How Yoga Liberated My Lows, Through The Word “No”

How To Talk About Being Low

I’ve read a lot about the word “no” this year. It all started with Shonda Rhyme’s Year of Yes in which she actually wrote an entire chapter about saying no. She explained how learning to say no fortified her yeses. She says, “No is a complete sentence. I’ve heard that cliché over and over. So I decided to treat no in the same way I treat saying thank you. Say no and then don’t say anything else.”

Since reading that book at the start of 2016, I’ve seen this theme of “no” catching on. We are starting to realize that we can’t do it all and we don’t need try to do it all. In general, yes is associated with the positive, while no is considered negative, so there are many logical reasons behind the fear of saying no. FOMO, the term widely used to express a “fear of missing out,” is real, and not just in a social context. We may be afraid of missing out on opportunities, failing to keep up with peers, or showing any signs of weakness. We may have difficulty inconveniencing others by saying no. I think we often assume that others will not understand us if we say no.

Last week I had the opportunity to have a private yoga session. I went to the 5:30 class and no one else showed up, but the instructor was happy to work with just me. I was thrilled. She gave me personalized feedback and helped me make adjustments to get deep into the poses. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so much….

EXCEPT, as I started heating up during sun salutations, I realized my blood sugar was dropping. I suspended my pump, determined to keep going. But- as many of you understand- the feeling of low blood sugar was seriously distracting me from my practice. I felt weak and I was dripping sweat. My mind was far from being present in my breath or movement. I was looking at the clock and trying to calculate how much longer we would be moving before finally surrendering into savasana. If the class had been full, I would have snuck out the door. But it was just me and the instructor and I could not fathom the idea of ending this one-on-one session early or explaining why I needed to stop. I don’t like to talk about my diabetes with strangers because I assume they will not understand and I don’t like to make them concerned or uncomfortable.

Back on the yoga mat, I thought for sure I could make it to savasana after the shoulder stands. There were only 15 minutes left. I can do this, I thought to myself. The instructor moved us from shoulder stands to triangle pose when I heard myself saying, “I really need to stop. I am a diabetic and my blood sugar is low right now.” The teacher did not make an ordeal as I had feared, instead, she said, “Okay, no problem. Want to just lie down now?” I was so relieved to just lie down in corpse pose and allow my heart rate to slow for a few minutes before getting up and going to my car to get something to eat.

I couldn’t believe it. I had actually said, “I’m low.” Instead of feeling like I had given up, I felt victorious. I had just won an internal battle I had been fighting for many years. I realized that I had been trapped in this self-manifested obligation to never surrender to my diabetes.

Over the years, I have struggled through numerous workouts, classes, field hockey practices, meetings, or social events with a declining blood sugar. That moment when I spoke up during yoga showed me a new sense of freedom. Shonda Rhymes learned that saying “no” does not make her lazy or uncommitted; it was her learning to speak her truth. In that yoga class, I learned that saying “I’m low” does not make me weak or careless. When I free myself to be honest about my low blood sugars, I can show myself love and compassion about my diabetes, which makes me less likely to criticize myself about diabetes. While “no” is often associated with negativity, I believe that saying no out of an honest desire to honor our bodies can cultivate invaluable positivity. It may be challenging at first to speak up about low blood sugars, but the more often we choose to acknowledge them, the more apt we will be to vocalize our truth, which is liberating.

In acknowledging when we’re low, we will also learn to say no and, therefore, diabetics can be twice as free.


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