If you’ve known me for the past fifteen years, you know that running is in my blood. My running shoes have never been too far from me. I ran 15-20 miles a week in high school. I got to know my college town by pounding the pavement, exploring new streets and stumbling upon parks and marketplaces. I pack my running shoes for every trip, and have run on Mexican beaches, through the French countryside, and in the slums of the Dominican Republic. I know the cracks on the sidewalk all over my town. I run through stress. I run off anxiety. I run to celebrate. I run to find peace, to pray, to awaken, to shut down. Running has always been an outlet for me and I thought I’d run well into my sixties or as long as my knees could take it.
Then, I had children.
I’m not exactly sure how, but having my boys resulted in a rotated sacrum and therefore, lots of pain in various parts of my lower body. I’ve seen physical therapists and continue to see a wonderful chiropractor, but nothing has put my body permanently back in place. When I run any distance over a mile or two, I have pain for weeks. For the girl that has taken running shoes all over the globe, the stress and pain from no longer being a runner is oftentimes worse than the pulsing physical pain I feel after I run. And for a person who stubbornly loves to venture beyond my limits, I’ve hurt myself more times than I can count.
Thankfully I’ve also loved other forms of exercise like weight training, cycling, stair climbing, swimming and pretty much anything else that keeps me moving. And while all of these things are wonderful and healthy, nothing cures my emotional clutter like going the distance in running shoes. Giving up running has been like giving up a part of myself, and because it’s been so hard, I’ve let it go slowly and begrudgingly. Although I’ve known for years that running should no longer be part of my routine, I occasionally take off for a 2 mile “jog” and come home 7 miles later. #dysfunctionalpatterns
Within the last year, I expanded my exercise routine by trying out a yoga hothouse in Holland, The Funky Buddha. The pain of my running injuries became a daily struggle but, at the same time, it was so common I forgot what it felt like to be pain-free. I’d tried yoga before, but not in a 90 degree setting and with professional teachers. I’d purchased a 30-day package (all I could afford) and went nearly every day the whole month. It’s hard to explain what happened in that month on my mat. The breathing, bending, and twisting was so beautifully intense that every time class ended, I wanted the next one to begin. Through this experience, I not only learned that I carried stress in every part of my body, but I also learned to let it go. And how to do it safely.
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning (again) that this year and a half has been the hardest of my life in every way. I have faced brokenness in myself, my marriage, and my home dead-on, and the Lord has carried our family through it. But it’s been (and still is) so much work. I believe the Lord replaced my running routes with my yoga mat…and I’m just now discovering what He had in mind all along.
Because I decided in August to say “no” to school teaching assignments, I explored yoga certification options because I was hooked. I was encouraged by our gym, MVP, to get certified which was a big factor. Because of yoga’s intertwining history with Hinduism and our culture’s celebration of the self, The Funky Buddha did not seem to be a good fit for me long-term. I’d probably still practice there if I could afford it, but I was very careful when pursuing certification programs. I have found yoga to be so therapeutic and even healing, and I know I’m not alone. And I know who the Healer is.
Someone at MVP encouraged me to check out Holy Yoga and at first, I turned my head away. It was expensive, I didn’t like the name, and I worried that it was another ministry that was ultimately disconnected from truth. But prayer changed my heart. I found the program was biblically solid and the community was beautifully healthy. I had an anchored confidence that this is where the Lord wanted me. After my nine weeks of study, I boarded a plane for Colorado, then continued to Arizona for Holy Yoga’s week-long retreat intensive. In the Denver airport, I noticed other girls with headbands, leggings, water bottles, and organic snacks. I could tell I was in good company. A beautiful soul with red, curly hair came up to say hello, asking me if I was headed to the Holy Yoga retreat. And this was the first of many signs of provision and confirmation that God had for me, telling me He had this experience completely under control. Mindy became an instant friend and my support system throughout the week of long lectures, intense practice, raw emotions, and challenging discipline.
The week at retreat was a highlight of my life and a slight taste of heaven. It felt like I’d met long-lost family. My experiences on my mat that week were my most amazing yet, often including singing, crying, and laughing. I grew in my understanding of Christ and experienced Him deeply while breathing through twists and binds. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever again experience that sense of belonging, because it was so irrationally strong. But I’m so grateful for God’s calling, for my obedience, and for the brave and faithful people who started the Holy Yoga ministry. My yoga mat is a place of worship, giving my pain over to the Lord, letting Him stretch me, speak to me, challenge me, change me. I meditate on Christ while letting the power of the breath work with the postures to make me new.
So, where am I now?
I trust God has a plan for me to teach yoga, and I’ve already been blessed to teach classes at MVP for the month of January. I love teaching there and greatly anticipate teaching more classes. Additionally, I’ve had handfuls of people ask me if I’m planning to start Holy Yoga. There a few Holy Yoga places in West Michigan already, and my hands are full with MVP. Plus, balancing my family life continues to be tough. So, I expected to shelve Holy Yoga for a year or so. But then I got an email from someone connected at a local church asking me to consider teaching Holy Yoga there. As more emails were exchanged, more prayers were offered and answered, and more details were falling into place…it seems as though God wants Holy Yoga in Holland. And He’s summoning me to lead it.
At the end of February, I will be teaching an 8-week yoga workshop on Saturday mornings. I’ll pass on more details soon, but what I want to share more than anything is this: God is at work, my friends. He’s at work in your pain, in your struggle, in your questions. He’s at work in your doubt and even in your resistance. And when you follow Him, you may find yourself in an unknown place like me. I have found yoga to be a healing practice because God created breath and movement to work together mysteriously. I’m so excited to teach it, helping people find their pain, work through it with postures and breath, and have an overwhelming experience in God’s presence.
I miss being the girl who runs. But over and over again in my life, I’m learning that what He has in mind for me is infinitely better and more beautiful than anything I could have designed or chosen.
Here’s to 2015 and discovering new territory on your mat, whether it’s in your hips, knees or spine…your heart or your grief…Holy Yoga is a practice that is rooted in Christ. And I’m so thankful I get to share it. May we be made new and transformed to be more like Him.