Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Eagle Creek Adventure Report

This post originally appeared back in 2008.  Enjoy...

Hey Guys,

FINALLY!!!! It was a lengthy, slow process, yet I was finally able to post some pictures from last Sunday's Eagle Creek Adventure.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here are several thousand words which summarize the fun, fitness, and fellowship of our Adventure. If you were on the fence about joining us and didn't go for it, I'm truly sorry as you missed one of, if not the best Adventures to date. Don't let another one slip by without doing all you can to participate. Remember, these Adventure's are not races, they are appropriate for all fitness levels. All you need is an Adventurous spirit, a willingness to let go of your fears and "No Excuses!"

Hope to see you at our next Adventure, which if all works out will be early October. Stay tuned for announcements and dates and feel free to share your suggestions and ideas for upcoming Adventures; I plan to do them through the winter as well.

In Peace,

The group "before" getting sweating, dusty, and blissed out from the Adventure.

Unleash the hounds! The Adventure begins...

One of the bonus obstacles/challenges along the way. Here, Margaret makes it look easy.

John "Johan" Singleton showing excellent trail running form. You'd never know he's a cyclist : -), that's the beauty of cross-training and yoga. Going into the turn, notice his proper head tilt and leading from his pelvis/heart? Great stuff...

Alison cranks 'em out!

Yup, we even did some abs...

And more abs...

And did I mention pull ups..?

I really liked this "action" shot taken on a section of single track.

That's ultra-fit Kyle Rush doing his impersonation of "Tarzan"

It wouldn't be the same without some plyos in the mix
See, it can't be all that bad if they are smiling.
Oh and were there some hills! Some took the stairs, some charged up the trail instead. No escalators around these parts...

Project Test Pilot, "Big Daddy" Matt has become a born-again athlete (former cheerleader at U of K). That's fellow Test Pilot, Linda right on his heels.

Though all too short, this section was/is my favorite on the Adventure. Running through the reeds, nice soft single track, which winds along the resevoir shore line.

Post hike/run yoga session. Sooo nice for the hips.

Real Warriors of the body, mind, and spirit!
Jen feelin' it after the run. Though, I think Jen was acting here. Acting is her profession, so it's kinda hard to tell : -)

The dynamic duo. Pam, right, was the hero of the day in more ways than one. Great job Loretta!

A great view from the deck of the Peace Learning Center

Healthful post-Adventure treats!

One of our pit-stops along the route, a chance to take in the wonders and beauty that is offered at Eagle Creek Park

John doing what he says he does best... chillin'. John made the Eagle Creek Adventure a part of his own personal Adventure as he rode his bike to and from Eagle Creek, which made for an additional 2 hours of fun! Way to go John!

Y'all come back now, ya hear...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gratitude, Conviction, and the Perils of Comfort

Monday morning as I settled in for my devotions I was really hit with a sense of gratitude.  In light of the tornadoes that passed through Indiana on Sunday, leaving devastation in their wake, I thought of all those without electricity, without water, without a home, without their loved ones.  I, on the other hand, sat with hot cup of coffee in my hand; home intact.  The dishwasher was running in the background, my loved ones were safe and asleep in their comfortable bed.  Our refrigerator and pantry were both stocked with an abundance of food.  I truly lack nothing.  What a contrast.

Yet, I didn't feel just a sense of thankfulness for all I have and a sense of loss for others and for those who suffer on a daily basis.  I also felt convicted because of my life of such extreme comfort and ease.  I live in luxury when compared to many who might live in poverty, without enough food, who suffer with chronic physical, mental, or emotional pain.  I wondered if the life I'm living, this life of ease, is really what Jesus had in mind when he preached to his Disciples.  I wondered if I wasn't more like the man who walked away after Jesus told him to go and sell everything and then, "come, follow me".   How attached am I to my life of comfort and ease? 

Matthew 19 NIV:
21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

I'm not saying this in a "Eat everything on your plate!  Don't you know there are starving children that would give anything to have that food!", shame inducing way.  I'm saying this in a  "Man, my needs are met and exceeded.  My life is blessed!  Who am I to complain about the stress in my life?  Who am I to complain about work?  Who am I to complain about my 'first world' problems?  Who am I to think that my life is somehow hard or a struggle?"  What a joke! 

So much of our suffering, our stress, our worries, and our pain is self inflicted.  Most of us have our basic needs met.  We have the time and luxury to be stressed about the things that stress us out - Shuttling our kids to all their activities and appointments.  Getting to the grocery store and still having time to make it to the gym before we need to be home for dinner.  Worrying about our cable being out during the football game.  Concern for getting a promotion at work, making a big sale or excelling in our career.  Worry over getting a newer, bigger, vehicle or keeping up with the latest beauty and fashion trend.  It's really no wonder we are a nation where many struggle with our compulsions and dysfunctions to the degree that we do.

When our needs are met, surpassed and in excess, we really don't have to rely on a Higher Power to get through our day or to get through our life.  Our comfort and ease becomes a stumbling block in our spiritual journey.  How much harder is it to develop a life of complete surrender and dependence on God when, in our mind, the only things we have to pray about is for our sports team to win, for a new job or promotion, for a relationship to work out in our favor, for God to relieve our "stress".  Is life really that stressful?  Are we focused on what we should be focused on?  Are we getting tripped up not because of our life, but in spite of our life?  Are we trusting and relying on the "I" rather than in the "I AM"? 

For the past 15+ years I have used physical training as part of my path for spiritual transformation.  Rather than just working out, I make an effort to use my training in the gym, the mat, the trail to gain insight and to help erase my own attachment to comfort and ease.  I use my daily life and physical practice as an aid in cultivating my relationship with God and reliance on Him.  I've found this to be an excellent arena for spiritual training.  How do I react when a workout becomes difficult?  Can I be peaceful and calm when the physical pain is pushing my brain to stop?  What do I learn in those moments that I find it more appealing to stay on the couch rather than attend to my practice?  Do I learn to rely on the Lord in these moments and not my own capacity?  Can I learn to surrender to the I AM and not my limited abilities and understanding?  Life can be hard so the intention isn't to make it harder or to somehow increase your suffering as though there were merit in that concept.  The intention is to create an environment where you get out of comfort and ease to learn about who you are, who you are not, and to connect with and completely trust in something bigger than yourself.  

Rather than compartmentalizing things in such a way that some of our activities relate to our spiritual practice and others seemingly do not relate, realize the connection and ways that you can link them together.  Use my example if you engage in a physical practice of some sort and make it part of your spiritual training.  Be mindful, prayerful and grateful when you are cleaning your home.  Can you bring your reliance on God into your work, into your relationships and even into your hobbies?  As a former teacher of mine, Steve Ilg, used to say - "Life is practice.  Practice is life.  There is no separation."

Peace and Gratitude,

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga, Part 2

My previous post "Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga" currently has almost 600 views. I've exchanged nearly 50 emails, Facebook comments, messages and phone calls regarding the post.  I have also met with some of my former students and yoga teachers who wanted to talk more about my post and my experience.   I've been blogging off and on since 2005 and this is more views, comments, and "conversation" than anything I've ever posted.  On a very small scale, my post has struck a chord and hopefully started conversations that I feel need to be taking place.  I am humbled by the reach of what I have shared and am inspired to continue to share with others what my experience has been, what my path and study has been and why I have come to the conclusions I have reached.  Yet, I am finding that a couple things from my previous post should be revisited before moving forward in any way.  To help clarify, what I am sharing here is based on messages I've already exchanged as I feel it also serves well in this context.   

I have removed the video which I originally posted and I apologize to those who found it offensive, that was not my intention.  While I still agree with points found in the video, it was not an "ideal" depiction of what I wanted to say and the message of the video was taking away from my point and only provoking people rather than shining the light on what I should have been sharing; my personal experience and message.  That said, to anyone who watched the video and felt offended or provoked, I would encourage you to explore why you felt that way and why you reacted the way you did.   

Based on the majority of messages and feedback I've received, what I feel needs to be revisited and clarified the most is the base motivation as to why I stopped teaching yoga.  So, I'd like to make it abundantly clear before I move forward with anything else.  I also want to make it abundantly clear that these are just my personal observations, experiences, and conclusions.  I'm not suggesting that what I am saying is what is true for anyone else, I just know that it is true for me.  So, with those disclaimers, here goes...

For me personally, my greatest concern and point has primarily been about teaching "yoga" to others versus "concerns regarding being a Christian and doing yoga" as was emailed to me and stated by others who contacted me.  There is a huge difference between these two perceptions and I feel it changes the conversation in a big way.  While I might be able to sort things out for myself and how "yoga" relates to me and my personal Faith (though this has actually been hard for me over the years and I don't currently have a formal "yoga" practice), I have yet to find a way to feel content with teaching it to others; this is especially true when we move beyond the asana (yoga postures) practice and into other aspects of yoga.  And there is a big difference and distinction that could be addressed at another time, which is the distinction between doing "yoga" as exercise" and actual yoga and if it's just "yoga for exercise", why even call it yoga, because at that point, is it even yoga?  Again, that is something best addressed separately, but something I feel people should be contemplating.  

I have been a follower of Jesus for 13 years, yet I still find that I am easily distracted from my path when I expose myself to other influences such as those found with yoga and the study of texts such as The Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and other Vedic texts all of which are a part of the basis of what is called "yoga" and it shapes the thinking in yoga and how yoga is taught, even here in the U.S:  As I mentioned in my previous post, some of these texts were part of the 500 hour teacher training curriculum for the Yoga Alliance program and as I was revisiting them to brush up on the information for the upcoming program, I was reminded of how often I have allowed these other ideas and concepts to cloud my thinking, and to do so in a way that doesn't align with my personal beliefs about God, humans, and the Universe.  While I respect other religions, beliefs, sacred writings and faith or lack thereof, I couldn't teach this stuff to others and encourage them to study it. I have yet to come to a place where I feel content teaching "yoga", rather I was feeling very convicted. 

As a yoga teacher, my personal experience is that while some of my students attend my classes for a physical workout or to release stress and tension, many more of my students are spiritual seekers and they come to my class to deepen their spiritual walk. Often they continue on to attend yoga teacher training and then presume teaching it to others.  I personally feel that the information, beliefs, and conclusions they are getting are not what I have personally found to be true in my own life.  Obviously this isn't the case with all my students, yet, for me, it was becoming a burden that I didn't want to carry anymore.  Luke 17:1-2 says, "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a milestone tied around their neck than to cause one of my little ones to stumble."  Wow, that's some heavy stuff, right?  No pun intended.  I don't expect (or suggest) others to feel the same way that I do and I know that many would dispute the verse I've quoted and perhaps suggest that it doesn't relate to something like yoga.  All I can say is that this is my personal conviction and how I feel in this moment. I trust others will respect my stance. 

I've had conversations with others of faith who do yoga and I respect that they have found a way to practice yoga and teach yoga where they feel it does not conflict with their faith.  I understand that some feel they can potentially deepen their faith through their experience with yoga, yet I am not of that mind and heart, especially with the influencing factors that exist in the yoga "community". 

Presently, I have found a way for me to move my body in a mindful way and sometimes this may include a position, stretch or flow that one might call a "yoga" pose and I continue to integrate other forms of exercise, strength & conditioning, cardio, and a meditation/prayer practice that works for me.  My practice serves my health, reduces stress, focuses my mind, and helps me to feel closer to my Creator and I am content as I don't feel it conflicts with anything that I have stated here or in my previous post.   

As for teaching, aside from the CrossFit classes I teach at my gym I also teach what I call "Movement & Mobility", which integrates all sorts of things from stretching, joint mobility flows, and even occasionally bringing in myofascial release tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls. This format gives me complete freedom to make a session whatever I want it to be. I also find that, from a physical perspective, it's actually more effective and beneficial than what I was teaching in a yoga class.  Secondarily, when people show up for a "yoga class", they come with some sort of preconceived idea of what it should be or an expectation and in this format that doesn't happen as there are no expectations.  I feel this approach also is more inclusive as not everyone is interested in coming to a "yoga class"; either they are are not into doing yoga, they are too macho for yoga, or they feel yoga conflicts with their faith or beliefs.  This format has truly opened the doors and it has expanded my horizons when it comes to leading a session. 

I'm certainly not looking to beat people over the head with my beliefs and the conclusions I've come to regarding the traditional path of yoga and what I see is being taught on a large scale.  Yet I also don't feel content teaching others about yoga and seeing what I'm seeing in the yoga community.  If you disagree with me, that is cool with me.  My intention is not to create conflict, controversy, to shame others, or to bring attention to "me".  My intention is to just share my personal experience in hopes that it may benefit others.  If anyone wants to know more, I'm happy to share.  Thus far I have responded to every email, Facebook message, and phone call that has come my way and I have met with anyone who has asked to meet.  My intention is to continue serving and loving others which is what I've attempted to do, however poorly, for the past 20 years as a fitness professional and the past 14 years as a yoga instructor. 


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga

In April (2013) I made the decision to stop teaching yoga and shortly thereafter taught my last class.  Since then I have also stepped down from co-teaching a 500 hour yoga teacher training program, cancelled my upcoming yoga workshops, a yoga trip to Costa Rica, and left the yoga teaching world behind.  While it has only been a few weeks since teaching my last class, this decision was years in the making and the impact on my life has been pretty substantial both personally, professionally, financially, and spiritually.  In many respects it's a long story, as such, I may offer future posts to further elaborate on my experience and my decision.  I do plan to share some of the resources which will help shed more light on my beliefs and how yoga conflicts with those beliefs.  My goal is to help others better understand my decision and what brought me to the conclusions that I have come to, and to better inform and equip others to make the decision that is right for them.  I know others have similar questions, conflicts, and struggles that I have been through and I want to be a resource for those who may be in that same boat.  I cannot speak for you and answer what is the right decision for you.  I can only speak for myself and what God has pressed on my mind and my heart.  Yet, I would ask those of you who have followed me as a yoga teacher or who have been lead here to deeply contemplate what I am sharing and to really take it to heart.  If you have considered me a "teacher", please consider this a "teaching" as well.

I feel an obligation to my former students (many are yoga teachers), to offer a more complete explanation and even support to those of you who are struggling with the recent changes.  I know that my decision affected many and has left some of my former students and fellow teachers questioning if they should continue with yoga, or if they too should stop.  I've received many emails and messages confirming this fact.  While I have had the opportunity to talk with a couple of my students and offer a more in depth explanation, I feel this is another avenue to share what I have to say and possibly a forum for others to ask their questions, share their thought/experiences, vent their feelings or seek help and support.  I also wanted to leave this an open ended "conversation" and a place for me to continue sharing resources, videos and podcasts, and other media which further shines the light on what I have found to be true for me. 

For those who many not know me, let me share a little about my experience with yoga.  I started doing yoga around 1998 as a way to round out my fitness training but also as a vehicle for mental and spiritual transformation.  I started teaching yoga to others in late 1999 and completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training in 2000.  At the time I quit teaching yoga, I was a full time yoga teacher and fitness/wellness coach and yoga was a substantial part of my income; I was not simply teaching yoga as a hobby, or as a side income.  I've taught over 10,000 hours of classes, workshops, clinics, and teacher training sessions.  Many of my students were long time practitioners and yoga teachers.  All ego aside, I was one of the the most experienced yoga teachers in the Indianapolis area.  At one point in time, my wife and I owned a yoga studio.  I've lead yoga trips and sold yoga CD's.  I've been a "teacher of teachers" and at the time I quit teaching, I was preparing to co-teach a 500 hour yoga teacher training program.  The point being -I feel I am qualified to write and talk about the things I am going to share with you.  I have delved deeply into yoga (many styles and traditions), Eastern religion and philosophy, mediation (many styles and traditions), and the New Age.  I have spent a great deal of time, energy, money, and effort, and have sacrificed much in the name of "yoga".  While I am by no means a yoga scholar, I am by no means someone who lacks the credentials or experience to write on this topic.  I also want to make it known that from a financial and professional standpoint, I had FAR more to gain by continuing to teach yoga than to stop teaching yoga. 

When I announced to my students that I was going to stop teaching yoga, the primary reason I gave was that I wanted to free up time in my personal life for my family, that the gym I own needed more of my time and for "spiritual reasons".  While this was accurate, it was the proverbial "tip of the iceberg".  The fact is, the over-riding reason I have stopped teaching yoga is for spiritual reasons.  For years my family has sacrificed in countless ways and and my gym has made due without my undivided attention for almost four years, so I'm confident that both would continue to make due with me teaching yoga.  Yet, as a Christian, I could no longer justify teaching yoga and that is what ultimately led to my decision.

I was raised Catholic and in April of 2000, I was "born again" and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Savior.  Being a "young Christian" and a "young yoga student/teacher", I was able to make it okay in my mind to teach yoga.  I looked at yoga as "only exercise", and when it came to the philosophy and religious aspects of yoga, I viewed them as tools to help me in my Christian walk and figured I could just leave out the things I was learning and experiencing which were clearly in conflict with my Christian values and beliefs.  Often, I would put a "Christian spin" on things to make it okay in my mind.  As a teacher I justified how these things might effect my students and their spiritual life - I figured they would sort it out the same way I did, or that it was between them and God (if they even believed in God); it wasn't on me.  Over time, my teaching style and core theme of most classes was about the physical practice and being "mindful" while leaving out many of the metaphysical aspects and traditional yoga messages and themes.

As I deepened my Bible study and relationship with Jesus, I struggled with what I was learning and teaching in yoga, yet continued to make it work.  In an interesting turn of events, I was able to extend the longevity of teaching yoga by learning more about "Christian Mysticism", and Christian authors and priest's such as St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, the Centering Prayer and Contemplative Prayer movements and even "Christian Zen".  I read books like, "Putting on the Mind of Christ"by, Jim Marion (a side note, on, one of the subcategories for this book is "occult").  Yet, I learned that all of this, yoga included, was a deception.  Christian mysticism and yoga were leading me and my students further away from what I feel is the Truth (Jesus' love and salvation), not closer. 

At the time of these recent revelations, an opportunity to co-teach a 500 hour yoga teacher training program came along.  As the course curriculum began to take shape, I began to feel a great deal of internal friction about teaching the philosophical aspects of yoga and it's Hindu roots and traditions, chanting, yoga rituals, and the yoga perspective of God, salvation/liberation, and the workings of the human mind, body, and spirit.  During my preparations for the 500 hour training, I came across writings as well as videos on YouTube from yoga scholars from India.  What I was learning only deepened my convictions and what I knew to be true in my heart.  As one scholar clearly stated, "There is no yoga without Hinduism and there is no Hinduism without yoga.  They are one and the same".  I heard this stated by more than one source and it is an inescapable truth when it comes to yoga, even if one is simply practicing the asana's (yoga postures), these too are rooted in the Hindu religion.   

As I contemplated the idea of moving forward with teaching yoga and teaching the 500 hour program, I realized that I could not train a group of people in something that I didn't believe in and something I was actually quite opposed to.  Over the years, many of my yoga students have gone on to delve deeper into yoga and have also become yoga teachers and I felt responsible for their decision and direction.  All of this was just too much responsibility for me to continue to bear so it was time for me to leave yoga.  

Personally, I've found the philosophies of yoga and beliefs are false, deceptive, and misleading to the practitioner.  While I may elaborate on this in the future, yet what I will say here is that nothing in yoga has brought me true inner peace and certainly has done nothing for my salvation.  On the other hand, my relationship with Jesus is the only thing that has ever brought me true, long lasting, unshakeable peace, a fulfilled heart, and a hope for an eternal life after death in the presence of God the creator.  I believe that my faith in Jesus frees me from eternal suffering, or "samsara" (as it's known in yoga terms) and that there are no yoga techniques, secret teachings or advanced practices that can ever bring that same freedom.  After 14 years of yoga, that is my conclusion.  I would also tell my students that if at any time you felt a sense of peace and love as a result of practicing with me, it was the love of Jesus working through me and had nothing at all to do with yoga.   

Does doing a few yoga poses make my body feel more supple, flexible, and relaxed?  Certainly!  Yet, so do other forms of exercise, stretching and mobility.  A peaceful walk or run through the woods provides me the same temporary calm and peace that doing yoga provided me, so why would I want to engage in practices that I believe hold the potential to do harm to ones spiritual self?  I personally could not separate yoga as "exercise" and yoga as a philosophical belief system and a religious path and I could no longer condone, teach, and promote a practice and system that I didn't believe in - thus, my decision to stop practicing and teaching yoga.

While I know my testimony may be of benefit and value to some, for others it may trigger negative reactions, confusion, defensive feelings, ridicule, and it may even provoke you to distance yourself from me, "un-friend" me on Facebook, or cast judgement.  While I hope this isn't the case, I accept that this may be the case.  I do hope that others will continue to visit this blog and read what I have to share - not just Christians, but all who are interested or may benefit.

If you have questions for me or would like to discuss this with me in ANY way (even if you think I'm totally wrong or disagree with me... especially if you think I'm totally wrong or disagree with me!), please feel free to email me at or post in the "comments" section here.  If you find you are also wresting with similar questions or concerns of your own, please reach out to me.  Let's talk!

In future posts I will continue to offer more insight into my decision as well as answer some of the questions that have been sent to me in hopes that my experience may help others.  Until then, I would encourage those interested to watch the below video.

EDIT:  The video originally posted has been removed.  My concern is that while I feel there were some very valid points in the video, it was a huge distraction from what I was attempting to convey.    

Be Well,