Category Archives: Asana

Research Proves It! Yoga Improves Bone Density

Skeleton of the man. 3D the image of a man's skeleton under a transparent skin

I became interested in methods to build bone health in my early thirties.  Not coincidentally, it was the same day my first DEXA scan showed that I already had osteoporosis, likely due to excessively low estrogen levels in spite of estrogen replacement therapy.

I’ve long believed that yoga could safely help build bones, as has my teacher, Gary Kraftsow. It makes sense. After all, yoga is a low impact, weight-bearing exercise that strengthens the muscles supporting the spine, wrist, and hip, which are at particularly high fracture risk in individuals with osteoporosis.  Anecdotally, I also know that my own bone density increased from moderate osteoporosis and osteopenia (depending on the bone) to “low normal.” The increases began after I started practicing yoga–in spite of the fact that the doctor took me off of bone-building medication.

Finally, we have some research that backs us up.

The ten-year study done by Dr. Loren M. Fishman—a physiatrist at Columbia University who specializes in rehabilitative medicine—involved Iyengar postures, but I have every reason to believe Viniyoga (which uses repetition as well as “staying” in poses to build strength) would have results that are as good, if not better.

Study practitioners performed yoga poses for twelve minutes every day (or at least every other day) for ten years. The time period is important:  Bone density builds slowly. It can take years to find measurable change. According to a December 21 New York Times article:

“The findings, as reported last month in Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur of the 227 participants who were moderately or fully compliant with the assigned yoga exercises.

Improvements were seen in bone density in the hip as well, but they were not statistically significant.”

Even more encouraging, there were no fractures or significant injuries among any of the participants in the study—indicating that yoga is a safe activity even for older individuals with significant bone loss. And unlike bone-building drugs, which come with a host of gastrointestinal and other side effects, yoga gives increased strength, better posture and improved mental health.

Go forth and practice! Your body, breath, mind, and bones will thank you!


books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at  Thanks for reading!

How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Hi all!  Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and Whole Life Yoga instructor Roxie Dufour to the Whole Life blog today.  Roxie can be contacted at Roxie will always hold the honor of being the yoga student I saw get married in a kayak.  It’s only natural that she should combine teaching yoga with her favorite pastime.  Roxie, please share!


How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Answer: Combining my favorite things!

Over the weekend, my husband Dave and I assisted in the Washington Kayak Club Basic Sea Kayak Class at Deception Pass. Yes, we are the kayakers under the bridge in the swirly waters, 28 students, and 9 instructors.  The best way to describe it is going to camp with your kayak.  I was asked to squeeze in a ‘brief’ yoga class.  I knew the students needed to warm up shoulders, neck and hips, side body stretching, and lots of torso rotation for paddling, calming anxieties and tension, and to invite balance, integrate left/right movements.  In any yoga class, there are adaptations and options to incorporate factors.  Some students have never been in a kayak or taken a yoga class.

No pressure, right?

Tapping on the Viniyoga lineage, Tracy Weber’s teachings, meeting the students where they were, and from experience…keeping it simple was my plan. Did I mention, we were at the beach, wearing dry suits, PFDs, and dressed ready for immersion?

Basic Kayak Yoga2

The sequencing was simple with about seven postures, all standing, because dry suits are expensive. Connecting simple movements to the breath impacts the autonomic nervous system and increases circulation.  I visualized the student’s shortened breath patterns, muscle tension, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I was nervous, too. Having students recognize where they are and accept that place with compassion is important to any student, anxious kayakers included.

Basic Kayak Yoga3

My reward was seeing shoulders relax, smiles, sighs of relief, thank yous, and “When do we get wet?”

Whether you are on the mat or heading to your kayak, yoga is a positive piece of the day, keep it simple.


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Research on Viniyoga for Cystic Fibrosis

Woman holding tablet pc. Conept: X-ray with lungs. Isolated on white.

I co-authored a research paper!

The paper, “Yoga as a Therapy for Adolescents and Young Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: A Pilot Study,” was published in the November, 2015 issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine.  The study was (at least as far as we know) the first to look at the safety of Yoga for individuals with Cystic Fibrosis.

The goal of this pilot study, led by Jennifer Ruddy, MD and conducted at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was to evaluate the safety and tolerability of yoga for patients with Cystic Fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a life-shortening genetic disease that thickens secretions in the lungs, which leads to lung infections and decreases the patient’s ability to breathe. CF secretions also limit the pancreas’s ability to release digestive enzymes. As a result, patients with CF often have difficulty digesting food. (Not unlike my German shepherd, Tasha, who has Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency.)

I was both honored and excited to design a series of sessions that would bring Viniyoga to this population of students. After all, Viniyoga’s breath-centered practice is almost uniquely designed to increase lung capacity while integrating movement with breath.

Each participant in the study completed sixteen private Viniyoga sessions taught over a two-month time period. The Viniyoga sessions were designed to be safe for individuals with mild to moderate lung disease and easily modified for the individual.

The four study instructors—Claire Ricci, Roxie Dufour, Beverly Gonyea, and Cynthia Heckman—were all Whole Life Yoga certified yoga teachers who received additional training in Cystic Fibrosis. They were given the specific yoga protocol for this study but allowed to adapt as needed for student safety. Sessions included asana (yoga poses), pranayama (breath practices), and mindful awareness.

The results are encouraging. Ten of the eleven students enrolled in the study were able to complete the two months of practice.  Out of the 160 private sessions represented by those ten students, only two adverse effects were noted that might have been related to yoga: one mild instance of calf pain and one mild headache. Even more encouraging, statistically significant improvements were seen in the CFQ-R respiratory domain score (a measure of respiratory symptoms including cough and difficulty breathing.)

More research clearly needs to be done to see the full benefits of Viniyoga for this population, but these initial results are encouraging and will hopefully pave the way for more research in the future.

One again, research shows it: Viniyoga works!

Tracy Weber

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at  Thanks for reading!

Why I love Sequence Whiz

Hand with thumb up isolated on white background. Ok sign by womanI’ve been meaning to write a blog about this website for over a year now. Like me, Olga Kabel is a yoga therapist who has been certified through the American Viniyoga Institute.  She is making huge contributions in the yoga world. Not only has she developed one of the best yoga sequence drawing tools I’ve seen, she also offers free videos and virtual yoga privates via Skype.

What I really love about her Sequence Whiz site, though, are the articles.  Most of them are not only Viniyoga friendly—they are Viniyoga accurate and commonsensical, meaning that her articles promote safe and sane yoga practices that are likely to help, not injure, practitioners.  I often share her blog articles with my teacher training students.  Maybe someday she’ll write a textbook I can use in my teacher training!

In the meantime, here are four great examples of the articles you can find there:

Whether you’re a yoga teacher, a yoga student, or simply someone interested in body mechanics, I highly recommend that you check out Olga’s website and sign up for her bimonthly newsletter.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the professionalism, depth, and accuracy of the information she provides. And the graphics are simply out of this world!

Check it out and let me know what you think.


books available





PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at  Thanks for reading!

Why Yoga isn’t as ‘Wishy Washy’ as You First Thought


Please welcome Megan Zsaa to the Whole Life Blog today!  I’ve never thought of yoga as a “nothing exercise,” but  all of you marathon runners and weekend warriors out there should give this article a read.  Megan’s right!

My yogi friends–what benefits have you seen from your yoga practice?

Admit it, you once (or still do!) thought yoga is a bit of a ‘nothing exercise’; a chance for a load of people who have little energy or motivation to do anything else to feel better for heading to the gym. Well – you’ve guessed it – I’m going to tell you that you were wrong to think that! And you only need to get yourself along to a yoga class to fast realize it’s far from ‘wishy washy’, ‘easy’ – or worse still – ‘pretend’ exercise.

Yoga is hard, really hard. And there’s a reason the ancient Indian practice has been in existence for centuries – it’s because it works. I really have heard it all when it comes to people’s perceptions of yoga and I felt it was about time to take a stand. Here’s why it’s not quite as pointless an exercise as you might have first thought.

Yoga Really is ‘Ancient’

Let’s be honest, the word ‘ancient’ is overused. You might joke that your parents/grandparents/[insert other old relative] are ancient, but hey – they don’t come close to the real meaning of the word. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago. Yep, 5,000 – you read that right. Some researchers believe it could be as old as 10,000 years. So you see, it’s been around a long time – and that alone must mean it offers more than a few benefits. If not, why else would people do it?

Improved Flexibility isn’t its Only Benefit

True, if you get yourself to enough yoga classes you’ll be able to bend and stretch like a pro. Touching your toes? No problem. Splits? In time, maybe. But did you know improved flexibility isn’t the only benefit of yoga?! The hobby can also help you burn calories, too. So if you’re thinking of kick-starting your fitness regime for 2016, you can enjoy all the stress-busting benefits of yoga and a smaller waistline – in time.

That said, yoga does burn a relatively small number of calories – but it will help improve everything from muscle tone and strength to balance and posture. Not bad at all, eh?

It Makes You Happy

And by happy I’m not just talking about that post-gym feeling of ‘I’ve done a workout so now I have a chocolate bar’. No, yoga actually makes you feel happy in general – it’s been proven! Reducing the stress hormone in your body, it brings about a general feeling of happiness and helps you zone out and relax whilst you’re in the class, too. Result!

It can Ward Off Illness

We bet you don’t need another excuse to sign up for yoga at this point – the fact it burns calories, keeps you fit and reduces stress must be enough, right? Wrong! But there’s another great benefit of yoga – and it’s that it can help prevent illness too. So not only will it ensure you feel good today, it can also stop you getting ill in the future.

If you’re someone who’s always got a cold, you’ll definitely want to try this quick move to help prevent you contracting one in the not-to-distant future.

Start by sitting sideways next to a wall, or the headboard of your bed. Now, simply lie down on one side, facing away from the wall but with your bottom touching it. Now, using your arms, just lift your legs up the wall as you roll over onto your back. Allow your arms to fall on either side of you, with your palms facing up. Finish by breathing for at least 10 breaths. Go on, give it a go – you know you want to.

By now I hope I’ve converted you to the art of the humble – but extremely beneficial – yoga class? And if I haven’t, can I suggest you keep reading up on the hobby; it really will become your new favourite workout if it isn’t already!


Megan Zsaa has been a student of yoga for three years and works with Samsara Mind and Body on their health and wellness programs. She lives in London and when she isn’t doing yoga you’ll find her preparing yummy, healthy food or making Kombucha. 

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  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.


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


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  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!


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


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


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