Anatomy is a story told with a sharp instrument – whether it’s a scalpel or our discerning consciousness. Yoga helps us experience the interconnected unity of our bodies, and dispels the illusion that our body is made up of parts.
– Leslie Kaminoff (quote used with permission)
In previous posts on this blog site, I have revealed that my deeper study of Yoga was coincident with my Type II Diabetes diagnosis over 10 years ago. Yoga first entered my life in my teens, when I was searching for calm and meaning. In my 20s, as I began a busy career, yoga practices which integrated mind, body and spirit took a back seat. My lifestyle favored habits that focused on actioned oriented priorities related to work life. I compartmentalized different parts of my life. My mental/cognitive existence was front and center. Physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of myself were reserved for non-working hours which, over time, were fewer and fewer.
So, in the last decade of my career, I approached my part-time yoga study fully engaged from a mental mindset. My body had changed significantly since my teens and twenties. I thought that if I focused on learning yoga in my older, heavier body, I could better accept some of these changes.
When I returned to yoga in my 50s, I realized I was not fully appreciating or understanding my body. I was in my body in bi-weekly classes where I practiced yoga poses. When class was over, I was back in my head and I wondered why I didn’t “do” yoga poses more often. I wasn’t integrating those poses into my “being.”
In my quest for more body knowledge, I discovered Leslie Kaminoff, a yoga educator and expert in yoga anatomy. His direct, no-nonsense style appeal to me. I signed up for his on-line training. In the very first lesson, Leslie’s quote (above) drew me in. This was an “ah ha” moment for me. “It’s all connected! We need to break things down into smaller parts to understand the bigger picture.” I thought. This quote, for me, had so much wisdom on many layers. It led me down a path to want to better integrate all parts of myself.
Earlier this year, after my husband’s heart surgery and release from the hospital, I went with him to various specialists. With each new medication and diagnosis, an echo of “anatomy is a story told with a sharp instrument” ran through my thoughts. Heart failure and subsequent treatments led to stress on kidneys and multiple anatomical systems operating at sub-optimal levels. All systems cried out for attention after the trauma experienced in the heart. Each specialist only appeared to be concerned with his or her chapter in the story. The wife and yogini in me begged for a better understanding of how to help my “whole” husband feel better. We were told it would be a long journey full of change and to be prepared to take “one step forward and two back.” As hubby began to heal, all his specialized ailments improved as well.
In my experience with diabetes, I learned that managing my disease was a multi-tiered process. I had previously concluded that diet alone, did not raise my blood sugar – stress, my emotions, exercise, illness, all had an impact on my A1C. This disease also made me aware of “interconnected unity” in Body, Mind and Spirit. Type 2 Diabetes is called a lifestyle disease. My lifestyle includes eating, experiencing, thinking, being and doing! To thrive, I need to eat well, move, reduce stress as well as enjoy life. My yoga practice and study taught me this as did the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, the Diabetes Prevention Program and the Chronic Disease Self Management Program (see first blog post in this series).
Another “ah-ha” learning I had from Leslie Kaminoff is …
Every individual is different, but we don’t differ from a “norm” – difference IS the norm…
While Leslie’s comment was made as a guidance for teachers of yoga, it reminded me that in dealing with a chronic illness, “difference IS the norm”. Recognizing and accepting this was key to me being emotionally ok, if what worked for someone else didn’t work for me. In my Diabetes journey, I’ve come to realize that compassion for my difference is an important step in finding the right lifestyle choices for my optimal being.
In my last blog post, my story stopped on a high when I was still feeling the success of meeting my physical goals through the Whole Food Plant Based diet challenge offered through iThrive in April. At the end of the challenge, my resolve waned. A minor skin cancer surgery on my left shin erupted into something more complex because of a staph infection. I was confined to a couch for a few weeks which meant my healthy habits were harder to maintain. Comfort food eased angst over my physical condition. To my credit, I didn’t invite Ben and Jerry back to comfort my sagging spirit, but I did entertain a nightly Hershey’s Symphony Bar to boost my morale. After all, inside, I was still the kid who didn’t stop eating candy after a St. Joseph’s nun told her the devil could turn himself into candy to tempt young children. Why did I think I could kick my decades long sugar habit after a brief diet challenge? (For a more irreverent take on my sugar addiction check out this story).
As serendipity would have it, my couch time gave me the opportunity to read the books that were pre-requisites for a Brain Longevity Training I was scheduled to attend in October. In his two books, Brain Longevity and Meditation as Medicine, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa added to my understanding of how lifestyle change that includes yogic practices along with diet and exercise can improve our overall well being. Like Kaminoff, he recognizes the interconnectivity of our anatomy. “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain” was a mantra throughout his training. (“and Type 2 Diabetes, too!” I silently added.) In the actual training, Dr. Chris Walling, Chair of the Education Advisory Committee of the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, pointed out that lifestyle “change is slow and prone to relapse. Two steps forward and one back.” This is clearly my cadence on this journey, and I resolve to continue forward seeking the “interconnected unity” of my body!
Please stay tuned for my next post for Diabetes Awareness Month.