Author Archives: Whole Life Yoga

Enough

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga 500-hour graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  I’m so INCREDIBLY proud of Marcie and the work she’s doing.  Thanks for joining us here today!

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For the past few years, I’ve been teaching classes called “Befriending Your Body through Yoga” to plus size women. My intention with these classes is to create a comfortable space where women who have bigger bodies are able to come and see what yoga can offer them. As the name implies, there is also an element of self-compassion underlying the classes. Teaching self-compassion to my students is as important to me as teaching pose adaptations because in my own life I have found that practicing yoga has led to a much kinder, gentler, and more accepting relationship between my (overcritical) mind and my (overweight) body. This is nothing short of a miracle.

I grew up in a small desert town in the 70s. My perceptions of beauty came from the Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, and Tiger Beat. At that time, there was no body positivity movement and no Yoga and Body Image Coalition and, as a girl of a certain size, I could have used them. My body didn’t look or move like the bodies of most girls around me, and I felt markedly different. No matter how much I dieted, I couldn’t get down to the movie-star weight of 107 pounds. So, I abandoned my body in favor of my mind, striving for excellence in order to make myself good enough, lovable enough, and acceptable enough.

I’m no longer a girl, and I’ve learned from some of my students that not all rounder-bodied women grew up ashamed of their bodies. I’m wistful when I meet women like that. I wonder what my life might have been like had I not spent years aiming to be invisible for fear of mockery or rejection. There have been other students in my classes who grew up like me and who say that it takes every bit of their will just to get to class, particularly the first few times. They are afraid of being visible, of being watched and judged. I feel so deeply for them because I recognize that struggle. They, like me, have samskaras, as yoga philosophy would call it. Samskaras are patterns deeply imprinted at a subconscious level. They can affect our habits, thoughts and actions. The samskaras about my body that I learned from and cultivated in my youth followed me for much of my young adulthood and still affect me today, even after years of conscious work with them. They are familiar to some of my plus-size students because the messages that conditioned them permeate our culture. The messages we receive are that bigger bodies are not normal, acceptable, or desirable. That we are lazy, undisciplined, and ugly. That the sum total of who we are will never be enough to compensate for the fact that we are fat.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received from yoga is the ability to find a place within myself that is not only quiet and accepting but also has no interest in following the patterns and beliefs of my samskaras. This is what I want to pass along to my students: the understanding that yoga can help them access this same place within themselves, and that it is a place of deep kindness and self-love that is unimaginable when the samskaras are running the show. My deepest Self isn’t interested in what I weigh or what I’m wearing to class, nor is it interested in comparing my body or my abilities to the other students around me. It’s such a relief! I practice yoga to experience that connection with my Self and to experience my body and my breath as it is in the moment, and I’ve learned that what it is in each moment is enough.

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies.  She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie on her Facebook Page or at her website www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com. Marcie’s Befriending Your Body through Yoga E-Course begins on January 17.

Introducing: A Fatal Twist!

Book 4 in my Downward Dog Mystery series, A Fatal Twist, officially launches on January 8, but now’s the perfect time to put it on your Christmas list for some Santa preorder love! For a partial list of sellers, please see my author website: http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_fatal.html.  

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In case you’re wondering what the book’s all about, I present to you Chapter 1.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

CHAPTER ONE

When I entered the cold, darkened room a lifetime ago, I thought I was ready. I’d trained for this day. Looked forward to it, even. I’d prepared for the hunger, the exhaustion. Steeled myself for the blood. But I’d never anticipated the sounds. The low, tortured moans of the young blonde woman crouched before me. I tentatively reached out my hand, hoping to provide her some minimal form of comfort. She growled at me through bared teeth. A feral dog ready to snap.

“Touch me again and I’ll slice off your fingers.”

I could only hope that my live-in boyfriend, Michael, wouldn’t want to get frisky anytime soon. Witnessing six hours—and counting—of Rhonda’s unmedicated labor might put me off sex forever.

The stream of invectives she spewed next would have offended a drunken sailor, which was particularly impressive considering they came from the mouth of a twenty-four-year-old grade school teacher wearing teddy bear slipper-socks and a fuzzy pink bathrobe. I inhaled a deep breath of lavender-scented air, gave her my most serene yoga teacher smile, and backed away. Summer, my doula trainer, motioned me to the side with her eyes.

In spite of my obvious fumbling, Summer seemed unphased, which she probably was. She’d already assisted in over two hundred births. This was my first.

Like a submissive wolf pacifying her alpha, I avoided direct eye contact. I glanced around the room, pretending to take in my surroundings. The upscale birthing suite was different from any hospital room I’d been in before, which wasn’t surprising. A Better Birth Association (ABBA—not to be confused with the band of the same name) was a one-of-its-kind birthing center that blended Western medical approaches with a home-birthing-like atmosphere, all housed in a converted 1920s apartment building in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.

ABBA’s birth center had been specifically designed to meet the need of an emerging market in Seattle’s childbirth industry: parents of means who wanted low intervention, home-like births while remaining only seconds away from the latest cutting-edge equipment and liberal pain medication, should they change their minds. ABBA’s tagline read, The Comforts of Home, the Benefits of Modern Medicine.

If these were the comforts of home, my house needed an upgrade. The interior of the birthing suite had been restored with period-appropriate touches: double-hung windows, detailed millwork, freshly painted wainscoting. Live ferns and ficus trees flourished near the windows. The soft, soothing tones of Bach’s Canon No. 1 filtered through the air. A pull-out couch, a rocking chair, and an end table with a granite fountain sat across the room. The only nods to the medical nature of the facility were the hospital bed, which was covered in a purple-blue quilt, and several pieces of high-tech medical equipment that were shielded from view by bamboo shoji screens. The room was elegant enough that if giving birth weren’t a requirement, I would have asked to vacation there.

Summer squatted on the ground, leaned forward, and took Rhonda’s hands. Her soft, voluptuous curves and gray-streaked dark hair seemed maternal, comforting somehow. As if they were medals of honor—proof that she’d survived the birth process countless times before. The tired-looking circles under her eyes didn’t detract from the power of her voice.

“It’s okay, Rhonda. Look at me. Focus. Breathe. Just like we practiced. This contraction’s almost over. All you need to do is hang on for a few more seconds.”

Tears pooled behind Rhonda’s lashes. “I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. We’ll do it together.”

For the next twenty seconds, the room was filled with deep breaths, low moans, and Summer’s whispered assurances. I stood helplessly next to Rhonda’s husband, who looked more distraught than I felt.

At the end of the contraction, Rhonda’s eyes glazed over. She slumped against the wall.

“I think I should go back to the bed now.”

I grabbed one arm; Summer, the other. I smiled at Rhonda as we guided her to the partially raised hospital bed. “Whew. That was a tough one.”

Rhonda gave me a wan smile. “I’m so sorry, Kate. I never swear. It’s like I’ve developed some sort of pain-induced Tourette’s. I can’t stop myself.”

Her husband grinned. “I can’t even say the word ‘damn’ in our house without putting a dollar in the cookie jar.” He slid a pillow behind Rhonda’s back and offered her a paper cup filled with ice chips. “Believe me, babe, I’m keeping track. At the rate you’re going, we’ll have enough in there for Baby Jane’s college tuition.” He pretended to duck, as if expecting Rhonda to slug him.

“Stop calling her that.” Rhonda wrinkled her lips, but her eyes showed no irritation. “I haven’t picked out a name yet, but she’s not going to be a Jane Doe. She’ll tell me her name when I see her.”

I had to give the man extra-credit karma points for courage. Michael would never crack a joke while I was preparing to push a living seven-pound bowling ball out of my lady parts. I’d worked hard over the past nine months to cool down my Hulk-like temper, but all bets would be off in the middle of a contraction. One bad joke, and I’d probably smack him over the head with a bedpan.

If he was lucky.

“Don’t worry, Rhonda,” Summer replied. “Women say all kinds of things in the middle of a contraction. What happens in the delivery room stays in the delivery room.” She leveled a stern look at the father. “And there will be no keeping track of swearing—or anything else—Dad.”

The labor nurse, whose name tag read Tamara Phillips, turned to Rhonda. Her strawberry-blonde hair was tied back in a severe-looking bun, but her blue-green eyes radiated compassionate concern. “You’ve been stuck at four centimeters for a while now. Are you sure you don’t want an epidural? We’re going to be at this for a long time. Possibly all night and well into tomorrow.”

I glanced at the room’s Buddha-shaped wall clock. Three minutes after midnight. Ugh.

Nurse Tamara continued. “I know you don’t want Pitocin, but I wish you’d reconsider an epidural. Sometimes getting rid of the pain helps labor progress.”

Rhonda’s expression grew worried. “Is the baby all right?”

The nurse glanced behind the shoji screen at the monitor. “The heartbeat looks great. Steady as a drum.” She furrowed her brow. “You, on the other hand, are suffering. You can give birth without benefit of pain medication, but you don’t have to. We live in the twenty-first century. There’s no reason for childbirth to be torture.” She pointed to a black phone on the wall. “I can have our nurse anesthetist here with a single phone call.”

Summer gave Nurse Tamara a look. The kind Dad used to give right before he dragged me out of the room for a good scolding. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

Forced smile notwithstanding, Summer’s question wasn’t really a request. She nodded toward the baby’s father. “Dad, you stay here with Rhonda. We’ll be back in a minute.” She motioned for the nurse and me to follow her into the hall.

Summer spoke as soon as the door closed behind us. “I know you mean well,” she began, sounding like she knew nothing of the sort, “but as I pointed out to you an hour ago, Rhonda specifically asked in her birth plan not to be offered pain medication. Giving birth naturally is important to her. If she changes her mind, she’ll tell me.”

Nurse Tamara’s lips tightened. “There’s simply no reason for her to suffer. It could be twelve hours before that baby comes.”

Summer crossed her arms and stepped her feet wide. “Her birth, her choice.”

The nurse’s frown lines deepened.

The two women glared at each other in silence, each waiting for the other to give ground. I wondered—not for the first time today— if their conflict had anything to do with Rhonda or her supposed birth plan. From the moment I’d entered the birthing suite, I’d felt a palpable, tense energy between the two women. As if every interaction was the next move in a covert battle for dominance.

After several long moments, Nurse Tamara caved.“Fine, for now. But you’re not helping her.” She spun on her heel and marched back through the door.

I sagged against the wall, grateful for once that I wasn’t the source of the tumult. When I’d volunteered to be the doula at my best friend Rene’s upcoming birth, I’d thought a doula was a labor coach with a fancy title. Since then, I’d learned that the job included so much more: helping the couple determine a birth plan, advocating for the needs of the entire family—dad included—and occasionally running interference with the mom-to-be’s healthcare professionals.

I hadn’t expected the last part to be quite so heated.

“Is it always this intense?” I asked Summer.

“Work as a doula can be challenging,” she replied. “But honestly, we’ve barely been at this six hours. If I were you, I’d prepare to settle in. First babies can take a long time.”

“No worries there. I’m here for the duration.” I gestured to the door. “I meant with the nurse. Is a doula’s relationship with the medical team supposed to be that confrontational?”

Summer’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, you mean my spat with Nurse Doom and Gloom.” She frowned at the closed door, as if replaying the scene on its smooth oak surface. When she turned back toward me, her face wore a resigned expression.

“Tamara and I have a history, but you’re right. I should back off. I’m being a terrible example for you. A doula’s job is to facilitate, not berate.” She sighed. “Take a lesson from that, Kate, especially since your friend plans to give birth in a hospital. If you want to support hospital births, you’ll have to learn how to partner with Western healthcare providers.”

“Is a hospital birth that much different than one here at ABBA?”

She shrugged. “Depends on the hospital. Frankly, depends on the labor and delivery nurse, too. Personally, I prefer home births. But as far as medical facilities go, ABBA is one of the best. It only grants privileges to highly regarded private practice OB/GYNs who support natural childbirth. Most hospitals advocate interventions, like that epidural Nurse Tamara keeps pushing. Drives me batty. Epidurals, Pitocin, C-sections … they simply aren’t needed most of the time. Natural childbirth is far healthier for both mom and her baby.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with Summer’s steadfast devotion to “natural” childbirth. (Was there any other kind?) But she was right about ABBA, which was one of the most prestigious birthing centers in the Pacific Northwest. There was no better place in Seattle to have a baby. If you could afford it.

A low groan came from Rhonda’s suite. “We’d better go back in,” Summer said. “Tamara’s right. We could be here awhile.”

Summer coached Rhonda through the next set of contractions, skillfully holding her attention while the nurse did something I didn’t care to think about underneath the sheets. When the contraction ended, Nurse Tamara sat back and frowned.

“Still four centimeters.”

Rhonda moaned. “Seriously? Maybe I should get an epidural after all.” Her eyes begged Summer for permission. “What do you think?”

Summer’s face remained blank. “It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s your choice.”

The nurse reached for the phone, preparing to dial her magic number.

The thought of watching someone insert a three-and-a-half inch needle into Rhonda’s spine made my stomach feel woozy. From the expression on her husband’s face, he felt downright ill.

Rhonda seemed conflicted. “If I get an epidural, I’ll be confined to the bed, right?”

Summer nodded. “Yes, for the rest of the labor. Do you want to stick with less invasive options for now?”

Rhonda didn’t reply.

Summer took that to mean yes. “Good choice.” She gestured toward the husband. “You look like you could use some fresh air. Why don’t you take a break while I get Rhonda into the jetted tub?”

He took a step toward the door, then turned back to his wife. “You okay with this, hon?”

Rhonda nodded.

Summer patted him on the back. “Go on now. We’ll call your cell if we need anything.” As the door closed behind him, she pulled me aside and whispered, “You look like you’re about to faint. Did you eat dinner before you left home?”

I shook my head no.

“Didn’t you listen in training? Rule number one of being a doula: eat before you leave for the birth. Things can get crazy, quick.” She frowned. “The last thing I need is for you to pass out on me. Go to the family room and have a snack, but don’t be gone long. Bring me back a bottle of water.”

The family room was another of ABBA’s many perks: a lounge in which families and support staff could get sustenance without leaving the facility. I wasn’t sure doulas-in-training were the intended customers, but who was I to quibble?

I stopped in the restroom for a quick bio break, then headed down the facility’s light pink hallway. The spicy scent of Kung Pao Tofu taunted my stomach, courtesy of an open window and the twenty-four-hour Chinese restaurant next door.

A quick left turn later, I was foraging through the empty family room, which was furnished with overstuffed chairs, ornately detailed wooden end tables, and a large selection of puzzles, games, and current magazines. A cabinet topped with a sign labeled Snacks was stocked with protein bars, crackers, and single-serve packages of peanut butter. A refrigerator in the corner held sodas and bottled water. I smothered an individually wrapped graham cracker with a thick coating of peanut butter, added some honey, and placed another cracker on top—my version of a home-cooked meal. I popped the concoction into my mouth, wiped the stray honey from my lips, and groaned. Stale crackers and sweetening-laced peanuts never tasted so good. I slammed down three more, coated with an extra layer of honey for good measure.

Low blood sugar catastrophe averted, I pulled out my cell phone to call Michael.

He answered on the second ring. “Hey, babe. Are you on your way home?”

“Not even close. At the rate things are going, I might still be here next week. Sorry to call so late, but I wanted to let you know not to expect me tonight.”

A cupboard door closed on the other end of the line.

“Aren’t you in bed yet?” I asked.

“Nope. I can’t sleep without you here, so I’m making a sandwich. If you’re nice to me, I’ll make a batch of those vegan brownies you love so much.”

I grinned. Michael was learning. I wouldn’t complain about coming home to a messy kitchen if he’d baked something worth cleaning it for.

A metallic rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby floated through the birth center’s sound system, signaling that a new baby had been delivered. Hopefully Rhonda’s wouldn’t be far behind.

“I need to get back, Michael, but I’ll call again in the morning. Give Bella a kiss for me.” Bella’s distinctive sharp bark sounded in the background.

“Bella says she misses you.”

Michael’s intention was sweet, but we both knew what my hundred-pound German shepherd was actually saying: Give me a bite of that sandwich. Now.

I smiled. “Tell her I miss her, too. I miss both of you. Don’t feed her too many treats, and try not to make a mess.”

“Me? When have I ever made a mess?”

I ignored his obvious sarcasm, told him I loved him, and clicked off the phone.

Smart-ass.

A vegan protein bar and another peanut-butter-coated cracker later, I grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge and started to head back.

Whispered voices stopped me at the family room door.

“I told you, we can’t do this here.”

I peeked into the hall, toward the sound. Four doors down, a fiftyish man in a white doctor’s coat leaned over a woman wearing a black cocktail dress and red stilettos. The female, a mid-thirties Hispanic woman with heavily lined, deep cocoa eyes, gave him a sultry pout.

“If not here, where? I’ve been waiting in that hotel room for hours.” She nuzzled his neck. Her right hand lay flat against his chest. Her left explored significantly further south.

The man’s voice turned low and throaty. “You’re killing me.” He reluctantly pushed her away, exposing his handsome face, designer glasses, and perfectly tousled George Clooney–like hair. “I told you I’d call as soon as I could leave, and I will. But we can’t be seen like this. Not here. Especially not now.”

She ran a burgundy fingernail down the center of his sternum. “So what if someone sees us? I’m tired of sneaking around. It’s time for you to get a divorce. Past time.”

The man flashed a conciliatory smile. “Patience, Mariella. Patience. I told you. As soon as the lawsuit is settled, I’ll leave her.”

She grabbed his lapels and pulled him closer.“In case you haven’t noticed, patience isn’t my strong suit.”

This time, he didn’t resist her. Their show zoomed right past PG on the fast track to R.

And they were blocking my way back to Rhonda’s birthing suite.

Fabulous.

What was I supposed to do now? I considered tiptoeing past the two lovers, hoping they wouldn’t notice me. I considered announcing myself loudly, in hopes that they’d scurry away. I even considered spraying them both with the nearest fire extinguisher in an attempt to cool them down before the building ignited.

Their show was that hot.

In the end, I didn’t have to do anything.

Nurse Tamara appeared behind them and froze. At first she seemed angry, but then the right corner of her mouth slowly lifted, forming a grin that seemed more contemptuous than friendly. She tapped the man on the shoulder, surprising him.

“You certainly live up to your nickname, don’t you, Dr. Dick? Can’t even keep it in your pants for a few hours at work? My lawyer’s going to love this.”

The man’s mouth dropped open, but he remained silent.

Mariella grabbed Nurse Tamara’s arm. “Back off, Tamara.”

Nurse Tamara shoved her away. “You back off, you little gold digger. If you think you two are going to live happily ever after, you’re a fool.” She gave Dr. Dick a scathing look. “That scumbag won’t leave his wife until the day he dies.”

She pushed past the shocked-looking couple and marched up to me. “Summer wants you to go back and meet the new nurse. My shift’s over.” She continued to the end of the hallway, then stopped at the exit and growled over her shoulder. “I’m out of here. I’ve had enough of this circus for one day.”

“Tamara, wait!” Dr. Dick ran after her. The heavy metal door slammed behind them.

Mariella stared at the glowing green-and-white exit sign, face locked in an expression of surprised frustration. After several long, uncomfortable seconds, she frowned at me. “What’re you staring at?”

“Nothing. Sorry.”

I scooted past her and jogged back to the birthing suite. When I opened the door, Summer and a new nurse were whispering in the corner. Rhonda squatted on a dark green birthing ball, holding her belly and rocking back and forth.

Still at four centimeters.

Pre-order your copy of A Fatal Twist now at these online booksellers!  http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_fatal.html

fatal-twist-finalAbout A Fatal Twist: Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene. 

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

 

How to Keep Cobra Pose From Being a Pain In The Neck

When practiced appropriately, Cobra Pose and all of its fantastic variations can be an important exercise for creating and maintaining back and neck health. If you practice it incorrectly, however, you can create the very neck issues you’re trying to prevent. Below are five ways you can practice Cobra while protecting your neck.

  • Lead with your collar bones, not with your chin. The origin of motion (the place where the movement starts) should be your low back, not your neck. The photos below show a Yogi leading with her chin, and another practicing correctly. Most students find the right motion if I tell them to imagine they’re leading with their collarbones.

Correct form

Student incorrectly leading with her chin

  • Extend out through the crown of your head as you lift. Extending through the spine (called intervertebral extension) increases the space between your vertebra and prevents that pinching sensation at the base of your neck. It also engages and strengthens neck muscles in a more effective way.
  • Turn your head as you lower, not as you lift. As you lift up into Cobra Pose, your eyes should point toward your mat, not toward the ceiling, and certainly not to either side of the room. Turn your head only after you have started lowering back to the floor. The photo below shows a person practicing with her head in the incorrect position.

  • Don’t lift your chin, or if you do, lift it at the very end of your inhale, after you have fully extended your spine. Most yogis would be best served if they kept their neck in a neutral position. Experienced yogis can lift the chin a little to stretch the throat, but only at the very end of the movement.
  • On the other hand, don’t overly tuck your chin, either. Students often interpret “don’t lift your chin” as “squash your chin to the pit of your throat.” Keeping the chin in a tucked position places extra strain on the very muscles you’re trying to protect. You should be able to hold an object about the size of a Granny Smith apple between your chin and your throat. The student below is holding her chin in an inappropriate position.

If you have neck issues (or even if you don’t!) give these tips try and let me know what you think. I hope that they help.

Namaste

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!

The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Day

Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed. I had one of those recently.

I was on day twelve of the monster-cold/sinus infection that had kept me out of work for a week and a half. After almost two weeks of misery, I gave up and made a doctor’s appointment in Bellevue, about a twenty-minute drive from my house in Seattle.  My goal?  Beg for antibiotics.

I almost made it.

A block away from the clinic, I got into a car wreck. I thought the car that collided with me was in a turn lane, but other driver says he wasn’t.  Traffic cameras will ultimately determine who was at fault.  At first, the other car kept driving, and I thought I’d been involved in a hit and run.  I pulled to the side of the road only to realize that I’d left my cell phone at home on my desk.

I flagged down a Fedex driver who called 911, and a few minutes later, the other driver appeared on foot from two blocks away. The damage to his car was worse than mine, but both seemed relatively minor considering the impact of the collision.

We didn’t speak much during the 90 minutes we waited for the police, but I was grateful that no one was injured. After the policeman took my statement, he told me that he hoped I’d have a better rest of my day.

How were either of us to know things would only get worse?

On a freeway onramp a few blocks later, I felt my car wobble. Then I noticed that I had to hold the wheel at a 45 degree angle to keep the car straight. There is no way in HECK the car was safe to drive.

I pulled to the side on the dangerous onramp, because I figured it was better than driving on the freeway. My cell phone was still at home on my desk, so there was no way to call for help. I put on the hazard lights, got out of the car, and tried to wave down someone to call 911.

At least 200 people drove by at 55 MPH. Business vans, burly-looking men in cars, SUVs, even taxis. I tried to look innocent. I yelled the word “please!” I even tried yelling, “Dial 911!”  I was too far away from a safe street to walk.  I considered the merits of dying in my car versus walking on the freeway, only to come to one frightening conclusion: There was no way this day was going to end well.

Finally, a woman stopped. I opened her car door and asked her to call 911, which she did.  The 911 operator said they could do nothing to help. The stranger, shocked, said, “This woman has no phone and it’s not safe for her to stay in her car. What do you want her to do?”

Their answer? “Sorry, we can’t help. Have her call a tow truck.”

The stranger (who is obviously a saint) said “get in” and drove me to the closest gas station, which was 10 minutes away. Thus began our adventure

To make a long story short, 911 and my husband said to call the tow company; the tow company said to call 911. Eventually, my new hero (the saintly stranger) helped me with the tow company, took me to get a rental car, and stayed with me until I’d been reunited with my husband—two hours after she picked me up on the freeway.

Why do I write about this?

I’m grateful.

I wasn’t a threat to anyone while I was stranded on the side of the freeway, but hundreds of people drove past me, ignoring my pleas for help. The person who finally stopped was a woman, driving alone, who had plenty of things she’d rather to do than cart around a sobbing stranger who’d been in a car accident.

Instead, she stuck with me. She helped me. She even prayed for me. She made a horrible, awful, traumatizing day better.  When I asked her why, she said “I hope someone would do it for me.”

We should all be so kind.

There are good people in the world. May each of us be one of them.

Tracy Weber

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

Ahimsa for children: How to encourage your children to respect animals and care for the environment

Please welcome Emma Mills to the Whole Life Blog today. Emma is a freelance writer and mom of two, who loves nothing more than taking her pet dogs for long walks.  

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love both yoga and animals.  The concept of ahimsa, “doing no harm,” encompasses both.  So when Emma asked to write an article about encouraging children to respect animals, I had to say yes!  Enjoy!

Girl feeding chickens

If you are a yoga enthusiast you will know that yoga as a belief system goes beyond the actual exercise element and is in fact a philosophy which promotes inner peace, self control and self realisation. One of the most important principles of Yoga is ahimsa, i.e. non-violence. This is used as a guideline for how we should treat other human beings but it also teaches us not to hurt living things including animals and the world that we live in, which is why many many Hindu’s and Buddhists who adhere to this philosophy are vegetarian. If you want to encourage others to follow the ahimsa principle you must first promote respect for the world around us and the animals that share this earth with us. This is especially important for children because it is an important step in creating a sustainable, animal friendly future.

There are many things you can do to encourage children to respect animals and the environment. One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children and exhibit the behaviours you want them to learn. So for example if you want to encourage your children to be kind to animals you must be kind to animals around them. Buy mouse-friendly traps that won’t harm the rodent, take spiders outside rather than killing them and try to teach your children that bees should be respected rather than feared. Take your children to your local zoo, watch a film about animals with your children and, if you have the time, consider buying an animal that your whole family can take care of and learn to love.

In regards to the environment, it’s important that children spend lots of time outside and learn to appreciate nature. Focus on play and experience and encourage your children to explore your back garden or take them on regular trips to a local green area. Make sure they are comfortable with nature and they have positive early experiences in the great outdoors, because not only will they learn to appreciate mother earth but they will be healthier and fitter in the process!

Encouraging your children to respect animals and engage with nature is really important and once you get started it can be a rewarding and fun experience for everyone. If you would like more information on how to promote respect towards animals refer to these tips.

Emma

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

Whole Life Yoga–Fifteen Years and Counting.

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OMG  I can’t believe I missed Whole Life Yoga’s 15th anniversary!  We opened on October 12, 2001, about a month after my father’s death.  I didn’t think Dad approved of my decision to quit my management job at Microsoft and open a yoga studio until the day of his funeral. During the eulogy, the pastor mentioned how proud my father was that his daughter decided to dedicate her life to helping others. That sentence has kept me going for the past fifteen years.

So many things have happened since then….

  • Literally thousands of people have come through our door to take yoga classes.  Almost 15,000 unique individuals, by my best estimate.  WOW!  Fifteen thousand people that we’ve impacted, hopefully for the better.
  • We’ve hosted fourteen teacher trainings, which represents well  over 250 yoga teachers that have been certified in the Viniyoga lineage.
  • We’ve donated classes to hundreds of nonprofits for auctions and other events.
  • We’ve held fundraising events for nonprofits, neighborhood businesses, and friends struggling with illness.

When I opened the studio, the longest I’d stayed with any career was five years. The fact that I still work at Whole Life Yoga after fifteen years is nothing short of astounding.

Running a small business hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, some days I wonder how many more years I have left in me.  But I can honestly say there’s nothing I’m more proud of in my life.  Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey.

Tracy Weber

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

Writing, and Research, and Travel, Oh My!

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Hey all!  This week I’m blogging at Inkspot (the blog for the writers of Midnight Ink)  about Ana’s and my recent research trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Of course, hubby was there, too!  Check it out at

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2016/10/writing-and-research-and-travel-oh-my.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!

Yogi Interview of the Month: Marcie Leek!

Hi everyone! Please help me welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  Marcie is truly amazing, both in the audiences she touches and the innovative ways in which she teaches.  Enjoy!

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What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

When I first came to Viniyoga, I was a burned-out (English) teacher taking a sabbatical. In the classes I attended at Whole Life, my chaotic and self-critical mind stilled during class. This was miraculous to me (truly!). I found a peace there I had not found in previous yoga classes. My hunch is that Viniyoga’s focus on the breath, and connection between breath and movement, helped me find a meditative, calm, and (self-)loving side of myself that I hadn’t been able to access before.

How has yoga changed your life?

So many ways! I am so much better at practicing living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or being fearful about the future. I’m not cured of this, of course, but I often notice when I go there (into my head and/or into my fear), and I even manage to call myself back pretty quickly sometimes. I also have become much better at observing self-care boundaries than I was. I’ve slowed down, and I pause more. I’m nicer to myself in my head. I am more aware of my body and of the connections, positive and negative, between my body and my mind. I’ve also become more courageous about bringing ideas into fruition and putting them out in the world, even though it scares me. I know myself more, and I trust my Self more. And I have made some wonderful friends!

What made you decide to take a yoga teacher training program?

I wanted to help other people find that peaceful place within themselves.

Now that you’ve graduated, how are you sharing what you learned?

First, I teach two series classes that aim to bring two very different populations to that peaceful place I have found through yoga. I teach a series and classes called Befriending Your Body through Yoga, in Seattle and now online. It’s a series for plus-size women who want to learn how yoga can help them develop or maintain a self-compassionate relationship between body and mind. I also teach a series called Moving through Grief with Yoga, which teaches people how the tools of yoga can help them as they go through the process of grieving. I am passionate about both of these series and have loved watching them grow! I also teach cancer patients and caregivers for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance the same tools as I teach my other students: self-compassion and how to work with the body, breath, and mind as they navigate a challenging time. I’m so grateful to be able to share yoga with all of these people who might not otherwise know how it can benefit them.

What specific populations do you most enjoy teaching?

I love to teach yoga to anyone who will let me teach them, but I am particularly fond of what I call “tender” populations. This might be the people who come to a particular series, but it also includes newcomers to yoga (especially people who think they can’t do it), expecting mothers, and more.

What would you say to someone who thinks they “can’t” do yoga?

Yes, you can!

How are you different from a “typical” yogi?

Well, I sure don’t fit the physical image most people have of a “typical” yogi – my body is much rounder, and I’m much older than most people I see on the cover of yoga magazines. I was in my late 40s when I graduated my first round of yoga school and 50 when I finished the advanced training.

Where do you teach?

My series (Befriending Your Body through Yoga and Moving through Grief with Yoga) alternate 6-week blocks most quarters of the year, and classes are on Thursday evenings at OmTown Yoga (5500 35th Ave NE in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood). I also teach a drop in class at OmTown on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm. Befriending Your Body through Yoga has a Level 2 drop-in class at 7:45 on Tuesdays as well as the Level 1 series on Thursdays. The SCCA classes are limited to residents of the Pete Gross House.

How can people learn more about you? 

My website: www.nourishingbreathyoga.com

My NBY Facebook Page: Nourishing Breath Yoga

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies. She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie’s classes at her website, www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com.

Welcome Whole Life Yoga’s Newest Teacher Training Class!

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Today’s post will be short and sweet. I spent most of last week kicking off my newest teacher training program and traveling to Cannon Beach, Oregon doing research for my fifth book, tentatively titled Pre-Meditated Murder.  (I’m sure that title will change.)

So today, I’ll just introduce you to the twenty-three new students and five assistants that have embarked on this ten-month journey with me. We range in age from early twenties to sixties, experience from relative yoga newcomer to already-certified teachers in other lineages.  Some practice Power Yoga, some Hot Yoga, some general Hatha yoga, some are Viniyoga veterans. We have software developers, construction managers, physical therapists, stay-at-home moms, and social workers, among many other professions and avocations.  We won’t all teach the same when it’s over, but we all have an interest in deepening our practice, and we are all drawn to the uniqueness of Viniyoga.

I always learn as much or more from my students as they do from me, and I know this year will be no exception. Stay tuned for lessons from the journey. It’s going to be an AWESOME ten months.

PS–Can you spot the guest visitor that came to our first Sunday class?

Tracy Weber

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

13 Insane Yoga Benefits

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Please welcome guest blogger Jane Evans to the Whole Life Yoga blog today. Jane is an advocate for overall health and well-being. She writes for GO Mammoth Pilates and Yoga departments and also teaches classes across London.  Tell us, Jane, what are some of the benefits of practicing yoga?

Practicing Yoga has many incredible benefits, not only is it an intense workout for your whole body developing strength and muscle tone it also increases mental concentration combined with spiritual awareness.  All of the above help to enhance lifestyle because you can apply the principles of Yoga to practically every activity you do day to day.  Of course, there are plenty of other superb benefits of Yoga some of which you may not know about.  As Yoga has been around for many centuries it’s no surprise that millions of people across the globe enjoy the positive gains and scientists agree that there are so many benefits both mentally and physically from Yoga practice. Here are 13 insane Yoga benefits which certainly give you food for thought!

Greater Flexibility

If you find that you can’t bend or stretch as much as you’d like or perhaps your joints and muscles are stiff then Yoga will help to loosen and strengthen where you need it. For example, bending over and touching your toes might seem like an impossibility but a few months of Yoga practice and you’ll more than likely be able to bend over and place your palms flat on the floor!

Improved Posture

You might think you stand perfectly well and why should you change the way you walk? Yoga will enhance your posture because it encourages you to stand tall and give your body suppleness so will actually improve your stance.  This is because Yoga stretches the muscles and elongates them but it also works on the principle of balance so the body works equally on either side.  Your posture will change, even subconsciously for the better.

Better Strength

Who needs to go to the gym to strengthen your body when you can practice Yoga and get better results without profuse sweating? Yoga is designed to strengthen every muscle in the body and the various poses must be held for a while which really hones in on muscle training.  The more advanced you become with your Yoga, the more complex the poses, so there’s always a new challenge to take on!

Improved Relaxation

Yoga is an intense workout and requires concentration and dedication – the sessions aren’t designed to be easy but the results don’t just bring about body changes, they also go a long way to quiet your mind. This means you can relax quicker and with ease – even sleep better!  This is because Yoga works on the nervous system, helping it to relax and focuses on meditation which is an art-form that soothes the mind. There are even specific Yoga poses which can help you to rest when you want to.

Yoga Energizes

While Yoga can relax you when needed it also boosts energy levels because of the breathing technique applied to this workout. It’s all based on how much oxygen you breathe in and Yoga makes you breathe far deeper than you would normally.  There’s another reason too, some Yoga poses regulate the cortisol hormone helping to balance energy levels and then again, as Yoga helps you to sleep well you’re bound to feel more energetic the next morning.

Yoga Gives You A Healthier Heart

This is one of the reasons why so many doctors recommend Yoga to heart disease patients because Yoga delivers oxygen to the body’s organs helping them to function better. Yoga also thins the blood because of the poses and this helps to circulate blood all the way round the body and pump the heart.  Thinner blood can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Yoga Decreases Water Retention

If you suffer with water retention particularly in your hands, legs and feet you will find that taking up Yoga helps to decrease swelling. This is because of its blood thinning benefits and it helps your body to rid itself of toxins so circulation is improved and unwanted water removed.

Yoga Helps Metabolic Rate

If you have a low metabolism you might be looking to give it a much-needed boost. Taking up Yoga will help you to quicken your metabolic rate which in turn could help you to shed any unwanted weight.  This is because Yoga boosts your energy levels which affect how quickly your body converts food and drink – Yoga is an active workout after all!

Yoga Teaches You How To Breathe

Well that sounds ridiculous because of course you know how to breathe – but actually do you know how to breathe properly? Generally, people don’t breathe deeply enough and Yoga teaches incredible techniques which help to increase oxygen levels in the body.  This is why it’s often prescribed as a method to use in respiratory conditions.  Yoga really does focus on breathing and expands your lung capacity so it’s excellent for asthmatics or other breathing difficulties.

Yoga Boosts Memory

Yoga is one of those exercises that is superb for mental agility because it encourages you to concentrate. It’s fairly simple to explain, Yoga pushes blood flow around the brain so it is very beneficial to the memory area and in studies, participants reported greater recall and improved concentration after just one short Yoga session.

Yoga Reduces Blood Pressure

It does this in a number of ways. Firstly it is a relaxing workout and focuses the mind on poses and meditation so is a great stress-reliever, often stress is the reason behind high blood pressure. If you practice hot Yoga, you will greatly reduce your sodium stores because of the sweat involved, while everyone needs sodium in their diet, too much salt is bad for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Yoga Improves Bone Density

This is why it is often prescribed as an exercise for osteoporosis or osteoarthritis patients. It’s also excellent for arthritis sufferers because it focuses on mobility and strengthening muscles.  Yoga can also keep calcium present in the bones and calcium deficiency leads to brittle bones.

Yoga Brings Peace

In today’s busy, anxious world many people find themselves over-stressing the little things in life and forgetting to focus on what’s really important such as friends, family, partner and of course – themselves. Yoga brings inner calm and peace because it is a mindful exercise which teaches meditation and spirituality.  Just a few weeks of Yoga practice will help to change how you perceive different situations and also go a long way to help you switch off from anxiety and negative thoughts.