Murder for Fun and Nonprofit

Hey all!  This week I’m blogging at Inkspot (the blog for the writers of Midnight Ink)  about some of my mystery writer friends and how we use our writing to benefit causes we hold dear.  Check it out at

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2016/09/murder-for-fun-and-nonprofit.html

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Research Proves It! Yoga Improves Bone Density

Skeleton of the man. 3D the image of a man's skeleton under a transparent skin

I became interested in methods to build bone health in my early thirties.  Not coincidentally, it was the same day my first DEXA scan showed that I already had osteoporosis, likely due to excessively low estrogen levels in spite of estrogen replacement therapy.

I’ve long believed that yoga could safely help build bones, as has my teacher, Gary Kraftsow. It makes sense. After all, yoga is a low impact, weight-bearing exercise that strengthens the muscles supporting the spine, wrist, and hip, which are at particularly high fracture risk in individuals with osteoporosis.  Anecdotally, I also know that my own bone density increased from moderate osteoporosis and osteopenia (depending on the bone) to “low normal.” The increases began after I started practicing yoga–in spite of the fact that the doctor took me off of bone-building medication.

Finally, we have some research that backs us up.

The ten-year study done by Dr. Loren M. Fishman—a physiatrist at Columbia University who specializes in rehabilitative medicine—involved Iyengar postures, but I have every reason to believe Viniyoga (which uses repetition as well as “staying” in poses to build strength) would have results that are as good, if not better.

Study practitioners performed yoga poses for twelve minutes every day (or at least every other day) for ten years. The time period is important:  Bone density builds slowly. It can take years to find measurable change. According to a December 21 New York Times article:

“The findings, as reported last month in Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur of the 227 participants who were moderately or fully compliant with the assigned yoga exercises.

Improvements were seen in bone density in the hip as well, but they were not statistically significant.”

Even more encouraging, there were no fractures or significant injuries among any of the participants in the study—indicating that yoga is a safe activity even for older individuals with significant bone loss. And unlike bone-building drugs, which come with a host of gastrointestinal and other side effects, yoga gives increased strength, better posture and improved mental health.

Go forth and practice! Your body, breath, mind, and bones will thank you!

Tracy

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Research Proves It: Meditation Strengthens Your Brain

human brain on a running machineYet another research study proves the benefits of meditation. Meditation research is hardly unusual.  This study, however, was the first to prove that meditation actually increases brain density—also known as gray matter—in as little as eight weeks!

The study appeared in the January 30th, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging and was led by senior study author Sara Lazar, who is a Harvard medical school psychology professor. Ms. Lazar and her affiliates at Massachusetts General Hospital took MRI images of study participants two weeks before and after they participated in an eight-week Mind Body Stress Reduction course. They then compared those scans to control group of non-meditators over a similar time period. The meditators self-reported spending an average of twenty-seven minutes per day on mindfulness-based activities during the study.

The results were impressive. Meditators had significant increases in gray matter density in the hippocampus—the portion of the brain associated with learning and memory. They also reported decreases in stress levels compared to the non-meditators. For more information on the study, check out this link at Harvard.edu.

And put that research to the test personally with this simple candle flame meditation.

Enjoy!

Tracy

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

 

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!

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Audiobook of Murder Strikes a Pose!

Well, it’s here virtually, at least. The first audiobook in my Downward Dog Mystery series, Murder Strikes a Pose, is now available!  I’ve wanted to put the series on audiobook since I typed the words “the end” on the finished manuscript.  I battered and harassed and cajoled and pleaded with my agent, but she wasn’t able to sell the series to Audible.

So I took matters into my own hands and self published.

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) made it, not easy, but definitely doable for a newbie like me. I auditioned several narrators, found Anne James, who matched my vision of Kate’s voice and spunk perfectly, and we got to work.

Six months later, I have a product that I’m ecstatic about. I hope you will be too.

Enjoy!

PS—I have three free copies that I’d like to give to the first three readers who agree to listen to the book and give an honest review on Audible no later than September 30. If you’re interested, e-mail me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com.

Tracy Weber

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.

Thanks for reading!

A Beginners Guide to the Chakras

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and instructor Julie Miller to the Whole Life blog today.  Julie can be reached at   ecojamill@yahoo.com.  Julie, I know you teach classes on Yoga Nidra and the Chakras.  Can you tell us a little about the chakra system?

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No matter what you may think of Donald Trump you will likely agree that lack of self-confidence is not an area where he struggles. Third chakra in overdrive! Cookie Monster’s addiction may be driven by second chakra issues (especially if the desire is emotionally driven), and one could consider the Dalai Lama’s immense capability for compassion as coming from an open fourth chakra. That said, there are no “good” or “bad” chakras. No one is better or more important than the others. When they are balanced, all work together to support good health in mind, body, and spirit. When they are out of balance, behavior or energy can swing to extremes, i.e. an out of balance fourth chakra might look like someone who can’t act without seeking approval from others first or the opposite extreme of being very guarded and untrusting.

To back up a bit and give a quick introduction to the chakras, they are centers of energy in the body –places where pathways of energy, called nadis, converge. These nadis often overlap with the energy meridians diagramed and used in Chinese Medicine. While you are probably most familiar with the seven chakras that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, there are other chakras in the body as well particularly on the palms of the hands (engaged for energy healing) and soles of the feet (absorbing healing energy from the earth). Yoga is just one of the many ways to work with bringing the chakras into balance. Mediation, chanting, color, sound, scent, foods, and crystals are other popular ways to clear, balance, and activate your energy centers. The ordering and synthesis of the chakras has been compared to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or an elevator from which one gains a wider perspective with each level. Just like with the elevator, it is important to have a strong foundation and stability in the lower levels before moving in to the top floor. Let’s take a quick tour of the seven main chakras that run up the spine.

1st Chakra – Muladara (Root Support). Located at the base of your spine, this is where you ground yourself. Working with this chakra means looking at what makes you feel safe, secure, and centered. It can also mean taking a look at ancestral patterns, these might be inherited habits or tendencies that may have made sense in another time or generation but do not serve your highest good. Practices: walk barefoot, surrender in child’s pose.

2nd Chakra – Svadisthana (Sweetness-also thought of as one’s own base). Located just below your navel, this is where you awaken to pleasure. It is associated with the element water and all that water often symbolizes: emotions, movement, and sexuality. Practices: dancing, journaling, or any other form of art that that allows you to express your emotions.

3rd Chakra – Manipura (Lustrous Gem). Located at the solar plexus, here is where our light shines through. The qualities of this chakra are courage, self-confidence, personal power, and will. The element of fire associated with this chakra is the element of transformation. Focused intention here can help you to get motivated and transform old habits. Practices: candle meditation, twists with the intention to release can be very powerful.

4th Chakra – Anahata (Unstruck, as in the unstruck sound of the sound of the Universe).  Located in the center of the chest. The energy of the heart center is that of compassion, tenderness, and unconditional love. Practices: heart opening poses like bridge or warrior 1, especially with hands starting at the heart, loving kindness meditation.

5th Chakra- Vishuddha (Purification). Located at the throat, opening this center clears the way for self-expression, communication, and speaking your truth. As we move into the upper chakras the practices become less physical and more inward focused. Practices: chanting your favorite mantra or kirtan.

6th Chakra- Ajna (Perception). Located between the eyebrows, often called the third eye. The association here is with the mind, imagination, and intuition. This chakra can be utilized to help to visualize your best life path. Practice: one of the best practices to access this chakra is Yoga Nidra.

7th Chakra- Sahasrara (Thousandfold). Located at the crown of the head and symbolized by the 1,000 petaled lotus flower that connects us to our highest self. Opening the crown chakra leads to a path of recognizing the wonders of the Universe and our connection to all living beings. It is the chakra of community. Practices: silent meditation or prayer.

A great way to begin is to start with a grounding practice engaging the root chakra and then working with whichever of the chakras may feel a little out of balance. There are many great resources online included guided mediations or suggestion on colors, foods or scents. Be gentle with yourself and know that it is an ongoing process, like the practice of yoga, working with chakras can be a tool for cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and a general sense of increased well-being.

Many blessings!

-Julie

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Mystery Goes to the Dogs

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Hey all!  This week I’m blogging at Inkspot (the blog for the writers of Midnight Ink)  about an event I recently attended called DogFest!  Check out the photos of some of my newest four-legged fans.

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2016/08/mystery-goes-to-dogs.html

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Where the Healing Begins

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As many of you know, I’ve lived through challenging times over the past ten months. Last October, my mother died of breast cancer that spread to her brain, less than two weeks after I learned of the metastasis.

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Mom and me, with our spouses

My beloved dog Tasha passed away in July, likely also of cancer that spread to her brain, though we’ll never know for sure. Like my mom, Tasha died a couple of weeks after becoming ill.

Tracy and Tasha

Tasha and me, three weeks before she passed.

In ten months, I’d provided hospice care to two of the most important souls of my life.  I felt sad. Depleted.  Exhausted. No longer able to fulfill my roles as boss, teacher, and business owner.  I couldn’t stand any more losses.

A few days later. I learned that my childhood best friend died the same day as Tasha.

Tracy and Michelle

Michelle and me, age 15.

My story isn’t unique. We all suffer losses.  This article isn’t about loss, anyway.  This article is about healing.

The day Tasha died, I only knew two things for certain. She had made my life better, and she would have hated for me to suffer.  I owed it to her to find a new love.  I started researching German shepherd breeders and found one I both respected and trusted.  They often have a two-year waiting list, but oddly, they had a female available.

My puppy would be ready to come home in three weeks, but I didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t explain why, but I felt strongly that I needed to meet her first.  Unfortunately, the visit would involve an 800-mile flight and a four-hour drive each way, all to spend a couple of hours with my soon-to-be best friend—at seven in the morning, no less! The visit would take place six days before we brought her home.

I told the idea to my engineer husband, who said what he always says when I announce that I’m about to act on an expensive, completely illogical impulse.

“If you want.”

I abandoned my business, my significantly-behind-schedule writing, and my overworked spouse and took off for the three-day adventure.

It was one of the best irrational impulses I ever indulged. Everything about the trip seemed to be blessed.  From unanticipated first class flight upgrades, to a stay at a wonderful eco-spa for less than $100 a night.

I had two days of dead time around my two-hour puppy meeting, so I indulged in massages, ate waffles and dark chocolate cake, and worked on my novel from a patio overlooking the resort’s koi pond. On Sunday morning, I fell in love with my new pup, Ana. I spent time with the lovely Penni Elaine, her fiancé, and her best friend, who are doing a fabulous job of raising her. I have no doubt: Ana and I are a match made in heaven.  Tasha arranged it.

Tracy and Ana

Tracy and Ana meet!

Later that night, I spent forty-five mesmerizing minutes watching the resort’s koi ease smoothly back and forth through the water. I named the five largest: Spot, Dalmation, Stripe, Silver, and Ghost. A sense of deep peace overcame me.

This is it, I thought. This is where the healing begins.

The process of healing is long, filled with ups and downs, and I don’t know how long it will take. But I can mark its beginning. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Tracy Weber

How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Hi all!  Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and Whole Life Yoga instructor Roxie Dufour to the Whole Life blog today.  Roxie can be contacted at YogaRoxSeattle@gmail.com. Roxie will always hold the honor of being the yoga student I saw get married in a kayak.  It’s only natural that she should combine teaching yoga with her favorite pastime.  Roxie, please share!

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How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Answer: Combining my favorite things!

Over the weekend, my husband Dave and I assisted in the Washington Kayak Club Basic Sea Kayak Class at Deception Pass. Yes, we are the kayakers under the bridge in the swirly waters, 28 students, and 9 instructors.  The best way to describe it is going to camp with your kayak.  I was asked to squeeze in a ‘brief’ yoga class.  I knew the students needed to warm up shoulders, neck and hips, side body stretching, and lots of torso rotation for paddling, calming anxieties and tension, and to invite balance, integrate left/right movements.  In any yoga class, there are adaptations and options to incorporate factors.  Some students have never been in a kayak or taken a yoga class.

No pressure, right?

Tapping on the Viniyoga lineage, Tracy Weber’s teachings, meeting the students where they were, and from experience…keeping it simple was my plan. Did I mention, we were at the beach, wearing dry suits, PFDs, and dressed ready for immersion?

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The sequencing was simple with about seven postures, all standing, because dry suits are expensive. Connecting simple movements to the breath impacts the autonomic nervous system and increases circulation.  I visualized the student’s shortened breath patterns, muscle tension, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I was nervous, too. Having students recognize where they are and accept that place with compassion is important to any student, anxious kayakers included.

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My reward was seeing shoulders relax, smiles, sighs of relief, thank yous, and “When do we get wet?”

Whether you are on the mat or heading to your kayak, yoga is a positive piece of the day, keep it simple.

Roxie

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Three Key Ways a Yoga Practice Can Support Trauma Recovery

Please help me welcome Lisa Danylchuk to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Lisa’s acclaimed book, Embodied Healing shares her learnings about yoga and how it can help people who are rebuilding their lives after trauma. And who among us hasn’t experienced trauma?  Lisa, can you please tell my readers how yoga–and its teachers–can help students overcome trauma?

EmbodiedHealing

As yoga’s popularity continues to increase, yoga teachers, mental health providers and researchers are all becoming more clear on the depths of its benefits. As a yoga teacher and trauma therapist, I have seen a myriad of ways that mindfulness and movement help clients, whether they are doing a traditional hatha practice or applying yoga philosophy to their healing journey. Here are three ways that yoga teachers and healthcare providers can help clients and students who are navigating trauma recovery.

Grounding

Grounding is the act of connecting to the earth, and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The most common ways to ground are to feel your feet on the floor, as we do in tadasana, or to feel the sit bones grounding to the earth, as we do in many seated postures. Often, people who are experiencing anxiety and extreme stress report feeling a spinning or rising sensation; this conscious effort to ground can counteract the pull of energy away from the body,, bringing attention back to the safety of the current moment. If you are teaching to a group of people who have experienced trauma, offer grounding cues repeatedly throughout class. Not only is it helpful in building a physical foundation for a pose, it can also have psychological benefits.

Present moment attention

Intrusive thoughts and feelings from past trauma can show up in the present and memories can even pull us away from our current surroundings. Getting connected to present moment time – right here, right now – is one way to distance from the intensity of a past trauma in a helpful way. Yogis are familiar with the practice of cultivating presence, and it is important to find ways to describe how to practice presence, rather than simply instruct participants to “be present.” Consider guiding attention to a specific place in the room, a lamp on the wall or the corner of a mat. Consider instructing participants to follow the sound of your voice, or to listen to the sound of a bell as it fades. While, due to sensitivities, we can’t always use smells in the yoga room, think of these present moment attention practices as smelling salts, bringing students more fully  into present time and space.

Compassion towards self

In the aftermath of trauma it can become easy to struggle with oneself, wondering why something is still upsetting or feeling there is some defectiveness of self that allows the bad feelings to persist. By definition, something traumatic is too much to process all at once and approaching the feelings with tenderness can facilitate healing, rather than self-criticism or judgement. Recall that the word yoga means union, so we are looking to unite the parts of ourselves that need healing, rather than cut them off. Practicing curiosity and compassion facilitates the gentle approach our psyches need – just as you would not shout at a plant to help it grow, criticizing ourselves does not foster healing. Encourage compassion instead.

Questions, thoughts? Post a comment below or go to www.howwecanheal.com to contact Lisa.

Headshot.L.DanylchukLisa Danylchuk teaches internationally on integrating yoga and mental health treatment. As a licensed psychotherapist and Yogaworks certified yoga instructor, she has provided counseling and yoga classes in prisons, schools, non-profits and community programs across the US. Lisa holds degrees from both UCLA and Harvard University and is the author of the bestselling book Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress. She is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she hosts the Yoga for Trauma (Y4T) online training program, accessible world-wide. More information at: www.howwecanheal.com/y4t.

 

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Writing, Gardening, and Killer Laurel Hedges

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Surrounding my Seattle home is my new mortal enemy: the laurel hedge. In the decade my husband and I have lived in this house, our laurel hedge has been trimmed eight times. By eight different landscapers. Each of whom says when they finish, “I will never trim that hedge again.”

The last few years have presented a special problem, because our beloved dog’s health is waning. She goes crazy when strangers are near her house, and she’s susceptible to injury. In the past, we’ve taken her out of town whenever gardeners have been present, but we can’t do that anymore. So we let the hedge go.

Or, to be more accurate, we let it GROW.

This year, we couldn’t delude ourselves anymore. Something had to be done.

Since we couldn’t hire anyone for fear of harming the dog, hubby and decided to trim it ourselves. Five days and thirty-nine overly full yard waste bags later, I came to realize that trimming a laurel hedge has a lot in common with writing.

There are plotters and there are pansters. Plotters are like my husband. They buy three different ladders and four kinds of clippers, each which trims exactly one branch at time. They have a plan, you see. A process. From beginning to end, they know exactly how they will tackle this monster, the tools required for each step, and the artistic creation that will emerge.

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Then the panster (yours truly) comes to a startling realization: this process will take FOREVER. The panster then grabs the closest clipper and starts cutting. “Let’s just see where this leads us!” she says. The plotter groans.

The project feels like an insurmountable goal at first. You clip, clip, and clip some more. Blisters form on your fingers. You look back on your day’s work… And realize you’ve written less than one chapter. (Or in the hedge analogy, you’ve clipped only a few branches.) This is when you first realize that you’re completely in over your head. Unfortunately, you’ve already told everyone you know that you’re clipping the Great American Hedge. You are committed. So you keep clipping, cursing your big mouth and your idiocy.

Once you get in the groove, you don’t want to stop. Frankly, you become a little obsessive. Nothing matters as much as this hedge. Not your family, not your job, not your life. People whisper behind your back and try to pry your hands off of the clippers. Some part of you knows you’ve become addicted to clipping. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is Finishing. That. Hedge.

At some point you see progress, followed soon after by hitting “the middle.” The point at which you realize how far you still have to go. The point at which you know, without a single doubt, “I suck at this.” This is, of course, after it’s too late to turn back. You’ve committed yourself to this monster even though you know, deep in your heart, that you are the worst hedge trimmer that has ever lived.

Every now and again, you step back to evaluate your work. Some places you trimmed look all green and healthy; some yellow and sickly. Some are great big plot holes showing nothing but sticks. But you keep going, knowing that what you can’t fix now will inevitably grow back in time. And if you killed it, well, then at least you won’t have to do this again next year.

Somehow though, in spite of your bumbling, clip by clip, word by word, you start to make progress. That progress propels you forward.

When you’re done, your hedge needs lots of editing. The lines aren’t straight, and for some unknown reason everywhere you look you see brown areas that you don’t know how to fix. The work needs distance. A second eye.  Someone who can look at it, tell you what you did wrong, and help you learn for the future.

People’s reactions to your work vary from “Way to go!” to “Are you crazy?” to “I’d never do that,” to “I could trim a hedge better than that,” to “Hey, I have a hedge. I’ll point you to it and all you have to do is trim it!” to “For goodness sake. Just hire someone competent to trim that hedge already!” All you can do is take a deep breath, smile, and keep clipping.

When you finish, you swear you’ll never do it again. Seriously. Never. You’ve learned your lesson. The gardeners you hired in the past were right. This thing is a monster. An evil being to be left alone. A being that will surely take over the planet.

Months pass. Most people don’t even notice your lovely hedge. Some do and really like how you trimmed it. Others give it one star on Amazon, saying, “Not my kind of hedge,” or even worse, “Meh.” But before you know it, new green leaves start showing, new idea tendrils form. Before you can stop yourself, you become convinced that you could trim that hedge easier next time.  Faster. Better. Prettier.

So you start all over again.

And so it begins.

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!