A sharp beep beep beep beep pierces through the silence of the room, reverberating off the studios walls and disturbing the serenity of svasana. UGHHHH I think to myself as my hand instinctively moves towards my stomach to cover the 3-inch circle of plastic adhered to the soft flesh on my right side. My face flushes red as I attempt to smother the repeat alarm that will go off in exactly 120 seconds, as well as any rogue beeps that might sneak out before then. I count silently while trying to take stock of the room’s reactions without lifting my head off the mat. Are people looking around in order to locate the source of this intrusion into their meditative state? Have I ruined everyone’s yoga bliss? Is there a Sanskrit word so-sorry-please-dont-hate-me?
I try to come back to the present moment, breathing in and breathing out, reminding myself that the beeping probably sounded the loudest to me and that most yogis experience a multitude of distractions throughout their practice – both on and off the mat. I’m torn between re-grounding myself and getting pulled into another flood of worry. Please let svanasana end before this damn thing goes off again. A few moments later the teacher cues us to roll to our sides and come to an upright seated position. I breathe a sigh of relief as we bow together and say Namaste and it becomes clear that no one will be greeting me with pitchforks at the end of practice. Everyone appears to be in their yoga bubble, dopey smiles and droopy eyes, seemingly unaware that my insulin pump had decided to announce its impending expiration loudly and rudely.
As a type 1 diabetic I like to joke that I am also part cyborg thanks to the two devices attached to my body at all times – an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) – each with their own controllers that I carry in my trusty purple pouch. My CGM controller just so happens to be my cell phone and there’s been many times (especially in yoga class) that I’ve wished I had a sign around my neck that reads I Need My Phone With Me for Medical Reasons, Not Because I Am A Self-Important Asshole. My urge to account for the beeps that my devices make or why I sometimes lay down in child’s pose for 15 minutes while furiously shoving glucose tabs into my mouth is completely self-imposed. I’ve been practicing yoga for many years and not once has someone in class demanded that I explain myself. The times that it has happened in the “real” world are also few and far between.
I don’t often talk about being diabetic as I’ve made a conscious effort over the past two decades to make sure that this disease would neither limit nor define me. However, I’ve noticed that this commitment to being perceived as capable lives right next door to my fear of not being enough. Pending the cure I’ve been told my whole life is just 5 more years away, my diabetes is here to stay. Rather than dying of shame lest anyone in class think there is something “wrong” with me, I might as well invite it onto my mat. I’m grateful that asana practice is one of the few physical activities that has minimal impact on my blood sugar and that most of the time I can make it through a vinyasa class without having a low blood sugar. But even more than the physical outlet it has given me, yoga has helped me to quiet the voice that tries to define my worth by how “good” or “bad” my blood sugar control is, that tells me I’ve failed if I need to rest, that tells me to ignore what my body is trying to tell me.
One of the joys of being a part of a community like Treetop is that we are all so connected in more ways than we realize. When I get lost in my head, I remind myself of the woman who came up to me after class and told me that her daughter has diabetes and that she mentioned me to her as someone with a strong yoga practice. Or I think of the woman who saw me checking my blood sugar during class and came up after to introduce herself as a fellow diabetic and swap tips. Or I think of all the invisible battles that everyone in the studio has faced at some point - the lingering injuries, the traumatic experiences, the negative self-talk – and how yoga is a salve for so many of these pains of the human experience. Each time we come to our mats is an opportunity to look our challenges in the face, say “I see you”, and choose to move forward. I stand in awe of all the people at Treetop who do this and feel so grateful to have a space where I can do this, too.