Experience of a Student – How Ashram Life Positively Affected my Diabetes
As an introduction, an ashram is a secluded place where yoga and meditation are taught in austerity. A lifestyle to which, as an insulin-dependent diabetes patient for more than 25 years, I devoted myself for a month.
So here I am back from a 200-hour yoga teacher training in an Ashram at Sinderen, the Netherlands. This experience, even though it wasn’t always easy, resulted in incredible changes regarding the management of my diabetes.
The results of the blood analysis that were taken shortly after my return are impressive. My glycolysis hemoglobin went from 8.3 to 7 and my hypothyroidism turned into hyperthyroidism without changing medication in the meantime. Such a normalization of my blood sugar is a big first for me.
Yoga has a positive effect on chronic diseases. Hypothesis or Reality?
Could these results be due solely to a regular and rigorous way of life? Or can we assume that a conscious and regular practice of yoga has a real impact on chronic diseases? Does a daily practice of series of postures kept during a certain time for activating the thyroid really have an impact on the regulation of thyroid hormones?
One thing was for sure: during the training, my diabetes was stable all day long. I injected almost no insulin. The most difficult issue to handle was my repeated nocturnal hypoglycemia. I used slow insulin for this. After a week, I gradually decreased the slow insulin until it went down from 9 units to 3 units. Another effect was the reduction of my thyroid medication immediately after my stay.
A Desire to Break the Routine of Everyday Life
Let's briefly return to the desire and motivation to live an adventure that attracted and terrified me at the same time. Originally, I experienced a huge desire to break the routine: breaking the multitude of conscious and unconscious acts that were part of everyday life and clashed at the same time. Then, a little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. This was followed by a long series of laser treatments to slow the progression of the disease. Session after session, I had to deal with the fear of a decreasing peripheral field. The ophthalmologist made it clear to me that the only effective treatment for complications would be to balance my hemoglobin below the 7 marks. Such a simple and obvious solution was not at all feasible given the yo-yo character of my diabetes at that time.
Finally, it was the fear of complications and the search for this impossible balance of my diabetes that my desire to break with daily life became urgent. I had to break with daily life and make a change.
This urgent desire then turned into the willingness. Willingness to take time for myself supported by a discipline (yoga) that already brought me a lot of satisfaction. After registration with the ashram in Sinderen, the first day of this new adventure approached quickly.
Meanwhile, I balanced between euphoria, because I was about to realize a dream and fear because I did not know how I would manage my diabetes at this other pace of life, which was unknown to me. I was going to leave my home for a period of 1 month and my diabetes, even if not enrolled in the program, was going to accompany me. I had to plan what to do and what to bring along (insulin, medication ...) during this month of secluded life in the ashram. At that time, I did not know that living in an ashram is a bit like living in a bubble, outside of society, cut off from the outside world. The body finds balance in this new life and once the need for insulin is adapted, it turns out there is no real gap to overcome.
Living by the Pace of Teachings
Finally, the time had come, and I arrived at the ashram ready to enroll in the program. It didn’t take me long to understand that the watchwords of an ashram are discipline and regularity. In the beginning, it was difficult to manage my injections combined with the required physical and psychological levels.
Every day is the ashram is organized at the pace of the teachings. Every morning (except Sunday), my alarm clock rings at 5:35 a.m. I have 20 minutes to get fresh and available for the 6 a.m. meditation. At 7 a.m. we have breakfast in silence which is followed by three hours of lessons about teaching techniques. Lunch in silence is at 11:30 a.m. Then we attend two hours of theory in the early afternoon, followed by two and a half hours of yoga. At 5:30 p.m.: dinner! We are hungry. In the evening we have time to study or do an activity like walking in silence or singing. Or we attend teaching on the philosophy of life. Days are passing and look the same, only punctuated by the sequence of lessons.
Adapting to the Rhythm; my Diabetes in Full Mutation
However, very quickly I felt a strange discrepancy between living in a community and the feeling of being alone with myself. Hence, related to the group life in rather small spaces and successive stages of training, it was difficult to communicate in a language that I didn’t master and to adapt to the rhythm of the program, with my diabetes in full mutation. I felt alone with my issues. Even though we all had a common goal and program, at times everyone was confronted with their own weaknesses. We supported each other. Finally, thanks to the motivation and the support of my husband and the other participants I was able to bravely proceed with this unexpected experience.
I completed my 200 hours of training to become a yoga teacher. In the end, even if the experience was a real physical and psychological test, I'm really happy for being able to live it, because it has been so beneficial for my health on many facets.