Category Archives: Guest Writers

Meeting myself where I am

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher and 500-hour alumnus Sheryl Stich to the Whole Life Blog today. Teaching yoga is a practice. A sometimes deeply personal practice.  I’m delighted she is willing to share some of her insights with us here today.

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Through the course of over 500 hours of Yoga Teacher Training, Tracy ingrained in our brains to always “meet our students where they are.” Today I was experiencing intense feelings of bereavement over losing my life partner Mark nearly a year and a half ago to a serious illness. Instead of heeding that niggling little voice inside me telling me that I should be further along in the grief process, I decided to let go of the “should” and completely honor how I was feeling: lost, alone and super unclear about my future. I tell my students that my class is safe for them, whatever their emotional responses, and today I needed to tell myself that I am also safe – with myself! I decided I would be much better served if I “met myself where I am.”  So throwing all logic out the window, I cried and cursed and hugged Daisy my puppy and talked to Mark, telling him I was actually miffed at him for leaving me. I know from studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that we create filters through which we see the world and ourselves. By being brutally honest with myself and telling the truth about how I really feel, not how I think I should feel based on my filters, I felt the layers of sorrow slowly peeling away little by little. Not that I am totally healed by any chance, but by meeting myself where I am, as Mark would often quote, I started “The journey of a thousand miles that starts with a single step.” Life is a preserving practice – and always try to meet yourselves and others where we are, whether on the mat or on the street.

Sheryl Stich is a certified yoga instructor through Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. Sheryl came to Viniyoga after recovering from disc hernia surgery in 2002. She also had hip replacement surgery, and found that yoga and breath work not only helped retain her health physically, but also helped mentally and emotionally. She finds much joy and happiness in sharing this “calm awakening” connecting the mind, body and breath with her students.

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.

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!

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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!

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.

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.

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 YogaRoxSeattle@gmail.com. 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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

Roxie

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. 

Three Key Ways a Yoga Practice Can Support Trauma Recovery

Please help me welcome Lisa Danylchuk to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Lisa’s acclaimed book, Embodied Healing shares her learnings about yoga and how it can help people who are rebuilding their lives after trauma. And who among us hasn’t experienced trauma?  Lisa, can you please tell my readers how yoga–and its teachers–can help students overcome trauma?

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As yoga’s popularity continues to increase, yoga teachers, mental health providers and researchers are all becoming more clear on the depths of its benefits. As a yoga teacher and trauma therapist, I have seen a myriad of ways that mindfulness and movement help clients, whether they are doing a traditional hatha practice or applying yoga philosophy to their healing journey. Here are three ways that yoga teachers and healthcare providers can help clients and students who are navigating trauma recovery.

Grounding

Grounding is the act of connecting to the earth, and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The most common ways to ground are to feel your feet on the floor, as we do in tadasana, or to feel the sit bones grounding to the earth, as we do in many seated postures. Often, people who are experiencing anxiety and extreme stress report feeling a spinning or rising sensation; this conscious effort to ground can counteract the pull of energy away from the body,, bringing attention back to the safety of the current moment. If you are teaching to a group of people who have experienced trauma, offer grounding cues repeatedly throughout class. Not only is it helpful in building a physical foundation for a pose, it can also have psychological benefits.

Present moment attention

Intrusive thoughts and feelings from past trauma can show up in the present and memories can even pull us away from our current surroundings. Getting connected to present moment time – right here, right now – is one way to distance from the intensity of a past trauma in a helpful way. Yogis are familiar with the practice of cultivating presence, and it is important to find ways to describe how to practice presence, rather than simply instruct participants to “be present.” Consider guiding attention to a specific place in the room, a lamp on the wall or the corner of a mat. Consider instructing participants to follow the sound of your voice, or to listen to the sound of a bell as it fades. While, due to sensitivities, we can’t always use smells in the yoga room, think of these present moment attention practices as smelling salts, bringing students more fully  into present time and space.

Compassion towards self

In the aftermath of trauma it can become easy to struggle with oneself, wondering why something is still upsetting or feeling there is some defectiveness of self that allows the bad feelings to persist. By definition, something traumatic is too much to process all at once and approaching the feelings with tenderness can facilitate healing, rather than self-criticism or judgement. Recall that the word yoga means union, so we are looking to unite the parts of ourselves that need healing, rather than cut them off. Practicing curiosity and compassion facilitates the gentle approach our psyches need – just as you would not shout at a plant to help it grow, criticizing ourselves does not foster healing. Encourage compassion instead.

Questions, thoughts? Post a comment below or go to www.howwecanheal.com to contact Lisa.

Headshot.L.DanylchukLisa Danylchuk teaches internationally on integrating yoga and mental health treatment. As a licensed psychotherapist and Yogaworks certified yoga instructor, she has provided counseling and yoga classes in prisons, schools, non-profits and community programs across the US. Lisa holds degrees from both UCLA and Harvard University and is the author of the bestselling book Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress. She is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she hosts the Yoga for Trauma (Y4T) online training program, accessible world-wide. More information at: www.howwecanheal.com/y4t.

 

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. 

Yogi Interview of the Month with Rene de los Santos! AND a YOGA CRUISE!

Important note from Tracy:  Rene will always have a special place in my heart, because he was the person who talked me into offering my first yoga teacher training oh-so-many years ago.  He’s a fabulous yogi, a great friend, and an overall wonderful human being. 

And you can see that for yourself this November!  Rene is leading a Mexican Riviera yoga cruise! He’s got a great group already formed and they’d love to have you join them.  Double click on the flyer below for more information or e-mail Rene at theyogirene@yahoo.com

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Now, on to Rene. Tell us your yoga story!

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I discovered Yoga (some would say “you were ready to discover”) in early 2001 after two different Yoga instructors mentioned “You should try this”!

My belief system dictates that when two different people who don’t know each other make the same request of me in a relatively short period of time – it’s really the universe (or ancestors or spirit) making the request.

My mothers voice resonates in the back of my head “If all of your friends went and jumped off the end of a bridge – would you jump too”?! To which I always responded “Probably”.

The connection was immediate in the very first practice. Yes, the very first class. Although the room was filed with people, I felt completely at peace. My body responded positively to the movements. The practice was lead by a male instructor, Roy Holman (who later became a good friend) which gave me hope! This was definitely for me. By the third class – I knew this was something to be pursued and shared.

After taking classes from several instructors over the course of three or four months, the time had come to practice more consistently and on the regular basis. The search was on to find a Yoga studio where I could go connect with other yogis and expand my experience.

Walking down the street one day with my partner Mark on Greenwood Avenue,  I noticed a woman placing balloons on the sidewalk underneath a sign that read Whole Life Yoga. It had a nice ring to it. Another sign read Join Us for Our One Year Anniversary Celebration! I was in class the following Sunday morning.

I didn’t know then that the simple act of connecting movement to breath would change me profoundly.

After that first class at Whole Life Yoga, I distinctly remember having a conversation with Tracy… not sure what was said but my mind was going a hundred miles per hour; This is great! Have to do this! Yoga, where have you been my whole life?! When are the classes?! Do I need special pants? Etc..etc.

After participating in 500 hours of formal training with Tracy at Whole Life Yoga, endless workshops from coast to coast, traveling to India, lectures, books, more books, years of personal practice, videos and classes, I am still discovering Yoga. My studies are in their infancy.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned as an instructor is to share. Share what you know so that other can benefit. krishnamacharya said “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.  The greatest lesson as a student; Desikachar said “The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships”.

I truly believe that the most successful Yoga teachers are those who teach with the intention of helping and serving others.

What I really appreciate about Viniyoga practice and Viniyoga philosophy is that it focuses totally on the practitioners and what THEY need on every level; obvious and subtle through the use of breath, movement, chant and meditation to name a few tools. As Yoga instructors, we must connect with our participants on a deeper level over time; as Yoga students we must be willing to adapt over time in order to serve others. There is no room for superficiality. It’s not meant to be cool or trendy – it’s a lot of work! It’s life changing.

And I have a lot of work to do! I’m glad that Yoga allows me to learn and grow, to adapt.  I’m not perfect and I’m ok with that. Looking forward to more training, practicing, moving changing and growing.

Although not currently teaching a regular on-going class – I know I will be when the time is right.

You should try this!

Thanks, Rene.  You inspire me every single day.  It was my great fortune that the universe pulled us in each others’ directions.

Rene De los Santos is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings. He can be contacted at theyogirene@yahoo.com.

The Power of Ritual

Earthen oil lamps lit with flowers during the performance of a hindu ritual.

Please welcome my friend and fellow yoga teacher Bija Bennett to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Rituals are so powerful!  Thanks, Bija, for allowing me to reprint this article!

Rituals give form to our lives, not just on the surface, but emotionally. We need rituals to connect deeply with ourselves.

Rituals have been celebrated in every culture and religion throughout time. Designed to inspire us, help set our intentions, and give us focus, they make our resolutions personal, powerful, and true.

Rituals elevate us to what is higher — to our potential, our life’s goals — and remind us that our highest values should direct our lives.

A ritual can be something as simple as sitting quietly and repeating an intention or word, lighting a candle, planting a tree every Arbor Day, or walking a hundred steps after you eat (an old Indian ritual). In taking a small step toward ritual, you make an outward sign of your inward focus, indicating that your commitments and intentions are real.

In every ritual, from the simplest to the most elaborate, from the spiritual to the mundane, the steps involved are very much the same: geometry, structure, rhythm, and intent.

Use these steps as ideas or suggestions for creating your own personal ritual. Then, whatever you choose to do, do it simply. It doesn’t have to be fancy or take long. It need only be regular and full of intention and meaning.

1.  Geometry: Define your space. Set the symbolic elements before you – a candle, picture, icon – and situate yourself in a certain relationship to these things. It’s not the objects that are important, but the faith in these objects that make them emotionally sacred.

2.  Structure: Give your ritual a beginning and an ending. Carefully arrange the steps, length, and sequence to create the body of your ritual.

3.  Rhythm: The progressive sequence of events, actions, thoughts, or prayers leads you into the ritual itself, and leads out of it, letting you resume your normal life.

4.  Intent: The purpose behind your ritual directs your ritual to fulfillment. The possibilities are numerous: opening your heart, connecting you to someone or something, completion, healing, asking for help, gratitude, self-reflection, linking with a higher power. Ritual isn’t a mindless movement. It’s a focusing technique to systematically give you an anchor point within.

This New Year, take your resolutions and make them into rituals. Personal rituals are important because of their enormous power to comfort and heal.

Learn more from my book, Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind (Simon & Schuster)

Thanks, Bija!

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!

Training Your Mind

I am delighted to welcome author Jennifer Niles here to the Whole Life Blog today!  Jennifer recently published My Yoga Transformation: One Woman’s Story of Her Healing Yoga Journey and 85 Pound Weight Loss, which outlines her journey with yoga and how it changed her life–in every way for the better.  Check out the excerpt below, and support her by reading her work!

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“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ~Napoleon Hill

Thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits, which become character, which becomes your destiny.  Since you “bring about what you think about,” obviously it would be wise to learn how to control your incessant thoughts.  You have to understand that your mind is designed to be constantly working in at least some capacity for 24 hours a day.  So, if the mind insists on focusing on something at all times, give it something positive or calming to focus on.

Training your mind is not the easiest task.  Especially if you are anything like I was prior to starting a yoga practice and learning about the ego.  That pesky little voice in the back of my mind, the ego, was running wild day after day and needlessly stressing me out over anything and everything that was less than perfect about my life.  By identifying with the mind instead of the soul, we give that little voice/ego the power to consume so much of our time and energy by dominating our thoughts and limiting our potential.

During my initial yoga years, during the time when I was suddenly feeling the desire to gradually cut down on my drinking and partying, my ego never ceased to remind me, “You are a party girl; therefore you must go out and drink with your friends tonight.  Who cares if it is a Monday night and you just feel like staying home, cooking dinner and doing some yoga.  You have to go get drunk instead.  It is who you are and what you have always done, and it is what you will always do.  You can’t change now.  Who will you be if you are not a party girl?  Party girls don’t stay home and do yoga!  Now go out and get wasted with your friends!”

For a long time, I identified with my ego and therefore let its persuasive little speeches win the battle every time.  Despite what my heart and soul wanted to do, which was sometimes to just stay home and dry out for a night, I would get in my car, drive to the bar, and proceed to get drunk until I could barely stand up without stumbling all over the place.  When you identify with and listen to your ego instead of your heart/soul, you will just continue doing the same destructive things, day after day.  Never changing, never growing, and never evolving.

I knew that my yoga practice was really starting to work when my heart/soul began winning the battle more times than my ego.  The nights that I actually stayed home to practice yoga versus drinking at the bars became more and more frequent.  Over time, my nights at the bars became obsolete.  If my lack of wanting to get drunk wasn’t a result of my yoga practice, I don’t know what is.

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Jennifer B. Niles is an author, yogi, vegan, and animal rights activist currently living on a small island in the South Pacific. Born and raised on the East Coast, Jennifer moved to California in her 20’s, where she taught yoga and enjoyed living among the palm trees.  During her time living in the South Pacific, Jennifer was finally able to pursue her lifelong dream of writing books.  Blessed (or cursed) with the opportunity to go through many drastic life-changing experiences, Jennifer mainly writes about her lessons learned in an attempt to help other people who may be struggling with the same or similar issues.

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.