Category Archives: Asana

Research Proves It! Viniyoga Helps Kick Eating Disorders

surrealistic picture of an apple reflecting in the mirror

The study discussed in this article by Yoga Dork has special meaning to me, as I was involved in its design. One of our amazing Whole Life Yoga teachers, Liziah Woodruff, was one of the teachers!

The study (which was led by T. Rain Carei, Ph.D. of Seattle Children’s Hospital and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health) included over 50 teens ages 11 – 21, all with diagnosed eating disorders. Half of the teens had been hospitalized due to their eating disorder. Participants were randomized into either a control group that received the “standard care” at Seattle Children’s Hospital or a separate group that received the same standard care plus two hours of Viniyoga a week.

The results? According to the article in Journal of Adolescent Health:

“The Yoga group demonstrated greater decreases in eating disorder symptoms. Specifically, the EDE [Eating Disorder Examination] scores decreased over time in the Yoga group, whereas the No Yoga group showed some initial decline but then returned to baseline EDE levels at week 12. Food preoccupation was measured before and after each yoga session, and decreased significantly after all sessions. Both groups maintained current BMI [Body Mass Index] levels and decreased in anxiety and depression over time.”

More research is needed to see if this work can be replicated in larger groups, but so far Viniyoga seems to be a useful adjunct treatment for individuals with a variety of eating disorders.

Go Viniyoga! And I’m so pleased to have been a part of the design of this study protocol.

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 Purpose of Corpse Pose

A Whole Life Yoga student asks: what’s the point of Corpse Pose? I have a hard time relaxing when my mind is supposed to be completely blank.

This is a great question, and I’m not surprised you feel confused. In truth, no one can make their mind completely blank, at least no one I’ve met. Corpse Pose is, in many ways, a meditation practice. While it’s true that there can be moments of mental quiet during meditation, those moments are the gifts of meditation, not the practice. And they are fleeting gifts at that.

But let’s set the mind to the side for a moment. Corpse pose is at least partially for your body. A good yoga practice mobilizes healing energy called prana, which is very similar to chi in Chinese medicine. Corpse pose gives your system a chance to integrate that energy and send it wherever it is needed the most. Prana flows with the breath, but it is directed by the mind. Feel achy in your lower back after practice? Imagine warmth coating the area like a soft blanket. Feel tension? Imagine your muscles melting into the mat. The sensation you feel is the movement of prana.

Prana is a powerful source of healing, not to be wasted. Corpse Pose allows you to harness that energy without the distractions of movement.

Now, back to the mind.

The mind is designed to be active. Some say the mind is like a monkey, swinging from thought to thought like a monkey swings from branch to branch. Rather than asking the mind to do something impossible, give it a new job. Ask it to focus on something: the coolness of the breath in your nostrils; the delicious post-yoga sensations in your muscles; even the rhythmic snoring of the person next to you.

Whenever your mind wanders (and it will!) invite it back. You may find moments of quiet nothingness. Then again, you may not. In the end, it doesn’t matter. As soon as you notice them, they’re gone anyway.

Your body, energy system, and mind will benefit regardless.

I hope that helps.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

How Cool Is This! Yoga Dolls! These Ain’t no Barbies, Baby!

Hi all!  I have a number of things going on in my life right now that are demanding my attention, so today’s blog article will be short, though totally worth checking out.

Recently a Facebook friends sent me a link to an article, saying that there were finally yoga Barbie dolls.  As it turns out, that statement was only partially true.  The AZIAM Girlz are the world’s first yoga doll series, but they are not made by a major toy manufacturer, and it shows.  The dolls have been created by Alanna Zabel, a yoga teacher who (among many other pursuits) teaches yoga workshops to young girls. The eight planned dolls will each be named after one of the 8 limbs of yoga, and 10% of the profits will go to the charity each doll is associated with.

Better yet, they can really bend and do asanas!  From their website:  “Each doll has been designed to move with full range of motion in her hips and knees – she moves just like you! She also has a built-in spinal extension to allow for forward and back bending”

Now of only I could get the manufacturer to dress them in Downward Dog Mysteries t-shirts.  My favorites are the ones below, who look like three of the major characters in my Downward Dog Mystery series:

Kate--stretching out for her walk with Bella

This one looks like Kate–stretching out for her walk with Bella

rene

Wouldn’t this one be a great Rene? She’s a fashionista and everything!

Totally Tiffany--chillaxin' at the beach

Totally Tiffany–chillaxin’ at the beach

My one quibble is that there aren’t any male yogis in the line that I’ve seen, or German shepherd dogis (dog yogis), an error I hope they rectify in the future.

You can purchase or pre-order these lovelies at http://www.aziamgirlz.com/collections/the-worlds-first-yoga-doll.  Even better, they’re running a Kickstarter campaign.  It looks to me like they have a way to go to meet their funding goal, but I’m going to support them anyway.  I think it’s awesome to have young girls play with such positive  role models.

I hope some of you join me!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

A Blogger’s Top Five

Top 5 Concept Metal Letterpress Type

As part of my teaching sabbatical, every August I look back at the blog to see what people have found the most useful over the past 365 days.  I’m always a little surprised.  The list below has some of my personal favorites as well as one that warms my heart!

Here’s my summary:

Two of the top five discuss form in asana in two of our most common poses, which is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that people want to learn how to do them “right.”  The bad news is that they don’t already know.  😉

One discusses the meaning of Namaste, arguably the most common Sanskrit word used in yoga classes. Again, I hope this means that our students are searching for meaning, not that we’re sprouting off terms in class without defining them.

One that always makes the top five is how we can use yoga to decrease belly fat.  Need I say more about that one?

The surprise this year is the 50 ways to show authors some love article.  Published relatively recently compared to the others, it hasn’t had as many days to collect hits, yet there it sits solidly at #3.  That one warms my heart a little.

There they are below, for your enjoyment.  As we head into fall, may you have many enjoyable blog reading moments in the future!

Tracy’s Whole Life Blog’s  Top Five Blog Articles for the Past Year:

  1. Proper Form and Adaptations of Child’s Pose
  2. The Meaning of Namaste
  3. Fifty Ways to Love Your Favorite Author
  4. Does Yoga Reduce Belly Fat?
  5. Cakravakasana: The “Un”Cat-Cow

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing the Writer

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This lovely work has been sitting on my desk for months, waiting for me to take a look at it. The book and its companion CD were developed by fellow writer and yoga teacher, Amber Polo.

Peppered with inspirational quotes, Relaxing the Writer covers topics often ignored but desperately needed by writers of all genres, including:

  • The ergonomics of writing
  • Stretches, including desk stretches,  hand stretches and eye exercises
  • Aromatherapy
  • Meditation
  • “Apps to relax” on iPhones, iPods, and iPads
  • Twenty other activities that can help a writer stay healthy, balanced and productive, including a chapter on yoga. My favorite was the chapter on laughter and smiles. Who doesn’t need more laughter?

Even better, the book comes with audio guides that help uptight writers relax to the sound of Amber’s soothing voice. Unfortunately, I can’t adequately convey the book’s artistic, easy to read, and compact format. You’ll have to check that out for yourself.  Suffice it to say that the book has tons of useful information in an easy-to-digest package.

My favorite quote from the book is an ancient Chinese proverb:

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

I highly recommend this book for writers or artists of any type. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

          A Killer Retreat

Five Tips to Prevent Dizziness in Yoga

3D dizzy guy

Getting a little woozy while practicing yoga isn’t uncommon. The sensation can vary from an almost pleasant, slightly intoxicated feeling (like the rush after the first swallow of a good glass of champagne) to nausea accompanied by a frightening feeling that the room is spinning out of control. In severe cases, students can even pass out.

Although occasional wooziness while practicing yoga is no cause for alarm, if you regularly experience lightheadedness—during yoga or not—check with your doctor. If she gives you the green light to continue practicing, here are five strategies that may help.

  1. Eat a small meal before class. Yoga teachers generally recommend that students not eat for three hours before practicing asana. It’s not bad advice, as long as you’re not hypoglycemic. If your blood sugar tends to be on the low side, eating a light meal or a protein bar before class may make a world of difference.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. People who get woozy when they stand up or when they move their head from below to above their heart often suffer from postural hypotension. Drinking lots of water before class helps pump up the blood volume and seems to keep blood pressure more stable.
  3. Practice in the afternoon or evening. Many of my clients with dizziness issues have significantly fewer problems if they practice later in the day. I can’t fully explain why, other than that increased food, fluid, and daily activity all probably contribute.
  4. Move slowly. Sudden transitions result in lightheadedness. Coming out of a forward bend, moving from the floor to standing, even sitting up from Savasana. Make each transition slow, mindful, and focused on the breath.
  5. Keep your head above your heart. This one is tougher, because it involves modifying the postures. Instead of going fully into a forward bend, try going halfway or keeping your chin slightly lifted. Sometimes a small change in form fixes the problem.

There are many causes for lightheadedness, including medication side effects, inner ear issues, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar. Some of them are much trickier to deal with than others. Remember: always check with your doctor if you have a health-related concern in yoga class.   Once your health care provider says all is well, try one of these five tips. They have helped many of my clients continue their practice with comfort and ease. I hope they help you, too.

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Guidelines for Partner Yoga

partner yoga

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog article about partner yoga, or more accurately, everything I don’t like about it. Even if I think it’s unwise, however, my yoga teacher training graduates may not agree. If you still want to teach partner yoga after my last diatribe, here are a few guidelines.

  • Call it something other than yoga. I know I’m going to lose this battle, but I had to say it again. The classes I’ve seen that claim to be partner yoga, are really partner asana. Let’s reserve the word yoga for practices that wouldn’t make Patanjali cringe. That’s the last I’ll say on that subject.  😉
  • Provide clear guidelines on dress, hygiene, and appropriate touch. There’s a great Saturday Night Live skit in which Tom Hanks plays a sweaty yoga guy in partner yoga class. And I can only imagine that wardrobe malfunctions are all the more mortifying when someone’s standing on top of you. Don’t let your class become the next SNL skit.
  • Teach partner yoga in dedicated classes or workshops, clearly advertised as such. Don’t surprise students or add it on to the end of a non-partner class. Give people the clear choice on whether or not they want to have someone else “assist” in their asana practice.
  • Make sure students understand and can safely perform each asana on their own before they try it with a partner. Adding a partner increases risk. If a student can’t safely do the pose by themselves, how on earth can they be safe with a partner?
  • Teach both partners how to helpfully assist.  Do they understand their partner’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities? If the answer is yes, do they know how to accommodate them? If not, there’s a lot of baseline training needed before they should be hands-on with each other.
  • Think of partnering as support, not leverage. The partner should never move a limb further than it can comfortably move on its own. (That principle goes for yoga teacher assists, too!)
  • Pair students with appropriate height, weight and experience levels for the moves being attempted. A three hundred pound man pressing on the back of a hundred pound female is just asking for trouble.
  • Choose poses that have a low risk of injury if there’s an “oops” moment. And believe me, there will inevitably be an “oops” moment. It’s safer to have people fall like dominoes out of Tree Pose than Headstand.
  • Provide a safe word. I’m joking here, of course, but I think it bears mentioning. Whenever you teach something emotionally or physically risky, the student must feel comfortable saying no. State up front at the beginning of every class that no one should do any movement that makes them uncomfortable. Model that, compliment it, reward it. Doing so may save your student a trip to the ER and you a phone call to your insurance company.

The above guidelines are a bare minimum. I’m sure there are many others I haven’t thought of. If you teach or practice partner yoga, please let me know what should be added!

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Why I Hate Partner Yoga

 

Stressed business woman, pulling her hair out

I rarely blog about anything controversial. I try to keep my writing and teaching as inclusive as possible, and spouting off my unsolicited opinion doesn’t help anyone. Today, however, I’m going to ignore my own policy. Please bear with me and feel free to chastise me in the comments. 😉

A couple of months ago, I shared an article with my teacher training students about yoga adjustments.  I don’t need to write about that topic, because I agree one hundred percent with everything the Sequence Wiz folks said. So if you want to know what I think about adjustments, please read that article.

Shortly after I sent it out, however, a student asked me what I thought about partner yoga. Against my better judgment, I’m answering her publicly.

I hate it.

Hate is a strong word, but in this case, it fits. My first yoga teacher (who I adored) included partner yoga at the end of every class. I’ve tried to block the experience out of my memory, but whenever I hear the phrase, I still feel a stabbing, ice-pick-sharp pain in my groin and remember people twice my size pressing down on my knees in Baddha Konasana while exerting significantly more force than my forever-injured hips could withstand. Lest you think this was done by a teacher with more enthusiasm than training, please understand that the teacher was well regarded, very experienced, and the co-author of a book on Iyengar yoga.

The pièce de résistance of my partner yoga experience, however, occurred during one of the many end-of-class “partner yoga massages.” As usual, I hid at the back of the room, trying not to make eye contact, hoping that I’d be the odd person without a partner and could graciously sit out the experience. No such luck.  While everyone else got and received shoulder rubs, my randomly-assigned “partner” asked me to rub her gluteal muscles. For those of you not anatomy inclined, let’s just call them her butt muscles. To make matters worse, she groaned in pleasure the whole time I rubbed.

When I got home and shared the embarrassing experience with my husband, he asked a reasonable question: “If you didn’t want to do it, why didn’t you say no?”

I didn’t say no for the same reason your students won’t say no the next time you ask them to do something unwise. No one else said anything, I was intimidated, I liked the teacher, and I didn’t want to make a fuss.

I eventually stopped studying with that teacher—not specifically because of the partner aspects of her classes, but because her classes kept injuring my body. Partner yoga had no small part in my injuries.

Holding hands in tree pose, balancing on top of your classmates, and stretching with arms and legs intertwined may be entertaining. It’s often beautiful.  It may even falsely deepen the sensation of stretching. In the case of true partners, it can beautifully deepen emotional connection.

But asana performed for any of these reasons isn’t yoga.  Not in the true sense of the word.  Yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is the practice of stilling the mind. The poses we do with our bodies should be in service of that goal.  Believe me, when I’m thumbs-deep in the butt muscles of a groaning stranger, my mind is anything but still.

For the record, I do think partner asana classes may have some uses, though I don’t want to teach them. Partner asana classes can help build relationships, increase trust, prepare for artistic performances, even provide tools to support a woman in labor.

But let’s be honest and call it what it is.  Partner-assisted stretching, acrobatics, performance art—even call it partner asana, if you want.  But don’t kid yourself. It’s not yoga.  And whatever you call it, I highly doubt that for most students the benefits outweigh the risks.

Next week I’ll give some guidelines about partner yoga for those who still want to teach it.

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Help spread the YogaLOVE for a great cause!

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Hey, Whole Life Yogis and other awesome readers!  Today’s blog article is dedicated to the concept of Karma Yoga—the Yoga of Giving.  On Saturday, June 27th, 200 yogis will gather together to practice yoga and raise funds for Street Yoga, a nonprofit organization that helps provide yoga to at-risk youth. I hope you will join us.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

9:00-11:15AM [8:00AM Registration]

Mitchell Activity Center, Seattle Central College

Tickets: $25

Complete details of the event are at:  http://streetyoga.org/yogalove2015/.

Street Yoga’s mission is to: “build capacity in youth to overcome trauma and to create meaningful, healthy lives through yoga and mindfulness.”

Who can argue with that?

I’ve always been a fan of Street Yoga and the great work that they do, but this is the first year I’ll be actively involved in their 108 Sun Salutations fundraiser.  They are allowing me to teach my portion of the sun salutations “Viniyoga style” with pre-stabilization for the practices that follow.  Please join me and eight other Seattle yoga teachers in leading this fun and prize-filled day.

How, you ask? It’s as simple as going to this link http://www.razoo.com/story/Whole-Life-Yogis or typing in a number in the box below.

By doing so, you will join our team, the Whole Life Yogis!  Anyone can join the team by donating a minimum of $10.  If you donate $25 or more, you will be registered to take part in the actual event.  Donate (or raise) $108 or more, and be entered to win some awesome wellness packages, including copies of my books!

Anyone who attends the event gets to hang out afterwards and listen to live music with me and the rest of our Whole Life Yoga Team. To join in the fun, go to this link and donate.  Your $25 donation also registers you.  I will be the first teacher at the event. Rene de los Santos and Sarah Smith will be helping me.

Remember, even if you can’t come to the event, you can still help out.  Donations as low as $10 are gratefully accepted.  To “give one for the team” and register as part of the Whole Life Yoga family, click on this link.  http://www.razoo.com/story/Whole-Life-Yogis  I hope to see you afterwards and have a dance party with live music!

Please invite your friends.  The more the merrier!

Want to know more about Street Yoga?

Here’s some information from their website.

“Our trained volunteers work with local partners bringing their clients weekly yoga and wellness classes, serving over 1,000 individuals per year who are experiencing abuse, addiction, homelessness, and other traumatic situations. Street Yoga’s goal is to assist in building regulation and resiliency skills that create a healthy foundation for dealing with challenges in life, including:

  • Helping to develop healthy bodies by improving strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Teaching healthy tools for self-soothing in times of anger, stress and sadness
  • Teaching the skills of intention, breathing, self-awareness, focus, and perseverance
  • Inspiring self-confidence, self-reflection, and mindful, creative expression
  • Fostering spiritual awareness and connection to community
  • Healing the body and mind in the wake of trauma
  • Teaching interpersonal skills, self-management, and goal setting

Thanks, all.  I hope to see you on June 27!

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 and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

The Gift of Self-Doubt

me and my boys2

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Shelley Curtis. Shelley is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 500-hour yoga teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She  can be contacted at sac68@earthlink.net.

My confidence is easily shaken. This is something that has followed me from childhood, through young adulthood to where I am now. I’m closer to 50 than I care to admit and a mother of two young boys. I also teach yoga. Although I never thought I’d have children I have settled into the role with a passion I didn’t know I had. I recently read a quote that went something like this: “Making a decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” That’s exactly what it feels like. And even though I love my boys more than life and mother them with 110% of my heart and soul, I still feel like I make daily screw ups. Heck, some days it’s by the hour.

Same with yoga. My passion for it has taken me by surprise. I was totally blindsided.  I took Tracy’s 200 hour training when I was pregnant with my second son and at the outset didn’t really intend to teach. But the bug bit me and I fell hook, line and sinker. I started teaching prenatal women and then new moms and found it extremely rewarding as well as challenging – a great combination for my mushy mommy mind. Yoga had changed my life in a profound way. Then I took Tracy’s 500 hour training and my mind was really blown. My teaching changed and my own practice changed in ways that I would never have imagined. And the community of yogis that I became part of has kept me going and growing. They are amazing and inspiring.

But just as with motherhood, I still feel like I make screw ups each and every time I teach. The most challenging thing for me lately is making sure I stay present and aware of each student. Teaching is like meditation for me most of the time. I am not thinking of my grocery list or how to make our bedtime routine less stressful or whether or not my son will eat all of his lunch. I am in the moment and totally focused on teaching. But even still, I feel like I miss so much. After each class I ruminate for hours. Did I keep that pregnant woman on her back too long? Did I not notice that someone was pregnant in my all-levels class? How did I forget to something for the upper back when that student said her upper back was tight? And it goes on and on. Sometimes I feel complete panic with the thought that I could’ve caused someone discomfort – or worse yet, injury. After every class I promise myself that next class I will be even more aware, even more present. And then I do it again. I lose a student in my memory. Someone I failed to be completely aware of, someone I failed to make a connection with. Tracy says I cannot possibly be completely present and aware of every student all the time. And I shake my head and say, “ Yes, oh wise teacher, you are right.” And then I worry some more.

After almost 10 years of personal practice, more than 500 hours of training and 5 ½ years of teaching I still feel like I just stepped onto the mat. I yearn to teach with unshakable confidence and to let go of my doubts and anxieties. But I can’t help but entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, this is what will make me a better teacher. The desire to make each class for each student special and unique. To meet each student where they are and bring them to where they want to be. Perhaps instead of trying to push away the doubt and anxiety I should allow myself to lean into it, to let it be what it is. And then maybe, I could be more at peace with my teaching. Perhaps that is the lesson I am meant to learn?

Namaste

Shelley

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.   The second book in the series, A Killer Retreat, is available at booksellers everywhere!