Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Yoga Love Story

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Kim Tull-Esterbrook. Kim is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program, and our newest instructor!  She  can be contacted at


I did not love yoga when I was first introduced to it in my early 20’s . My short hamstrings and patched together heart found the practice challenging, to say the least, but I knew right away that it was good for me. I could tell that it was a practice that had the potential to change so many of the patterns that felt damaging in my life; but I was unwilling to really dedicate myself to it, or more truthfully, I was afraid. I imagined that I would uncover some horrible truth about myself hidden beneath the surface and so I played with yoga inconsistently for years.

Six years later, while going through the painful transition of a divorce, I found my way to a consistent practice as the only means of keeping myself afloat, but I was a needy partner; opening myself only as far as I felt safe and expecting so much in return. My practice had a one- sided desperation but it saved me in so many ways.

Fast forward 6 more years and with the support of a dear friend, I found my way to Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. Finally I was ready to do the work. I moved step by step to open myself and was emotionally prepared for whatever horrible thing I was going to encounter in the depths of my being. What I found was very much a surprise.

Absolutely, there were things that were hard to take about patterns and choices in my life- things that I had been doing to myself to sabotage my own hopes and dreams, but it was also liberating to learn to see things with clarity and without judgement. I learned how to separate my ideas of myself from those layers of habit. I learned the great value of showing up to my practice even when I didn’t want to- when it was hard, when I was distracted, when I felt defeated.

And somewhere in the midst of all that work that I knew was good for me, I found my way to a place where I love my practice. I am not where I thought (or even hoped) I would be when I reached that terrifically adult age of 35. I have not published a book (though maybe this will be my year!), I have not landed that money making job, or even found my way anywhere close to that unattainably beautiful classical King pigeon pose but I pull out my mat almost every day and feel instantly at home.

Through my practice I feel as if I have an outlet for the best parts of me. I have found a way to feel connected to myself, my community and the world. I have found a way to be free. Some days, I think that there is still so much that I don’t know and that is true. On other days, I think this is all I could ever need to know- I take a breath in, I let a breath out. The world feels a bit simpler. It feels like love.


Please Join Kim in her new classes at Whole Life Yoga!

A Breath Practice to Ease Depression

If you’re feeling a little down and blue this time of year, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.8 Million adults, or 9.5% of the US population are affected by depression in any given year. Those of us who live in the Northern states are especially impacted by seasonal depression, sometimes referred to as SAD.

If depression is impacting your ability to function, a visit to your health care provider is in order. Yoga can, however, be an effective part of your recovery. Breath-centered movement, pranayama and meditation are all wonderful tools to bring your entire being–body, mind and heart–into balance.

I included the breath practice below in my series Overcoming Depression with Yoga. The word “krama” simply means segmented. In this practice, we segment the inhale portion of the breath into two parts, with a short pause both between each part and at the end of the inhale.

This very simple, very gentle practice increases energy, promotes balanced alertness, and over time can help ease depressive symptoms. Because this is a subtly energizing practice, please be sure to practice it earlier in the day; if you practice it shortly before bed, it may cause interruptions in sleep. For a wonderful practice to overcome insomnia, please see my earlier article titled “Tracy’s Sleeping Pill.”

Two Part Krama Inhale Breath Practice:

  1. Come to a comfortable sitting position.
  2. Notice how you feel before beginning to practice, in your body and in your breath. Then notice how you feel in your thoughts and emotions. Don’t worry if you don’t feel as you think you “should.” Just notice whatever comes to mind and be grateful for the awareness.
  3. Gradually, over 6 breaths, lengthen both your inhale and exhale, noticing the natural pause at the end of your inhale.
  4. Maintain the breath in Step 3 for at least 6 breath cycles. Then, break the inhale portion of your breath into two equal parts, with a natural pause both between parts and at the end of the inhale.
  5. Maintain the breath in Step 4 for at least 6 breath cycles. Then lengthen both the pause in the middle of the inhale and the pause that follows the inhale to a count of 2. You will maintain this count for the rest of the practice.
  6. Continue this breath for at least 12 breath cycles. Do not strain the breath. If you do start to feel strain, decrease the lengths of both pauses. Then continue with that new breath for the rest of the practice.
  7. Once you finish 12 or more complete breaths at Step #6, shorten the pauses to a natural length and take 6 more breaths.
  8. Release the pauses completely and breathe for several breaths. Then gradually allow the breath to come back to a normal rhythm.
  9. Notice any changes you feel after this practice, without trying to judge them as “good” or “bad”.

I hope you have a wonderful , depression free holiday season!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

A Personal Journey with Yoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Matthew Peterson. Matt is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program . He  can be contacted at

I remember very clearly one particular hot summer day when change crept into my life. I would say in retrospect, that is the day that Yoga found its way into my world.  I had just gone through a trying day at a job that my heart was really not in, and grid locked traffic seemed to add a particular spice to my emotions! Upon arriving at home I had this over-whelming and heavy feeling that something was missing. There was just no possible way this was the entirety of the purpose in my life. After some time of being frustrated and short tempered, my wonderful fiancé, naturally concerned, started dialoging with me about these emotions that I just could not seem to shake

She suggested that perhaps it would be beneficial for me to pursue some of my spiritual pursuits, rather than letting them stay cerebral. I have always had a fascination with other people’s faiths and philosophies, and I would always seem to have any number of half finished books on this subject. While reflecting on this I realized that I had read some about Yoga but for some reason the concepts seemed just out of reach, but more real and obtainable than other paths I had researched. Then the thought came to me; I need someone to show me these things, as it was becoming apparent that I was quickly becoming a victim of my own mind.

To edit a bit, I did some research and found Whole Life Yoga, after setting the meeting and having the opportunity to voice my questions and worries about committing to the upcoming teacher training. I left the meeting feeling like I could most likely accomplish the training and made the decision to go ahead and at least give it a shot. Today as I write this a year plus has passed by since I started this walk, and I am simply humbled and astounded at the subtle power Yoga has had in my life! I feel blessed with a truly awakening journey and labor of love. I believe deeply that Yoga has something to offer anyone who seeks that “something else” in this life.

Looking back now I can say that I have learned to trust myself more often, even if I am scared. I have developed a deeper compassion in life, for not only others but myself as well. I have shed tears over past pains, and witnessed gratitude take the place of anger. I saw those around me leap their own hurdles and come out stronger people. Just sharing in the happiness of others breakthroughs that were facilitated by these ancient teachings has made it all seem more real, and given rise to a certain strength inside of me. The magic in all of this is in the pure simplicity and gentle nurturing that is Yoga. It is has allowed me to be able to move forward with a new found confidence, one that is not rooted in pretending that I know this or that, but one that has its foundation built on being able to say, “I don’t know, but I am willing to learn!”  And I am starting to learn that some of the greatest of all journeys begin in this way.


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Can Yoga Reduce Belly Fat? Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to

A WLY student asks:  I’ve found that as I age, my abdomen has gotten larger.  It sometimes gets in the way when I do yoga poses.  Any ideas on what to do about this, and can yoga help me reduce the size of my belly?

This question has a number of facets.

First, yoga and weight loss.

Studies have shown that yoga does indeed, help with weight loss.  But its effects can’t be explained via our Western models of exercise.  The actual calories expended during a yoga class are relatively minor compared to, say, exercise biking or jogging.  The yoga teachings say that certain poses have a “Langhana” or reducing effect.  Twists and forward bends are examples.  These would be the kinds of poses we would target for weight loss, not necessarily the ones that burn the most calories.  Likely these poses help improve digestion and reduce stagnation of food and other toxins in the body.  I believe, however, that yoga’s biggest weight loss impact comes from the mindfulness that it creates.  When we are in tune with our bodies and in harmony with our spirits, we tend to eat more appropriately.  For many this results in weight loss.  For me, it actually resulted in a weight gain to a more healthy weight.

Second, yoga and spot conditioning

Body shape is largely determined by fat storage patterns in the body.  This is often genetically determined.  Oh if only there were a magic exercise, any magic exercise, that would get rid of what my family calls the “Weber thighs.”  But even when I weighed less than 100 pounds, I STILL had them–thighs that were out of proportion to the rest of my body.

Men frequently store fat around the middle.  As women age, our fat storage tends to shift from our hips to our bellies, especially after menopause. Fat stores are best decreased via diet and aerobic exercise, but people rarely lose fat in only the target area, hence the crazy popularity of liposuction.  Instead, our goals should be to burn it from the entire body via a combination of right eating, aerobic exercise, and strengthening.

However, occasionally bellies seem larger because the internal organs sort of “pooch out.”  In that case, strengthening the abdominal muscles may help support internal organs and decrease belly size.   Boat pose, yoga crunches, and the toe tapping pose we often do in class are awesome for strengthening the “Girdling” muscles of the body.

Finally, adaptation of yoga for those with a rounder belly (for whatever reason!)

The key here is simply to make room for the breath.  Most yoga poses can be adapted to create that extra space you need.   Whenever you’re doing a pose that causes compression, such as a standing or kneeling forward bend, consider widening your legs or knees.   We often say that the feet should he hips bone distance apart, but really, that is the minimum.  They can always be wider if needed for comfort.  And when you’re in the pose, imagine that you are breathing into your back.  This will help you emphasize expanding the back of the rib cage, which will allow for a deeper breath.  Any time you become breathless or feel that the breath is strained, come out of the pose and go back into it when you’re ready.

But remember, it’s not about what you look like, in yoga or in life.  The primary goal of yoga, regardless of your body type, is to bring you greater health and balance.  The rest is just window dressing!

I hope that helps!


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!