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?
What an incredible day it is here in Redding! It’s perfectly sunny and 75 degrees, and it’s November 13th. I’m sitting in my backyard with a cup of jasmine green tea (organic, free trade, and non-chlorine bleached paper tea bags, of course, from Numi), overlooking the pool, and the open space park that backs up against it. I know, it sounds all incredibly glamorous, being that I am in California and all, but there are real, non-glamorous things here as well (a black tarp along the fence rustling in the wind, the random pool toys littered about, the knocked over flower pot, the large burn pile of yard debris, leaves all over, the pool lining tearing, etc), but like ALL of life, I choose to look at the positive, and celebrate it. All of course, without ignoring the things that need to be changed, cleaned up, worked on, etc.
I have been teaching yoga now for 3 years! I can hardly believe it really. It was this month 3 years ago that I was asked by my pastor to lead my 25 person ministry team through a daily yoga practice while we were working with a church in Madrid, Spain. Wow. What a life changing trip, on so many levels. I had no idea it would lead me to where I am today, nor that I would fall more and more in love with yoga.
I taught one of my land yoga classes this morning and was talking with one of my students after class about his desire to teach. He used to coach sports and has some old injuries that make some poses and transitions very difficult or impossible. I asked him why he wanted to teach and heard a passion that is inspiring. Because of his background and experience he wants to lead, encourage, and inspire more men (and women) into the health benefits of yoga and knows that he can in a way that is unique and different than other instructors. It was a really great conversation and helps me remember why I started and show me how far I have grown and changed.
One of the struggles I have had as an instructor was the feeling that I needed to address everyone’s concern, everyone’s injury, everyone’s goals, and everyone’s problems. As I have gained experience, I have realized that I cannot, AND, I am ok with that. It is much like me looking at this yard: there is so much work that needs to be done here, but wow, it is still so beautiful, right now! It’s about trusting and believing that I am doing the best I can, keeping people’s best into consideration, of course, but also not taking things personally. It’s really not even about me! I have so enjoyed the practice of yoga for this reason: it has helped me to put into reality (practice), all the nice things that we hear at church, all the inspirational promptings we read in some famous person’s quote, all the incredible feats that we see in someone we admire. Yoga creates the opportunity to practice, in a safe place, so we can then carry this revelation out beyond the studio, or off the paddleboard. What a gift it is.
I pray a lot, as 1 Timothy 5:17 suggests, “Pray without ceasing” and have been striving to live my life as a continuous prayer (after all it is not feasible to be kneeling with hands folded and head bowed 24-7). Yoga has been the biggest vehicle by which I have gained progress in this goal. I pray for people’s lives to be changed and bettered through their interaction with me. I pray for the earth to be as wonderful as heaven (Matthew 6:10, Habakkuk 2:14). I pray for people to be healed. I pray for wisdom personally, locally, nationally, and for us all to take a stand for what is right, regardless of some short term discomfort we may feel. I pray for peace.
May my experience help you to choose the higher path, the better way. I could have easily gotten offended at my yoga student today because he gave me some great constructive criticism, but I chose not to. It’s getting easier each time because I am practicing. Like a physical posture/pose, yoga helps us to mentally grow healthier too. What are you choosing?
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 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.