My Yoga Journey… about way more than yoga

Yogis often use the term ‘yoga journey’ for explaining the role yoga has played in their lives. For me, it’s more about the way God has used yoga as a catalyst for my faith and walking out my calling. So here goes. It’s story time, friends!

< This is me, telling you my story… >

I practiced yoga on and off in college. Along with pilates, zumba, and whatever else was in fad. Mostly, in that season of my life, I was a cheerleader. Not the pom-pom shaking ‘rah-rah’ cheering, but the ‘Bring It On’ competitive cheerleading, rich with gymnastics, tumbling, dance, and stunts. I did that from 7th grade through college. I loved the energy, the challenge, and it was fun. But whatdo you do with cheerleading as a graduate? I looked at ‘adult open’ teams, but couldn’t get into it. So I experimented with yoga because of the vast amount of Living Social and GroupOn coupons available. Hah. The first style of yoga I got into was Bikram. That’s the SUPER EXTREMELY HOT YOGA.

Bikram is a set of 26 poses practiced in a 103 degree room. It’s the same poses, delivered the same way, no matter where you take a Bikram class. It’s almost militant. It intrigued me because it was hard, I mean really hard, but it was not just physically challenging — it was mentally challenging. You’d get half way through the class and want to quit from the intensity, monotony, and heat exhaustion. But the instructor would challenge you to keep going. I remember one instructor said, “Your body wants to quit, but don’t let it. You are capable of far more than you think you are. Set your mind to it and you can do it.” Mind over matter, essentially.

That was the season of my life when I lived in South Florida (2009-2012) and when I was thinking of going on the World Race. I wasn’t sure that I could do it. The backpacking. The tent. The camping. Did I mention the tent?

I remember that line from the Bikram teacher resonating with me. I went to the beach after that evening’s yoga class and I talked with God, as I often did at the beach. With my feet in the sand and my eyes on the moon, God and I decided that night that I would go on the World Race. Thanks, Bikram dude, for letting God use you.

So then I went on the Race and my world was turned upside down in so many ways. But it was during Month 6 of the World Race that I first felt the Lord call me into ministry through yoga.

I was in Thailand and it was December of 2012. I was there serving at an anti-trafficking ministry and I met a girl named Lindsey who was teaching Christian Yoga as a form of rehabilitation for women coming out of the sex-for-sale industry. I saw how God was using the yoga class as a safe space for these women who had suffered so much abuse to encounter His presence, truth, and love. Lindsey would share scripture passages, play worship music , and pray over them. I loved it. I knew that I wanted to get trained in teaching yoga. I saw it as an incredible opportunity to reach people who may never be willing to step foot in a traditional church, by bringing ‘Church’ to them…in the vehicle of a yoga class.

When I moved to Gainesville in 2013, I made my way into a yoga class at Flip Your Dog Yoga. Lenny Kravitz was pllaying and we were doing all kinds of crazy inversions. I had found my home studio. I signed up for a monthly pass and started to get serious about my practice. I had to keep referring friends to afford my own yoga habit, (#missionaryproblems) but I was growing in my interest in the yoga world and I wondered if this could be ‘my thing for life,’ ya know? As you get older, it’s harder to stay committed to high-impact sports. I saw my Mom (who used to be a gym-goer and beach-runner) and my Dad (who’s a black belt in Karate) struggle to find a physical activity they could enjoy and stick with as life circumstances and their bodies changed. The only active older people were playing golf, tennis, swimming, or yoga. Yoga had already piqued my interest as something so much more than exercise, and because of my wiring to go deep, talk about things that matter, and connect with people and God — yoga was the obvious choice. Yoga here I come!

When Seth and I got married in 2014, he saw the passion in me to get yoga-teacher trained and agreed it was something I should pursue. In 2015 I enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training. At this point, I had been working full-time in building the women’s ministry at Adventures in Missions a for a little more than a year During my weekends at Yoga Teacher Training, I saw the spiritual parallels between what I was teaching in my Beauty for Ashes Retreats and what I was seeing take place at the yoga studio. People were coming to BOTH places seeking healing. People were seeking a place to breathe, to be still, be accepted, and loved. Without being able to articulate it, people were looking to connect with God and with themselves. They were looking for Jesus! I felt the Lord opening the door for me to minister through yoga.

< in our graduation ceremony, we tie a string around our wrist symbolizing something we are letting go of or taking a hold of. I was taking a hold of yoga as ministry >

To start getting my ‘teaching hours’ in, I started teaching my first Christian yoga classes at my work. The teacher training I was taking was a secular training, so I didn’t really know was I was doing with “Christian Yoga”, so I just prayed and asked God what He wanted to share in each class. I would read a scripture passage, pray, and we’d do yoga. Meditating on the truth of God. My students loved it and so did I  🙂   I even got to travel back to Thailand and host my own yoga class there — right in the heart of the red light district in Chiang Mai. It was awesome.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2016, I started teaching Faith Based Yoga classes every Wednesday evening at my local yoga studio. My yoga-boss trusted me enough to teach how I wanted to teach and I was grateful. I’d start the class with prayer and offer a scripture passage as the meditation we’d come back to throughout the class. Sometimes we focus on the peace of the Lord, sometimes on our gratitude to Him, sometimes on some other aspect of faith. And at the end of every class, I get to pray over each of my students individually and corporately. I always pray that they continue to see and experience God as they leave the studio. Some of my students are Christian, but many are not Believers. I get excited knowing the prayers I pray over them may be the only prayers they receive all week.

This year, we launched MissionaryYogi, officially. I started posting yoga videos online, started hosting Wholeness Journey yoga missions trips, Christian yoga teacher retreats, and this blog where I get to share my heart.

Together with my friend Jessica, I hosted my first Wholeness Journey yoga missions trip in March 2017 to Guatemala and it was fantastic! We saw God move in so many ways. Our next one is coming up in February 2018 to Thailand.

            

My first Christian yoga teacher retreat was in July 2017 to Asheville, NC. I got to host it with my friend Anna and it was awesome. We served together at an addiction recovery program and we spent time seeking God’s path for the future of our Christian yoga community. We agreed that we want to be women who set a standard for what we are teaching, how we share the Gospel in the yoga community, and how we explain our ministry to others.

I am stoked that God’s invited me to create this unique form of ministry with Him. My heart is to create opportunities for yogis to encounter the one true Living God, found through Jesus Christ. I believe the physical practice of yoga and the power of prayer and meditation in the Spirit is a transformative experience that can strengthen our faith. I believe we can worship God in mind, body, and Spirit. And, with His guidance, that’s exactly what I am doing through this ministry.

Thanks for following along on my ‘Yoga Journey’. It’s totally “my thing for life”  and this is just the beginning.

Do you have a ‘yoga journey story’?     I’d love to hear yours 🙂

Namaste, friends  <3

“It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.”     ~Acts 17:28

Trouble Maker

My full-time job is working for a Christian missions organization. My passion project is this: Missionary Yogi — bridging the gap between the Church community and the yoga community. It’s a lofty goal. It’s controversial. In just the last week, I found out that some close family members had serious issues with my commitment to “yoga as ministry” and were even considering withdrawing their financial support to the Christian ministry I work for because of it. Yikes.

I’ve always been somebody that pushes the envelope. A month ago I volunteered as a Trainer at World Race Training Camp. It was an intense experience. I felt like I was back on the World Race for 10 days. Which brought up all the good, bad, and ugly that that season was in my life.

One thing it brought up was this self-perception that “I’m a trouble maker.” That thought reaaaally bothered me. So much so, I found myself in tears explaining it to a Training Team Teammate in her car one morning. I know why it bothered me so much: it’s because for a lot of my life I found a part of my identity in being a good “bad-girl”. Growing up in Christian and then Catholic school, I didn’t run with the goody-goodies. I was always a part of the party-crowd. But I was in Honors classes and excelled in my academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities. On the World Race — a pretty radical Christian missions trip not for the faint of faith — I was one of the girls with a speckled past and relished in being able to answer questions about boys, marijuana, and getting drunk from my more innocent teammates.

When I got engaged to marry my husband, the son of the founder of said Christian missions organization, I felt the weight of my ‘trouble-maker’ identity issue. When talking through this delicate topic with a mentor, she commented     “…you don’t want to be the one to embarrass that family.” Of course, she didn’t mean to shame me, but for someone with issues (like I clearly had), it definitely left a mark. Who wants to shame their future family? This self-perception issue also left me in tears at the end of my wedding rehearsal dinner, because my crazy college besties decided to use their time on the microphone to make jokes about me always being late to social events — while Seth’s friends gave toasts about Seth’s character, loyalty, and all-around-awesomeness. There I was ’embarrassing myself’ to my new family. Yuck.

Of course, I worked through a lot of this with Seth in our pre-marital counseling, in tough talks with close friends, and long conversations on the couch of my last single-life apartment. Seth assured me that I was exactly who he wanted to marry, that he didn’t wish I had made different decisions (because they made me who I am), and he assured me that his life needed the color and flare I would bring. Haha.

So, why 4 years post-Race and 3 years into my marriage was I crying about it while serving on a Training Team?

Well, because there are always new levels of our identity to unpack and walk out. And as we step into new seasons, God allows us to learn a little more about who we are designed to be.

I sat with the Lord and asked about this whole ‘trouble maker’ thing. And you know what He said?

“Jesus was a trouble maker.”

Jesus came into the picture and stiiiiiirrred the pot. He pushed the envelope, broke the rules, and pissed people off. God assured me that He designed and wired me to innovate, to create, to question the status-quo. And so in order to do that, I need to be OK with causing a little trouble sometimes. In my immaturity, I used this natural wiring to satisfy my flesh and my ego. But now as I (attempt) to walk out maturity, this wiring allows God to use me in some envelope-pushing realms of His work. Like yoga as ministry.

When people ask goofy self-reflection questions like, “If you were a color, what color would you be?”

My answer is Tiedye.”

I feel like I am a vibrant mix of color and I want to stain everything I touch — not to be blemished, but to be brighter and a little more wild. I used to live out my tie-dye nature in smoking pot and rallying people to let loose and party. Now I live out my tie-dye nature in teaching yoga and rallying people to be authentic and passionate and join causes worth fighting for. Same, same, but different. Same, same, but BETTER.

That’s what Jesus does in a situation like sifting out your identity and purpose, He comes in, tweaks it, and to makes it better, richer, healthier, and more meaningful.

 

What part of YOUR identity do you wonder about sometimes?

Here’s a good indicator: when you get disproportionally offended or thrown into a mental-tailspin from a comment (Ex: “you’re a trouble maker” or “you’re a hot mess” or “what are you even doing?” or “FILL IN THE BLANK” statement), it could be because it’s poking at your identity issues. You know you have a wound when what should feel like a paper cut feels like a stab.

How has God redeemed or tweaked that part of your identity to use for His purposes?

Or how would you like Him to?

I’d love to hear from you!

And PS- there’s a Part 2 of this post coming next week 😉

A Conversation on Pain

I’ve been prompted to write about pain ever since I got home from the World Race in 2013. I remember sitting on the beach with my parents when “a blog hit me” and I scrambled to jot it down on the inside cover of a Kingdom Journeys book. I wrote a short article on the topic of pain. I never did publish it, and I never did find the book I wrote it in. (hah!)

But I remember what I wrote. I wrote about how we don’t talk about pain. And not broken arm / sprained ankle kinda pain, but deep down pain: emotional and spiritual pain. I wrote how I think we are conditioned to not talk about it.

I had to look back to my old World Race blog to see what prompted this. Immediately, I remembered. One of my final months on the Race was in Rwanda — a country that inspired me deeply, because they embrace, acknowledge, and talk about their deepest, darkest pain as a nation — and they do it openly.

After being home for just a few weeks, I was unsettled with the stark contrast of how we don’t talk about pain. It’s like we aren’t supposed to. We act like it’s so awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or how to deal with our or other people’s pain. Oftentimes, we say something stupid that minimizes or dismisses the pain… ’cause we’d rather they just not bring it up in the first place. Right?  WRONG. I can’t stand that.

 

In 2015, I remember traveling to a close friend’s wedding in gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala — which barely resembles a developing world country. On one of the pre-wedding days, a big group of us traveled to a day-spa an hour outside the city. There were lots of friends of friends on the bus ride and people were going through the get-to-know-you chit chat: life in the big city, their business initiatives, houses they were buying, weddings they were planning. Then we drove by a ‘tent city’ and conversation slowed as the sight of dramatic poverty polluted the view for my new vacationing friends.

One girl asks, horrified: “Do people LIVE in there?” 

Me: “Yep, they do…”

She quickly shields her eyes with her hand and says, “I can’t look! It makes me feel so bad!”

…hmmm, didn’t expect that reaction… “Why?”  

A little annoyed by my question, she quickly replies something about guilt and not wanting to feel bad about her lifestlye and changes the subject.

That reaaally stuck with me. I don’t think we are supposed to shield our eyes from pain of the world. We are supposed to feel the discomfort and then    A) Do something about it  and/or    B) Be more grateful for what we have

But the main thing that bugged me was the unwillingness to feel the pain.  Just one year prior, I had visited homes just like those in Honduras. I sat in one of those tin shanty houses and cried with a mom whose teenage son had decided to join up again in the dangerous gang-life that she thought he had left behind. I couldn’t do anything but sit, cry, and pray with her in that tiny, dirty little home. But she was encouraged by willingness to sit with her in her pain — and I was blessed by the experience.

I think there’s always something God wants to show us, if we are willing to press in to pain. But it seems like we’ve been taught that it’s something better left swept under the rug. Or avoided altogether.

Just today I was reading about our ‘Millennial Generation’ and how we were protected from pain and surrounded with prosperity growing up, and that’s caused us to be super idealistic and perhaps ill-equipped for the rough journey of life. A friend wrote a short article on the topic and this line really resonated with me: One day, hardship will awaken them to resilience they don’t know they have yet.”

I think she’s right. A lot of us DID grow up as a generation shielded from hardship. My dad told me stories of how he would take my dead goldfish to the pet store and ask them for “a fish that looked just like this one” and h replace it before I got home from school! 🙂 My dad shared with me, as an adult, that he had been exposed to so much death when he was young that he wanted to protect me from it.

As I am sure you know by now, last summer Seth and I lost a baby. The pain and the sting of death was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was particularly miserable for my parents to watch me go through it. But God used it to teach me about the depth of my faith, His trust-worthiness, and the depth of character and resilience that comes from walking through hardship.

If we can learn to really sit in the pain of the world — and the pain of our own journeys — I know God will use those experiences in great and powerful ways.

I don’t intend to talk to explain why we suffer, but you can see my father in law’s recent post about that here, but I just wanted to open up this conversation on pain. It’s a topic that’s drawn me some really worth-while places. It’s what resonated with me immediately about Beauty for Ashes (B4A), the women’s ministry I helped build at Adventures. In B4A we teach women to face their pain. Share their stories. To get to the real stuff. The raw honest stuff. The stuff that really matters.  And it’s what resonates with me still about the writing of Glennon Doyle MeltonBrenee Brown, and even Emily McDowell’s greeting cards (a few pictured below).


   

That’s why I like to write about the hard stuff. I think talking about the hard stuff is what makes us real.

What do you think about talking about pain?  

Do you think it’s SO awkward and uncomfortable to talk about your own or someone else’s pain?   What has been your experience?

I’m sure this is the beginning of a much longer conversation.

Cheers. To the hard stuff.  😉

How Do We Wait Well?

Who LIKES waiting?

Nobody does. Waiting in traffic. Waiting in line. Waiting for that phone call you’re expecting. Gosh, it gives me a bitter taste in my mouth just writing those examples! In fact, my husband Seth says waiting is the “worst thing,” second only to losing.  < Yep. And God gave him ME as a wife. Me: “the Tardy Queen”. No joke: I was awarded “Most Fashionably Late” as a superlative in school. Didn’t know that was a superlative? It wasn’t. They made it up for me.>  So yea, that’s where we’re coming from. Neither one of us has a lot of patience. God has a sense of humor.

 

 

As you might remember from my previous posts, God asked me at the start of this year to “try” → to try for yoga ministry, try living overseas for 4 months, and try for a baby. The ‘baby try’ was the try most riddled with emotion and fear. In late March, God spoke to me again and said it was OK to stop trying for a baby, which was confusing. The only thing that was clear was that it was a part of my journey to learn obedience, even when I don’t understand. And, of course, learning to wait well.

Although I don’t want to learn to wait well, the thing I find encouraging about acquiring this skill-set is that it’s a skill that will prove transferrable to future seasons of life. I imagine waiting on a baby will NOT be the last thing I wait on. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. And, unfortunately, it’s a virtue not attained through getting what you want when you want it.

I feel like I’ve heard God tell me that the season I am in now is “set apart” and special — and that it would be terrible for me to wish it away by focusing on the one thing I don’t have.

And then, I realized something that really blew my mind: this IS the season I’ve been waiting for!

Allow me to explain: I’ve never been one of those girls who day dreamed about my babies. I never picked out baby names or nursery themes. I never sat around and thought about what it would be like to raise small humans and or what my tiny humans would be like. I always figured it would happen, but never really gave it much thought. In fact, I was more concerned with NOT getting pregnant, so that I could pursue my dreams! (…and keep partying hard, but that was a different life and another story for another blog)

The things I DID daydream about were the adventures I would have, the businesses/organizations I would build, and the kind of impact I would have on the world. I wondered about the guy God would pair me with. I’d imagine how we’d do bigger things together than we could ever do on our own. I dreamed about traveling the world with him and doing things that make a difference.

And then, it hit me: THAT IS WHERE I AM LIVING.
I am living in the season that I dreamed out.

And I realized I am being ROBBED of the JOY in soaking up the juicy goodness of THIS SEASON, because I am so fixated with anxiety of when the next season start.

Lemme tell you, I am someone who prides herself on being present. I am always the one to soak it up and be in the moment. But from the moment I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test last summer, I was already IN the next season. And then when that season was taken from me, and I was catapulted back into the previous season (which I had been enjoying), I freaked. It REALLY threw me off. I was stuck thinking about that baby. That pregnancy. That questionable blood work. Fear of the future.

 

 

I share this all with you because, as in most things, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So I write this to any of you who are looking with anxiety-filled-eyes at the season ahead of you. I’m challenging you — and challenging myself — to focus on the good in the season you’re in now. What things did you look forward to that are already happening?    What dreams have already come true?    What are you supposed to be learning?  What do you need to do to allow yourself to soak up the juicy goodness of NOW?

Perhaps the JOY of the NOW can overshadow the bitter taste of the waiting.

I’ll believe in that. Who’s with me? 🙂

 

What does it mean to TRY?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try and then let go?”

Nah…that’s not the way the expression goes.
It goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

You see, I have often lived it out that expression in one of two ways:

“If at first I don’t succeed… well, I wasn’t really trying anyway…”

OR

“If at first I don’t succeed…I’ll try and try again, and then try again and again, and then I’ll force the damn thing and make it work!”
Neither have proven an awesome strategy.

As I’ve shared, 2016 was one of the roughest years I’ve had. I accumulated more fear and anxiety than ever before. I got pregnant and was afraid to lose the baby. I lost the baby. I was afraid to get news that I had a blood disorder, (like my Mom’s) that could cause major issues with all my pregnancies. Test results said that could be the case. I was afraid to get pregnant again. Haven’t gotten pregnant yet — still trying. I was afraid to pass off my job and leadership over the ministry I was building for 3 years. I was afraid to leave my safe, cozy community of friends to go travel the world. Afraid to rent my beloved home out to a stranger. Afraid to get pregnant overseas. Afraid to not get pregnant. Bah! Enough to drive me mad.

And I realized at the end of 2016 that I was weirdly comforted by this pathetic idea that maybe I wasn’t giving it my all, so it didn’t really count. Maybe I wasn’t reaallly trying.

I wasn’t risking myself fully… so it wouldn’t hurt so bad if it didn’t work out.

From last month. I feel like it’d be more gentle if it said, ‘not yet! keep trying!’ hah.

Example: last spring when we first talked about starting a family, someone suggested to me, “You don’t have to start trying. Just stop preventing.”
“Genius,” I thought. This way, if it doesn’t work out, it’s OK, because I wasn’t really trying, anyways.

This concept is about a LOT more than baby-making. It transfers into many areas of my life — and maybe yours.

“If at first you don’t succeed, well… it’s OK, because you weren’t really trying anyway.”
Doesn’t sound like a bumper sticker I’d want on my car.

At the end of 2016, I found myself eager to NOT try.

To just let things BE.

To relax, enjoy, and ‘see what happens,’ like everyone seemed to be suggesting.

And then, of course, I heard the Lord ask me “to TRY.”

To give it my best shot:

Give getting pregnant another shot

Give starting a yoga ministry a shot

Give moving overseas and living abroad a shot

To TRY. At everything. Even if that meant doing it afraid.

But, naturally, when I actually try at something, I expect it to work out.

I expect to give a valiant effort … and see success.

And when I don’t…well…

That’s when the other version of the old expression chimes in:

“If at first you don’t succeed…
force it and make it work!”

When it doesn’t work out, I think to myself, “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I didn’t try smart enough. I tend to half-ass some of these things…”  So then I push the pendulum to swing way on the opposite end and I decide that I will make it work at all costs! To prove to myself that I can!

And as much as that sounds like ‘the American way’, I’ll tell ya —

As I’ve lumbered through forcing things, it’s been made clear to me that forced blessings is NOT what God has for me. When I am forcing things to work, I am NOT doing them in trust or in faith. I am doing them in my own strength.

Example: before leaving Cambodia our apartment in Guatemala fell through. First reaction: Frantically searching for another. What we felt God was saying: wait and see what I have for you. Result: we decided to listen (smart). We waited and got a last minute deal on an apartment even better than the last.

The courtyard in our apartment complex. SO dreamy.

This is NOT to say that it always works out. It doesn’t. Sometimes you give it a good healthy try and it doesn’t work. But that’s not the point. I’m discovering the point is OBEDIENCE. God wants to know that whatever He tells us to do, that we’ll just do it.

If He tells us to try, we try. If He tells us to wait, we wait. And we let go of the outcome. We leave it up to Him. Because, it’s up to Him anyways. We can only do our part. We listen. We obey. And then we wait.

What is God asking you to REALLY TRY at?

What is He asking you to STOP TRYING TO FORCE?

I pray you’ll press into finding that divine balance that I am trying to learn…

“….TRY and then… let go.”

Why Yoga?

I believe yoga can be just an exercise or it can be a spiritual discipline.

And, like all spiritual disciplines, it matters where your heart is and where you are devoting that discipline.

Are you glorifying God? Glorifying yourself? Or are you aimlessly emitting your devotion out into the world and inadvertently glorifying something you’re not even sure of?

I believe that when we engage our minds, bodies, and spirits in devoting our yoga practice to glorify Jesus Christ, we can cultivate a deeper more purposeful connection to God, ourselves, and the world around us.

Yoga helps us grow in our awareness of where we are at — in our minds, bodies, and spirits. And self-awareness is important to our spiritual growth. We can’t grow past our level of self-awareness.

I believe God is a personal God who wants relationship with us. He is both the Creator of the universe and the small still voice within us. He wants to journey with us and be our guide and closest friend, as long as we invite him into that place in our lives.

I believe faith is a beautiful thing to be celebrated and shared, not forced.

I know the transformational power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve seen the healing and redeeming work of His love in my life and in the lives of so many other people. And that’s my inspiration to share this love with you through yoga.

I believe God is as alive and powerful today as he was during the times of the Old and New Testament. That’s why I offer Biblical scriptures as meditations. The Bible is God’s timeless word — appropriate for encouragement and wisdom always. I also believe God speaks to us individually through the Holy Spirit. In this way God can offer us a timely word — a word that’s uniquely suited for us in the very moment that we hear it. This is why I offer a moment of prayer and meditation in our practices; so that we can intentionally create a space for God to speak, and for us to listen.

My aim is to invite you into a yoga practice that will strengthen your body and fill up your Spirit.
Throughout our time together on your mat or perusing this site, my prayer is that you’ll find connection, feel loved, leave refreshed.

If you want to read more about how yoga can serve our Christian faith, see www.christianspracticingyoga.com