Simple, Sweet and Profound: A Beautiful Little Book on Meditation

As a yoga studio owner, I often receive unsolicited promotional material in the mail.  Everything from food samples, to articles of clothing, to CDs, to yoga props. Most of it I promptly give away.  Every now and then a publisher sends me a book for review.

Unfortunately, the books I receive don’t usually align with the Viniyoga methodology or the yoga teachings I’ve been given. Sometimes they’re yoga related, but I’m just plain not interested in their premise.  So normally I take a quick look at them, then give them to someone else or quickly file them in our lending library, hoping one of my students will appreciate them.

A pretty, tiny book arrived not long ago.  I was in a hurry, so I almost didn’t even look at it. I’m still not sure why I did.  But as I was about to walk it to the community bookshelf, I opened it. I’m glad I did.

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Simple Meditation: A Quick and Easy Guide for Learning to Meditate is a sweet little book, only fifty-eight pages long.  The left side of each is a gorgeous full-color photograph.  On the right, A few words, no more than a hundred or so per page, formatted in a way that reminds me of poetry. The book’s presentation is beautiful, although some of the printing on my copy is blurred, and at times the center-justified formatting bothers me.

What really sold me on this book was how aligned it is with my own ideas about meditation.  It was almost like I wrote it myself.

The first thirty-five pages outline general principles on the hows, whats, and wheres of meditation.  The last twenty outline ten simple meditations any beginner can try.  The techniques cover the spectrum of senses: sound, sight, sensation—smell and taste would be nice additions, but that’s a small quibble—and seven of the ten techniques are ones I’ve taught in my own meditation classes.  My new personal favorite is a sweet little meditation on joyfulness. I just might have to steal for my next New Year’s Day yoga class.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon.com.  I’d say look for it on the studio’s bookshelf, but this one is coming home with me.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Posted in Meditation, Yoga Books | Leave a comment

Ode to a Sunflower

Today I did what I seem to do best lately.  I procrastinated on writing my next novel by taking a silly Internet quiz titled “What Flower Are You?” Evidently, I am a sunflower. Here’s how the grand, all-knowing Internet describes me:

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“You are the eternal optimist, always looking up. Nothing can shake your sweet, happy spirit. Friends enjoy your company because they find your joy contagious.”

Although I’m sure many people would argue with the results, the truth is, I do try to look at the positive in life. And the test reminded me of a blog article I meant to write about a recent dog walk with my husband.

My husband and I walked our dog Tasha to Green Lake about a week ago. Marc and I ambled along the same sidewalk. We were surrounded by the same items. Yet our experiences were significantly different. I took in brightly colored tulips, sweetly scented flowers, the warmth of the sun, and the joy in Tasha’s expression as she explored the fascinating new spring scents. In the same fifteen minutes, my husband noticed a used condom, a discarded, dangerous looking knife, and several piles of un-picked-up dog waste.

Honestly, these differences between Marc and I aren’t all that uncommon. I tend to notice the lighter side of life; he notices the darker. Who is right? The sutras would say neither of us; I say both. Seeing the bright side allows me to have more short-term pleasures in life. Seeing the dark allows Marc to avoid its inevitable sorrow. After all, I was the one who stepped solidly in the middle of the dog waste.

The goal in yoga is to see clearly. To be able to enjoy, without attachment, all of the bright, beautiful, luxurious parts of life while also being conscious of its perils. Together, Marc and I make a fabulous team. Separately, we are both blinded. Through the practice of yoga, I hope to maintain my sunny outlook, while improving my ability to see clearly.

A worthy goal for all of us.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your life, whatever your flower may be.  If you want to find out, here’s the URL to the quiz that I took.

Let me know what flower you are in a comment.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Posted in Gratitude, Yoga Philosophy | 2 Comments

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

A few weeks ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner and more flexible.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for the past fourteen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, Teacher Training, Teaching Yoga, Viniyoga, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Airports, Conventions, and Karma: a Horror Story.

“Above all, be kind.  You have the power to bring someone hope, if only for a moment.”—David Wagner

As some of you know, I recently had a Stephen King-like horror experience traveling to a mystery convention in California. It started with a series of airline errors that left me stranded at the Los Angeles airport and ended with my ticket back home to Seattle accidentally being deleted by the same airline. In between, my luggage was lost, I was unable to sleep due to recurring travel-related nightmares, and I had a still-confusing incident with a fellow writer who I can only describe as the adult version of the “mean girls” I dealt with in high school.

But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about karma. I don’t claim to understand all of the yoga teachings, but I do have a concept of karma. Karma indicates that actions have consequences, not just to others, but to ourselves. Simply put, the law of karma promises that the actions we take in this life will have repercussions in the next.

Who knows if it’s true? As much as I’d love to have a future-life “do-over” to correct my mistakes, I can only say one thing for certain: the kindness of several people stood out this past weekend, and I appreciate them: a baggage claim clerk who went out of his way to explain what had happened to me in LA; a young person who helped an elderly gentleman place his luggage into the overhead compartment on the plane back to Seattle; a TSA employee who treated a Middle Eastern man with kindness and respect when his ID didn’t match his travel documents.

None of this seems major, but it was all yogic, and it was huge to the people it helped. Being kind doesn’t take much.  A smile, a “please sit down and join us,” a “I don’t know what happened, but I’ll try to help.”  The kindness you show others may have repercussions that are more powerful than you will ever realize.

Five authors made my awful weekend a little brighter, simply by making me feel welcome when others did not. There are a gazillion talented writers out there.  Great human beings are harder to come by. I’m already a fan of these authors, and you can bet I’ll be buying more of their books. Please join me.

Has someone made your day a little brighter?  If so, please share the story in a comment!

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, Gratitude, writing, Yoga Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Last Breath

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sarah Smith. Sarah is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our advanced training. She can be contacted at sarahesmith10@yahoo.com

As we all know, the breath is the most important and powerful part of yoga.  There are times when a breath can give us a spiritual experience, such as the first breath of a newborn, the breath that brings someone back to life from a traumatic situation, or even a powerful yoga class.  And then there is the last breath…

On Dec. 15th during our 5 hr. Sunday clinic I heard the thought that my mother is passing away.  Those words kept repeating all through the day and into the next day.

In the past year, my 92 yr. old mother had been experiencing a lot of dizziness, sleeping more and eating less.  We could see that she was disconnecting from life a bit.  In the last few months she was falling more, but never injuring herself.  My 98 yr. old dad was becoming afraid to leave her alone.  My sister Joan lives nearby in So. Cal.

On Friday, Dec. 13th, Mom fell, injuring her arm and head.  The paramedics were called, bandaged her arm and found her head to be fine.  After this incident,  Joan wanted her to move into the downstairs den to make it easier on my dad to take care of her.  Mom can be very resistant to change.  Joan tried bringing visiting nurses in, but Mom cancelled them after one visit.  She was upset that the paramedics had come.

Trying to get her to move downstairs, Joan’s husband Michael had a loving, honest talk with Mom the next day.  Michael has been care taking his mom for 10 yrs. now.  He explained the toll this is taking on Dad.  Mom has never wanted to be a burden on anyone. After this talk she refused to eat or drink water.

On Monday, Dec. 16th, with the help of hospice Mom was moved into a hospital bed in the dining room.  Joan called me that afternoon and I arrived the next morning along with my sister Beth, who lives in Issaquah.  Driving to the airport I told my husband that I felt  she was leaving on Thursday or Friday.

Mom didn’t want to be confined to the bed and was very agitated.  She would try to get up. Hospice showed us how to administer morphine to keep her relaxed.  When the morphine would wear off, she would become agitated.  At those times I gave her another dose and would stroke her forehead, telling her I loved her and that she couldn’t get up, her body was too weak to safely hold her.

For two nights I slept on the couch in the living room watching over her, keeping her relaxed with morphine every two hours.  She always woke up agitated and wanting to get up.  At 2 am on Thurs. I sensed Mom was awake and went in to check on her.  She asked me very calmly, what happened, did I fall?  Yes, you fell and you are in the process of passing away, I told her.  We are giving you your wish to stay in your beautiful house with only family around you.  She replied, you are so kind.

Around 1 pm on Thursday, Joan laid on the couch in the living room, Dad went into the den, Beth went upstairs.  I was also about to go lay down  when I had a feeling.  I grabbed my book and sat with Mom.  40 minutes. later I felt a shift in the room.  I set my book down and watched her.  After about 10 minutes her breathing changed.  It was shallower and there were longer spaces between breaths.  I went and told Joan, this is it.  We gathered around Mom.  At 2:10 pm Dad kissed Mom on her forehead and then she took her last breath.  She had a little smile on her face and she was glowing.  The room was vibrating with such joy and peace that we  just sat there taking it all in, whispering what we were feeling and witnessing.  I said that Mom is teaching us how to die.  Dad said that this is exactly how he wants to go and we promised him we would give him the same experience.

Sarah

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Posted in Breath, Guest Writers, Teacher Training Graduate Stories | Tagged | 1 Comment

Fun Events, Past, Present and Future!

It happens every time.  I wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, convinced that my nightmare will come true: that no one will show up for my book event.  Once again, you all proved me wrong.  We had a GREAT event at Third Place Books last week to celebrate the launch of my series.  Over thirty-five people came, took a fun chair yoga class with Rene de los Santos, listened to me read some of fans’ favorite scenes, and asked questions about my path to publication.  There were even free chocolates, coffee mugs and gift cards.  For those of you who couldn’t join us, here are some photos of the fun!

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Rene warmed up the audience with his smile, energy, and a fun chair yoga practice.

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I read a few of fans’ favorite scenes from the Murder Strikes a Pose

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The audience had some great questions about writing, editing, and some of my favorite mystery series.

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But the best part of all was getting to meet some new fans for the very first time!

And now, it’s time for me to take this show on the road.  My next four events will be out of town.  If you’re nearby or want a road trip of your own, please join me!

March:  Left Coast Crime, Monterrey, CA.  (March 20 – 23) I’ll be doing signings, discussing my book at the new author’s breakfast, and participating on the panel “The Sleuth’s Best Friend.”

April: Village Books, Bellingham, WA.  Sunday, April 13, 4:00 PM.  An afternoon of yoga, dogs and murder!  Local yoga teacher Abby Staten will join me to talk about her work with viniyoga, as well.

May:  Malice Domestic, Bethesda MD. (May 2 -4) I’ll be doing a singing, discussing my book at the new author’s breakfast, and participating on the panel “Taboo:  Author’s Who Tackle Difficult Subject Matter.”

June: Jan’s Paperbacks, Portland, Oregon. Saturday, June 7, 1:00 – 4:00.  Joni Sauer Folger and I will be answering questions about our series and signing books.  We plan to make it a party!  Joni writes mysteries involving wine; I write about dogs and yoga.  Three of my favorite topics all wrapped up into one!

I hope to see some of you there, and thanks again for all of your continuing support!

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, Gratitude, writing | Leave a comment

“Dog Breath” or Kukkura Pranayama

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Today’s guest author  is yoga teacher Amber Polo who writes dog-shifter fantasy to relax readers. “Recovered” (The Shapeshifters’ Library Book 3) is her latest in the series. She’s also known for Relaxing the Writer, a book filled with suggestions to keep your writing and your life in a healthy balance and Relaxing the Writer Relaxation a CD (or MP3 download) a how-to-do in 20-minute relaxation.  She can be contacted at amber@amberpolo.com and http://amberpolo.com/.

As a yoga teacher who specializes in relaxation techniques I’ve taught Kapalabhati, Viloma, Ujjayi, and my favorite Alternate Nostril Breathing (which will help you survive many crises).

As a dog lover I know dogs are great relaxation aids and enrich body, mind, and spirit.

Walk a dog to get your body moving.

Sit and pet a dog to calm you.

Play with a dog to create joy

Here are instructions for a Dog Petting Breathing Technique – Kukkura Pranayama

  • Find a quiet comfortable spot
  • Place hand on dog’s head
  • Inhale
  • Begin to Exhale.
  • Slowly move your hand down the dog’s neck and back while silently counting to three
  • When you reach the end of the dog begin the inhale
  • Repeat

It may take a few breaths to settle the dog and to find your pace. Breathe in with the inhale and out with the exhale. Begin to lengthen both the exhale and the inhale to at least a count of three for each. Let your belly move with your breath. Close your eyes if you wish. Continue as long as necessary.

Your dog will enjoy these breathing practice timeouts as much as treats.

Notes:

Adapting for the size of the dog – Breathing with a Chihuahua will differ from breathing with a Great Dane. For tiny dogs the movement has to be very, very slow. Or alternatively experiment with more than one petting movement on the exhale. Exceptionally large dogs may take more than one breath to complete the journey.

No dog? Borrow one or use this practice with cats, horses, and other warm blooded pets (or a human friend.).

Enjoy and Keep Petting!

Amber Polo

Find RECOVERED on Amazon! 

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Posted in Breath, dogs, Guest Writers | Leave a comment

Research Proves It! Yoga Helps Lower Fatigue and Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors

I doubt many of you know this, but before I opened Whole Life Yoga, I taught yoga classes to women in all stages of cancer recovery through Team Survivor Northwest.  Some of my classes were taught in English; others through a Spanish language interpreter.  Some of my students were currently undergoing treatment; others had been cancer-free for years. But in all cases I was impressed by the resiliency, joy, and courage I saw in my students.

I knew, deep down inside, that yoga helped my students. Now I have research to back me up. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser—professer of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University—followed two hundred breast cancer survivors. Some of the women participated in ninety-minute Hatha yoga classes two times a week for twelve weeks.  The rest (the control group) were wait-listed for the same class.  All participants were new to yoga, and students were encouraged to practice with DVDs at home.

The practitioners were diverse. Participants ranged in age from twenty-seven to seventy-six, were diagnosed with breast cancer staged 0 – 3A, and were two months to three years past their latest treatment.  The results were impressive:

  • Yoga practitioners had fifty-seven percent less fatigue than the non-yoga group.
  • Inflammation-related blood proteins were twenty percent lower in the yoga group than the non-yoga group.

The researchers were surprised, because similar results have not been seen with studies of other types of exercise.  They now believe that the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga are especially impactful, which is great news for Viniyoga practitioners.  Viniyoga focuses on the connection of body, breath and mind, making it especially breath and meditation-focused. 

The researchers believe that yoga might have similar benefits with other groups of people who suffer from fatigue and inflammation, including patients suffering from coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

All of this just goes to show what I’ve known all along. Yoga works!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Posted in Asana, Breath, Meditation, Therapeutic Yoga, Viniyoga, Yoga Research | 1 Comment

Wanting it all, Getting away from it all … And finding my center: An indie-folk musician’s yoga journey

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Mary Bue. Mary is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at marybue@gmail.com

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I’ve always wanted to be a rock star.  In high school I bought an electric guitar with a hot pink strap.  I’d sit in my bedroom writing songs dripping with adolescent poetry. In the midst of this rock star fantasy,  I found a short yoga practice in a teen magazine and started incorporating simple practices into my 15 year old life.  

Eventually I had my own gigs, recorded and took my music on the road (leading to four CDs and performing in 38 states) .  Yoga has been a parallel path.  It helped to soothe my nerves and assisted in “keeping it all together” in this one-woman-band enterprise.  

In Minneapolis years later,  I was working with a booking agent to plan my tours – a dream come true.  I’m not sure if it was Minnesota’s winter that made me lose my cool, a relationship ending or fear of putting my heart on the line – but on NYE of ’07,  I made the decision to leave it all behind.  Indie artist responsibility, insecurity of not being good/talented/cool enough, desire of getting what I hoped but not feeling like I deserved it – all inner signs pointed to running.  

Months later I moved to Seattle.  I met my teacher – Tracy Weber at Whole Life Yoga.  Music took the back burner while I delved into my 200 hour teacher training.  

As Viniyoga’s breath-centered asana began to penetrate my cells, it started to soothe my being.  Looking back, the move was stressful.  Things got worse before they got better as I moved deeper into the process of  “going internal.” I was healing myself.  I spent three years studying at Whole Life Yoga. 

Yet, I started to feel the siren’s call of music.  And what a better place to pursue it than the city where I got my start – Duluth, Minnesota.  Again, I chose to leave it all behind and follow my heart’s desire.  

This brings us to NOW.  Depths of winter.  Too often, it is 20 below zero. The mind starts rattling.  I want to get away from it all.  My home morning practice has become paramount to my sanity.  I start looking into 500 hour yoga teacher training programs,  feeling called to learn & evolve.  My teacher is already in the thick of her training. I research other programs and eventually settle on Gary Kraftsow’s in California.  In talks with the student advisor, she kindly offers the possibility of work study.  I am pumped; I am filling out applications;  I am … CRYING EVERY DAY.  

Finally, after weeks of turmoil,  I reach out to Dona (student advisor) and Tracy who had given her blessing for further study.  I say that I must devote myself to music and give it the focus it deserves.  In healing words, they offered me two great gifts:  Time and the root of yoga: Union. 

Tracy: “Mary, you have a very long life ahead of you and nothing is in your way from doing the training when the TIMING IS RIGHT.”  Dona: “You are STILL DOING YOGA as you share this gift from a place of great awareness.”  

With a blown mind,  I am off to practice the guitar … and simultaneously practice yoga.  

May you carry your yoga practice with you and find it – with great awareness – in all that you do.  

Mary

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

Posted in Gratitude, Guest Writers, Teacher Training Graduate Stories | 3 Comments

Persevering Practice: It Isn’t Just Yoga

This week I had the honor of being a guest writer on Jungle Red Writers. I chose to write about yoga and writing.  Whenever I combine those two words, two more come to mind: persevering practice.

But persevering practice doesn’t just apply to yoga. It applies to any activity done mindfully, over time, without interruption, with enthusiasm, and without attachment to results. When I wrote the article, I asked my yoga teacher training graduates to share some of their favorite non-yoga persevering practices. Here are four answers, along with the photos my students sent to illustrate them.

I’m sorry that the photos didn’t make Jungle Red (they primarily used their own stock photos), but I hope you will read the article. Please know how much I appreciate the support of each of my students, including these lovely four ladies.

Mary Bue, whose persevering practice is singing and songwriting. Mary is truly a talent, and I plan to post a guest post from her soon!

Marcie Leek, who uses knitting, both as a mindfulness practice and to connect with others.

Sharon Gillette, who hand raises chickens at her home in Issaquah. Attending to their needs takes daily effort and mindful dedication to their well-being.

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Cheryle Rivers, whose love of gardening not only provides persevering practice, but also nurtures others.

Thank you, ladies, for providing these photos.

To each of you reading this article, whatever your own personal practice may be, persevere.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Posted in Gratitude, writing, Yoga Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment