Holy Yoga: what a class looks like

HY what a class looks likeSo, we’ve established that I’m fairly obsessive about things, right?

Right.

One of my biggest fears going into a Holy Yoga class was not knowing what the flow of the class would be.

Really.

Before my first Holy Yoga class, I’d never been any yoga class that wasn’t on my TV. I’m not someone that’s totally comfortable with new experiences.

I like to be prepared.

I know that every teacher is different, but as I plan a six week series to start next Tuesday I thought someone out there might be interested in the class breakdown. These classes are going to be gentle and restorative in purpose, as we root into the Lord to find our rest during the busyness of the holiday season.

And I will add, after taking multiple classes (a day, for nearly a week)  each day at my instructor’s retreat, this is a general idea of how most of the classes ran.

Here’s what an hour-long class will look like…

Welcome: sign in, roll out your mat and get comfortable. I will almost always have you start in mountain pose or simple seated, but child’s and corpse pose are options too.

The start: this is where Holy Yoga differs from other yoga classes. We begin our class with a short devotion and prayer, often in that opening pose. We set our intention for the practice: a verse, a section of verses, readings and thoughts from a book are all possibilities. We’ll return to that intention multiple times throughout class, weaving it through postures.

The working: the more active, almost dance-like part of practice. This is where we flow. Poses might include warriors, down dogs, balance poses. We begin with big movements to warm up the body and move into longer holds in the postures.

And if you don’t know what a pose is, that’s okay. It’s my job as an instructor to give you visual reminders, lots of directives and modification options, and even hand’s on adjustments if you’re okay with it.

After the flow, we slow things down with seated and reclines postures. It’s our cool down time, and when we can really get into some deeper poses.  For this holiday series, I’m planning on shorter working sections and longer cool downs. Those seated and reclined poses can help to release stress while bringing restoration to our bodies in a way that I find especially wonderful. In a regular class, though, that would be flipped with the working part of class.

One thing that we will always focus on throughout the entire class is breathing.

After that slower part, we get to the good stuff. The best stuff. My favorite part of class, and what the entire class has been building to: savasana, final resting pose. It’s that final reclined position on your back, fully relaxed. It’s the purpose of the movement portion of a yoga practice – to tire out both the mind and body so that we can really root into the Lord during that final resting pose. We’ll revisit our intention and it’s when come into a time of guided meditation. That’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise. It’s very simple a time to focus on the intention that we set at the beginning of class and when we open up to what the Lord may have to say to us in this time.

We close in prayer.

I will always try to be available to my students after class. In my experience, a Holy Yoga practice can be an emotional time, but it’s also a time to ask questions about poses. Eventually, my goal is to offer pre or post-class workshops to teach more challenging poses but for this six week series we’ll be focusing on very basic poses.

prepping for your first Holy Yoga class

prepping for your first Holy Yoga class
So, the day of my first Holy Yoga class, I was ready at 2.

Class started at 5.

I might have been a little bit anxious.

I packed and repacked my bag, refilled my water bottle half a dozen times, ran to the bathroom half a dozen times and tried every hairstyle I knew.

It was ridiculous.

And I don’t want you to have to go through the same worry.

What do you really need?

Not that much.

A mat, if you have one. A towel works too. As an instructor, I try to have an extra mat or two for newcomers.

Clothes you can move in. And hopefully don’t slide down too much (you don’t want to be hiking your pants up all the time) and hopefully aren’t see-through in downward dog (the scourge of the yoga community).

Water.  We’re just stretching, you think? Good luck. I sweat more during a yoga practice than I do when I do interval training. I get really thirsty.

A strap, if you have one. Or an old necktie. Or a jump rope. A block is nice, too. Props and helpers aren’t a sign you’re weak. They are invaluable tools that can help anyone get deeper into poses. They can also be that extra inch that gets you into a pose for the first time.

A blanket or towel, if you want. Especially helpful if you have back or knee issues, you can roll it up to place under your hips or knees. Or, if you’re like me, you get cold in the final resting pose and need a little covering.

That’s it.

Truly.

Except for one thing.

And it’s the most important.

You can leave all of the rest of that at home, as long as you bring this:

an open and willing heart and attitude.

A heart that seeks God.

A heart that wants to hear from Him.

Friends, don’t put limits on where and how God can speak to you. It demeans Him. It puts Him in a box. And it sets up a barrier between you and Him.

And be willing to try poses, even if you think there’s no way. Your teacher should give you many different directives and modifications so that your practice can grow.

What do you stress over when trying something new?

this I know: Holy Yoga

 

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Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my decision to pursue becoming a Holy Yoga instructor.

It’s gone so quickly.

I’m so in awe of where God has taken me during this year. He has strengthened and grown me in ways I never knew I was capable of. He’s called me into a deeper relationship with Him and into a deeper knowledge and understanding of His word. He’s prepared me for opportunities I could never have dreamed of.

And He’s taught me a few things that Holy Yoga isn’t…

  • Holy Yoga isn’t all skinny white girls in Lululemon pants.
    Seriously.
    At my instructor’s retreat, all shapes, all sizes and all backgrounds were represented. There was even one very brave man who went through it…he was outnumbered by more than 100 women.
    But my classes have seen nearly as many men in them as women, and ages have ranged from teens to a students in their 80’s.
    And the attire – well, it’s ranged from typical yoga wear to shorts and t-shirts to one gentleman in his 80’s that wears the knee pads he uses when he’s installing flooring.
    For reals, friends.
    It’s been all shapes – from super active Jazzercise types to plus sizes. And they’ve all had successes and growth, regardless of their weight. They’ve also all seen struggles.
    Holy Yoga is an incredibly welcoming place to be.
  • Holy Yoga is a judgement free zone.
    Can’t touch your toes?
    It’s okay.
    Can’t remember the names of poses?
    Me neither sometimes.
    Balance an issue?
    It will get better. I promise, just keep with it and it will get better. Speaking from experience on this one.
    Need to take a few extra breaths in child pose or spend part of practice just resting on your mat?
    Oh, I’ve been there. And I’ll probably be there again someday soon.
    Don’t want to take your socks off?
    Well…okay…that’s your call…as long as you’re doing chair yoga.
  • Holy Yoga is not a competition.
    It’s about you and the Lord.
    Not you and the person next to you that can do a wheel into a headstand into a scorpion.
    If you can’t do a pose, do your best. As an instructor, one of my biggest goals is to give you as many modifications as possible so that every single person finds what they need.
    Your practice will grow with consistency.
    And in all honesty, as you’re working your practice and surrender to God’s grace, you don’t even notice others around you.
  • Holy Yoga isn’t all power flows, headstands and perfection.
    It can be, but it doesn’t have to be – the flow part, that is.
    It can be intimidating to follow yoga teachers on Instagram and Facebook, to see the 30 day challenges of craziness and hear that little voice that says:
                      Self, I can’t even. I can’t even stand on one foot or touch my toes. I might as well give up now.
    Remember: no one starts there. And many yogis with regular practice never make it there and that’s perfectly fine. Gentle is good. Slow is good. Making a space – any space – that you can call sacred and meet with God is good.
    It’s never going to be perfect.
    And that’s okay.
    Those imperfections, those places where we feel like we just can’t do it anymore and oh my goodness if we hold this downdog for one more second, I’m going to die – that’s where God meets us most deeply.
    When our physical and emotional selves break down, God breaks through.

And one thing that I know for sure Holy Yoga is:

  • It’s filled with grace.
    The sort of grace that only comes from spending time as you quiet your body, mind and heart before the Lord.
    The sort of grace that says imperfections are okay.
    The sort of grace that welcomes all, encourages all and does away with judgement.
    It’s the grace that lets of go of expectations and seeks God in the moment, breath by breath.
    It’s the grace that makes space – in your heart, your mind, your body – for God to bring change.
    The grace that brings us to God’s feet, in worship and in humility and in the knowledge that apart from Him, we are nothing.

You can find Holy Yoga instructors by searching here.  If there’s nothing in your area, I highly recommend Holy Yoga TV, which brings you several new practices a month of varying levels with excellent directives and instruction (and that I only recently figured out I could download to be able to practice later).

 

on balance

 

 

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‘Doing what is wrong keeps everyone off balance and insecure, but those who do right by the Lord will never be uprooted’
Proverbs 12:3

Remember those How I Spent My Summer Vacation essays from elementary school?

Here’s the short version of mine:

June was quiet. We spent a few days in the Bay Area for Church Conference and ate too much. My Mom had hip replacement surgery on July 1st and I spent a wonderful week with her to help out however I could. I ate too much. We went to family camp and it was awesome. So was the food, of which I ate entirely too much. The Pastor had a heart procedure that corrected at least six arrhythmia and I ate too much. I taught my first series of Holy Yoga classes at church and we are in the planning stages for launching Amador Holy Yoga throughout our community in October. Tomorrow, The Girl has surgery to correct her scoliosis. I gained at least 15 pounds.

Yikes.

Balance has been few and far between for me at the  moment.

I have stayed rooted in God’s word – more often than not.

I have exercised – more often than not.

I have eaten incredibly poorly – more often than not.
(though I haven’t felt nearly as bad as I deserve because I’ve been minding the gap with this – I can’t wait to see what a difference it will make when I’m eating right, exercising and continuing with my daily shakes and caps)

It’s been a summer to remember.

For all of those off balance moments, God has been there…gently – and not so gently – nudging, reminding, drawing me closer.

I’ve seen over and over how digging into His word and resting in His presence has brought me through a summer that has been busier than I like, more stressful than I care to admit and one that I will forever mark by surgical waiting rooms.

I have been off balance – thrown out of joint – but I’ve been securely held by a God who loves me.

I look forward to schedule again and margins and normalcy, but that’s still a bit off.

That’s okay.

I have the tools and am working on the discipline. It’s a journey – one that truly only ends when we stand in the presence of our Creator – and I’m walking each step with Him by my side.

Fit Friday: Holy Yoga TV

Can I share with you one of my favorite new things:10296744_646607002096739_4216245645921873452_n

Holy Yoga TV

For a minimum donation of $10 a month, you can subscribe to Holy Yoga TV and have access to 4 streaming videos a month with some of the best Holy Yoga instructors around.

I’ve done three of this month’s practices, although I haven’t yet attempted the firefly pose breakdown because that’s a bit of a stretch for my practice right now. The three I’ve practiced – a gentle, a slow flow and a power – have all been excellent. The intentions (always Jesus focused), the flow, the instruction are all so glorifying to God. And at about 20 minutes, they’re are just long enough to get in even on a busy day and feel like you’ve actually accomplished something.

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Most days, I’m perfectly happy to do my own thing – to design my own practice as I go, but it’s a blessing to be able to practice with Brooke, Amy, Stephanie and JoAnn for new ideas and those helpful reminders about form and breath. In fact, I’m still feeling that super deep karate chop lizard pose Amy leads in her power class. I should probably confess: as a certified instructor who isn’t quite instructing yet, I’m excited to be able to work those flows that I intend to work into my own classes when the time comes.

Looking for a way to begin or grow your yoga practice while entering into His presence?

Here it is.

And it’s tax deductible.

Holy Yoga Retreat

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I’ve been pondering how to write this post since I got on the bus to come home from Holy Yoga retreat.

Sitting on that bus, Luke 2:19 kept coming to mind about Mary treasuring things up and pondering them in her heart.

And I knew that was what I needed to do.

God revealed so many Truths to me that week. Not little t situational truths, but capital T Truths from God’s mouth to my heart.

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And a lot of them came from the mouth of Brooke Boon. God’s original design for me is an invaluable gift. It’s something I’ve read about, something I’ve studied and something I’ve never fully been able to grasp and live out.

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I was pushed and challenged in ways I didn’t expect. Leading up to retreat, I was nervous about whether or not my body would be able to handle all the movement, the altitude and the sleep disruptions. It was hard, but I was shocked at how well I felt the entire week. God truly met me where I needed Him most.

Exhausted? Yes.

Pushed to my brink? Absolutely.

Embraced by a Lord who loves me like crazy? Yep.

He also used my fear about my physical weaknesses to drop another Big T Truth:

I set a lot of limits on myself without realizing it.

It wasn’t easy to hear, but I needed it and it’s been something I’ve carried with me in the month since I came home. No longer am I so easy to say, “I can’t do that” or “My body won’t let me”. I’m pushing myself harder and finding that I can do so much more than I realized.

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The Lord called me to go deeper, to be more vulnerable. During one of our evening practices, one of the master instructors that was doing assists, whispered into my ear that I don’t have to strive so hard to be my own Rock, my own Strength.

It was a Big T Truth straight to the heart ugly cry sort of moment that I will look back on years from now as a turning point in my relationship with my Savior.

We say in Holy Yoga that it’s Jesus first, yoga second and that was evident in every aspect of the week. It was a huge leap of faith for me to begin this training in January. It was a bigger leap for me to journey to retreat, to take my hermit-self on a plane and a bus to sleep in a cabin for a week with people I’d never met while I physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted itself.

I made friends that I have come to treasure.

I made sisters that I can call on to pray for me and to encourage me in times of need.

I discovered who God created me to be.

And I learned how to teach yoga.

It’s a Get To!

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To say it’s been a while would be to a bit of an understatement.

Okay, a huge understatement.

It’s been busy. So busy. I’ve been scattered. But God has been good.

So good.

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I’m now a fully certified Holy Yoga instructor. I still get the giggles when I say that. I have had some thoughts percolating since I got home from retreat a month ago that I’ll share soon. I’m not teaching yet, but soon. I’ve been resting in the many truths the Lord spoke into my heart during my nine weeks of immersion and week of retreat.

It has changed everything.

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I’m also on round 2 of the 21 Day Fix.

Guys, I seriously love this program. It’s like they built a program just for me. The portion control I can never seem to really get down on any other way of eating is easy with the Fix. The 30 minute workouts that challenge me but are varied enough to not bore me after a two weeks. Also important – it’s real food based and easy to adapt to gluten free. I think I may have finally found that sustainable plan I’ve spent so long searching for.

Actually, I love it so much I’m considering drinking the Kool Aid and becoming a Beachbody coach so I can help others discover this program.

I know! That’s just plain crazy.

Best of all?

This is finally all truly a get to.

I get to choose healthy foods. I get to strengthen my body and seek a more healthy way of life every day. I get to grow my relationship with the Lord as I move my body in worship.

It’s a get to.

And it’s an awesome place to be.

coming into the light

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Here’s the thing:

I picked up Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning for the umpteenth time the other day. It’s one of those books that has been in our library for as long as I can remember, that I’ve read the intro to a few times, but never one that I’ve gotten any further in.

The other night, as I finally made it into that first chapter, Coming Out of Hiding, I ended up in tears.

I’ve been hiding for so long.

I’ve shared quite a bit about my issues with food in the past, but I’m not sure how honest I’ve been.

I took on my first diet at age 10. By 12, I was exercising in my room. At 14, once I got into high school with an open campus at lunch, I ate mojos with cheese, a candy bar and a diet soda every day (because that was healthy?). At home, I snuck food all through high school and purged a lot of what I ate when I went on binges (which was fairly often).

By the time I got married at 21, I’d already lost and gained probably 100 pounds.

Now, at 38, that number is probably closer to 300 and at no point have I ever had more than 70 pounds to lose.

Married life and motherhood hasn’t change too much. I’m the queen of the yo yo dieters. I will be super strict for a short amount of time, see successful weight loss…but it’s at the detriment of my mental health. I become obsessed and that obsession can only last so long before I spiral downward into binge and stress eating, and of course begin to gain weight again.

My diet constantly swerves between a day of righteous, nutrient dense eating and a day of coconut sweet rolls and a bag of Dove dark chocolates. If I know I’m going to be home alone (a rare treat), I plan and hoard what I’m going to eat when no one is there to watch me. I’ve hidden food in my purse to get it into the house and I’ve hidden food from my family.

And I’m beginning to see my attempts at different diets – the severe strictness with which I see success and tend to find my self worth – as very disordered and very unhealthy. They’re my attempts to be in control and they’re my disordered responses to stress.

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I live with guilt and shame on a daily basis about my inability to pull it together. I know that to serve Him in the way that He’s calling me to, healing has to come and this disordered relationship has to be set straight.

And I know that part of that comes from bringing this dark, scary part of myself into the light – into the Light of Christ, but that I also need to come clean with those around me.

In my head, I know that my salvation and my self-worth have nothing to do with my weight or my eating habits. But my heart – that wicked, deceitful things – tells me a different story.

And I listen to that voice that isn’t the Lord’s.

That has to stop.

I’m rooting into God’s word, I’m studying His promises and I’m praying that He would show me the way He has set for me to healing and true wellness. I’m letting go of the tight reins that I so often cling to as holiness and seeking a path of sustainability.

Again.

I’m okay with failures, but I have to choose intentionally not to linger or wallow in them. I know that the Lord will catch me when I fall, will bind  up my wounds and that my faith in Him will always be met. And through my instructor training through Holy Yoga, I’ve truly learned that His grace is bigger than all my needs and will cover my emotional scrapes and bruises.

I don’t know where this goes from here, beyond deeper into my relationship with the Lord and His presence.

 

 

inside my Holy Yoga practice

20140304-115245.jpgI’ve been asked a few times now what my Holy Yoga practice looks like. I think we all have to find our own perfect practice and, while that takes a bit of work and sometimes has to evolve as our days change, I’ve found a routine that works for me.

Ideally, mine would be first thing in the morning…but I’m having some insomnia issues…which are leading to some waking up late issues…which means I try to get it in before lunch.

Usually.

Like so many other things, it’s a work in progress.

Here’s what my time on that mat at home generally looks like:

Turn on the laptop and bring up a gentle practice from The Light Banner. I am loving these monthly practices, especially the gentle ones that are about half an hour. I also use the DVD’s available on the Holy Yoga site twice a week for a longer practice as my daily schedule allows.

I turn on the Pandora or Spotify app on my phone. I love having worship music to practice to and find that my yoga practice has become as much an act of praise as singing in church on Sundays.

Because I just finished the immersion portion of Holy Yoga instructor training, I’m really trying to focus on engagement and alignment. Honestly, it’s not easy, especially when I’m also listening to the teaching on the video and working to remember what I learned about poses in my classes…SSRS, spirals, lines of energy…add in the background worship music…and my brain gets a little crowded in there sometimes.

And I lose my balance.

A lot.

Less than I used to.

But still more than most.

Sometimes, it’s best to just let go and let the Lord lead.

At the end of the video, I hit pause before the final prayer or meditation. I’m focusing on one or two poses and really working to grow in them each month. I go through each pose a few times, in a more concentrated way than I do in my practice and remain in the pose for 4 or 5 breaths. I’m also pulling out some of my instructional books and information, and even looking up tutorials on YouTube. This month’s focuses are chaturanga and cow face pose – both are poses that open up my super tight shoulders and that’s something I know I need to work on.

From there, I turn the video on again and finish in corpse pose. I love this time to just lay on my mat and tune into what God is saying to me in the moment, or to reflect on what He’s bringing to my attention. This is probably the most consistent quiet time with the Lord I’ve had in my entire Christian walk. It’s a time when He can pour into me His words, His teachings and sometimes corrections and admonitions.

I spend a few more minutes on my mat, usually in a simple seated position, as I work to understand and practice Christian meditation. Right now, I’m finding that using a breath prayer works well, either the Jesus prayer or a short Scripture verse.

Altogether, it’s anywhere from half an hour to an hour or so of my day.

An hour that continually draws me closer to the peace and purpose the Lord has had waiting for me, while He fills me to overflowing with His love and joy.

It’s become an integral part of my walk with Jesus and one that I’m so incredible thankful He’s brought to me.

5 things Friday: what I love about Holy Yoga

I’ve been practicing Holy Yoga consistently for two months now.

It’s hard to believe how much this simple practice has changed so many things…and I wanted to take a few moments to share them…

  • Balance
    My balance has grown immensely.
    I don’t just randomly fall over any more.
    You’d think that at 38, that wouldn’t be a problem…but it is.
    I also don’t walk into things nearly as often.
    Another big plus.
    I’ve noticed this week that when I stand, I stand rooted into the floor with my weight more balanced fully on my feet. I have no idea how I was standing before, but this is a big difference.
  • Posture –
    I’ve never had great posture.
    Samantha, pull your shoulders back.
    I heard it on a daily basis from one of my grandmothers.
    I’ve tried and tried, but my shoulders just naturally round.
    Until now.
    I first noticed it when sitting in the car…and my shoulders touched the seat.
    It’s still a work in progress, but now I feel strange when I’m hunched.
    And that’s huge progress
  • Breath – 
    Do you ever sort of forget to breathe?
    I do.
    Do you wonder how I survive between the balance issues, the bad posture and now forgetting to breathe?
    Yeah…me too.
    Maybe not so much forgetting to breathe, but forgetting to breathe deeply.
    To inhale all the way to my toes.
    To inhale and exhale, deep into my belly, in times of stress.
    That breath – that depth – is becoming so important to me.
    It helps me to focus on the situation…to seek God in the big and the little…to re-prioritize and to be still.
  • Flexibility –
    I’ve never done a cartwheel.
    I’ve never done a pull-up or a handstand.
    My limit was somersaults as a kid.
    And they weren’t the most graceful.
    That test they did in school where you had to sit and stretch as far past your toes as possible?
    I was surprisingly decent at it.
    As I’ve grown up, though, my flexibility has severely diminished…but I’ve known it was important to try to develop for so many reasons as I age.
    Man, I really hate that term…as I age…and I keep hearing it every time I go to the doctor.
    When I started two months ago, I couldn’t touch the floor with my fingertips in a forward fold.
    I could barely touch my block with it standing up.
    Now, I can go palms flat on the floor.
    I have a long way to go still, but every day I can see improvement.
  • My relationship with Jesus –
    This one should probably be first.
    It’s the big one.
    It’s the one where I’ve seen the most growth.
    It’s the one that has changed everything – everything – else.
    That growth in balance – it extends beyond the physical. I’ve seen how important it is to my faith and it’s growth.
    That posture – it’s not just about my shoulders. It’s about a posture towards the world of growing His kingdom.
    Those changes in breath – they’re not just the inhale and exhale. They’re about giving thanks to the Lord for the life-giving breath He gave to me.
    That flexibility – it’s about finding new ways to love on Him and those around me.
    It’s about going deeper, listening more closely, seeking the stillness to hear His voice.
    And I’ve never been able to do that as consistently or as organically as I have these past two months.

What are some of your favorite things right now?