On the day before Valentine’s Day I finished my work week with a hot yoga class before heading home. I’d recently returned to yoga after a four year hiatus during which I carried, gave birth to, and raised twin babies. The arrival of these precious (albeit exhausting!) children doubled our numbers and my husband and I have four busy little ones. In addition, I live with type 1 diabetes, which my husband jokingly refers to as our fifth child. Like children, diabetes is a responsibility you can never really put out of your mind.
While working, managing diabetes and raising our first two children was certainly busy, having the twins took busy to a whole new level. It has been hard to find the time for the self-care that is so essential to being a happy, healthy mom.
I never stopped exercising completely, but it took a backseat to the kids for a while. In recent months, however, I started finding more time for the treadmill at home, and then I returned to hot yoga. I could feel the difference in my mood and diabetes management as I made more time not just for activity, but for me.
I first fell in love with hot yoga ten years ago, and practicing regularly brought a sense of calm into my life and helped me cope with the challenges I face day to day in my life with diabetes. In yoga, we learn to be in the moment, to see discomfort as temporary, to flow between transitions, to push beyond our limits. But, thanks to diabetes, and hypoglycemia unawareness, even in yoga I can never really let go and be completely in the moment.
For two years, I’ve been regularly using a continuous glucose monitor to catch my lows more quickly. It helps, but I still have a scary low blood sugar every once in a while. I love wearing my CGM when I exercise, because I can quickly check my pump screen to see whether I am spiking or dropping instead of just worrying throughout class.
On this particular Friday afternoon, I had one of my worst lows in yoga. First, I noticed how hungry I felt, even though I had eaten some fruit on my way to class. I was a little light-headed, and checked my CGM reading. At the same time, my pump started to vibrate on my hip as I reached the blood sugar level that triggers my low alert. As everyone around me did balancing poses, I crouched on my mat and sipped juice. A few minutes later, I was having a hard time following the poses or keeping my balance. I saw the dreaded double arrows down next to an even lower blood sugar on my pump screen. I wondered if I would have to disrupt class and leave the hot room to get more juice.
For a moment, I felt a lump in my throat and frustration bubbled up. I let my mind go to the “imagine if’s” that I try to avoid. Imagine if I could exercise whenever I wanted to without worrying about what my blood sugar was doing? Imagine if my biggest worry was the difficulty of the next pose? My biggest worry is almost always my blood sugar. It was the last thing I checked before walking down the aisle on my wedding day, it is my first thought when I wake up in the middle of the night, and it is my biggest worry before giving a work presentation. What if my blood sugar goes low?
This time, however, in the haze of my low, I had a “yoga” moment of finding peace. My thoughts went to the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign, which raises money to buy insulin for children around the world who can’t afford it. I love this work being done by Partner for Diabetes Change and the Diabetes Online Community. It horrifies me that ninety four years after the discovery of insulin, thousands of children worldwide are deprived of this life saving medication.
So, I gave up on downward dog to lie on my mat and wait for my blood sugar to rise. I breathed in and I breathed out and the thoughts about my inconvenient low changed. I went from thinking about my busy week and how I deserved this yoga class and how unfair this was to a simple mantra. I am low because I have insulin. I have insulin. I have insulin whenever I need it. My life is no more deserving than anyone else’s, but I have this unearned privilege. I have insulin.
I did not choose diabetes and it is a demanding disease to carry through life. However, I am running, I am doing yoga, I am playing with my children and doing work I love. I plan to keep catching these lows and grow old with my husband.
Yoga is helping me to find zen in the moments diabetes acts up in my life. Making a monthly donation to provide insulin for children in other countries is another way to find some solace.