depression and giving you the strength to recover sooner from the side effects from hyper and hypoglycemia.
Naturally yoga therapy is more parasympathetic.
In this short 10 minute video you will learn:
Lead With Love in Aspen, Colorado
is a unique opportunity to celebrate all forms of yoga from the physical practices to the people who live the philosophy and transform the world. The festival has hosted keynotes like Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Seane Corn, Richard Branson and Rod Stryker. The combo of practice and integration makes Lead with Love a worthwhile destination for anyone who seeks to learn from great masters of their trade.
Gina Murdock, Lead with Love Founder is a visionary inspiration. I have personally known Gina for years from working in the Aspen yoga community and believe in her mission to transform our community, minds and hearts for the better.
Her team have a mission to take the original Aspen Idea which is to live a life inspired by human potential and educate as many people as possible about how to make that happen.
This exclusive yet inclusive experience stands out in the sea of Colorado yoga festivals because its intention is singular: to live a life inspired by love. It is this direct understanding of what it is to be love, to give love and to lead our businesses from love and our relationships from love that changes the world.
Lead with Love is not all about yoga asana. The event consists of masterful yoga practices, pranayama workshops (lead by yours truly) but also and more interestingly incredible speakers who inspire your mind and touch your soul. These talks are perhaps the most vibrant and transformational of all the retreats experiences.
I am honored to be a part of this festival for the second year in a row. Join me for a pranayama workshop and lecture on yoga therapy for chronic illness sponsored by Almeda. Use promo code EVANLOVE for $100 off the 4-day retreat at the Aspen Meadows.
Please join me and the whole Aspen yoga community for this not to be missed experience.
In yoga philosophy and important concept is the idea of seer and seen. You the subject are observing an object. This object can be your breath, a symbol, a candle flame or it can be a health condition. In my case, it is type 1 diabetes.
The ability to separate yourself from your condition is an essential tool in the journey towards self-mastery.
It is a relatively easy concept to understand from an intellectual perspective
You have a health condition and it does not define you.
Yet it is harder to apply this wisdom when you are in the midst of a challenging moment.
When I can establish an awareness that I am observing the thoughts, sensations and feelings but that those things are not me it helps me to respond better to the highs and lows.
If I am not aware the impulse to act and react to the thoughts, sensations and feelings is stronger than me. I may eat too much to treat a low. I can overly inject insulin. I can ignore the warning signs and further perpetuate a vicious cycle of highs and lows. I might not see clearly how my actions are responsible for what I am experiencing and not make appropriate changes.
In this week's video you will learn how to:
Yoga Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever. It Did For Me.
Isn't all yoga therapeutic?
Although the lines between the practice and tradition of yoga may seem blurred, there are some subtle yet important differences between yoga and yoga therapy.
Yoga therapy is different from yoga in a few special ways:
1. Yoga Therapy is designed for the individual. What that means is that sessions are created for the person who is practicing.
These practices may address a specific health condition or illness.
2. Yoga Therapy pools the wealth of knowledge from yoga tradition and philosophy and intentionally creates practices for specific health concerns.
3.. Yoga Therapy is a form of physical and psychotherapy. With self-study and discipline the practitioner of yoga therapy can overcome all limitations from structural, physiological and self-limiting beliefs. The goal is to be self-functioning and the means is unique to the individual. A yoga therapist takes a formal intake of each client much like a healthcare professional.
4. Yoga Therapy looks at the cause of suffering. If it is a back problem, look at what makes it worse and what makes it better. Apply intervention practices to address the pain. If it is an illness like diabetes yoga therapy looks at behavioral patterns and uses the energetics of physiological balance to help regenerate and restore the body's innate power to heal.
5. Yoga Therapy is uniquely for the practitioner. Although there may be yoga practices and classes that address a specific condition, these practices are generalized for a group. Yoga therapy not only helps to modify and adjust the practices to suit the individual but makes the practice just for the individual who is multi-dimensional.
6. A yoga therapist’s goal is to grant the client independence and to show them how to practice for themselves. A good yoga therapist helps the client understand how they have the power to influence change in their perception and to gain dominion over their life and choices.
As a type 1 diabetic for over 20 years I rely on my yoga therapy practice to help me balance the inevitable challenges that follow chronic illness and autoimmune conditions. Yoga therapy is not a substitute for health care it is a supplement which grants the individual the ability to change the course of their lives. We all have challenges to conquer in this lifetime and yoga therapy is a means to live this beautiful life of yours fully.
Learn more about starting a yoga therapy practice online with Evan.
In order to master type 1 diabetes you need to be disciplined in so many ways. You are not born with the power to be self-disciplined. It is a required skillset that can be refined and strengthened like a muscle.
According to yoga tradition, self-discipline (tapas) is a key first step in the practice of living in harmonious balance inside and out. Without it, you cannot acquire the strength to ascend beyond impulses and live freely in your choices.
When I was first diagnosed, I lacked self-discipline. My impulses drove most of my choices. When my blood sugars were low, I would over eat. When I felt empty, I would reach toward unhealthy food choices to slake the uncomfortable feeling of not being enough.
Self-discipline is not about control. It is about power. The power of choice. When you can choose from a place of knowing versus impulse, you are in charge.
In this short video you will learn how to:
Yesterday, I was fly fishing with my boyfriend. It was below 30 degrees outside and we were fishing in a dark canyon with little sunlight. Naturally, I run cold, despite having grown up at 8,000 ft, I am usually cold even in the summer. This could be a result of type one diabetes and a lack of circulation, who knows. Needless to say, my body was working extra hard to stay warm and despite my best efforts, my blood sugar numbers would not stay regulated. I saw the dreaded diagonal arrow down on my Dexcom cgm and tried to mitigate before it was too late with glucose tabs and temp basals. Suddenly I was that kind of low that you just can't function. It is so uncomfortable and painful. I just wanted to cry, "Why ME! I am so TIRED of this!!!" but I didn't because what good is that? So I sat, watching the far away sun on my face waiting for the time to pass until I could function again. It was so cold and I felt so awful but I had to surrender to that light of the sun to hold me, help me stay patient and separate from the horrible feelings and sensations that I was feeling, not to mention the guilt of not getting the equation right and missing out on prime fishing.
This is a common scenario for the adventuring diabetic. What did I do wrong? I thought I knew what I was doing? How did I get it wrong? Sometimes you just do everything right and it is still wrong! It is hard to resolve these uncomfortable feelings and emotions that follow any type of chronic condition. When you have done everything possible, the only thing left is to surrender.
Surrender – One of the core tenants of yoga is a Sanskrit term called isvara pranidhana: to surrender to something that is bigger than you. This implies that there is a force that is bigger than you. This has nothing to do with dogma or religion, simply the belief that you come from something that cannot always be explained. It implies that you are not in control of EVERYTHING in your life. Isvara is the ultimate power that has never ever experienced sorrow. It knows what it is, but is impervious to fear and darkness. It is the strongest most pure force that is completely fearless and wise. It is a guiding light in turbulent moments. Now I get it, this sounds a little new agey...but stick with me. Sometimes these ancient beliefs are universal truths that surpass all time.
When you can surrender to the fact that despite your BEST EFFORTS you still missed the mark, this will save you time, grief, stress and unnecessary self-ridicule. You can learn to surrender more in your life with regular practices like yoga nidra, pranayama (seated breathing) and meditation. These simple, yet incredibly potent, practices can help you to see where you are contracting, straining or holding on to something that is not useful.
Don’t waste energy on your mistakes. See diabetes as a relationship that is constantly evolving and changing. Once you try less and surrender more you can choose what you give your energy and power to, saving you time and vital energetic resources that can be put forth to the things that REALLY matter.
I would love to show you how you can start to do this work for yourself. It is definitely work but the benefits can change your world and relationship to your disease.
YOGA THERAPY FOR T1D & GASTROPARESIS
Gastro-what-so-sis? Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard about it either until I realized that I had it. Gastroparesis, also known as delayed stomach release, slows down or even stops the stomach’s ability to release food into the small intestine. It’s a common side effect of diabetes and other chronic illnesses, but most common in type 1 diabetics who have been diabetic for over 10 years (me!!)(3). This causes a trifecta of gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating, acid reflux and general feelings of ick and discomfort. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this also wreaks havoc on blood sugar control, which inhibits a type 1 diabetic’s ability to discern when to take insulin for a meal.
As a type 1 diabetic, for years I had suffered from gas, bloating, slow digestion – you name it – and insulin resistance. The inability to anticipate my digestion time caused me to miscalculate my insulin to carbohydrate ratio, which led to crashes followed by subsequently a skyrocket – think blood sugar yoyo. Its onset was cyclical but unpredictable and extremely disruptive to my life. I had no clue what was causing this!
Like a good diabetic yogini, I tried every natural remedy under the sun. Candida-cleanse, parasite cleanse, I went vegan, I went paleo, I went auto-bleeping-immune paleo…I took A LOT of vitamins. When that didn’t work, I went the other route: antibiotics, sonogram and MRI.
To no avail, I spent a small fortune on trying to figure it out. I didn’t “figure it out” until I started using a continuous glucose monitor. With a newfound ability to be hyperaware and vigilant of my blood sugar patterns, I saw a correlation between my stomachaches and blood sugar levels. I read about gastroparesis in Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution and was shocked to see my whole life in one description. When I asked my doctors and nutritionist they all responded like “oh yeah, at this point with 20 plus years of diabetes, you should definitely have that.” Light bulb!
So, what causes gastroparesis? Gastroparesis is caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which can be occur with illness or, in my case, high blood sugars. The vagus nerve, is a vital part of the body’s natural ability to relax and aids in parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, stomach and digestive tract. The health and resilience of the vagus nerve is known as vagal tone and healthy vagal tone helps us regulate and calm our bodies after a fight-or-flight stress response to danger. Low vagal tone does the exact opposite (1), which in turn leads to higher levels of stress and decreased ability to control blood sugar – a diabetics worst nightmare.
This is where we fuse yoga therapy and diabetes. Here’s what we know so far: gastroparesis is caused by higher blood sugars that damage the vagus nerve, a side effect of gastroparesis is higher blood sugars and the vagus nerve is important to our body’s ability to regulate stress. The key to healing the body’s response to stress is by improving vagal tone. You can stimulate vagal tone and reduce gastroparesis flare-ups by specific yoga therapy techniques that aid in parasympathetic activation.
Here are what I’ve found to be most effective: Yoga poses: If exhale is calming, so too are twists and forwards bends. Always move into twists and forward bends on exhale. Try moving into a standing forward bend or twist on exhale, lengthening your exhale each time, then stay for several breaths maintaining ujjayi awareness.
Caution: twists and flexion should be done lying on the back before any seated twists.
Meditation: Meditation is good for everyone, but just like flossing your teeth most of us do not do it enough. After you practice some dynamic forward bends and twists, sit and practice your breathing exercises. Next, relax your breath and simply feel your breath move in and out without trying to breathe. Watch what arises in the field of your attention. Your breath affects your mind and your mind affects your breath. If you’re just getting started on meditation, you can explore a few popular apps like Headspace and Calm.
Agnisara: Dr. Bernstein refers to agnisara as a way to stimulate the stomach to release. Agni sara is considered a purification technique. There are many versions of agni sara and it can be quite complicated for even an experienced yoga practitioner.
I recommend starting simple as you do not want to induce a stress response.
Just like yoga therapy, type 1 diabetes and gastroparesis do not have a one-size fits all cure. We cannot cure type 1 diabetes (yet) but we can manage its symptoms and side effects with patience, curiosity and kindness. Be patient with the process as it will not be automatic. With practice, you will become progressively more aware of not only gastroparesis onset but also how other factors in your life (and low vagal tone) may in fact be contributing to your level of suffering. If you want to learn more about how to use yoga therapy to manage type 1 diabetes or any other chronic condition, please subscribe to my newsletter.
4. Bernstein, Richard K. The Diabetes Solution. Little Brown Publishers. 1997.
©Evan Soroka Yoga Therapy 2017
Evan Soroka, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, is based in Aspen, Colorado. She specializes in the art of yoga therapy, a blending of modern-day physical & psycho-therapy with the ancient science of Ayurveda and yoga. She attributes her health and wellbeing to the science of yoga therapy discovered through her own personal journey with type 1 diabetes as well as under the seasoned direction of her teachers. You can find her online at diabeticyogini.com and on instagram @diabeticyogini Learn how you can work with Evan personally today!