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 4 Video: Bali Yoga Teacher Training

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.
Namaste!

Instructing people who practice yoga

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?

Namaste.

Preparation

I will be attending a 3 week yoga training in Bali, Indonesia, in about 3 weeks. In preparation for my training, I have quite an extensive amount of pre-work to do: meditation practice, anatomy and physiology to study, yoga history to learn, physical yoga postures to do, etc. As an extra part of my preparation, I have been learning about the country I will be visiting for nearly a month. This video has been really helpful in this quest.

This video was suggested by a friend who has, for the past 3 years, been living half the year in Bali and half the year in SoCal. How she and I became friends in quite another miraculous story, but the short version is similar to how I determined I would train for yoga in Bali: there is a connection that is felt more than understood; it’s a trust in God that is larger than myself and what is seen; it is confirmed by other friend’s discussions, living arrangements, prior travel experiences, random encouraging text messages and emails, and by my pastors. I have my heart set on the Lord and He directs my passage as I humbly and diligently adjust the sails of my vessel.

As one of the reading materials for my Bali yoga training states: ” The supreme adventure in a (wo)man’s life is (her) journey back to her Creator.” – Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. I couldn’t agree more, nor wouldn’t want it any other way.

May this video shed some light on what Indonesia is, where Bali is located, and give you a taste for a land that God loves. I’m excited to journey there!

Namaste!

Blogging like a child and experiencing heaven

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. 😉Image

Namaste!

Am I worshipping the devil if I do yoga?

Maybe, but maybe not.

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.

In love and light!

Audrey

http://www.OnWaterYoga.comImage

Why I practice yoga

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.