The Challenge of Saying Goodbye

Hands released into the sky to the white dove

September was a tough month for me, on many levels. My dog’s health started to fail; my own wasn’t that much better. We had a minor flood at the studio, and my husband managed to bring home every virus in the greater Seattle area. We’re all doing much better now, knock on wood.

But throughout the challenges of last month, one constant remained: writing. I sent an early draft of my third book, Karma Can Be Killer, to my agent and editor on September 20th. October 3rd, A Killer Retreat went off to my publisher for its final, final edits. (Which means that I have to trust that what I’ve written will be “good enough.”)

Once they were floating on the Internet ether, I found myself in that achingly empty zone between writing and feedback. I love my two newest creations, but will my readers? And if they don’t…

I try not to think about that. ;-)

Instead, I look around my shamefully messy home, feeling slightly off kilter, My 500-hour yoga teacher training program winds up in January. The next 200-training starts a few weeks later. In less than a month, I’ll be eyebrows deep in book launch activities for second book while writing revisions of my third.

Friends tell me to sit back and take a breather. My husband says I should finally pick up a vacuum. Instead, I spend my days pondering. What should I do next? I won’t know if Midnight Ink plans to renew my first series for at least six months, maybe even a year. Should I continue writing Kate’s story and trust it will find a publishing home? Maybe I ought to start the Maui-based series that’s been tickling me? Perhaps it’s time to play with the Orcas Island-based spinoff that has been rattling around in my head for almost two years now?

Then again, I could experiment with nonfiction. A friend recently told me I should write the true story of my life with Tasha-dog; two veterinarians suggested the same thing. She’s certainly taught me life lessons that I’d like to pass on to the next generation. Then again, if I’m going to make my living as an author, perhaps it’s time to take my first writing class.

I’m sure it won’t be long before something fills the void, but in the meantime I’m content to float for awhile, daydreaming. That’s the beauty of writing. I create my own worlds, fall in love with my characters, and have the privilege of saying goodbye over and over and over again. It’s not much different than birthing a child, or certifying a yoga teacher training class, for that matter.

As I stand at the crossroads, I only know one thing. Whatever comes next will sometimes be frustrating, sometimes frightening, sometimes fulfilling. Please wish me luck on the journey.

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! 

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Yoga for Bipolar Disorder—Research Horizons

The results of a recent study on the benefits and risks of Hatha yoga for individuals with bipolar disorder were interesting to me, but not surprising. The study (which was originally published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice) evaluated the survey responses of more than seventy people with bipolar disorder who also practice yoga. The researchers’ goal was to find out if yoga was, at least on the surface, safe and effective for individuals suffering from this disorder.

I’ve only worked therapeutically with a handful of clients with bipolar disorder, but designing appropriate yoga practices for them is tricky, because it involves managing energy that can fluctuate rapidly and severely between two opposite states: rajasic (agitated, stressed, and hyper-aroused) and tamasic (dull, lethargic, and depressed). The yoga tools used to balance those energy states are significantly different.

An energizing, nourishing practice (which is typically what we teach to clients with unipolar depression) may well send a client with bipolar disorder into a manic state. A relaxing practice (which is what we typically teach to clients suffering from anxiety) might send them into a depressive one. Therefore, I often make my practices for bipolar clients more balanced energetically or very slightly sedating.

The results of the study mirrored what I’ve seen in my teaching.  The vast majority of respondents said yoga helped them; some even went so far as to say it saved their lives.  Five of the seventy, however, said that energizing practices did, indeed, agitate them.  Another five individuals said that yoga practices increased their depression. One said a relaxing practice sent him into an almost catatonic state.  As the Viniyoga teachings indicate, effective teaching is all about adapting the yoga practice to the individual.

Obviously, there is more to learn.  These surveys were the first step of a pilot clinical trial that will compare the effects of yoga practice to using a well-regarded workbook for bipolar disorder.  That trial will hopefully set the stage for a larger study.  I firmly believe that yoga, particularly Viniyoga, can be extremely useful when appropriately applied for this condition.  The results of these studies may help us understand how.

Those of you who have experienced depression, anxiety, or suffer from bipolar disorder, what have your experiences been with yoga? I’d love to hear from you.

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, Teaching Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, Viniyoga, Yoga Research | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga, Attachment, and Testing Error–Ode to a Bad Week

I’m pretty open about what happens to me in life.  Some of my friends and students use words like “gutsy” and “courageous” to describe me. Detractors sometimes refer to me as “overly self-revelatory.”  Regardless, after 50 years on planet earth, I’m unlikely to change.  I always warn my teacher training students that when they choose me as a teacher, they get what they see.  Readers, I guess the same is true for you. I’ve always felt that the best yoga teachers are those who use The Yoga Sutras to learn about themselves.

I had a stressful week last week.  My husband learned that his job will be moving to Oklahoma next year.  We will not be going with it, so after 30 years with the same company, our primary bread winner will likely embarking on a new career, and we will shortly thereafter be looking for a new home.  We are both committed to staying in Seattle at least until 2016 when I will finish my next 200-hour yoga teacher training  and release my third book. After that?  It’s one of our current life unknowns.

We learned that on Monday.

On Tuesday my doctor e-mailed me the results of some routine blood work.

It wasn’t good.  Well, that’s an exaggeration.  Most of it was, indeed, very good.  There were some hints that I need to eat more veggies (smoothies, anyone?) and I definitely need to take more vitamin D.  None of this was news to me. One number, however, was oddly high.

I called the doctor’s office and they said we should re-do the test in case I was dehydrated.  In the meantime, hubby and I independently did what you should never do: we Googled it. According to the Internet, if that number went up much higher, I would be at risk for sudden heart failure. Husband sent me a scary article and we talked about him learning CPR.

To make a long story short, I was terrified, and my doctor was less than helpful. Friday, I received the results of the re-test.  The original number was a lab error.

I’d love to say that this week gave me some great insight on life, or that it has inspired a new story that will soon top the best-seller lists.  I’d even love to say that I handled the situation with the aplomb and equanimity you’d expect from a yoga teacher.  In the end, I can only say that those were three days of my life that I’ll never get back.

Why do I write about this?

I guess to say that my yoga knowledge did actually help me last week.  I’m surprisingly calm about Marc’s job situation.  The teachings promise that there are several life paths we can take, all of which are a source for our learning.  I’m confident that Marc and I will end up in the right place, even if it’s a challenging one.

And in the midst of my health-related panic, I remembered that according to yoga, the mind is riddled with error. Most of what we worry about never actually happens. That was my mantra. It helped, at least a little.  The teachings also say that fear of death is a source of suffering for even the wisest sage.

No one said yoga was magic.

Finally, even yoga teachers have flaws.  This particular one has too many to count. If I were truly in samadhi, I wouldn’t be attached to this body, this life, this city, this house. I’m rather fond of all of them. Life offers us many challenges, and as my husband says, the future is always an unknown. The yoga teachings provide hope.

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! 

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Can Yoga Really Be Murder?

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Brown

Hi all!  Once a month I’ll be blogging on Ink Spot–the blog for the writers of Midnight Ink–and cross posting here. This week, I’m blogging about my thoughts about combining yoga and murder in my writing.

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2014/09/can-yoga-really-be-murder.html

Check it out, and let me know what you think!  There’s even a yoga philosophy lesson in there!

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, Teaching Yoga, Viniyoga, writing, Yoga Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga for Imperfect Bodies

I’ve spent the weekend answering press questions for the release of my next book, A Killer Retreat. Most of them were about writing, but one seemed particularly relevant to my yoga blog readers.  Here’s the question and my answer.  I hope you benefit from reading it.

How can yoga be applied to people with imperfect bodies? Is yoga really about exercise or something else?

Two thoughts came to me when I read these two questions:  First, I’ve yet to come across a human being with a perfect body, either inside or outside of my yoga classes. Second, my favorite yoga quote is “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” Yoga is ultimately the connection of body, breath and mind. Anyone can do it, and everyone can benefit from a well-designed yoga practice.

I’ve taught yoga to professional ballet dancers, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors. I’ve certified yoga teachers who have multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve taught kids as young as six (others teach students who are even younger!) and adults who are ninety-years-old plus.  I’ve taught students who were deaf, blind, and one who was both deaf and blind. I’ve taught group classes to students who use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. I know of yogis who have no arms; others who have lost both legs. I have yet to find a student who couldn’t do some form of yoga, if it was appropriately modified.

Yoga as a form of exercise is a Western idea.  Its origins were more closely aligned with clarifying and balancing the mind.  Physical fitness was simply a cool side benefit.  We often confuse yoga in the West with asana (yoga postures), which is only one of many tools of yoga. Yoga encompasses that and so much more: meditation, pranayama, ritual, chant, right relationship, and so on.  So yes, anyone and everyone can benefit from doing yoga.

Even asana, which is the simplest of yoga’s tools, can be done by anyone if appropriately modified.  That’s what I love so much about Viniyoga, the style of yoga that Kate—the yoga teacher sleuth in my series—and I both teach.  The word viniyoga means “proper application and adaptation.”

In Viniyoga, we adapt poses to the individual. The goal is to work within a pain-free range of motion with the goal of increasing that pain-free range of motion over time. My most rewarding work as a teacher is helping students learn how to move in a pain-free way, both during practice and out in their daily lives.

Regardless of age, body type, injury, fitness level, or goals, yoga is a tool that that can help anyone.  If you try a class and it doesn’t work for your body, try another! There are dozens of yoga styles, each different from the rest. There are at least a gazillion yoga teachers.  I truly believe there is yoga for everyone.

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! 

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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