Monthly Archives: February 2014

Persevering Practice: It Isn’t Just Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thank you, ladies, for providing these photos.

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


Tracy Weber

Is Happiness a Choice?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama XIV

I had a tough week last week. Not terrible, certainly not tragic.  It was simply a week filled with snippets of bad news, a small but steady trickle of minor disappointments, and a mind filled with fears of a future that hopefully won’t materialize.

On one particularly challenging day, I found myself crying more often than not.  Breath practices, meditations, even walking my dog—nothing really helped.  My mind simply needed the catharsis of tears.

When my husband came home from work, we decided to go out for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.  I always look forward to eating there, not just for the food, but because of the staff, particularly one always-bubbly waitress.

Shortly after we sat down, she bounced up to our table with her usual sparkle, seeming–as always–happy to see us.  She leaned down to fill our water glasses and asked, “How are you two doing tonight?”

Afraid I might burst into tears if I lied, I answered with the truth.

The resulting conversation surprised me.  When I told her that I’d had a rotten week and was feeling blue, she replied that her week had been awful too, and that such feelings are common for her.

I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that I told her I was surprised because she always seemed so happy.  She replied with a single sentence.

“I believe happiness is a choice.”

Immediately, I knew she was right. I would only make one revision: “Happiness is a choice, just not an easy one.”

The yoga teachings never promised that life would be easy. Our hopes won’t always be realized. People may treat us unkindly. Frankly, sometimes life seems unfair as hell. We can’t control that.

But we can choose to be happy anyway.

We can look for the small things that give us joy.  We can greet relative strangers as if seeing them were the highlight of our day. We can cry for a day—or a week—if we need to, then wake up again, determined to find and create joy.

It’s not always easy. Frankly, smiling through the rest of that dinner took a lot more effort than dissolving into tears.  But I realized that my attitude had impact: on my world as well as on me personally.

Here is my learning for the week: I can wear my heartache like a lead-lined raincoat, or I can hang it in the closet, go back out into the world, and search for all of the positive, wonderful, amazing things that give me joy. Today, I choose to be happy.

What will you choose?


Tracy Weber

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

Is Yoga Unchristian?

I had an unusual e-mail conversation with a potential reader a few days ago.  Unusual in that we disagreed with each other, yet the tone of our conversation remained respectful, supportive, and honest.  At the end of the conversation, I lost a reader.

It still makes me sad.  This lovely woman had originally entered a contest to win Murder Strikes a Pose, and she was very excited.  She asked me to mail her some bookmarks so she could spread the word.  She is a huge cozy mystery fan and she loves German shepherds.  What book could be more perfect? Then it hit her.

Murder Strikes a Pose is about a yoga teacher.

She became concerned.  She and her friends are Christian, and they believe that yoga conflicts with the teachings of the Bible.  I myself was raised in the Christian church, and although The Yoga Sutras use terms that sound unusual, that’s primarily because they are from a different language. But as far as religion, The Yoga Sutras teach that for a believer of ANY faith, the most effective path to mental clarity is by practicing that faith. The sutras never say what form that faith should take.   For nonbelievers, there are other tools that can bring clarity as well.

Still, I wanted to be honest with this reader and respectful of her concerns.  My protagonist is an often-not-yogic yoga teacher, but she tries to follow the teachings, and she does occasionally throw out a Sanskrit word or two.   So I found what I thought was likely to be the most concerning passage in the book and sent it her. I’ve included it below.

“Less than twenty-four hours later, I was elbow-deep in my least favorite activity—updating the studio’s database—when the Power Yoga class entered Savasana, a pose of quiet rest. Vedic chanting flowed from the studio’s speakers, filling the lobby with sounds of cherubic bliss.

Ahhhh … just the excuse I was looking for.

I cracked open the door to the yoga room, intending to eavesdrop as the instructor lulled her students into a state of samadhi—yoga-induced ecstasy. I returned to my chair, leaned back, and closed my eyes, mentally transporting myself out of the lobby and into the practice space.

In my mind’s eye, I savored the room’s peaceful atmosphere. Dimmed incandescent lights reflected off unadorned yellow-beige walls, illuminating the space in a soft golden hue; meditation candles cast dancing light beams along the maple floor; a fresh-cut bouquet of soft pink tulips decorated the altar, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. The room currently held twenty practicing yogis, but in my imagination, it was mine. All mine. I practically purred, feeling as content as a recently-fed kitten.

The teacher’s voice soothed my nerves and dissolved salt-like grains of tension from behind my eyes. “Release your weight into the mat. Imagine that your muscles are made of softened wax, melting on a smooth, warm surface.” My jaw muscles loosened. My shoulders eased down from my ears.

She continued her spoken lullaby. “With each inhale, imagine a white light entering the crown of your head and pouring through your body, illuminating every cell.” A soft sigh escaped from my lips. “With each exhale—”

The now-familiar sound of barking drowned out the teacher’s voice and jolted me awake.

Loud, angry barking.

My momentary tranquility vanished. As if in one motion, my jaw tightened, my shoulders lifted, and my hands clenched into tight fists. An embarrassing litany of swear words spewed from my lips.”

Reading this passage confirmed the reader’s fears.  She said she couldn’t read Murder Strikes a Pose without violating her ethical principles, and she couldn’t in good conscience recommend it to her friends.  She donated her copy and the bookmarks to a bookstore.

All-in-all, I was thoroughly impressed with this woman.  She was kind, respectful, ethical, and honest.  And I’m sad.  Sure, I think she would have enjoyed my book. Sure, I want to find every reader I can.  Sure, I was hoping she’d become a rabid fan and spread word of the series to everyone she met.

But I’m mainly sad that she’ll never try yoga, and even sadder that some people think my life’s work is unchristian. Yoga teaches us compassion, honesty, and faith, among other principles. It simply calls them ahimsa, satya and sraddha. My Bible studies as a child and teenager taught me the same concepts.  To me, yoga IS Christian. And Hindu. And  Jewish. And Buddhist. And Athiest. It is for all faiths and all belief systems.  Yoga teaches you how to become clear, understand your own values, and live in alignment with your own spiritual beliefs.

What do you think?  How can we, as people who practice and teach yoga, make this work accessible to all faiths?


Tracy Weber

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

Pain: Turning “Weaknesses” into Strength

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 advanced teacher training program. She can be contacted at

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that “feeling” is a sign of physical or emotional weakness. Our culture has conditioned us to put people who elicit feelings of sadness, anxiety, or pain into a category of being “weak,” projecting a negative self-image and association with these feelings onto those who endure them. In reality, physical, mental and emotional conflicts can actually give you strength. When you can recognize, accept and control them, you will gain more power and clarity about yourself and the world around you than you ever thought possible.

Growing up, I was conditioned to look at pain as a weakness and to always push through it. Like everyone else, athletes have a pain threshold. Most hover just below it, where the body is screaming at you, telling you not to go any farther and you quiet it just enough to push through your practice, game or day. The problem is, once you have gone over that threshold, it is incredibly difficult to get your body back to “normal.” I broke my pain threshold, multiple times. I created injury on top of injury, until muscular and structural issues within my own body literally stopped me in my tracks.

Discouragement, pain pills and anti-inflammatories were thrown at me from all angles, providing me with zero resolution, only masking my pain and shoving me farther into the depths of my mind. When you are in physical pain, your mind and emotions suffer as well, causing depression, anxiety, negative thinking and poor sleep quality. These conflicts are normal, but no one tells you this. I’d like to invite you to embrace this. Our bodies tell the story of our lives. Learn to empower that story. No matter how tragic or lost you may feel it is, it is beautiful and unique to you. Make your “weaknesses” your strength. It is a long journey that requires perseverance. When I started, I was still attached to my negative conditioning of pain. I didn’t want to talk about it; I just wanted to hide it.

You may receive discouragement, resulting in self-doubt and feelings of weakness. When that happens to me, I slow my thoughts down, quiet the mind, and think of all the positive things my pain has brought me. I think of how it defines me, and only I can define my Self. Yoga has provided me with a completely different outlook on life that yes, I have this mess of a body, but I have a choice. I can sit back and let my “weaknesses” overcome me, or I can embrace them, empower them. I chose the latter and I have let my “weak” body become my teacher and my strength, allowing me to pass my gift of yoga along to others through teaching and sharing what I have learned.

By embracing your “weaknesses,” you will learn to appreciate, love and hopefully share your story so that others can do the same, knowing they are not alone.

Namaste Friends,

Katie West

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