A little over a year ago, I started attending hot yoga classes. I have Lyme disease and I find that sweating helps to decrease my symptoms. In Connecticut, I belonged to a gym that had a sauna, but here in New Jersey, I was unable to find an affordable gym that had one.
Instead, I decided to try hot yoga and I have had very positive results.
However, I remember hearing a Catholic priest warn us against yoga back when I was in high school. I hadn’t ever practiced yoga at that point, so I didn’t look into his reasoning. More recently, I decided to look into the stance of the Catholic Church on yoga.
“Catholics should not participate in any of the “spiritual” aspects associated with yoga, but technically can do the actual physical exercises. However, many people who practice yoga caution that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to separate the exercises from the meditations.
For example, a common mantra repeated in yoga is ‘So’ham’ that roughly translates to ‘I am the universal self’. This focus on the self is contrary to the focus on God to which we are called. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: ‘Christian prayer… flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a spiritual privatism which is incapable of a free openness to the transcendental God.'”
“Should you take up yoga? As a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. But if you can separate the spiritual/meditational aspects of yoga from the body postures and breathing techniques common to yoga, then you might be able to use those postures and techniques beneficially for health. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to do so, you may well be advised to find another form of exercise.
It is important for Catholics to know that yoga should neither be hallowed nor damned. As a spiritual path for Eastern peoples unfamiliar with Christianity, it may serve to assist them as ‘they seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust’
On the other hand, Christians seek as the goal of their prayer to ‘flow into the way to the Father, which is how Jesus Christ has described himself. In the search for his own way, each person will, therefore, let himself be led not so much by his personal tastes as by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father’.”
So to me, it seems that the practice of yoga could be acceptable if a person practices for the exercise and breathing techniques without the spiritual aspect. That is what I do in my yoga class. I like to work on my strength and stretching but I do not consider it to be a spiritual activity. I also prefer certain instructors over others.
One of the instructors always reads from a yoga book that has lots of spiritual passages. Every time I hear them, I think about how everything that she is saying is good, but it should be centered around Jesus rather than “the universe.” “The universe” is meaningless. It is God who reigns supreme; the universe is simply His creation.
So when she reads these passages, I either ignore them, or I think about the way they relate to God.
I do the same thing when it comes time to set an intention. The instructors tell us to set an intention for our practice, a place to send our energy. I don’t believe in that part of the practice. I don’t think that by exercising, my “energy” is going to go heal my sick loved one. If it did, I would go work out for hours a day to cure the ailing people across the world. That’s just not reality.
So when it comes time to set an intention, I either just wait for us to move on, or I say a prayer in my mind since I believe that saying a prayer to God is more significant than choosing some place to send my energy.
At times, yoga also seems too selfish to me. The instructors tell us to pat ourselves on the back for giving up 75 minutes to ourselves each time. Yes, we must take care of ourselves, but some of the instructors seem too interested in this, which is opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. They act as though we are the center of the universe, which I do not believe to be true.
So I will continue to attend my yoga classes, but I will substitute a prayer for an intention and I will focus on my practice as a physical exercise rather than a spiritual exercise.
This fall, I have seen whales multiple times off the coast. I’ve seen them while walking, running, and biking, and I hoped that one day I would be able to get out there on my kayak while the whales were there.
Saturday afternoon, I went ocean kayaking. I didn’t see any whales or dolphins, but I got to try out my wet suit from my uncle. The weather was nice. It was sunny, low 50s, and the wind wasn’t too bad.
Here’s the video I made from Saturday:
On Sunday, I planned to try out my stand up paddle board in the afternoon once it got warm out, so I went to hot yoga in the morning. I got home around 10:30. While I was on the phone with my mom, I saw online that someone was posting about seeing whales off the coast of Belmar.
I told my mom that I would call her later that afternoon. I rushed into my garage to take out my stand up paddle board (which I had not ever used before Sunday).
It’s an inflatable paddle board, so it took a little while to pump it up. I was so excited to go out into the ocean. I got it pumped up, put on my life vest, and headed down to the beach, happy that I could carry the paddle board. It’s a little trickier and more time consuming to get my kayak down to the beach since I need to tie it onto the wheels and roll it down there. I probably got out there by around 11:45.
I went down to the ocean, which seemed really calm, jumped on the board, and quickly paddled out deeper.
I had my GoPro stuck into my life vest facing outward. I thought that I was videoing the whole thing. Only later did I find out that for the first half of kayaking, it was set on photo mode, so I didn’t really capture any good footage unfortunately.
At first, I didn’t see any whales. Then I saw one farther north, so I started paddling that way. Then I saw a different, closer one, behind me, so I turned around and started paddling in the opposite direction.
It was really exciting, but really scary at the same time. I wasn’t ever super close to the whales because I didn’t really know what would happen in the event that one breached right by the paddle board. I don’t think a whale would be dangerous to me, but I didn’t really want to fall off the paddle board right next to a massive whale. They were huge!
I think there were two whales. They kept going back and forth, eating fish.
I saw tons of fish jumping out of the water all over the place. At one point, I saw a big white something underneath me. I think it was a school of fish, but it could have also been the underside of a whale, I’m not too sure.
At that point, I realized that I had drifted really far out into the ocean. I was so excited about the whales that I just kept following them.
This was only the second or third time in my life ever using a stand up paddle board, and my first time using one in the ocean. I forgot that it’s harder to paddle one into the wind than a kayak.
So I decided to try going closer to shore and I was really struggling. It felt like I was paddling and not moving forward. I was getting a little more nervous, though I knew that I could paddle more easily on my knees since there was less wind resistance. I had to do that a few times.
I also knew that I could lay on my stomach and paddle with my hands like it was a surf board if I needed to. However, my hands and feet were pretty cold when I went swimming in my wet suit on Saturday, so I didn’t want to do that too far from shore in case my hands went numb.
I eventually did make it back closer to shore, so it all ended up working out just fine, but there were definitely a few moments of concern.
Then I decided to do some yoga practice on the paddle board since I’ve seen videos of that online before.
Let me tell you, it is REALLY difficult to do yoga poses on there. Even a simple lunge was really hard since the board is floating. It was fun though.
I’m just disappointed that I didn’t capture the whales on the GoPro. I could have had awesome video footage, but I don’t. Next time I see whales, I think I’ll go get my kayak because I can paddle much more quickly and if it’s a little windy, I feel like I have much more control than on the paddle board. It’s also easier to balance, so I don’t feel nervous about falling out.
Here is my video from Sunday:
And at this link, BelmarDays.com, there are some awesome whale pictures that someone took yesterday.
It was a really awesome weekend. I love living here so much. I definitely utilize the opportunity that I have in living so close to the beach.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog regarding my recent joy and gratitude for a while, but because I’ve been so busy (doing a bunch of awesome things), I just haven’t had the time. So here are some of the things that have been taking up my time:
I am so incredibly thankful for the new amazing Catholics that I have met in my area, mainly as a result of attempting to start a Catholic young adult group here. Through that, I met a great new friend and through her, I learned about a Bible study that meets each week.
Basically, we meet at a different person’s house most Thursdays for dinner and Bible study. We share a meal and then study the Bible together. The first time I was invited, it was a group of 6 or 7 of us. This was some time in July. I thought that these people had been close friends for years. Only weeks later did I find out that their Bible study had started recently and some of them didn’t really know much about each other at all.
Since then, our numbers have continued growing. Now we also have once a month Thursday holy hours, holding them at a different church each time. I had been praying to find local Catholic friends basically from the moment I graduated from Franciscan University in December 2009. It took a while, but I am currently so blessed in that I have met so many amazing passionately Catholic young adults. And what is crazy to think about is that I didn’t know any of these people before June. Most I’ve only known since July or August. It’s interesting how quickly life can change in such dramatic ways.
This past Thursday, I hosted Bible study in my apartment. We had 15 people there. It was a little tight since I have a small apartment, but that was a great problem to have. We just keep growing and meeting more amazing Catholics who desire to grow in their faith.
I lived here for almost a full year before getting to use my kayaks. It was tricky getting my ocean kayak to the beach by myself. There is also a river where I can kayak, but I can’t get either kayak on my car alone.
Toward the end of the summer, I used my kayak twice in the ocean. Then I figured out how to get both of them to the river by putting one in my trunk and one on my roof rack. I’ve gone kayaking there 4 or 5 times since September with two of my friends.
I love living in a place where I can walk a few feet and be at the ocean or drive a few blocks and be at the bay. (They call it a river, but to me it seems to be a bay since it’s connected to the ocean. I don’t know). It’s pretty awesome.
It’s also great that I have a job where I can finish a full day of work, be home by 3, and still get a few good hours of kayaking before it starts to get chilly. It has been a nice autumn because the weather has been pretty warm even into November.
Here’s a quick video of getting to see the train while kayaking and also seeing the drawbridge:
Tenth Avenue North concert
I went to this concert back in October and it was just amazing. They are my favorite Christian band and I had never seen them live before. It was just what I needed at the end of a great, but long week.
This is my video of compiled video clips from the concert:
I am so happy that my friend Amanda invited me because I would have never known about the concert if it hadn’t been for her. She is another friend who I met as a result of trying to start the area young adult group with my church.
At the concert, the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North talked about Compassion International, which is the organization I found in order to sign up to sponsor Patience, my sponsored child in Rwanda.
I know from my own experiences in meeting Patience back in August 2015 in Rwanda that Compassion International seems to be doing great things across the world, but hearing even more accounts about it solidified my view of the organization.
What is great about Compassion is that they don’t bring in Americans to do the work overseas. Rather, they use local churches and hire people within each country to oversee the program. In some places where other sponsorship organizations were denied the opportunity to work in some dangerous areas, Compassion is allowed since they are based out of churches that already exist in the community.
For Catholic Underground, a group of us from our Bible study drove up to NYC. The church we went to for adoration was completely packed. They had confession and praise and worship music during adoration and then there was live music downstairs afterwards. It was an awesome experience, and great to get to know some of the people from my Bible study a little bit better through the long car rides. I am so thankful for all of these new friends, even though I have only known them since this past summer.
I’m also excited about Catholic Underground because I met a guy from Connecticut there who also has an interest in overseas volunteering. Through him, I might be able to find a connection to Catholic volunteer organizations to potentially serve with in the future.
It’s so simple, but I just love the beach so much. I never expected this fall to be so warm that I could continue swimming so late into the year, but I’ve been lucky. Maybe it’s a sign of global climate change, but for now I’ll just be thankful for the many beach days I’ve had since the end of the summer.
I’ve gone out for many morning beach walks, looking for beach glass and seashells.
I was even able to go swimming the day before Halloween!
And THEN there was a whale at the beach on a few separate occasions. Most recently, though, the whale was really close to the shore and it was feeding, so it kept leaping out of the water. It was so incredibly exciting.
There is a person who lives in a house that overlooks the ocean and early last Saturday, I saw that he posted a live video of a whale. I could tell it was right by my house. I was still wearing pajamas, so I pulled on some leggings, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera, and ran outside.
It was incredible. The whale stayed in the general area for over an hour.
The picture below is just amazing. I didn’t take it, but I did see the whale doing that multiple times. The picture was taken by the guy who lives in the house right by the beach.
Who needs to pay for a whale watch when you live right by the ocean and can watch them swimming on a random Saturday at 9am?
Here is my video of the whale:
Atlantic City Marathon
Although I’m not completely satisfied with my result since I had an injured achilles tendon and subsequently didn’t beat my previous marathon time of 4:20 (I finished this one in 4:29), I’m happy that I have gotten my health back to a place where I’m even able to attempt (and finish) a marathon in the first place.
When I first moved to New Jersey, I was pretty healthy, but then I quickly started experiencing my Lyme symptoms again.
Last February I started going to hot yoga and that has helped a lot. Last March I started running again for the first time after almost a year off. In that year I did go running, but never enough to actually train for any races.
I also found that I love yoga…something that I had never expected. I always looked at yoga as glorified stretching, but it’s definitely more than that.
I think that yoga helped me to get back into running. It also seemed to make me faster. I ran a 10k in May in Sandy Hook, a half marathon in June in Connecticut, a five mile race in July in Belmar, a relay race across the state of New Jersey in August, a half marathon in Sandy Hook in October, and a full marathon in Atlantic City in October. I had a full year off from running, completing no races at all in 2015 and then I was able to compete in 6 races in 2016.
Now that I finished the marathon, I have to take a few weeks off from running to rest and heal my achilles. I know that I would have done better if it hadn’t been for the injury, so I need to make sure that I don’t get back into running too quickly only to re-injure it.
I’m so incredibly thankful for my faith. It’s not easy. Sometimes I wish I learned about my faith about an older age. But right now, I’m so at peace with my life in general and I think that a huge part of that has to do with my faith.
I know that God has a plan for me.
It’s really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve been single in five years. I’ve been single now since February. Back when I was in my last two relationships, I really thought that I was happy…especially in my more recent relationship.
Was I happy? Sure. But now I feel so much more peace and joy.
I have never been the type of person who needed a relationship to give me confidence in myself, but at the same time, I liked being in relationships. They were comfortable. As a person who likes routine, I liked knowing what to expect each weekend.
But I realize now that both of these relationships were holding me back. Yes, I was Catholic, and my exes were Catholics as well, but I wasn’t being pushed to grow in my faith. I was remaining static.
Upon finding myself single last February, I started focusing more on God. When I prayed, I kept getting the same message. “Wait.” Through the entire spring, I just kept doing just that. Summer arrived and I was still without local friends. I was still just trying to follow His advice, but it was hard.
I turned to God and running to maintain some sanity.
And then, without even realizing it at the time, things started changing. I started to meet new people who have turned into new friends. I found out about Bible study, which has led to many other events. I found out about the race across the state which led to other new friendships.
Here I am now in November. I’ve been single for almost exactly 9 months. And I feel so incredibly joyful. I feel like my life is exactly where it needs to be right now.
I am healthy. I am running and going to yoga. I have awesome students this year at my job and I’m getting to teach the AP class that I love so much again. I’m living by the beach going for walks, bike rides, and kayaking. I just got a stand up paddle board this week. I have amazing friends and Bible study. God is a main focus in my life right now, and I just feel so blessed.
I didn’t know how to word this post because I know that other people are facing more struggles than I am right now, so I don’t want to sound like everything is sunshine and rainbows. But at the same time, I can’t contain my gratitude.
I literally drove to work this week with a smile on my face, just thinking about the place I am right now in my life in general.
So if you’re a person who isn’t yet in a good place, you need to turn to God first. None of my happiness found me until I left it in God’s hands, waiting for things to fall into place. I was on my knees in tears at adoration. I was at Stations of the Cross on Friday nights with no other plans for the upcoming weekends. I was at Mass by myself each Sunday just praying and trying to be patient.
Things do get better. It may not be according to our own timeline. God’s timing may not be what we want. But I don’t think that the joy I feel now would be the same if I hadn’t had the difficult times last winter and spring. I needed that to now see the dramatic shift that my life has taken.
I don’t know where things will go from here. But I am content in my belief that God has good plans for me. He is in charge of my life and I am trying my best to make choices that reflect His will for me.
And right now, it all seems to be working out. I am joyful, I am thankful, I am blessed.
-I live in a new state where I don’t really know anyone other than my ex and his family
-My job has been extra stressful lately, due to some deadlines that are quickly approaching
-My Lyme disease has been acting up
-My mom, who I usually call after work, is on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (which is completely amazing, don’t get me wrong. But selfish me is sad that I can’t call her)
Although my breakup is definitely not easy, I figured that the timing was pretty good since Lent is a time to reflect and make sacrifices and focus more deeply on God.
That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. I’m trying to focus on God and also focus on bettering myself, in terms of my faith, my diet, and my exercise.
Although I’m absolutely still upset, I’m finding moments of peace with God. So in terms of my religious journey this Lent, this is what I’ve been doing so far:
Every morning I read the day’s devotional from the book, God Calling. I then read the day’s devotional in a Lent booklet that I got at church.
On Fridays, I go to Stations of the Cross.
On Saturday or Sunday I go to Mass.
Last week I remembered that Mondays are a holy hour of Eucharistic adoration at my church, so I went to confession and then to adoration.
I had given up all non-Christian music for Lent, so I’m listening to the Christian radio station or my Tenth Avenue North cd on repeat since I just love it so much.
I usually eat pretty healthy when I’m by myself because I really don’t mind eating the same things over and over. I don’t mind eating healthy (or even bland) things. So these are some of the foods I’ve been eating lately since they’re easy to make and also healthy (minus the random desserts that I obviously sneak in):
Organic chicken breast
Fuji and golden delicious apples
Organic skim milk
I’ve also been focused on getting back into shape. 2015 was not a great year in terms of my Lyme symptoms. I am determined that 2016 will be better. So this is what I’ve been doing to better myself in terms of exercise:
Hot yoga – I’ve never done any kind of yoga, but I signed up for ten 75-minute sessions of hot yoga. It’s way more difficult than I expected, but I’m definitely starting to enjoy it. So far, I’ve gone three times.
Running – I used to be able to run a half marathon, no problem. Now I’m slowly working my way back up to distance running. Last week I ran a 5k (3.1 miles) in 29 minutes and I was pretty happy with that since I haven’t been running much lately.
Walking – On days when I’m too sore to run, I go for walks on the boardwalk or on the beach if it isn’t too windy.
Lifting – I’m slowly starting to lift weights. My shoulders have been very tight, so I’m going easy on the weights for now.
Plyometrics – I do some of these exercises to gain strength for my running. Squats, jump squats, lunges, jump lunges, burpees, etc.
Unfortunately, the end of this week was not great in terms of my exercise, due to stressful situations at my job, but I am trying my hardest to relax and stay calm and not allow the stress to cause my back to hurt too much.
Now that spring is quickly approaching, I am ready for a new beginning for myself in so many ways, and the first part of that requires me to focus on my health and well-being so that I am able to more easily accomplish my goals.
I’m a runner. I’m an obstacle racer. I like my workouts to be fast-paced, getting my heart pumping. I never really liked the idea of yoga and all of its slow movements. To me, it looked like glorified stretching.
But lately, my Lyme has not been conducive to running and I’m tired of not being able to work out. I looked into local saunas, but they’re all outrageously expensive. Then I remembered seeing a hot yoga studio that is not too far from my apartment.
I then logged onto Groupon and saw that the same studio was offering a deal to purchase 10 yoga sessions for only $45. I signed up last week and attended my first session on Monday.
Now, the class said that it was for people of all levels. I spoke with the instructor before starting the class. She, too, has lyme. She told me to do as much or as little as I needed to, and to go back into the child’s pose when it was too much for me.
So I borrowed a mat from the studio. I had my towel and water bottle with me. I didn’t realize that most people show up 20 minutes early, so the instructor had to squeeze me in between people who were already settled. I had a middle-aged man on my left (which I hadn’t really expected, not gonna lie) and a high school aged female on my right.
During the class, I was trying to watch what people around me were doing without making it seem like I was staring at them.
The instructor kept saying things like chaturanga, flow, vinyasana, etc. I had no idea what any of these things meant, so I had to watch everyone else and try to figure out what I was doing. Luckily, I already knew what downward dog was, as well as the child’s pose.
Anyway, it was a 75-minute class. The heat felt good, but it really didn’t make me sweat too much. I tried every pose because I’m just too competitive to ever give up and just take the child’s pose. I know that’s not the point of yoga — it has nothing to do with competition, but I just wanted to try me best with each part of it.
There were a few awkward moments when we were a little too close to the people on either side of us, particularly since there was a man right next to me. At one point, his butt was definitely not too far from my face.
But overall, I didn’t feel too out of place. Other people would sometimes lose balance, most were not perfect. Though there were a few super intense people who could just go into a random inversion like it was no big deal.
At the end of the class, I felt very peaceful, happy in my decision to attend.
Then I woke up on Tuesday morning and I was quite sore, which I didn’t expect. On Wednesday, I was even more sore. My hamstrings were burning all day. I now feel bad about my previous preconceived notions about yoga. It is definitely a workout.
So I decided to attend another class last night. This time, my yoga mat had come in from Amazon, and I felt a little bit more confident since I had made it through my first class.
But this instructor was different and boy did she keep it moving. This time, I sweat a lot more. It’s good that this wasn’t my first class. As a runner, though, I liked feeling a bit more active.
There were a few poses that I did have to cut short because certain parts of my body were just too sore. I was trying to stay humble and not be upset if I couldn’t do everything.
This time, my hands and feet were pretty sweaty, so I kept sweating on my mat. I saw that most of the other people had towels to cover their mat, so I’ll have to invest in one of those to avoid the slippage.
This morning I don’t feel too sore, but I’m curious how I will feel tomorrow.
I am really hoping that yoga helps to alleviate some of my Lyme-related joint pain so that I can get back into running. In an ideal world, I’d like to be training for a half marathon, full marathon, or obstacle race, while also doing yoga once or twice a week to improve my flexibility, posture, and strength.
So that was my first (but not last) yoga experience. I am definitely humbled by yoga and I now realize that it is A LOT more than just stretching.