This week I was featured in Redding’s local newspaper, the Record Searchlight. I’m 12 years post the ovarian cancer surgeries, chemo, and death sentence and sharing my story on a broader scale has allowed me to talk and connect with others who are either going through cancer or are post experience as well. It has been a real revelatory and profound week.
My hope has always been to use what the devil meant for evil, for Good and I’ve had the privilege to see it happen over and over again. It makes me so glad to see that the sh*t I went through isn’t for not. That the darkest places I experienced can be turned around to shine light and hope. This fuels and inspires me to keep pressing on! And yet, I am so much more than a cancer survivor. I am so much more than someone who is strong. I am so much more than a yoga instructor. I am so much more than a woman. I am so much more than someone who works hard. I am so much more than someone who inspires. I am so much more, and so are you.
There is actually a small-ness and belittling effect when we singley identify ourselves with xyz, whether it’s being a Christian, a yogi, a cancer fighter, a woman, a college grad, etc. Our identity’s are not determined by what we do, by what we say, by who we present to the world. We are so much more. I am so much greater. You are way more important. Let us rise to the calling that is from heaven. Let us explore the depths of this being (self) that we have been created to be. Let’s try and work and explore and adventure into the innermost parts of God and ourselves to turn this world upside down and let Peace and Hope and Love and Beauty prevail! It’s going to be messy and hard and fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who’s with me?
You can see a video of me sharing about the benefits of yoga as a healing process here, from this interview.
Meditation by the sea, Vinyasa flow class with a handstand workshop, breakfast, teaching yoga to special groups workshop, lunch, washing my clothes in the bathtub, hanging out with friends by the pool and the snack bar, catching up on some emails, watching the National Geographic video “Inside the Living Body,” getting a massage, connecting with the roommates, taking a shower, and now listening to the rain as I write this blog: that about sums up my day today. Tomorrow is graduation! I will have my 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certificate tomorrow! It’s been 3 amazing, hard, challenging, fun, painful, delightful, stretching, growing, hilarious, restful, engaging, weeks. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Am I going to celebrate tomorrow night? For sure. Is there still more to look forward to and work on. Definitely. When is there not?
Here’s a description of the 8 limbs of yoga and my brief thoughts on the teaching from today. Honestly, now that I’ve sat with them for a little bit, talked them through with the instructor, one of my roommates, God, and mulled it over a bit, they really aren’t that “out there.” These 8 limbs are some of the very things I have done in my Christian life to deepen my relationship with the Lord, but the names are just different. Probably the only things I have seen missing from the organized Christian experience is the physical aspect (asana) of bringing awareness to our body and the breathing practices. Otherwise, these other “limbs” I have done through my church and while attending the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in particular.
To summarize today’s teaching about them: the 8 limbs of yoga are a way of living, a practical application of one’s belief’s, designed to bring more awareness into your body and your mind.
I hope that you experience a greater joy, a deepening of unity with the Lord, an ecstasy, and consciousness that is heavenly. It’s what we were designed to walk out on this earth from the very beginning and what Jesus advised us to pray in the Lord’s prayer: “your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Yes, we are doing meditation. Yes, are doing 2.5 hours of Vinyasa yoga (my intention today was joy and I had 2 significant moments while in the practice of hard to describe joy/love/ecstasy of just that!!! YEAH!). Yes, we are learning the history of yoga. Yes, we went through the sun salutes and started to break them down one pose at a time with proper form, adjustments, breath, etc. And, we also are tying it all into awareness and being present in the right here, right now. I also want to add that I came face to face with feelings of “freak out.” I’m not sure how to describe it, but one of the other students mentioned feelings of loneliness and I think it’s partly that. Do you ever feel that? For me it felt like an uncertainty, a deep longing for more than what we see/feel/smell/sense/etc. I have learned techniques through the 3 years I studied at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry to check in with God, ask Him where He is, where is Holy Spirit, where is Jesus. I did that today when I felt that “freak out” and immediately felt a great sense of calm, peace, love, acceptance, and support come to me. I became aware of the angelic world that that the Lord had placed 4 protective angels inside the room at each of the 4 corners and I relaxed. I feel so strongly that there are great tools, great experiences, great teachings, great people, great stuff in this life but there is this element of tangible love, tangible other world/heaven reality that is outside ourselves that we have to receive. I am so thankful for the Lord. I have tried so often to trust to feel safe to rest and be present on my own and it has only been through the knowledge that God is here, that He is the creator, that the Divine is bigger than me and outside of me (but yes I know, also in me), that I have come to really trust, feel safe, rest, and be present. All the other stuff are just tools. I am thankful for them both.
This blogging experience, like so much of my life, feels like a new adventure to explore. I love looking at life and activities this way! Whether it be moving in with new housemates, teaching a yoga class, budgeting, vision casting, having brave communication with people, etc. if I look at it as an adventure to explore, it’s WAY more fun!
Recently I have heard from a few close friends that I receive things well: that I’m like a little kid and that it’s easy and fun for them to give me things because I react so innocently and whole heartedly. I have been thinking about that these past few days and wondering why I do that and how important it is that I do! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Matthew 18:3 “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You will NEVER enter heaven if you don’t become like a child! WOW!
My life changed when I got cancer at 24. Because I fought so hard to stay alive, I know the frailty of this life that we have here on earth. It can be gone in an instant and I know this not as most people do, in my mind, as an idea, I know this through experience. We have been given the awesome privilege to be alive right now, at this very moment, breathing this air, sitting in this chair surrounded by these things. Look at them! Aren’t they incredible! Isn’t it a miracle that you are alive at this very second?! Isn’t it profound that you were even born! The miracle of birth and all that had to come together to make that happen! I live with this reality in my very being. I act and respond to things from this mindset so that blogging, receiving gifts, choosing to work where I do, to make the choices I make about food, travel, purchases, etc. all come back to the reality of knowing that I am a miracle.
I know I get to inspire people in my work. I can see it on their faces. They tell me in conversations. They show me through support. What I want to do now is inspire through blogging. May this blog not be another feel good, wow that is so great, she is so lucky, dead end, but may this blog be a life giving, movement producing, peace infusing, powerful tool to create change one life at a time, starting with you. I have been blessed to be a blessing. The good news is that you have too.
I’d love to hear how you’ve been blessed and because of it, what kind of blessing you are bringing to your community.
May the Kingdom of Heaven invade through your childlike curiosity and joyous exploration on land or on water. 😉
I have been a Christian since 2001. I didn’t grow up in church and soon after university, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and my life turned upside down. I tried to maintain hope, courage, and strength in the 1 and 1/2 year intense cancer battle where I underwent 6 major surgeries, a hysterectomy, an ileostomy bag, 13 weeks of chemo, eating only from an IV for 9 months, losing all my hair twice, weighing only 95 pounds with huge tumors in my belly, getting a 5 pound tumor removed in one surgery, having 50 tumors removed in another, experiencing lung damage and hearing loss, getting shingles, having about 12 blood transfusions, spending 3 full weeks in the ICU and spending another 6 full weeks in the hospital, among many other things, but I found out really quickly I couldn’t do it on my own strength. Enter Jesus.
My first experience with yoga was when I was an adolescent and my Dad bought a yoga book. I remember flipping through it and trying the poses and thinking to myself, wow, there’s nothing too mystical or hard about this. It’s just like what we do in gymnastics class! My next experience was with some friends at a gym, right after college. Since then, I have taken yoga classes all over the world, and seen a lot of different styles and techniques. I have really enjoyed some classes and others I haven’t. Some have felt and been spiritual, some have not.
While I was fighting cancer, I started to attend church and the local Cancer Support Center regularly. I was learning spiritual truths at church and in the Cancer Support Center. What was also incredible, was that at the same time I was learning about the Spirit, I was learning about physical and mental truths applied practically, with scientific evidence to confirm their importance. At the Support Center we learned about the power of a whole food diet, of shared experiences and the sharing of experiences in community. I started to take yoga classes again, along with Tai Chi, cooking classes, guided imagery, and read all that I could about healing, cancer, “alternative medicine”, and God. It was through this that I saw the power of the spirit partnered with movement in the body and I saw and read the stories of people being healed through simple changes to diet, exercise, and prayer. The importance of each became incredibly significant for me through my battle and subsequent win over cancer.
As I have grown in my relationship with Jesus, I have had to face fears and change my thinking in all sorts of areas. Because I had such a radical conversion to Christianity, I knew the power of the cross and God’s great love for me, but there is always more to learn. I had begun to believe things that some Christian people, whom I respected, told me about demons, the devil, yoga, and opening one’s self up to dark spiritual powers. Although it caused a lot of fear and insecurity, I needed to walk through this. I needed to really understand that there is more to this world that what we can see and even feel, but what I have learned since is that what Jesus did on the cross, his dying, his going down to hell, his reappearance and walking around on the earth thereafter, and then his rising up into heaven, was enough. It defeated the devil and gave us humans the power to live a free, full, joyful, happy, and healthy life on this earth, right now! So, when I am asked about yoga and if it’s demonic, if I am worshipping the devil, and when I am told that yoga originated from people seeking spiritual enlightenment and that it’s a form of devil worshipping, I laugh, although, honestly, I sometimes get irritated. It makes me sad to think that someone can be so fearful of the devil that they point fingers and judge people and completely discount the power of the cross.
God talks a lot about belief. The word occurs nearly 150 times in the New Testament alone. Some highlights are: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” – Mark 9:23. “Do not be afraid, only believe.” – Mark 5:36. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” – John 3:36. What we believe becomes reality. If you believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough, or as He said, “it is finished” (John 19:30), then you will live out the truth that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” – 1John 4:4.
I don’t want to discount that there are demonic forces in this world. I have experienced them (hello, can we say cancer?!). However, do we believe in a big God, or a big devil? Do we believe that Jesus took the weight of sin, all sin, so that we could live in freedom? I pray for us to allow the perfect love of Jesus to cast out fear (1John 4:8), especially when we feel, experience, or sense that there are some not so good vibes coming from someone or something, whether that be in a yoga class or otherwise.
One of the many amazing tools I learned from ministry school is to eat the meat and spit out the bones. God is everywhere. He created this planet, the computer/phone you are using, the grass outside your door, and even the movement of your body into a particular position. It is always about belief or the position of the heart and one can be believing lies at any particular moment in their life: while overspending at the mall, eating one too many ice cream sandwiches, gossiping about their co-worker, or losing their temper with their significant other.
Jesus said that we will not enter the kingdom of God unless we receive it as a little child (Mark 10:15). What is just one noticeable characteristic about children? I have found that they constantly ask questions! They constantly want to learn! They usually aren’t afraid (until an adult teaches them to be) and are always exploring and searching. If God is everywhere, if He defeated the devil, if he created everything that we see around us, then why would it matter if some people shaped a pattern of particular movements, called it yoga, and maybe found demonic forces? They were looking for spiritual enlightenment!! Let’s allow this little light to shine and enlighten people to the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) that is Jesus. Some have found Him through yoga, but because some Christians point fingers, judge, and condemn them, they think His name is something else. It’s time to change that and love the hell right out of people.
Let’s explore as little children. Let’s strengthen our living temples (our body’s – 1 Corinthians 3:16) through exercise, movement, breath, and the perfecting of love that casts out fear. Let’s let our light shine in the darkness because that’s where it shines the brightest!
You are always welcome to come and join me in my yoga classes where I happily lead people into encounters with the Lord (whether I say His name out loud or not) but more than that, I hope that you find the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) in EVERY situation you find yourself, yoga class or not.
I have had people ask ‘What are your yoga classes like? What is your vision? What makes you different?’ These have been great questions for me to think about and work on formulating into understandable points, not only for others but for myself. As with all instructors, I have a particular style and way of teaching but there is power in knowing where you are, right here, right now. It allows for assessment and thus helps direct the future, it lines up like-minded and passionate people, and gives a person confidence and/or fuel for change. I teach and lead my students in this activity in my classes, now, it’s time for me to do the same.
My heart is for people to walk away from my classes more than just strengthened. My hope is that my students also walk away different: more relaxed, peaceful, while at the same time stronger and more confident. I want my students to feel and be equipped, more able to face life and decisions, confident yet humble, restful yet strong; a humble and valiant warrior enjoying each moment. I want my students to en-joy life, no matter the circumstances! In my flow classes we open and build up to more complex poses while I encourage and adjust them as necessary. We take breaks after difficult poses because I want them to regain the deep breathing if they lost it; I want them to visualize themselves strong, confident, and joyful in the pose again; I want them to check in with their body’s to see if they are pushing themselves too far, or not far enough. I have my students take a moment or two to recover because in life we do that each and every night we go to sleep. Our muscles (including our brain!) cannot repair, rebuild, or grow stronger if we do not take a break. Most people I come across don’t have a problem barreling and pushing through poses or asanas or even life for that matter and comparing themselves with their neighbor in a “I want to keep up with the Joneses” sort of way. Most people need to actually stop comparing and listen to what the Creator is whispering to them through their body, their mind, and their spirit. I create and allow space for this in my yoga classes. I allow time to reflect, in a safe and peaceful place, as I encourage my students into trying new things that deep down they may not believe they can actually accomplish. Most people I come across don’t believe in themselves and feel quite hopeless in one area or another. It is my passion to change that and I get to every time I teach a yoga class.
How do I do this? For starters, I have had to work on believing in myself, believing in a powerful, loving, and joyful God that wants to see all people live full and happy lives, trusting that I have what it takes, and stepping out, over and over again, even if I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. In my classes, I do this through the encouragement of smiles in hard poses, deep breathes in twists and holds, and steady but soft gazes in balance asanas. I allow time for my students to visualize themselves in poses that they want to master, imagining what they smell, how they feel, what their body is doing, what the mat or SUP board feels like under their feet, hands, belly, etc. I am a teacher and as such it is my responsibility to create an atmosphere of practical application of principles that most of us have heard for years. My yoga classes are where you can put theory into practice and have some fun doing it!
Thankfully time and time again I hear my students say that this is what they receive. It’s encouraging to me that I am making a difference through something that some would say is inconsequential: a yoga or SUP yoga class. I hope you can experience this for yourself too, whether it be in one of my classes or not: a peaceful strength as you courageously live this life fully alive, joyful, present, strong. May my life be a challenge and example of what is possible to those who believe and may the world never be the same because of it, practically through your life, your neighbor’s, and mine.
I practice yoga because it brings me life, it brings me joy, it brings me peace, and it brings me healing. I practice yoga because it brings freedom.
I often come across naysayers to yoga, for a whole host of reasons, you can probably think of some right now, but the spiritual aspect of yoga is really what makes the whole exercise or practice so alluring for me. I am a Christian and in a world of Buddha and Hindi Goddess statues, I can get a lot of push back from what I am beginning to really understand are my own insecurities, fears, and lies. This is what I love about yoga: it embodies growth not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Yoga allures and provides an opportunity to reach and obtain heaven on earth, a higher place, and an ecstasy if-you-will, in peace, love, and joy through all three aspects of ourselves: spirit, body, and soul (mind, will, and emotions). It is unlike any other form of exercise or even learning opportunity.
I began my yoga practice 13 years ago and admittedly have been a weekend warrior for most of that time. I grew up doing gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance, but it was just after college that a friend invited me to a yoga class. That first instructor was so empowering and encouraging, she embodied what I now know yoga, and God, to be about: she planted a seed of hope and exploration that has shaped my practice, and life ever since. I see how my childhood activities prepared me for the physical asanas or poses of yoga, but those can come with regular practice. We are all born with an innate hunger for the Divine and yoga allows us to explore Him, however inflexible we may be, IF we so choose. The seemingly paradoxical safe-challenge of yoga is unlike any other. It allows for our whole self to explore together thus creating a synergy found nowhere else. For me, yoga has become a transcendental way of growth in the Divine as I explore and now teach others the physical asanas, breathe, mental, and spiritual awareness that is inside a yoga class. Yoga has become a gift, which like God, is never ending and fully good. As with all things the depths of your personal practice is a choice. I like that and it is one more reason I practice yoga.