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Faith, Yoga

That time I left my mind behind

One day last week, I was juggling too much, which honestly is pretty much my norm. I don’t like it. But there’s not a whole lot I can do to change it in this season of life.

I was emotional because of a situation involving my daughter. I was behind schedule because I was putting everyone else’s needs first.

So when I went out to the garage to start the van and get it warmed up for an appointment that I was running late for, I left my mind inside. That’s right, I walked outside without my mind, and this is what went down:

  1. I opened the garage door.
  2. I opened the van door.
  3. I started the van.
  4. I put the van in reverse to back it out a few feet (I always do this to keep the exhaust mostly outside.)
  5. I backed up.

I do this every day, sometimes several times a day. But without my mind, the result was really quite different. Because steps 1-4 happened in mere seconds, step 5 had disastrous consequences.

I hit the garage door with my van. CRUNCH!!!!

It was not a soft hit. I mangled the inside panel of the garage door but worse than that, I knocked a pin out of the roller that allows the door to stay inside the track. Another panel was out of its plane and ripped into the wooden trim. The door was stuck and a crinkled. Somehow, my van was mostly OK. I was late for the appointment. I had to manually release and open the door. I had to call my husband and report the consequences of my negligence.

I have been driving for 28 years. I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life. I’ve warmed up my car on cold winter mornings — and evenings — since I’ve had children. That’s 15 years. That’s a lot of times of doing the same thing over and over again.

That’s life, isn’t it?

We do some things repeatedly. We do them so much, so often that we do them almost like out-of-body experiences. We aren’t mentally checked in. We disengage our beautiful minds from the present moment, the task at hand, because there’s so much on our minds.

Full calendars.
Impossible schedules.

Why are we surprised that we struggle to root down in the moment where we are living?

My blog headline is “That time I left my mind behind.”

I WISH it was just that time. That ONE time. Folks, it’s often most of the time. Being mindful is HARD work. To even accomplish it at all in my own life, I must be deliberate and prayerful. I can’t just expect it to happen, and I cannot do it on my own. It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I can prayerfully settle into my time.

My time. Here’s another thing. It’s not really mine. The fact that I seek to control it the way I do is a symptom of a greater problem. I might be its manager, but God is the author of time. What I do with it is how I worship and glorify Him.

Does God want me to be mindful? I am sure of it.

Jesus was a perfect example of this. He went about his time with plans and intentions. Often, they were disrupted. A man in a tree. A woman touching the hem of his cloak. A complete lack of food for a massive crowd that assembled to hear him and was so engaged, they stayed.

But he didn’t pass by the tree because he was behind schedule. Or ignore the woman and go about his plans. He didn’t send the crowd away simply because there wasn’t a way to feed them.

In each instance, he slowed down. A need became apparent. He trusted God. He met the need.

10805856_10153042619676035_3694148863151524009_nWhen I think about what mindfulness is and isn’t, I realize what a gift it is. My body is restricted. It can only operate in the here and now. My mind is able to do so much more. It can obsess about the past, it can worry about the future, and it can operate completely in the present moment.

It’s an open door to sin. Or we can use this miraculous gift of the brain to be MINDFUL. Being mindful means I’m all-in when I’m worship. It means I hear the words of prayers. It means my time with God is intentional, and I’m present in my relationship with Him. It also means I’m checked in when I’m talking to my kids. I see distress on the face of a friend…or even a stranger. I recognize and can respond to grief. I can be a better witness for Christ by responding to real needs.

Eastern meditation tells us we should empty our minds. Friends, this is a dangerous practice. It’s the opposite of being mindful, in fact. To empty our minds is a cheap way out. It numbs us. It makes us unable to see and hear the needs of others. It doesn’t engage us in our own minds, to think, to connect. It is self-centered.

Yoga and especially Holy Yoga has brought me closer to a place of godly mindfulness than any other single practice. Learning how to pay attention to my inner experience — the way my muscles feel, the alignment of my skeletal system, the impact of my breathing on my whole self — are gifts of mindfulness.

The application is so much broader than my body. It extends to my mind because that’s where the recognition of the feelings is played out. If we are numb, we’ve lost ability to feel. If we can’t feel, quite simply we cannot heal. We are no good to ourselves or to others.

Slowing down to hear what my body is saying has taught me to be that way everywhere, including the checkout line of the grocery store. Be present, yoga has reminded me. Look at the cashier. Remember she has struggles, too. Offer her a smile, an encouraging word. Thank her. Pay attention to the harried mom in line behind you. Say hello. Talk to her little one. Be present.

And the ever important mindfulness tip: Try to make sure the garage door is up before you back out.

But when you have a bad day, extend yourself grace. Mindfulness is truly challenging. It is a discipline, and we can only live it as much as we practice it. And as much as the ability to be mindful is a miraculous gift, grace is even more so. The fact that we are able to practice both is another reminder of how much our heavenly Father loves us. Doing so truly honors Him!

Want to meditate on some great scriptures that remind us of the godliness of mindfulness? I love this list.


Bridge strengthens deeper muscles

Before Holy Yoga, I did a yoga DVD program at home for five years. The instructor did bridge posture at the end of each session. But he only had us hold it for seconds, a half breath essentially.

When I began learning and teaching bridge, I realize it helps strengthen deeper glut muscles and the core when it’s held for several breaths. In fact, it should be held for 30-60 seconds and can be repeated during your practice.

Here’s how I coach a class through bridge with a step-by-step.

First, from a supine position the feet are hip distance apart (the bony hip) and close to the sitting bones. the fingers pointed toward the toes with the palms down. Prepare your body by lifting your torso and drawing your upper body weight onto the shoulder blades. Denney-15

When you are ready and on an inhale, lift the hips as you push against to soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. Once your hips are lifted as high as feels comfortable for you, release the glut muscles. This allows the smaller muscles of the gluts to do the work. Inwardly rotate your thighs. If you’d like, you can clasp the hands together beneath the tailbone and press the pinkie fingers into the mat. This helps keep the weight on the shoulder blades. Take several deep, long cleansing breaths here. If you have trouble keeping the pelvis up off the mat, you can use a block or bolster to assist in the posture.

Release the posture on an exhale, lowering slowly back to your mat. The easiest counter pose from this position is to draw the knees into the chest and very slowly rock back and forth on the low spine.

Repeat as many times as you like. You can further work your core by lifting alternate legs straight up. You can also shift your weight into the balls of the feet, lifting the heels.

I like to encourage my classes to also tuck their chin, if their neck will permit it, and watch their breath rise and fall in their chest and/or belly. It’s very calming and grounding to follow the rhythm of the breath in a posture that keeps your mind active as you work to turn on some muscles while turning “off” others.

According to Yoga Journal, a few benefits of bridge posture are:

  • Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
  • Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
  • Rejuvenates tired legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported
  • Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
Faith, Yoga

Confessions of a self-absorbed missionary

In my dreams, I had a clear “out.” It was almost like I was being protected from my own worst nightmare, because I never consciously worried about it. And in the dreams, I never had to do it.

“It” being washing feet, particularly on an upcoming mission trip.

The American surely wasn’t expected to cross the Atlantic and scrub the feet of African women.

The people would protest.

The leaders in the churches would do the washing.

God would personally swoop in and somehow rescue me, perhaps striking me with malaria or something.

I wasn’t keen on details — my dreams never come with vividness — only that somehow the very central component of my short-term mission trip to Sierra Leone would fall on someone else’s shoulders.

I never told a soul. To admit aloud that I was disgusted at the thought of washing the feet of African women certainly took my own self-worth down a few notches, and I couldn’t afford tarnishing my public image as a missionary if I confessed such a narcissistic tidbit.

But there it was. I was terrified of touching another woman’s feet. The honest-to-God truth was that I was afraid of touching anyone’s feet — except maybe babies and toddlers. It didn’t matter the color of their skin or how they spent their days.

I did not even realize this was a fear of mine until I was confronted with it. Soon my soul was seized with a fear much deeper than touching the feet of strangers. I had to question the dark side of my own heart as I wrestled with the possibility that my capacity to love others was not at all what it seemed.

I could blame it all on my friend Jan, who came up with this devotional spa experience. It involved facials, neck wraps and a simple foot treatment. None of it required us to touch the women we were ministering to. Feet were a very small part, and no water was even involved. Until our first big public event, when a woman approached us and offered to do foot soaks.

That was the birth of a spa experience that retold the story of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. I wrote a script, and we held many foot soak events. I actually loved hosting these events and watching the live revelation of girls and women as they meditated on God’s word. Everything about this ministry is to share the love of our heavenly Father, to spread truth about who we are, how much we matter and how much God loves us told through the experience of Christ in his last hours before crucifixion.

Paula, my friend and full-time missionary in Sierra Leone, and I took so much delight in talking and planning an event for the women there. I was bringing my teen daughter on her first mission trip, and Paula’s daughters, who are about the same age as Abby, were all involved in the plans. We were going to do spas and lunch for the women at four church plants in small villages in the peninsula.

It was thrilling to get our creativity flowing on long phone calls while my baby napped and we prayed over details. Until we got to the foot spa. Clearly using water for each woman to enjoy a foot soak was not feasible there. Water is a scarcity, plus it had to be hauled from the well. We explored options, but it was clear that foot washing stations would be practical. It also occurred to us that such a hands-on component would truly be much more meaningful.

In the states, we avoid touch during ministry because we want to be particularly sensitive to triggers of abuse.

Only at one event — a spa for the board of a ministry — did we roll up our sleeves, get on the floor, wash and massage. At first, I was not only on board with the idea, but I loved it. However, as I rotated my hands to the underside of a woman’s feet, she stiffened. The soles of her feet were incredibly rough, like nothing I’d ever touched. She was so self-conscious she didn’t need to say a word because her body language was throwing up stop signs. I was sweating. I didn’t want to drop her feet so quickly that the entire room noticed, but I didn’t want to linger. I was determined to not let her think I cared, because I didn’t, but I couldn’t help but wonder if my own body language told a story of my shock when I felt her skin. The more I thought about it, the more awkward I felt. I was upset at myself, because all I wanted to do was help her feel loved. Because my heart was pure, I kept applying more lotion to her feet, insistent on giving her the foot rub she didn’t want. In the end, she simply felt more embarrassed. I was sweating profusely as her toes began to curl in protest.

Somehow in my naiveté, I had made this ministry all about me. Instead of asking this woman, serving her based on her comfort and her needs, I did what I wanted. I stayed when I shouldn’t have. I touched when I knew it was uncomfortable. It was a complete reflection of the way I had been serving in ministry to this point. It was all about me.

I wish I could say I figured this out later that evening or even the next week. It was still years before I recognized my own selfishness in this situation and so many others. Even in planning this mission trip, it was obviously still all about me — even if I wouldn’t admit it. I mean, the dreams were a complete manifestation of my selfishness.

A different continent with a completely unique culture meant that there wouldn’t be the kind of American self-consciousness I had experienced, so I wouldn’t be blindsided this time. For me, washing feet was associated with its own trigger — one of my own ignorance and arrogance. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Instead of exploring the reasons I was resistant, I ignored my feelings. I became emotionally numb as I planned and thought about the spa in Sierra Leone.

I had only one thing going for me at this point. I trusted God. I knew if my fears were warranted on even the most self-absorbed level, He would protect me. In that sense, I did not think much about it, though it didn’t stop my fears from surfacing in dreams where — oddly enough — I was never required to wash a single foot.


My lovely friend Paula who was a gracious host and leader, never hesitating on foot washing. I admire her so much! 

We had a bumpy transition into Sierra Leone. My daughter fell ill, vomiting and getting a low fever in our first day. She was not feeling great even two days later when we held our first event for the female leaders from the churches.


I could have been worrying about her. I could have been obsessing over the feet washing. Instead, I was calm and at peace. I often marvel about God’s grace, that it would extend even to me and even when I was awash in self-absorption.

As I spoke and looked into the eyes of these beautiful women — these devoted mothers and hard-working entrepreneurs, these grandmas and committed Christ followers, worship leaders and spiritual servants — something completely unexpected transpired. I actually desired to wash their feet, so much so that I got defensive about it. I practically didn’t want to share the blessing of washing their feet with anyone else. This euphoric feeling blew over me like a wave just at the sight of these lovely ladies.

And then in the cramped, dark church with hard, dirty floors, I knelt down and began to wash — scrubbing with one washcloth and then drying with another. Some feet were tiny, some surprisingly soft; others were long, most were rough; some were wrinkly and scarred. But they all told stories.

Can you imagine all these feet have borne witness to? Lost love. Grief. Suffering. Indescribable joy. Back-breaking work. Loss of faith. Miracles.


I did it!!! Here I am, absorbed in foot washing! 

I only had precious few minutes with each woman, so as I washed, I prayed. I prayed over her suffering — past or present — and her story. I prayed for God to pour out His blessings on her. I did not look away or sweat or feel anxious in any way. I let the Holy Spirit guide me, and I watched. I took my cues from the women. If something seemed to tickle them, I stopped. If they seemed to enjoy a touch, I lingered there for an extra moment. My eyes absorbed every scar, every wrinkle, every unique marking and I held reverence and esteem there. Rather than being numb to what they’ve experienced, I invited my presence to acknowledge the difficulty of a life lived.


I may never understand a reality of an outdoor kitchen, cooking over fire or hand washing laundry and dishes in plastic tubs all while living in one-room hut-like houses. With these sweet sisters, I shared the common emotions of grief, anxiety and fear, just as our deep faith bonded us in the feelings of faith, peace and joy. As moms, we knew patience — or perhaps the challenge of holding onto it — well. We could both testify to the resolve of self-control and discipline. Without sharing a language, we both knew the pain of childbirth, the agony of teenage hormones and the beauty of nursing.

I stored these truths in my heart and pondered them. What a treasure for me to learn that I could, indeed, love more deeply.


My beautiful daughter coming out of her shell, playing and singing for a crowd of kids who lingered to learn what we were doing with their moms!

As the days passed, we continued serving at these events. My daughter was beginning to come around, to be present and aware. Word was spreading about the spas, and when we arrived at the third church, the leaders in Bunga Wharf must have gathered every woman in the entire village. The pavilion was bursting with estrogen and energy.


At the same time, one of Paula’s daughters was becoming sick with malaria. Unbeknownst to me until later, the loud chatter among the crowd as we washed their feet included some who were mocking Christ.

I briefly exited the event to be with Paula’s daughter, to check on her and comfort her.

When her dad arrived, I left her to go back to the pavilion. As I stood just outside, the obnoxious noise of demanding women in my sightline, I lifted my gaze. Framing the pavilion was the most gorgeous view of the mountains, lush with trees. Behind me, though I couldn’t see it, was the ocean. I imagined what the view would be like from up high, surrounded by the most beautiful of all creation and looking at the infinite gorgeous water and beaches.

An introvert, I very much enjoy time outside, connecting with God through nature. At our house in Athens, there was a vast field with one rather large, intricate old tree of thick, winding branches rising up from the middle and perfectly framed by our bedroom window. Every day, the sun would rise behind it with a new spectacular display of live art — a daily kiss from my heavenly Father.


Foot washing in Bunga Wharf, where it was loud, crowded and spiritually challenging. 

Anytime I felt overwhelmed with the stress of life and relationships, I hopped on my bike either on back country roads or to a nearby bike trail taking my Bible, journal and snacks to stay and pray as long as I needed to in order to recharge. I often went on nature hikes with my children near our house, exploring the creek, woods, trails. When we moved from Athens to Springfield, I can now hop on a bicycle trail that crosses Lake Springfield just around the corner from our house. Our back yard is adjacent to the woods. Deer come into our yard, which attracts all kinds of gorgeous birds. The sun doesn’t rise to an open field, but it peeks through the trees creating a different kind of awesome display.

My soul is calmed by the beauty of creation. It inspires me, reminds me of God’s love for me, offers me peace, recharges my energy and faith. So in that moment, I peered above the rambunctious pavilion and mentally transported myself to the mountain.

God, I prayed, how I wish I could be up there communing with you in that peaceful sanctuary surrounded by your MOST beautiful of creation — mountains, the sea, forest.

He so quickly interrupted my thoughts with a correction I didn’t even know I needed.

Amy, my most beautiful of all creation is indeed nearby. It is there, in that pavilion. Can’t you see these women are far more precious to me than any of these other living things?  

Gulp. The realization hit me fast and intensely. He was, of course, right. It was the message I needed to hear.


My friend Paula is speaking truth over one of the women after a spa. I admire this lady so much and love being her student, though she’d say she’s not trying to be my teacher. She’s the best kind of teacher; I learn so much from her!

Here I was halfway across the world not so I could do some great mission for Him and get accolades for it. I wasn’t here to sprawl out on beaches or climb mountains or even to enjoy sunsets — even if I was blessed to experience all of those things. It was here where He needed to remind me what a blessing it is to have the opportunity to love His most important, beloved of all creation. And it was as much about those loud, mocking women as it was the women back in Springfield, my friends and even my family. Those hardest to love, like the ones being unkind and — if we’re totally honest — our own kids some days, we can only love by the power of Christ in us. It’s only by drawing on His truths and grace that I can act in love toward anyone, myself included.

God’s correction wasn’t done because He was angry with me or even frustrated with me. He loves me so much that He wanted to remind me the sacredness of humanity above all. He got my attention. Because as beautiful as that setting truly was, He says I’m even more beautiful. What an amazing truth!

God prying open my heart was just the beginning of my year and of my healing. Once He had it open, He began ministering to me in unexpected ways, filling cracks with more of His love.

A horrendous back injury that began in Sierra Leone persisted days and weeks after my return. Once I had succumbed to the fact that I couldn’t exercise the same way I had been, I decided to try yoga. It seemed like the only type of exercise my body would tolerate.

Not only did my body tolerate it, but it found healing in yoga class. The absolute comfort and repair that happened on my mat naturally led my thoughts to the healing power of Christ. I wondered if anyone was combining yoga and Christianity. Later I began my search of a Jesus-centered yoga class.


I find it amazing that God will use our weaknesses, our struggles and our failings to be a witness to others. I love the ministry of Holy Yoga that takes a “go first” approach. Leaders aren’t special; they are simply called to be servants in their own suffering. Only in confessing and healing my own hurts am I any good to come alongside others in ministry. 

I discovered Holy Yoga, which wasn’t offered anywhere around Springfield, and I couldn’t put it out of my mind. I was praying about whether God would really want me to pursue a certification. Normally, this would be too big a cost for me to even consider, but in late 2016 a friend gifted me a large amount of money to use in a way that would help me help more people. I didn’t even know what to do with that sum of money, so I was waiting for God to speak. As I recounted my story to a friend as we were driving and told her I was praying for God to be clear as a billboard sign about it, we pulled behind a car at a light that was covered with yoga bumper stickers. He sent my billboard, and it was time to trust and obey.

My journey to discover the depths of my capacity to love continued during my Holy Yoga certification and retreat. I found myself again struggling with self-love in some of the darkest days of my life. Fighting an infection in my gut for months of lingering digestive issues and irritation, I sank into a depression that I could not manage. I woke at 2 a.m. one morning thinking that my unmanageable illness was such a burden on my loved ones that perhaps they might be better off without me. The thought fully woke me, and I grabbed my Bible and journal, bringing my thoughts into His healing light was the only thing I knew to


Another of my favorite things about Holy Yoga is the beautiful sisterhood. Encouragement and non-judgement required. I had an amazing cabin of sisters in Christ. 

do. He reminded me then of the importance of loving myself so that I can love my neighbors, a message He continued to pour into me in heavy doses in the spring. God filled more of my heart with His love in the crevices of doubt and despair.

But it was my first time teaching Holy Yoga where He showed up with yet another challenge. I was blessed by the touch techniques used on me at my training retreat, where instructors would come and — almost like the laying of hands in prayer — lightly massage our shoulders, faces, hands and feet during yoga classes. I sensed God wanted me to step out in faith and do the thing I most dreaded and offer massage during my first three classes.

I felt awkward and unqualified not only to teach Holy Yoga but to bring a healing touch to the 15 ladies who worshipped at the retreat with me. As the event came to a close, I shared with them this story — my experience in Africa and how very much I did not want to touch them at the start of the weekend.


The women at the summer retreat. They were able to experience the love and healing power of Christ thanks to ministry donors and scholarships. 

But as I stood over these women, laying on their mats eyes closed in very vulnerable states, I felt like God offered me His perspective, showing me the unique beauty of each of these lovely ladies. He revealed to me the depths of His love for each one. I was so completely overwhelmed by the power and immensity of His love and the beauty in their faces that I was brought to tears.

As we worshipped together, it became obvious the hurt and abuse so many of them had suffered, often at the hands of family who professed to love them most of all. We shared our stories, were exposed together, confessed deep hurts, prayed audacious prayers and cried a river of tears. Women at all stages of life were present, including teenagers, and in various states of belief. What Satan intended for us to keep in darkness, we dragged out into the light.

I believe it was a microcosm of society, and exactly the reflection I needed to see to be encouraged to continue on — in loving, in ministry and in using the tool of Holy Yoga and the spa messages to bring healing and hope through the light of Jesus Christ to everyone.

Best of all was the kind of love I learned to have. It wasn’t theologically prideful (believe me, I’ve had plenty of that in my past) or selfish. If 2017 taught me anything, it was that my ability to love knows no boundary. It runs deeper than I’d imagined, and it has the capacity for a grace that mirrors the grace I’ve been given.

What this meant in my home was the best news. When I travelled to Sierra Leone with my teen daughter, we were barely tolerating one another’s presence. We were hugging on occasion upon our return. Yes, I kind of pushed myself on her as I realized that just because she was pulling away didn’t mean I had to. I teased her with texts linking to studies about the scientific benefits of hugs and touch. But we had serious talks, too, to assure her I would always be there. Hugging reminded her subconsciously as the endorphins were released and emotionally as memories of our affectionate past flooded her mind that touch is therapeutic. As the days, weeks and months passed, we began to have long, honest conversations. Tears have been shed. Hugs have been deeply healing. My ears are finally open to hear all of my children and my husband, too. And even my strong-willed, independent toddler is getting a little more freedom as I learn to love her in ways that matter to her and aren’t self-serving.


Here I am at the orphanage in Sierra Leone with all the girls that we did the spa for. I love how every trip and mission opportunity, no matter how small, changes my heart. God is so good!

In this way, God has been preparing me to minister — in my home, in my community, on mission trips and in my own heart.

When I contemplate the variety and stunning exquisiteness of hundreds of unique sunrises I have enjoyed from just one vantage point, when I feel the softness of sand as I take walks on breath-taking beaches, when I stand small beneath the mountains and take in the wonder of creation, I get glimpses of a loving God. But when He performs miracles in a stubborn, hard heart, His powerful light casts out shadows of doubt to reveal the transforming beauty within that makes even the most picturesque of creation seem dim by comparison. Yes, Jesus loves me. Even me.

“We must not forget that true power, at whatever level, is service,
Which has its luminous summit on the Cross.
For God, authority is always synonymous with service, humility and love.
It means to enter into the logic of Jesus, who bends down to wash feet.”
— Pope Francis




The versatility of downward facing dog is quite impressive

The best posture to transition to downward facing dog from is high plank. With your wrists aligned under your shoulders, your belly button pulled up and in toward your spine and your tail forming a straight line with your shoulders (no sagging but don’t stick your butt up in the air either!), push the palm into the mat while you lift from the mid-ribs. If you need to, you can drop your knees to the floor before you transition up. Pushing your weight back toward your hips and into the backs of your legs, create an inverted “V” with your body. Release any tension in the head and neck by softening them and letting the crown melt toward the mat. Your shoulder blades should be down away from the ears and on the back. Softening your heart toward the thighs, inwardly rotate and engage the inner thighs, as if you are pressing them toward the wall behind you. Your heels may or may not touch the mat. You can “pedal” out your dog by alternating stepping one heel down and then the other.


Pardon my poor form. My toes should be facing directly downward in the same direction as the hips. I was feeling rushed to get all the photos I wanted and oooops! Lauren Westrich did a fabulous job with my photos though!  

Once you are comfortable in downgrading facing dog, you can move your body in several different ways. You can:

  1. 1. Raise up onto the balls of the feet and press the sides of your feet both to the right and then up and to the left.
  2. 2. Lower the knees to about 2-3 inches above the mat for core work.
  3. 3. Bring one hand into the middle of the posture onto the mat and use the other hand to grab around the opposite ankle. Once you are secure, bring the head under and through the opening taking a twist.
  4. 4. You can lift a leg into three legged dog. From here you can also:
    a. Lower your knee to either elbow or toward the nose for crunches.
    b. Open the hip by bending the knee and pressing the heel toward the opposite ear. (You can flip your dog from this posture so long as you don’t have shoulder injuries.)
    c. Move into a standing posture like a warrior or crescent lunge or lizard posture.

For a modification, you can stay in tabletop. Many of the add-ons can also be modified from there. Don’t forget to breathe!

Mommy stuff, Yoga

Look what happens when my toddler decides to do yoga with me while I’m videotaping it!

Tatum was preoccupied in another room playing, and I was settling in to do some at-home yoga. I decided I would work on practicing my own flow, and that I would record a video of it. I have been thinking about doing a Holy Yoga Advent calendar, and I wasn’t sure if I would add flows or postures for daily challenges. So I wanted to see if I could do a flow in under five minutes that could be repeated. Also, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do a critique of my cues, tone of voice, etc. as I prepare for my trauma-sensitive practicum.

I was about halfway in when Tatum, who LOVES yoga on most days, came wandering in the room. Usually she’ll get a “mat,” um a blanket or towel, and do a down dog or a bridge posture and move on. What transpired on this day, however, was too precious not to share! Here are a few of my favorite screenshots! My family was in stitches, so I hope it brings you joy, too. Please pardon the nudity. She’s a toddler, and it’s their preferred state of being.


As I cued to lift the left arm high to the sky, she followed suit in her own special way. (We barely knows shapes and colors so left and right is not in her practice!) I didn’t realize until after I watched the video that she was in fact actually following the verbal cue. This is the heart of yoga…doing what you hear not what you see. Evidence I need to work on my cue perhaps!


Next, that left arm slides along the mat under the right. Clearly she’s now copying what she sees, and that can often get a young yogi into trouble.


To open the heart, I cued the option of bringing that right hand around to the hip crease. Tatum found her own heart opener. Frankly, it looks far more relaxing.


As usual, the attention span of a young yogi, especially for postures outside her practice, can become quite short. To keep moving her body, she created this burrito posture. It should only be attempted if your mat is wide enough to wrap around your body. Otherwise, get a blanket, roll yourself up like a burrito and breathe. This is yoga. And it’s why I love yoga so very much!


Just be careful not to attempt burrito posture when sharing your mat as you may injure your workout partner. Thankfully she doesn’t weigh enough to pull the mat out from under me…yet!


This is the exact moment Miss Tatum discovered she was being filmed. Unlike a normal yoga class, this was a delightful discovery for her.


So she ran up to the camera to see herself more clearly. (Pardon the yogurt face. She’s not as fond at cleaning up after she eats, and some days, it’s not a battle I care to have. This is why I do yoga.)


She decided to go to the back of the mat and make a run for the camera. This is a cardio interval much like a HIIT, high intensity interval training, class. We can do this sort of workout in yoga, too, but it rarely involves actual running. Thank goodness!


We ended the class in a relaxing version of child’s pose. If you aren’t familiar with it, this version involves an actual child walking and climbing on your back. Much like the popular goat yoga, toddler yoga has many joyful and soothing benefits. Really, it does. I promise.


Wellness, Yoga

Is it really possible to stress less?

On Monday of this week, I had an already busy day. My husband helped by taking the toddler to a babysitter. I was out of town for an intense weekend-long conference, which made me already behind on everything! I’m sure you know the feeling well if you’ve ever left town for even a couple days.

I had to mop up a little teen drama from over the weekend, which essentially took another 90 minutes from my day and then what would be an hour-long evening meeting to mend some festering wounds.

In between, I had to rush to pick up a teen, run to Walgreens for hair supplies, drop her off somewhere and get to my yoga class, which I teach but had barely given a thought to! All day long, I had this fluttery feeling in my chest and my brain was on the verge of spinning.

It was such an uncomfortable — but familiar — feeling. This used to be my everyday. But I had cashed it in five years ago for a simpler life as a work-at-home mom.

Stress is not inescapable altogether. It’s a fact of life, but we need not surrender to its accumulating effects.

As a whole, Americans report their top stressors are money, work and the economy (61 percent, 58 percent and 50 percent, respectively), according to a 2016 American Psychological Association study. Adding to that in the last decade are terrorism, mass shootings and gun violence. We also worry about politics and police violence toward minorities. (You can view the study in its entirely HERE.)

There’s no lack of things to worry about. And according to the APA’s statistics, about half of us are not getting enough emotional support to manage our stress. 21151397_10154659773961035_7801521331880681448_n

This past year, I was “forced” to dabble heavily in meditation. It was a requirement of my Holy Yoga certification. Though I had enjoyed a few mindfulness guided imagery exercises and my own scripture medication on occasion, this weekly habit was an incredible source of relaxation, inspiration and motivation.

In fact, would you believe it’s the No. 1 factor to living a healthy life, moreso than what we eat, at least according to some emerging data?

In a study of 26 adults at Massachusetts General Hospital using relaxation techniques that included mindfulness, meditation and mantra (the repetition of Hindu sounds) had their blood work tested immediately before and after using 20-minutes of self-directed techniques. An incredible 22,000 gene sequences were studied and measured for changes.

Get this: Every single one of the study participants’ DNA demonstrated significant, measurable changes in genes that relate to metabolism, aging, insulin response and relaxation, among many others. Related to the fascinating but somewhat emerging science of telomeres, the bottom line is that the techniques can alter and repair DNA — real transformation in physical bodies at a cellular level. (You can read an article about this study HERE.)

It’s no wonder I felt incredible — like a heavy weight was lifted — as I went through this training. When I started, I was a depressed mess!

I would love to share this tender gift of relaxation with you at my Stress Less Workshop on Nov. 4 from 9-11 a.m. In addition to meditation on scripture, I will show easy movements and breathing techniques for issues like panic, anxiety, feeling frozen, isolation, disconnected, detached, feeling off balance, emotionally overwhelmed, feeling unprotected, helplessness and more. We will finish up with a Holy Yoga flow that is gentle and can even be done from a chair if you prefer.

Questions? Just call or text me at 217-801-7464.

Want to sign up? The cost is $25, and children coming with a paying adult are free. (One parent can bring all their children. Recommended age is 10-12 and up, but you can decide if your child would benefit!)

Ideally, the tools you learn will be gifts that will help you in your own self-directed practice for days, weeks and years to come! You can register by clicking HERE.


Don’t just look, observe.
Don’t just swallow, taste.
Don’t just sleep, dream.
Don’t just think, feel.
Don’t just exist, live.
“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him” Psalm 34:8~The Message.


Wellness, Yoga

Foot Exercises You Can Do on Your Own

I held a foot workshop a couple weeks ago and promised the participants that I would find a “home” for the handout on my blog. You missed out on some awesome extras at our live workshop, but these are a great collection of exercises you can do to prevent and ease the pain of common foot issues. If you want a PDF you can print, click here:

Foot Exercises

Microsoft Word - Foot Exercises.docx


Microsoft Word - Foot Exercises.docx


Wellness, Yoga

How precious are your feet?

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” — Isaiah 52:7

This is God saying, “My dear, when you share the gospel, your feet are beautiful.” I love the context of the mountain…the race over not a plain but difficult terrain to share the BEST news.

Our feet work hard, a fact many of us take for granted, but God calls them beautiful.

21078518_10154657380496035_1376039893611386651_nA quarter of all the bones in your body are in your feet. Your feet have 52 bones, 26 in each foot and 33 joints. Your body has a total of 206 bones, including those in your feet. When you think about it, feet are essential in absolutely every task you perform.

So we want them to keep working hard for us — to give us a solid foundation, to help us retain balance, to get us from point A to point B, to allow us to continue our ministry to our families and our communities.

Earlier this year, when summer arrived, my feet began to light up in pain. I did some research, learned some exercises and decided my feet were worthy of far more attention than I’d been giving them.

I’d like to invite you to enroll now for a special two-hour Holy Yoga event: Pampering your precious feet from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at Peace Lutheran Church, 2800 W. Jefferson St. in Springfield. Learn exercises for your feet, enjoy a slow flow class, get a foot soak with a devotion and leave with more resources for healing and preventing common foot ailments.

Space is limited and participants must be pre-registered, so sign up soon. The cost is $25 and includes exercises you can do at home, resources, a foot soak with devotion and a Holy Yoga flow. Click HERE to make your payment and secure your spot!




Rise up into mountain to move yours

There’s nothing basic about this pose, which to the ordinary person may just look like someone standing.

This is perhaps the pose that carried over best from my mediocre DVD yoga practice that I did for five years — mostly incorrectly. The instructor walked us through a mean mountain pose. I learned how I could fire up nearly every muscle of my body thanks to his awesome cues.


Photo by Lauren Westrich Photography

That’s one thing I love about yoga—the techniques aren’t limited to my mat. Because I know how to root my feet down evenly, energetically rotate my thighs, squeeze my glutes, align my spine, properly set my shoulders and even engage my fingers and toes, then I can “exercise” anywhere.

Practice this: Standing with your weight evenly distributed on your feet, lift your toes and find the four corners of your feet. Set your toes back down and grip them into the floor, turning “on” your calf muscles. Next, energetically pull your thighs together, which means engage the muscles of the inner thighs without actually moving them. Soften your tailbone down toward the earth, squeeze your glute muscles. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears and onto your back body. To ensure your spine isn’t overly unnaturally curved, knit your ribs together. Your ears should be over your shoulders and your crown lifted. Now spread your fingers wide, your pinkies at the outside of your outer thighs. Engage the biceps, triceps and imagine all the muscles in your entire body “fired up.” Make sure you’re breathing. You can alternately place your hands in prayer position at your heart center and push your palms toward one another, squeezing the muscles in your arms as you do.

Now, next time you’re standing in a group of people, subtly engage in mountain pose and see if they notice. If they don’t, perhaps some victorious (ujjayi breath) breathing will do the trick. Seriously, though, you can engage your muscles anytime, anywhere. Most importantly, anytime you’re feeling disconnected or detached emotionally, this pose will bring you back to a sense of grounding. You can do it anywhere, anytime, modifying it as you need. No more excuses!

Some benefits of mountain pose: Improves focus, develops will power, reduces mild anxiety, aligns the spine, tones abs and glutes, opens the chest, improves posture, and strengthens arches, ankles, knees and thighs. (Source: Hatha Yoga Illustrated)


Son Salutations

Knowing, memorizing and executing Son Salutations can be transformative in your life. Waking up with a few Son Salutations can be energizing, as you set your intentions for the day and surrender physically — and emotionally — to God as a form of worship and prayer.

Here is the handout my class got a few weeks ago with directions on how to do Son Salutations. We’d love to have you join us in a class, but if you’re not able, try doing this flow. You can find the class information by clicking on the HOLY YOGA tab on my homepage.

Son Salutation