Playing with your Practice

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Katie West. Katie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our 500-hour program. She can be contacted at vinikatie@gmail.com.

To be completely frank, I scoffed a little the first time Tracy told us we should try to play with our yoga practice at home. Let’s be real, yoga has a million benefits, but it can be hard. Yoga gives us the tools to control the random fluctuations in our minds, so we can learn to recognize our physical, mental or emotional pains- this is very difficult. Finding a FUN way to do that and to accept these wide ranges of feelings is even more difficult.

You could say I “tried out” many things, but I never really knew what it was like to truly play with my practice and make it fun, until I started teaching yoga to kids.

In the first stages of putting together sequences for my kids’ series, I ran into many obstacles. I thought by combining my love for teaching and children, sequences would be a breeze to create, but as exciting as it was to create the classes, I kept finding myself frustrated and a little stuck on my next moves. I was used to a very different type of yoga instruction and personal practice. I found that you have to relate yoga teachings to the daily lives of children, intriguing them with things that interest them. You cannot do this without building a relationship with them. You have to be energetic, flexible, compassionate and open to everything.

In children’s yoga, we go on adventures—in our minds and in the studio. We use only positive words and intentions. We honor our bodies, minds and emotions including those of our yogi friends. We practice asana (movement), pranayama (breath) and meditation. We practice the same things we would in a normal yoga class, but may use bubbles, blow outs, breathing buddies, or go out into the jungle and become lions, elephants or giraffes- roaring, dipping into water holes and reaching to the tippy tops of trees. We build relationships and trust within ourselves and others while being silly and learning how to listen to our bodies. It truly gives the kids a chance to be themselves with a sense of wholeness and happiness- which is what yoga is all about, regardless of age.

Creating and teaching these classes have made me more flexible, mentally and emotionally, than any of my other practices have. I learn so much about myself and the kids by being creative, enjoying and yes, roaring like a lion as loud as I can.

Katie

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Asana, Guest Writers, kids yoga, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Teaching Yoga | 1 Comment

Confessions From a Yoga Teacher

kristenThis week’s blog entry was written by guest author Kristen Nelson. Kristen is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at islandgabby@whidbey.com.

Back in grad school, I read the book The Courage To Teach, by Parker J. Palmer.   To quote from his book, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”  I firmly believe, that being ourselves makes us better at teaching but can also play on our insecurities.  You will never be able to serve all of your students, but if you’re like me, you’ll certainly torture yourself over why you can’t, or why they chose that other yoga studio, or class, or instructor.

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to get up in front of people, perfect strangers, find connection, while being authentic-just be yourself, right? It’s easier to be yourself though, when you’re prepared.  Sure, we carve out adequate time for planning the perfect sequence, even though we know it doesn’t exist.  We’ll make time to do the practice AND meditate before class begins. Yes, totally zoned out, prepared, with options for every kind of student-you know it’s a fantasy.

Another insecurity- teaching the class with low numbers. Yeah, you know that class.  Ok, this is hard for me to say, I’m the teacher of that class.  This can send one into a tizzy of second guessing  one’s ability, choice in lineage, and just feeling like I’ve done something wrong, I know I have.  Yes, I want to say, “I teach that yoga called Smart Yoga, oh you haven’t heard of it?”

The other insecurity, your students know way more than you.  I had a student suggest I try more of a ‘dance style’ yoga, which is ‘so much fun’, or ‘hot yoga’ because ‘it really is a good work out.’  The whopper though, that cut to the depth of humiliation- my Yoga For Depression series. Guess what?  NO ONE came. Yep.   I don’t consider myself a depressed person, but after that, really?

But let’s end on a positive note. A few years ago I created a yoga event for the winter solstice.  The first year I had three people.  I felt a small pang of regret, mainly because I had far exceeded my candle budget.  The following year I had a friend visiting me and I was psyched because she was coming to the class.  I joked she might be the only one there, but that might be awkward, so we made a backup plan-dinner.  As my friend helped me light the thirty-some candles, people started to walk through the door and continued to fill the studio to MAXIMUM capacity.  I tried to look cool, looking   as if my classes are always brimming.  But honestly, I wanted to cry, and not necessarily because people were showing up, but because I felt like my hard work had finally paid off.  Hard work and a ton of heart behind the intention. My intention that night-to share and give. That’s it.   See, you learn from experience. Don’t give up. And don’t let those insecurities get the best of you.  Even if you have one student in your life , just one, you’ve made an impact.  At the end of the day, those nerves, those insecurities, serve a purpose.  If we get too comfortable, god forbid, too overly confident, we are not serving our students, because it’s about them, not about us.  Sometimes we’re not sure why we teach, we just feel we need to, more than a want to-and that takes courage.

Kristen

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Guest Writers, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Teaching Yoga | Leave a comment

It’s a Blogiday Top Five!

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of the holiday, I’m taking a blogiday, of sorts.  I’m dedicating today’s blog to the top five posts on Whole Life Yoga’s blog since its inception almost three and a half years ago!  These are the number of times an individual clicked on the link to that specific post, not counting anyone who arrived at it from the home page.

So…Here they are, for those of you who missed them

The Whole Life Yoga top 5: (Click on the link to read the specific article)

What do I take from this?  People obviously want to reduce their midsection, and as I’ve always said, “knees always win.”  I’m excited that numbers three and four were more esoteric posts that go beyond asana.  And #5?  Well, who doesn’t like Cat Pose?

Thanks for your support the last over three years, keep reading, and I hope the posts have helped you.

If you like the blog, please keep reading and tell your friends.  And send me questions or ideas to write about. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with two weekly blogs (this and Killer Hobbies) and the many guest appearances I do on other blogs.  I do Whole Life Yoga’s blog because I hope it helps people. Help me keep the momentum!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Posted in Asana, Student Questions, Therapeutic Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yoga Studios Fact and Fiction

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been invited to blog on the fourth Monday of every month at Inkspot, the blog for authors of my publisher, Midnight Ink.  Whole Life Yoga blog posts on those dates will link to those posts.  Topics will include yoga, dogs, writing, and murder.

The first article compares my fictional yoga studio, Serenity Yoga, to my real one, Whole Life Yoga.  Check it out. And if you’re a reader and a student, let me know what other similarities and differences you’ve noticed!

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2014/08/yoga-studios-fact-and-fiction.html

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, writing, Yoga Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Want to Strengthen Your Core? Start with the Breath

DSC_12188_edited_6

Most people think of crunches or even Navasana (Boat Pose) as the holy grail of yoga core strengtheners.  But what if you could strengthen your abdominal muscles simply by breathing?

You can!

This simple exercise strengthens the girdling muscles that stabilize the lower back and pelvis. You can do the motion with every breath in your yoga practice, but I like to teach it lying on the floor, where you can more easily feel the motion of the spine and you aren’t distracted by other movements.  Give it a try for 5 minutes each day.  You’ll notice the difference. Your abs may even talk to you the next day!

  1. Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Notice how this position flattens your lower back curve.
  2. Place your palms on your belly.
  3. As you inhale, allow your belly to soften.
  4. As you exhale, imagine that you are closing the zipper on a too-tight pair of jeans. Pull in your belly starting at the bottom (the pubic bone) and contract upward toward the bottom of your ribs. You might feel your belly hollow out and your lower back press toward the floor.
  5. On the following inhale, imagine that you are breathing in from your collar bones down. Keep your belly pulled in strongly for the first half of the inhale, and then slowly allow it to relax in the second half.
  6. With each following exhale, close the zipper again.

Hints:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, make the abdominal contraction on exhale about a 6.  Strong enough to feel the muscles, not so strong that you feel breathless or tired.
  • Relax the rest of your body.  In particular, notice any tension that builds in your neck, shoulders, jaw, and arms, and consciously release it.
  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual when lying on your back, try it seated crossed-legged on the floor or in a chair.
  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual without movement,  integrate it into every breath of your asana practice.

Enjoy, and happy practicing!

Tracy Weber

A Killer RetreatCome visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

Posted in Asana, Therapeutic Yoga, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Competition to Compassion

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Daniela Maurie. Daniela is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour teacher training, and a student in our current advanced training. Besides yoga & dance, she is an avid animal advocate who frequently does yoga practices with her constant canine companion, Chai. Daniela can be contacted at danielamaurie@gmail.com.

I came to Viniyoga from the professional, competitive dance world. My self-worth was entirely based on my ability to be the best – the fastest, the smoothest, the prettiest, the best body, the most precise, entertaining, flexible, expressive, artistic, etc., ad infinitum. There was no such thing as enough. I was always striving to be better, to improve something. Well, everything, actually. And while I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with striving for improvement, basing my value in the ability to achieve perfection was a fruitless, empty, and damaging trip to take.

Back and knee injuries ended my full-time dance career. I needed to find another profession that would keep me active and challenged, without breaking my body any further. That need was what brought me to yoga. I remember clearly my first night of Yoga Teacher Training. I was an insecure dancer who thought she had something to prove. I walked in to the program with many years of experience, but little understanding. I expected yoga to be another endeavor where being the best was what mattered. As I said, loads of experience, zero understanding.

Little by little, attending Yoga Teacher Training week after week, taking classes, and listening to my fellow yogis, I began to understand, yoga is not a competition, not even with myself. On any given day, I may or may not be able to maintain the form and balance required of warrior III. On any given day, I may or may not be able to complete a pranayama practice at my maximum breath threshold. On any given day, I may or may not have the focus to do a meditation. But on any given day, on every given day, I can accept wherever I am at, and whatever I am feeling. Through Viniyoga, I have learned compassion for myself, something I never knew as a dancer. I can now accept my imperfections, and not only accept them but celebrate them as part of this whole, wild, human experience. That hunger to be the best has been replaced with a deep and abiding desire to be authentic. That is the best I can be. Real.

I still dance, both socially and professionally. It is my oldest passion, one I am very grateful for, and doubtful will ever change. What has changed, though, is my ability to divorce my self-worth from my ability to perform, whether I am performing an Argentine tango or downward facing dog. There is no best in yoga, or life. There is only where I authentically am, right here, right now. And that is always perfect.

Daniela

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Asana, Guest Writers, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Viniyoga | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Time off, Blog Tours, and the Uniqueness of Viniyoga

As many of you know, I’m on a five-week-long sabbatical from teaching yoga.  This isn’t a vacation—it’s a chance to devote myself to my writing. You see, writing a book (or books!) is only the first step.  Right now I’m in different parts of the publishing process for three. I’m deeply immersed in a one–month blog tour for my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, working with my publicists to plan for the launch of my second, A Killer Retreat, and finishing up the second draft of my third book, tentatively titled Karma can be Killer.  Whew!

Part of the fun of this sometimes-overwhelming flurry of activity is getting the chance to share the principles of yoga with people who might otherwise never even consider it.  I have fans (those three words alone give me a thrill!) who have taken their first yoga class after reading my first book.  Others have recommitted to a yoga practice they dropped years ago.  Still others are asking me for coaching and yoga advice.

I’m having a great time.

This week’s blog article invites you to share in the fun.  Check out the article I wrote for The Top Shelf about Viniyoga in “Kate Davidson’s Guide to Yoga (with a little Murder on the Side).”  As an added bonus, you can enter to win a free Kindle!  Here’s a quote from the article to whet your appetite….

“The beauty of Viniyoga lies in its accessibility, which is part of what makes it so perfect for a mystery series. You don’t have to be ultra flexible or super fit to partake, just willing to be more mindful in everyday life. For those of you curious, the following four characteristics differentiate Viniyoga from other yoga styles….”

You’ll have to click on the link to the article to read the rest.  ;-)

Thanks all!  I’ll see you in September.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, Uncategorized, Viniyoga, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Journey to Wellness with Yoga and Ayurveda

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

Torrey Pines Namaste

For most of my life, I have been blessed with health and vitality. I enjoy gardening, cooking, eating healthy foods and an active lifestyle. I began practicing yoga in my teens and continued a regular practice throughout my twenties. In my early thirties, my husband and I bought a 100-year-old house. Much of my free time was spent on renovation projects, gardening, hiking and socializing. I no longer made time in my busy life to practice yoga.

I have had digestive issues including heartburn for as long as I can remember, but I considered it a minor irritation. After 13 years as a vegetarian I began eating meat again. I was busy at work and didn’t have the time to make balanced vegetarian meals. When I hit the big 5-0, the accumulation of a life well-lived began to take its toll. I became more sluggish with achy joints and experienced a bout of sciatica. My heartburn became more frequent and was accompanied by painful, abdominal bloating. I knew it was time to reassess my life and change some of my habits.

I began attending regular yoga classes and soon felt lighter, stronger and more flexible. Around the same time, I attended an Ayurveda workshop and was immediately enthralled by its holistic approach to wellness. Ayurveda is the science of life and is considered the sister science of yoga. Rather than treating symptoms, Ayurveda focuses on each person’s unique constitution (prakriti), nutrition and lifestyle. I researched and found Kerala Ayurveda Academy where I could be certified as a Wellness Counselor in 11 months. Although I was primarily on a path of self-healing, I was also intrigued by the possibility of counseling and teaching.

About 4 months into the program, I made several simple changes and my heartburn went away! I stopped drinking orange juice every morning, cut back on spicy foods and quit drinking wine. Ayurveda teaches us to live according to the seasons and emphasizes the six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. These concepts may sound challenging in our fast-paced and convenience-oriented world, but it can be as simple as waiting for ripe produce rather than eating out of season. And it increases your body awareness. Why didn’t I realize that my love of salsa was related to my heartburn? It is too easy to get out of touch with our own bodies!

Other changes I’ve made include a morning routine (dinacharya): scraping my tongue, using my neti pot, pranayama and yoga. I also discovered trifala, a digestive aid that has really worked for me. I have learned to cook some delicious and healthy meals using ayurvedic spices and nutritional principles. And I try to eat according to the seasons -  warming soups in late fall and winter, salads in the spring and early summer and cooling foods including  fresh apples in the late summer and early fall. These and other small changes have balanced my energy, reduced my stress and increased my sense of general well-being. I am not super-strict and still love my morning coffee. When I slip into old patterns, I am less judging and more self-aware.

Part of the Wellness Counselor program at Kerala included a regular yoga practice. One of my classmates is a Viniyoga teacher and therapist and she thought I’d enjoy Viniyoga.  Through her recommendation, I discovered Whole Life Yoga. After attending a few classes, I knew I had found my yoga home! I was certified at the 200-level in 2010 and have been teaching ever since. My classes are gentle and primarily geared to people over 50. I LOVE teaching and practicing yoga. Lilias Folan wrote a book entitled, Yoga Gets Better with Age and I believe that is true for me. I continue to deepen my practice of both Ayurveda and Viniyoga and look forward to the years ahead of me. There is always more to learn, no matter our stage of life!

Thanks to all of my teachers for helping me learn to age gracefully.

Heidi L. Mair

Some of my writings about Ayurveda and Yoga:

 http://floralinnae.blogspot.com/

 http://ayurvedaprograms.blogspot.com/2010/04/seven-sacred-plants-of-india.html

 http://www.ayurvedawama.com/91

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Posted in ayurveda, Guest Writers, Teacher Training, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Viniyoga, Yoga Books | 1 Comment

Your Inner Dialogue

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

Communication is powerful.  Just like the knife that can be used in a beneficial way to prepare food for nourishment, or a surgery to heal the body, or used against some one to harm them, communication can be positive or negative.

Sometimes when I am leading a yoga class I will bring the class to standing and ask them to close their eyes and think of one thing they love about their body.  A few more asanas later, coming back to standing, I will ask them to say one kind thing to their body.  At the end of the practice just before ‘namaste’ I will ask them to think of one thing they are grateful for or appreciate about their body.  Other times I will ask them to think of something they love about themselves.  Not surprising is how many people come up to me later and say how hard that is for them.  They are unable to think of one thing they love about their body or their self.

In our daily life how others speak to us has a powerful affect on us.  People who are our well wishers, are encouraging and point out our gifts and talents empower us in our endeavors.  People who invalidate, criticize, judge can throw us into a downward spiral that takes the wind out of our sails and can make us feel as if the life is being sucked right out of us.

Our internal dialogue is incredibly important.  We sometimes get into patterns of thinking that affect us in ways that we don’t realize.  ”I have a bad knee” versus “I have a knee that is trying to heal itself.  I am so grateful for the healing power of my body”.  We may find ourselves mentally focusing on our ‘failures’, thinking they define who we are.  This life, this body did not come with a manual.  Maybe taking the word failure out of our vocabulary and replacing it with ‘great lesson’ would put us back in the driver’s seat.

Notice what you would like to have others say to you, and begin to give that to yourself. Words and thoughts that are kind, loving and honoring help our bodies to heal, and ourselves to grow into the spiritual beings that are who we truly are.  It takes practice, but that is why we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect.

Sarah

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Asana, Gratitude, Guest Writers, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Teaching Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | Leave a comment

Do You Practice Hatha Yoga?

I recently sat next to a very kind gentleman on an airplane for a six-hour flight back to Seattle from Malice Domestic (a mystery fan convention.). I don’t think he knew I was a yoga teacher, especially since he spent a good thirty minutes educating me about the benefits of yoga. Of course, I agreed with him. Yoga is good stuff. He then said something that made me both externally smile and internally cringe, at least a little. He mentioned that he doesn’t like the more strenuous yoga forms of yoga, and that he only practices “Hatha” yoga.

I didn’t disagree with them. After all, he’s right, in a way. He does practice Hatha yoga. Almost all of us who practice yoga in America do. “Hatha” is an umbrella term that means the physical practice of yoga.  But referring to all yoga as simply “Hatha” is a little misleading. Although there are definite similarities between yoga styles, there are even more differences.

One Hatha yoga class may be practiced at a hundred and five degrees. Another may focus on “proper” alignment. Yet another, on connecting movement and breath. Some Hatha practices flow from pose to pose, while others stay in each posture for a minute or more before moving on to the next. Teachers of some styles teach the exact same sequence of poses each time. Some classes, like most Viniyoga classes, are designed in the moment based on what the practitioners need that day.

When you sign up for your first yoga class—or next, for that matter—ask the instructor what style they teach and explore with them whether that style will fit your goals. If the teacher says they teach “Hatha,” dig deeper. What lineages has she been influenced by? Who did she train with? Does she believe form follows function or the reverse? Her answers will help you find the right practice for you.

Most importantly, if you don’t like the first yoga class you try, take another. There’s a yoga style, teacher, and philosophy that fits everyone.

This article from Yoga Journal is a great starting place to explore the options available.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Posted in Asana, Viniyoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment