Scars and Imperfections: vulnerability and courage

ovarian cancer scars

For a long time I have been embarrassed by all the scars I have on my belly. I have actually felt shame that I didn’t have the super flat and amazing abs that I had all my life, pre-cancer and that we see in so many pictures. Last night, as I was watching a video of myself doing yoga on my paddleboard, I saw my scars and imperfections for what they truly are: beautiful, and a deeper healing is setting in.

I wouldn’t be alive today if these scars weren’t there.

These scars are an ever constant reminder of the hell I went through as a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor, getting a 5 pound tumor removed, then 50 tumors removed, then a hysterectomy, then a hole in my colon, getting an infection, then being attached to a vacuum for 6 weeks, then a 12 hour surgery to remove more tumors and organs, then an ileostomy bag, then, and finally, freedom. These scars show the story of hardship and trials, pain, and tears of not only me, but my family and friends. I have wanted to get as far away from those memories as I could, for a long time. I have slowly faced them as I have been able. This is my next step in the journey: showing them, being vulnerable and open, facing fears, and inviting in even more healing.

I have prayed for them to dissipate. I have tried all sorts of creams and wraps and detoxes and exercise and yet, they are still there. The mountains and valleys, the craters, and holes, the lumps of fat displaced from all the surgeries, the crevices of stiff scar tissue that try to hold me back.

Today though, I am making the choice to see that these scars also tell an incredible story of hope, of courage, of the power of prayers and support of family and friends, of medical staff who were creative and revolutionary; all these people who believed. These scars do tell of the ugliness of cancer, the evilness of disease, the destruction of surgery, and yet, there is a beauty in them: the power of human ingenuity, God’s miracles through our work, that our thoughts of limitations are only in our minds, that truly anything is possible, and that there is beauty in imperfection. These scars show the story of where I have been, who I am today, and in my story, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I do, without them. So, I embrace them.

I know that I will continue to walk out this journey called life, every day. Today marks a new one though, and I’m setting up a marker.

Hope exists. Nothing is impossible. Keep moving forward. Fail a lot. Have the courage to stand back up again, and maybe, just maybe, we can change the world through our courage.

Thanks for reading and loving.

Namaste.

I am drinking my green smoothie (today made of organic mandarins, banana, mango, beet greens, lettuce leaves, spirulina powder, and water) and pondering professionals. I’ve just returned from my chiropractor and saw my massage therapist yesterday. I taught a (land) yoga class this morning and read an article by a doctor about the value of good nutritional supplements. As a professional yoga instructor, I need to keep my body in the best condition possible in order to do my job well, but even if I were a lawyer, an engineer, a secretary, a librarian, a custodian, a chef, a wife, or a mother, I would still need to keep my body in the best condition possible in order to do my job(s) well.  

I told my chiropractor today that I felt “freer” after seeing my massage therapist yesterday. I have been incredibly happy with my chiropractor and seen incredible results through his work. Yet, even though I practice yoga nearly everyday, there are still some things that only a professional massage therapist can do. Even though I eat green smoothies every day and eat organic 95% of the time, there are still some things that only a holistic health coach can help me see. I told a friend last week in a conversation “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Professionals are trained and paid to be good and to know their stuff. Now, of course, not all professionals are good at what they do or have the right answers for you and your needs, but that is where you as a powerful person come in and make changes if necessary. I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

How are you feeling? What are you doing that could be changed?  Is your life style helping you to be the best you, you can be? I encourage you to make a change if needed, step out: one foot in front of the other, and be open to different possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know and there are a lot of professionals out there that are ready to help you be the best version of you possible.

Here’s some of the professionals I use:

Chiropractic: Dr. Rob Smith http://reddingvitalhealth.com/

Massage: Sally Holt http://www.yelp.com/biz/sally-bethea-holt-the-complete-retreat-redding

Health Coach: La Salud http://www.lasaludorganics.com/#!health-coaching/ct4x

May your day, week, month, year, and lifetime be full of health, allowing you to be the best you possible! Here’s to you and yours!

Namaste.

What kind of SUP should I buy? What are the differences between SUPs?

 

 I often get asked what kind of SUP (stand up paddleboard) someone should purchase. It’s not always a straight-forward answer, really, it just depends. I’ve outlined what I know below, having worked in this industry since 2011, and I update this blog several times a year based on changes, trends, and new experiences.

Buying a SUP is a big purchase and although you can always change your mind and sell your board, it’s helpful to have some basic info to help you make an informed decision the first time.

Every SUP I have listed below, I have personally tested and know works well:

Do you want:

  1. To take your SUP in the ocean or to surf

    This SUP depends on your surfing ability and style: a short board or long board and a lot of the same questions as below (sharing with others, yoga, short on space, etc.). A few that I have used and liked, as a novice surfer:

  1. To share your SUP with your kids, family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.

    For this, you want a SUP that is designed to withstand rigorous use, foam, a durable inflatable, or vinyl covered. With this much usage you most likely don’t want a fiberglass SUP as they can get damaged pretty easily:

  1. To take your SUP on whitewater or the river

    You want a SUP designed for rigorous and whitewater or river use: one that won’t get dings, gouges, or cracks easily. Fiberglass is not going to be your board, nor would I advise plastic. An inflatable is a maybe, check the manufacturer specs and reviews, perhaps most importantly:

    • This is a great SUP, although I’ve not tried it in the whitewater, yet: Glide Retro 10ft
  1. To take SUP Yoga classes

    You want a SUP that is either at least 32 inches wide or designed specifically for yoga: (then bring it out on the water and join me for some OnWater Yoga classes!!)

  1. To race or paddle long-distances with your SUP

    Here, you are looking for a long, skinny board. Check with your local SUP shop, SUP race, or even board manufacturer for how long and which is best for you. Fiberglass most likely will be what your board is made of or some other really light and slick material, but an inflatable may work well for your needs if you just want to paddle and not compete:

  1. A SUP but don’t have a lot of space for storage or transport

    There have been some great developments recently with the inflatable SUPs. Check the reviews on the particular board and brand you are eyeing. Older and cheaper inflatables tend to “taco” a lot (causing a large indent where you stand and stick up in the front and back), aren’t easy to pump, lose their air, and/or get holes easily. Check the reviews on the pumps that come with these SUPs too. Quite often pumps die fast. Most people have to buy pumps every year or so:

  1. Not sure and just want a general SUP

    I’d suggest one that is at least 32 inches wide in case you want to try yoga and it will provide some more stability and room for extra people or animals or a cooler or fishing gear….

FOR ALL SUPS

Check the manufacturers details on the board: most boards have a weight limit and will sink a little, or a lot(!) if you exceed it and then, not be fun. Know also, that you get what you pay for. The really cheap SUPs can crack and ding much easier than the others filling with water and sinking, and most repair shops won’t repair them because the problem will spread quickly and they don’t want to be held liable for the inevitable damages; plus, they are still quite expensive and the cheaper boards are hard to resell if you even can. The old saying is true: you get what you pay for. I unfortunately know too many people who buy a cheaper SUP and then NEVER use it, they still end up either paying to rent SUPs or don’t go out at all, having one more thing in the garage collecting dust, taking up space, having still spent quite a bit of money. REMEMBER: you get what you pay for! Be informed:

What are the differences of each SUP type:

FOAM SUPs

are typically less expensive and can be great for multiple users or if you just don’t know what you want. They don’t glide as well through the water but will last a long time, although they could get heavier over time as they tend to soak up water that you can’t get out. These may not look that pretty even after your first use because they get gouges very easily.

PATENTED SUPs DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND RIGOROUS USE

are usually pretty great. Read reviews or talk to your local shop though, some boards marketed as indestructible, aren’t.

INFLATABLE SUP

test the inflatable you want to purchase! However, if you can’t test it, watch a video of someone using the one you want to purchase and watch the feet. If water puddles, pools, or sneaks in from the sides at the feet, don’t buy it; this is an indication of the “taco” effect and the board won’t glide smoothly and be quite a lot more effort when you paddle, and when you practice yoga, you’ll be sitting in water. Inflatable SUPs are notorious for problems with taco-ing, their factory pumps failing, for losing air overtime, and the valves having problems. If you’re looking into an inflatable, read the reviews, talk to people who own that make and model, watch videos of the SUP in action, and test. Remember things are cheap for a reason.

VINYL COVERED SUP

Like any quality SUP, it has chambers on the inside in case you get a crack or ding and the board takes on water: the water stays contained in just that one chamber so you stay afloat. Easy to repair if the vinyl tears with just a small sticky patch over the tear.

FIBERGLASS SUPs

This kind was my first SUP purchase. That board got 6 dings and cracks during the 1st year I owned it. I took it to be professionally repaired several times and each ding cost $45. I eventually bought a small repair kit and used it to repair the other dings (caused by pressure from my roof rack. Lesson learned: BUY FOAM BLOCKS!) but it didn’t look as nice, wasn’t smooth, and I had to redo some of the dings multiple times because the repair wouldn’t hold. Good boards for the person who is very, very careful and wants a smooth, sleek, fast finish.

PLASTIC SUPs

Can be really great! They can still get scuffed, dent and get holes, but are much more resilient than fiberglass.

Let me know if this helps! There are always specials, sales, and the occasional person who wants to get rid of their amazing board and you score. Have fun paddling and I’ll see you on the water, maybe even, near you! Check out my special event schedule here for travel and special events and my weekly SUP Yoga schedule here.

Namaste and much, much love! Welcome to the best thing ever…. 🙂

Bali Yoga training: Day 17: peak

This is the final week of my yoga teacher training! I can hardly believe it, yet it does feel like it’s been a long time. I’m very, very happy to be here, in hot, humid, sweltering Bali while there is SNOW in Redding! God is so perfect. I am not opposed to snow, at all, but it does present a challenge to leading/teaching a stand up paddleboard yoga class with On Water Yoga when the lake is frozen. I actually hope that it begins to warm up for when I return! I would love to be able to take my new skills to the water, but one step at a time, which leads me to this video.

I am scheduled to teach an active Vinyasa Yoga class this Thursday morning with my group of 7 (8 total including me). We will be the last group to teach and so far we’ve seen 2 groups go already. It’s been really nice to slowly take our time, practicing, gaining insight via what other groups have done, continue to learn adjusting techniques, sequencing, alignment, etc. I am really happy with my group, our choice of poses, intention, meditation and opening, and the peak pose I picked and am leading. Each of in the group teaches 15 minutes of the 2 hour class.

A Vinyasa Yoga class is designed around a “peak” pose so that the warm up and middle of the class is designed to prepare one’s body to be ready for the most difficult, or the peak pose. I picked one we haven’t done yet here in Bali and one I have introduced to my land yoga classes in Redding, but would like more guidance and skill at teaching, particularly the modifications. When I asked my yoga instructor Gabrielle about the pose and it’s name she said, “Wow, you’re not messing around! Going straight into it!” Well, yes! Yes I am! It’s been a good challenge for me and the group to think how to structure for something we haven’t done in class and which no one in my group has ever done before, yet, it’s been easy at the same time. I am really happy with the way my group is working together, being supportive, open, and up for the challenge. There was really no questions asked, just an ok, let’s do it attitude!

There has been an overall sense of things starting to wind down and come to an end, along side the energy around us teaching classes. Today Chris, one of the co-founders of the Awakened Life School of Yoga, talked about meditation after our training is over and suggestions for how to integrate it in to our everyday lives. I have to admit that when we first started I wasn’t that interested in the meditation component as was presented in our pre-work assignments, but I can really see and feel how meditation can be used to tame the wildness of the mind and let our spirit be our guides. Before this yoga training, I had only done contemplative prayer meditation (choosing a verse, some words, or other such inspirational teaching and turning the mind repeatedly back towards it for a set amount of time) but now I’ve done several different types of meditation here, maybe 5 or 6 different ones. I’ll probably write more about this in another entry. It’s late now and I’m starting to fade, but to touch on it briefly, I am beginning to think about how I can incorporate more meditation into my life back in Redding.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for praying for me! I pray that you are encouraged, enlightened, and that you experience more freedom and happiness in your life from reading this.

Until next time, namaste!

Day 3 Video: Bali Yoga Training

I grabbed this video while there was still light during our break between sessions. Great day today! It started with silence until 9:30am and meditation starting at 6:30am. We had a quiet meditation (really casual, no instructions) for about 15 minutes and then another 15 minutes with Chris (one of the co-founders) speaking about being present. Following this was a 2 hour Vinyasa Flow yoga class with Basil (one of the yoga asana practitioners) where he would stop and as we held a pose, he would correct, speak about breath, alignment, why, and refine our practice. I’ve always loved Vinyasa Flow but today Basil described Vinyasa Flow yoga as jazz music and compared Iyengar to classical music. A great analogy to the free flow style of Vinyasa and makes perfect sense why I like it so much: I love the creativity and rhythm that comes out of Vinyasa, with, of course, the understanding of the basics and foundational tools, like a classical music piece. Vinyasa could not exist without the classics, but I so love to explore, experiemnt, and create from a strong foundation. Hello jazz music!

We next came back and Liz (the other co-founder) opened it up for Q&A for Basil, and then had us draw a line from “Day 1” to “Day 22” on an index card. Everyone’s lines were crooked and some curved with ups and downs. She used this to describe the experience that we would have over the next 22 days: that there would be high points and low points, etc. and that we should enjoy the journey no matter the place we are/were in. SUCH a great picture! We then learned about our group activity for the afternoon and our homework and were dismissed for our lunch break.

I stopped by the ocean, not intending to get in, but OH MY!!! WOW! That water is PERFECT! The temperature was just right and I played around for probably 45 minutes in it! I love the water….

We all met back up and shared in our group activity. It was a very vulnerable, open, and honest look at oneself where we would share answers to 4 questions in front of the class. Tears were shed, hearts were exposed, and everyone left encouraged from the honesty and life experiences so many have had, from rape to abuse to quitting full time careers to marriages and kids, to health and healing journeys. It was a profound moment that brought me closer to my fellow classmates and although we were supposed to end today with an hour restorative yoga class, we ran out of time and didn’t have a set routine tonight. Some of the girls and I played on our yoga mats as we talked more about our experiences and the awesomeness of our group.

SO much more than this happened, but this is a brief overview. I am headed to bed now, I can barely keep my eyes open right now…. Enjoy. See you soon. zzzzz…..

Bali Trip Day 2 Video

I’m here! It’s going to be a different place tomorrow, when I can see it, but what I can make out, this place is amazing! The people I have met already are so great. Everyone is excited to be here. This will definitely be unlike anything I have ever done before and that is exactly why I came.
I’m off to sleep now so I can start tomorrow well.
See you soon!