Life: so much easier when we figure out that it doesn’t have to all be be figured out and we embrace the journey as the destination. This past weekend was this practice for me, in depth.
My meditation this Monday morning was on the truth: “I can stand on my own two feet.” This weekend, I attended a yoga retreat and it was challenging. Challenging for me in many ways, none of which was (really) tied to the yoga asana. A friend and I were going to go together, but she had to cancel at the last minute because her boyfriend’s mom died, which is horrible and yucky anyway, but this also left me driving the 5.5 hours to Yosemite National Parkalone, to a retreat with complete strangers. Usually, this is fine, I do things by myself all the time, but it hit me this weekend, and it hit me hard. Given the circumstances, I felt sad, upset, and irritated. Then my left leg, which has been hurting pretty substantially off and on for the past 3 years, gave me excruciating pain and limited my movement to a slow crawl, unless I took pain meds. The pain was so severe, I was physically exhausted and had to skip most of the yoga classes because I was in tears, drained to the point of unable to speak coherently, even with the pain medicine.
My personal meditation today is a continuation of the truth’s I learned at this weekend’s yoga retreat and shows me again that we may think we have xyz skill or quality or belief all figured out, but that’s a lie. We are always on a journey of growth, healing, and enlightenment. If we don’t believe we are, we are severely deceived and self righteous. More often than not, it’s only when we get into uncomfortable (slightly or severely) positions, that we grow. Otherwise, we humans are smart, and there’s no reason to change!
Growth is sometimes hard, but really, it’s not about me, anyway. My pain, is your gain, and this is true for all of us. The more that we grow and get outside our familiar surroundings, the more that we will change not only our own internal environment, but we will change the environment around us, and in this world.
Growth happens when we step outside the familiar and plus, it’s a whole lot of fun to getaway and meet new and like-minded people. I’d love to see you at the Hot Springs Yin/Yang Yoga Retreat in April. Let me know if you have any questions and namaste my friend, I bow to you. We are all in this together.
P.S. my leg doesn’t hurt much at all today. #worthit
Meditation focused on the breath used to bring me a lot of anxiety, agitation, frustration, fear, and a feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin. There was an underlying feeling of control and lack-there-of, with this style of meditation, so I usually avoided it. Instead I would meditate on a word, a verse, being in nature, or I used actions like washing dishes, singing, and yoga to bring me into the present moment, these were things I could control. Just recently, however, I came across some info that explained that breath-focused-meditation literally demonstrates that we are not in control: the breath is something that changes and morphs with each moment in quality, depth, sound, sensation, inside of us/from us/through us, so using breath-focused-meditation is a technique to build trust and let go. Breath-focused-meditation therefore builds faith: we face fears head-on, we surrender to the Divine, we work through struggles, and with regularity, the breath shows us that moments and life change but we will be ok, transformation happens and we can move with this flow of breath and life, if we so choose. This simple explanation has changed everything for me and now I’m longing to use breath as my meditative focal point.
For so long I’ve been trying to control my thoughts in breath-focused-meditation, violently pushing thoughts away and forcing myself to “come back to the breath,” pushing thoughts away and chastising myself to “stay present.” This was my way of control, or should I say, lack of trust, and thus I built anxiety, frustration, and discomfort. It’s no wonder I didn’t like this style of meditation! Now that I realize breath is the physical representation of faith, of the Divine, I’m experiencing a subtle shift and I’m letting go, trusting. In my meditation practice when I notice the feeling of anxiety I pause, and take a step back, and gently and easily turn my attention back to the breath; when I notice feelings of frustration, I pause and acknowledge these feelings, I take a step back and gently turn my attention back to the breath; when I notice thoughts racing through my mind, I pause, I take a step back, and easily turn my attention back to the breath and I become present. Instead of forcefully pushing thoughts away and chastising myself, I acknowledge these thoughts and feelings: I call them out and literally label them “thinking,” “feelings,” or “judgement,” and maybe most significantly, I step back and observe. As I separate myself from the thoughts, I then gently come back to the breath and the flow of it, and I build faith, I build a deeper connection with the Lord. With this subtle practice, I come back to the moment, this one right now, and I center myself with grace and ease on this flow. This stepping back and separating my identity from thought, this stepping back and separating myself from feelings, this stepping back and trusting in the breath and flow of life has made all the difference and my practice builds peace. This watching, observing, and acknowledgment of thinking and feeling loosens the hold my mind tries to have on my spirit and soul. This stepping back and witnessing breath is building a harmony in my triune being and I am loving the effects.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what is it that I really want? What is it that drives me? What makes me come alive?
My health. My wholeness. I want to live fully, doing what I want to do, going where I want to go, giving and receiving, without impingement, without pain, with full acceptance and love and grace and happiness.
Your health. Your wholeness. I want every one to live in their fullest potential. I want each person I come across to be so inspired and filled with hope that no fear, no self doubt, no judgement will stop the Goodness inside. Full, beautiful expressions of who you (and I) have been created to be, sparking the Divine spark of light to pop and crackle like a sparkler 💥 and creating the most brilliant lifelong symphony of the physical manifestation of love.
The earth’s health. Our earth’s wholeness. There is a rumbling and gurgling that something isn’t right. There is a disconnect between our lifestyle on this planet and the sacred creation that it is. This mass of water and air and rock that supports and sustains us and is the only place we call home.
I often forget that other people don’t know what I know, a common mistake of experts, for sure. So, to help remedy that, I want to explain what is Vinyasa Yoga (called many different things: Slow Flow, Flow, Energetic Flow, etc.) and why I think you’ll love it as much as I do.
Vinyasa Yoga is:
1. A flow. A dance. It’s movement partnered with breath. It’s an inhale to open or elongate your body and an exhale to deepen and fold.
2. It’s an intelligently designed sequence of postures that strengthen and stretch the entire body. Often the instructor will have a specific area of focus for that class (say backbends for example) but none the less, every area of the body should receive a little love, opening, releasing, stretching, and strengthening along the way.
3. A Vinyasa class will often have fun, upbeat, modern music played right along with the traditional Indian yoga music you think of when you think yoga class. Music is used to build up speed and heat and bring us back then into relaxation at the end. A techno dance song can be soon followed by a Steve Wonder slow song without a raise of an eyebrow.
4. It’s a moving meditation. Classes usually start with a seated meditation practice: a breath focused meditation, a hold of a mudra (hand gesture), a feel/sense of a particular body part, an awareness of the inner sanctuary, etc. Meditation has a long history of health benefits.
5. It’s fun and playful! A Vinyasa class will often bring in a posture or pose variation (or two or three) that aren’t “in the book.” This playfulness brings a humility and trust from the students to follow the skilled guidance of the instructor. This may be one of my favorite aspects: childlikeness, humility, trust.
Of course, all yoga is about consulting your body (and perhaps a doctor to see if it’s right for you at this time) and really hearing, feeling, getting to know what is good for you and your body in that moment. There are so many variables on any given day including the food we eat, the sleep we got or didn’t, prior injuries, medications, thoughts, emotions, etc. and each day is new. One more reason to love yoga: it’s an opportunity to learn and familiarize yourself again with your body, mind, and spirit, and live in the moment. The mat (or paddleboard!!) shows us what’s in our hearts and minds and gives us the chance to right it if need be.
The Vinyasa Yoga tradition combines ancient wisdom and experience with modern fun and advances. I hope to see you in a Vinyasa Yoga class soon.
As a full-time Yoga Instructor I am always looking to expand my own knowledge and understanding to better serve and lead my clients and students. Today I came across this beautifully done 1 hour and 12 minute Mindful Yin Yoga practice lead by Jennifer Raye, a practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine and Yoga Instructor out of British Columbia, Canada.
Wow. In her words: “May we bring the benefits of this practice out into the world so that we not only benefit but all those that we are in relationship with also benefit.”
Wow! I just stumbled across this profound documentary called “The Fire of Yoga” that chronicles troubled youth from the Bronx, Christians in Jackson, Mississippi, and senior citizens in Los Angeles showing how deeply impacting yoga has been in their lives.
From a teen who has been incarcerated, to a woman who fought cancer, to an 81 year-old yoga teacher who used to struggle with drugs and alcohol and was an absentee parent, these people are now experiencing peaceful, positive, healthy, and fulfilling lives as they give back to their communities, enjoy their families, teach others, and live strong lives not only physically but also spiritually. This documentary describes and shows a lot of what I have seen in my own life and those of my students and friends. Let me know what you think.
“Yoga is a way of life. It’s not like a regular exercise. From eating well to thinking well it enhances your spiritual and physical being. Yoga’s got it going on! I think it’s what we need for the new millennium.”
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.
Suitable for nearly all levels of students Yin Yoga directs the asana practice into the connective tissues, ligaments, and joints which are not exercised very much in an active (or yang) asana practice/workout. Yin Yoga can seem boring, passive, or easy but it can be quite challenging due to the long holding of poses (2-20 minutes) and the quiet depth we explore inside the body and mind. Joints and tissues become strengthened and rehabilitated. This style isn’t about changing and pushing ourselves like a yang class or regular exercise, instead, the yin style allows for a gentle and quiet power to arise facilitating a deep release of healing.
In our busy and modern lives we appreciate strength and the yang attitude of “go for it” but this often leaves no end to our desires and exhausts us. Yin Yoga brings both a physical cultivation of strong flexible joints and connective tissue, and a peaceful, thankful, and inward contentment through the longer holding of gentler poses. Joints and connective tissues are different from muscles and need to be exercised differently: they respond best to a slow, steady load. Yin Yoga will sometimes include some yang postures to counteract the aging process of upper-body muscle loss and lower-body immobility, so the challenge is both physical and mental in this anti-aging yoga class that allows for a gentle stretch and rehabilitation of body and mind.
If you’d like personal instruction, I have private one-on-one instruction or join my weekly group Yin Yoga class at Balance Yoga Center.
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.
A few days ago a friend asked me, innocently enough, “What are you going to do about it?” referencing the sporadic recurring pain in my leg from an old skiing accident. I’ve thought about this question a lot over the past few days and wanted to share what I have been doing because, really, most people probably don’t know how one recovers from 3/4 of a broken lower leg and an ovarian cancer death sentence. I mention the cancer because they are inextricably linked to the pain and debilitation I am experiencing now and am recovering from.
We humans are interconnected in so many ways, not just spirit, soul, and body, but also with each other, God, and even further than that: the cells, muscles, ligaments, and tissues of our body’s are connected from one hip to the opposite hand, one foot to the same knee, the chest to the back, etc. Because of this beautiful dance that we have with each other, ourselves, and our Creator, there isn’t a single fix or cure-all for most people. Even the miracle stories we hear, whether they are healing, financial, or otherwise, have a backstory. For example, when the Holy Spirit fell in “tongues of fire” in Acts 2, the “and suddenly” of that miracle was preceded by “all joining together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Those “and suddenly” moments (Acts 2:2) happen, and they are miraculous, for sure, but there is more to the story and it usually involves patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and one that is hard to live through, especially in our modern world of instant everything. As I grow in fruitfulness, i.e. patience, take what I’ve learned back to your own life and be fruitful and healed.
What I am in doing to recover from cancer and a painful old skiing accident:
1. Chiropractic: I have been seeing a Network Spinal Analysis chiropractor since October and for 6 months, saw him 3 times a week. You can check out my guy and why he’s amazing, here.
2. Massage: I’ve been getting it once a week to loosen the hold that the scar tissue has from surgeries (I’ve had 12), falls, accidents, and bruises. I’ve come to think of these two health care practitioners working together like this: my chiropractor is shifting my body structurally and neurologically and my massage therapist is kneading out the bumps in the road, so-to-speak, so that the whole system works better together.
3. Foam Roller: recommended by both my massage therapist and chiropractor, this helps to continue to release the scar tissue and myofascial tissue that has been bound up from all the surgeries and injuries. I use the blue Go Fit Foam Roller and have been really happy with it. I like that it comes with a little instruction book to show how to use it.
4. Body wrap: as my body continues to shift and realign itself, toxins that have been trapped and stored in my cells from the 13 weeks of 8 hours a day chemo, CT-scan contrast, narcotic drug pain relievers, pesticides, herbicides, pollution in the air, and even toxic emotions and bad choices, need to be removed. Some of the benefits of this wrap are: detoxification, growth and regeneration of new skin cells, it’s so natural it’s edible, reduces stretch marks, scars, and cellulite, empties and destroys fat cells. This above picture is me wrapped from the chest down with the wrap.
5. Essential oils: my massage therapist gave me a therapeutic blend of oils to reduce inflammation and it is seeming to help with some of the pain. I’ve been able to get to sleep at night without taking a pain reliever, which is good.
6. Yoga: it boosts immunity, allows for better sleep, and promotes overall better health. You can read more about it here and join me for classes here.
7. R.I.C.E: R = rest, I = ice, C = compression, E = elevation (above the heart). A long standing first aid application for injuries.
8. Nutrition: I eat organic, local, and take supplements to help my body perform at it’s peak. I take a daily multi called Thrive and have added the Monatau Extreme recently to help rid my body of the stored toxins from all the new adjusting I’m receiving from my chiro and massage therapist.
9. Dry brush: Before I shower, I dry brush my skin. Some of the benefits are: increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, tightens the skin, stimulates the lymph system to drain toxins, helps muscle tone, and rejuvenates the nervous system. I use a natural boar bristle dry-brush. You can get one similar to what I use here.
10. Castor Oil Pack: I’ve been applying this directly to my old break site in my leg and I’ve used it on the ileostomy and surgical incision scars on my belly. Benefits include: relives pain, decreases inflammation, detoxifies, it’s also been said to help with infertility. I use cold pressed and cold processed castor oil so the nutrients are preserved and wool flannel to apply it. Plastic wrap will help secure it in place. Learn more about how to apply it and the benefits here.
11. Prayer: Everything is possible to those who believe (Mark 9:23). Jesus told us to pray for God’s “will (to be) done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) and because there is no sickness or disease or pain in heaven, I am praying and asking for prayer for this to manifest in my life, and in yours. One of God’s many names is Jehovah Rapha, which means healer (Exodus 15:26).
12. Advil: when all else fails. I am not a fan of drugs, but when the pain is too incomprehensible and all my other efforts haven’t worked, I need a relief. This is a good point for many reasons: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; God gave us pain relievers; don’t abuse, stop using them and try other things first; this is not meant to be a way of life: your body is in pain for a reason and it’s a signal that something needs to change; being in too much pain is exhausting and not good either, the body needs a reprieve in order to mend and heal.
I don’t do all these things at once or even in the same week. Too much detoxification can be dangerous as well and your body can experience a detoxification crisis. Talk to your health care practitioner and get help with your specific situation. We are all different and it helps to be in community and on a team to be the best you possible. La Salud offers a Health Coach and is a great place to start.
As with all things, go slow, take your time, and enjoy the journey. I’ll be smelling the roses, come join me!