Category Archives: Asana

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!


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:

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 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.  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!


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

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?



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!

Yoga for Health Fact Sheet and Yoga Research

I haven’t written much about yoga research lately, mainly because I’ve been heads-down in the book launch events for my second novel. But recently I stumbled across a fact sheet from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health that was too good not to pass on.

The article summarizes key facts about yoga, including side effects and risks, recent scientific research, and key points to keep in mind if you are considering starting a yoga practice. As a side bonus, there’s a detailed bibliography of additional articles and links to three videos, one of which includes a list of “dos and don’ts.”

Here are some of my key takeaways:

A carefully designed yoga practice has been proven to:

  • Decrease back pain
  • Increase range of motion
  • Decrease heart rate and blood pressure
  • Relieve symptoms of both anxiety and depression
  • Improve quality of life and reduce stress
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Improve overall physical fitness, strength and flexibility
  • Be safe for healthy individuals when practiced under the guidance of a well trained-instructor

And a couple of surprises:

  • Studies done thus far have not found yoga to be helpful for asthma. (Side note: I wonder how much pranayama—if any—was included. I’d have to look at the full study to weigh in on this.)
  • The benefits of yoga for arthritis are equivocal. (Some studies find it helpful, some do not.) Future research is ongoing to see if yoga has different benefits for patients with rheumatoid arthritis versus osteoarthritis. Scientists are also trying to decide if yoga practice may be more helpful for some joints than others.

This sentence, taken directly from the article, almost made my heart sing: “Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities.” This is, of course, the hallmark of Viniyoga. How could I not agree?

Future studies are planned to determine yoga’s effects on a variety of other health conditions, including immune function, diabetes risk, PTSD, and HIV. I can’t wait to see the results!

If you’re at all interested in learning more about yoga, particularly its therapeutic effects, I highly recommend you check out this article. Lots of great information packed into eight very readable pages. Let me know what you think!

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! 

‘tis the Season to do Yoga


This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sheryl Stich. Sheryl 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

When I was a kid, the holidays were a time of joy and enchantment – but then I grew up! Now I look at the calendar and gasp “Oh my, the holiday season is creeping up too quickly!” My palms start to sweat slightly, my heart rate increases and my breathing is shallow. I need to start thinking about dinners, parties, presents and travel! I wonder out loud, “What can I do this year to ease my way through the holiday season?” Then, I remember my yoga practice. I bring my attention to my breath and pretty soon I am feeling calm and at peace.  Hmm…maybe I can experience the feeling of joy and enchantment during the holidays again.

Our yoga practice offers us a great opportunity to tune into the present moment, helping us become centered and focused, and find the calm and peace deep down inside. Take moments to really notice and enjoy your surroundings this year. The smell of trees, twinkling lights, candles in windows, holiday music (yes, even those old holiday songs can still bring some joy). The simple act of finding your breath—even in the middle of the shopping mall or at dinner with the family—will help you to connect to that ever-present calm within.

As you enjoy some time off of work, maybe a trip or vacation, lots of family – and lots of food – remember it can also mean you could find yourself out of your regular routine or away from your yoga practice – all when you could use yoga the most!

Drawing from my personal experience, I have designed a yoga class series, Yoga for Happy Holidays. If you are like me, your schedule is probably completely nuts during the holidays, but finding time to relax is essential for your sense of well-being. Have a wonderful and relaxing holiday season this year.

Sheryl Stich

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Yoga for Bipolar Disorder—Research Horizons

The results of a recent study on the benefits and risks of Hatha yoga for individuals with bipolar disorder were interesting to me, but not surprising. The study (which was originally published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice) evaluated the survey responses of more than seventy people with bipolar disorder who also practice yoga. The researchers’ goal was to find out if yoga was, at least on the surface, safe and effective for individuals suffering from this disorder.

I’ve only worked therapeutically with a handful of clients with bipolar disorder, but designing appropriate yoga practices for them is tricky, because it involves managing energy that can fluctuate rapidly and severely between two opposite states: rajasic (agitated, stressed, and hyper-aroused) and tamasic (dull, lethargic, and depressed). The yoga tools used to balance those energy states are significantly different.

An energizing, nourishing practice (which is typically what we teach to clients with unipolar depression) may well send a client with bipolar disorder into a manic state. A relaxing practice (which is what we typically teach to clients suffering from anxiety) might send them into a depressive one. Therefore, I often make my practices for bipolar clients more balanced energetically or very slightly sedating.

The results of the study mirrored what I’ve seen in my teaching.  The vast majority of respondents said yoga helped them; some even went so far as to say it saved their lives.  Five of the seventy, however, said that energizing practices did, indeed, agitate them.  Another five individuals said that yoga practices increased their depression. One said a relaxing practice sent him into an almost catatonic state.  As the Viniyoga teachings indicate, effective teaching is all about adapting the yoga practice to the individual.

Obviously, there is more to learn.  These surveys were the first step of a pilot clinical trial that will compare the effects of yoga practice to using a well-regarded workbook for bipolar disorder.  That trial will hopefully set the stage for a larger study.  I firmly believe that yoga, particularly Viniyoga, can be extremely useful when appropriately applied for this condition.  The results of these studies may help us understand how.

Those of you who have experienced depression, anxiety, or suffer from bipolar disorder, what have your experiences been with yoga? I’d love to hear from you.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Yoga for Imperfect Bodies

I’ve spent the weekend answering press questions for the release of my next book, A Killer Retreat. Most of them were about writing, but one seemed particularly relevant to my yoga blog readers.  Here’s the question and my answer.  I hope you benefit from reading it.

How can yoga be applied to people with imperfect bodies? Is yoga really about exercise or something else?

Two thoughts came to me when I read these two questions:  First, I’ve yet to come across a human being with a perfect body, either inside or outside of my yoga classes. Second, my favorite yoga quote is “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” Yoga is ultimately the connection of body, breath and mind. Anyone can do it, and everyone can benefit from a well-designed yoga practice.

I’ve taught yoga to professional ballet dancers, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors. I’ve certified yoga teachers who have multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve taught kids as young as six (others teach students who are even younger!) and adults who are ninety-years-old plus.  I’ve taught students who were deaf, blind, and one who was both deaf and blind. I’ve taught group classes to students who use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. I know of yogis who have no arms; others who have lost both legs. I have yet to find a student who couldn’t do some form of yoga, if it was appropriately modified.

Yoga as a form of exercise is a Western idea.  Its origins were more closely aligned with clarifying and balancing the mind.  Physical fitness was simply a cool side benefit.  We often confuse yoga in the West with asana (yoga postures), which is only one of many tools of yoga. Yoga encompasses that and so much more: meditation, pranayama, ritual, chant, right relationship, and so on.  So yes, anyone and everyone can benefit from doing yoga.

Even asana, which is the simplest of yoga’s tools, can be done by anyone if appropriately modified.  That’s what I love so much about Viniyoga, the style of yoga that Kate—the yoga teacher sleuth in my series—and I both teach.  The word viniyoga means “proper application and adaptation.”

In Viniyoga, we adapt poses to the individual. The goal is to work within a pain-free range of motion with the goal of increasing that pain-free range of motion over time. My most rewarding work as a teacher is helping students learn how to move in a pain-free way, both during practice and out in their daily lives.

Regardless of age, body type, injury, fitness level, or goals, yoga is a tool that that can help anyone.  If you try a class and it doesn’t work for your body, try another! There are dozens of yoga styles, each different from the rest. There are at least a gazillion yoga teachers.  I truly believe there is yoga for everyone.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Playing with your Practice

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Katie West. Katie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our 500-hour program. She can be contacted at

To be completely frank, I scoffed a little the first time Tracy told us we should try to play with our yoga practice at home. Let’s be real, yoga has a million benefits, but it can be hard. Yoga gives us the tools to control the random fluctuations in our minds, so we can learn to recognize our physical, mental or emotional pains- this is very difficult. Finding a FUN way to do that and to accept these wide ranges of feelings is even more difficult.

You could say I “tried out” many things, but I never really knew what it was like to truly play with my practice and make it fun, until I started teaching yoga to kids.

In the first stages of putting together sequences for my kids’ series, I ran into many obstacles. I thought by combining my love for teaching and children, sequences would be a breeze to create, but as exciting as it was to create the classes, I kept finding myself frustrated and a little stuck on my next moves. I was used to a very different type of yoga instruction and personal practice. I found that you have to relate yoga teachings to the daily lives of children, intriguing them with things that interest them. You cannot do this without building a relationship with them. You have to be energetic, flexible, compassionate and open to everything.

In children’s yoga, we go on adventures—in our minds and in the studio. We use only positive words and intentions. We honor our bodies, minds and emotions including those of our yogi friends. We practice asana (movement), pranayama (breath) and meditation. We practice the same things we would in a normal yoga class, but may use bubbles, blow outs, breathing buddies, or go out into the jungle and become lions, elephants or giraffes- roaring, dipping into water holes and reaching to the tippy tops of trees. We build relationships and trust within ourselves and others while being silly and learning how to listen to our bodies. It truly gives the kids a chance to be themselves with a sense of wholeness and happiness- which is what yoga is all about, regardless of age.

Creating and teaching these classes have made me more flexible, mentally and emotionally, than any of my other practices have. I learn so much about myself and the kids by being creative, enjoying and yes, roaring like a lion as loud as I can.


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

It’s a Blogiday Top Five!

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of the holiday, I’m taking a blogiday, of sorts.  I’m dedicating today’s blog to the top five posts on Whole Life Yoga’s blog since its inception almost three and a half years ago!  These are the number of times an individual clicked on the link to that specific post, not counting anyone who arrived at it from the home page.

So…Here they are, for those of you who missed them

The Whole Life Yoga top 5: (Click on the link to read the specific article)

What do I take from this?  People obviously want to reduce their midsection, and as I’ve always said, “knees always win.”  I’m excited that numbers three and four were more esoteric posts that go beyond asana.  And #5?  Well, who doesn’t like Cat Pose?

Thanks for your support the last over three years, keep reading, and I hope the posts have helped you.

If you like the blog, please keep reading and tell your friends.  And send me questions or ideas to write about. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with two weekly blogs (this and Killer Hobbies) and the many guest appearances I do on other blogs.  I do Whole Life Yoga’s blog because I hope it helps people. Help me keep the momentum!


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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