Category Archives: Guest Writers

Community

Please welcome Sharon Gillette to the Whole Life Blog today.  I’m honored to have Sharon as part of my yoga community!

The communities that we live in, work in, and join because of athletic, musical, or other skill, all help to form, grow, and sometimes support us.  What is our responsibility to our communities?

When we become aware of the power behind a community simply thinking/writing/voicing good thoughts about somebody, how can we fail to take the opportunity to lift someone up who has lost a job, a parent, or hope?  Even day-to-day questions and cares, answered thoughtfully by community members, can make a difference in the sense of well-being of another.  What an honor for that person to know that someone noticed their challenge, gave it thought, and took even a brief moment to recognize it in some way.

The yoga community of teachers is strong, especially among those who trained together.  Learning from and supporting each other makes them more able to serve students.  Members of group yoga classes that meet regularly, often look forward to connections made there.  Specific-themed classes for prenatal, MS, cancer, or other health-related needs, sometimes see very beneficial bonds form among practitioners.  Be open to exploring these personal connections.  Care, and be cared for.

Having the opportunity to take the gift of community and add it to the content-rich forum of the internet, is a perk of modern life that should not be taken for granted.  Spend time reading the blog or the Facebook page of your favorite yoga teachers, and offer your thoughts.  Nourish, and be nourished.

However you find your yoga community, move forward by asking yourself what you can do to help that community.  Could you deliver a flower from your garden to the friend on the mat next to yours?  Might you give of your knowledge or from your heart, to comment in an online group?

Share of yourself in community.  Lift others, and be lifted.

SharonandPiperArboretum2015Sharon Gillette is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour and 300-hour teacher trainings.  Connect with her at http://www.polkadotyoga.com/

 

 

Five Tips for a Happy and Healthy Plant-Based Thanksgiving

Hi all!  Please welcome Vanessa Chamberlin to the Whole Life Blog today.  A vegetarian Thanksgiving has been my tradition for well over a decade.  I highly recommend it, and these tips can help you figure out how!  Of course my yoga teacher/sleuth Kate is also vegetarian, so she would approve as well. Neither of us cooks, so please let us know how the recipe turns out!

Tracy

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. We take time to be with our loved ones and be thankful for our relationships, our health, and our opportunities. It’s a time to celebrate the harvest and all of the wonderful flavors and colors and textures of autumnal foods – and the best part? All of the best fall foods are plant-based! And there are plenty of ways to celebrate and incorporate them into the holiday season.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to give some of my best holiday tips so that you can feel joyous about the holiday and celebrate what Thanksgiving means to you while still doing what feels good for your body.

Here are five tips for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving:

  1. Have fun planning a menu. Don’t limit yourself by thinking only of traditional foods. If you’re cooking for a larger group and they’re expecting their holiday favorites, there are ways you can emulate those foods with a healthier recipe, like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. But if your guests are adventurous, go outside the box! There are tons of amazing seasonal recipes you can make to celebrate harvest time without loading them full of meat and dairy, but you could also look to other cultural dishes to really explore the world in your menu.
  2. Invite people who share your values. This might be easier said than done! It can be a fun way to recharge with people who actually share your values and will appreciate every second you put into planning and cooking for them. People are often busy visiting their families, but with many people living far away from loved ones, an invitation to a fun plant-based holiday gathering can be a great thing.
  3. Start a new tradition. I love this! Traditions can be anything, whether it’s Frisbee in the park, watching a certain movie, or silly things like hiding something that everyone has to try and find. Have fun with it. If you’re not sure what to do, look up traditions of other cultures and use it as a teaching lesson for your kids.
  4. Spend time with your loved ones creating memories. What may just be a silly song or movie time or a walk through a pumpkin patch today, could end up being one of our most cherished memories. Remember that the holidays aren’t just about food. It’s about spending time with your loved ones, celebrating the reason you can come together, and being thankful for what your blessings.
  5. Take time for yourself! It’s not uncommon for us to spend so much time trying to make an enjoyable experience for our children and loved ones that we end up exhausted at the end of the day or weekend. Make sure that you have time to unwind. Get in a workout, meditate, and relax. Whether you enlist help making food or spend some time prepping for your meal in the days before, do what you need to do to keep from getting burned out and overscheduled during the holiday.

Keep in mind that your holiday can still incorporate your healthy habits. There’s no reason why post-Thanksgiving fun can’t be a walk around the block or an hour at the park. You can even pick up a football and play together! The most important thing is to take this time to recharge and take time to feel the joy of gratitude for your blessings, the things you’ve worked hard for, and the people who love you.

Here’s my favorite holiday recipe for Cauliflower Mash to get you inspired for your plant-based Thanksgiving!

Cauliflower Mash

Cauliflower Mash

• 1 lb. bag frozen or fresh cauliflower
• 1/4 cup fat-free soymilk
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tsp poultry seasoning
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 2 Tbsp water to mix with corn starch
• 1 Tbsp fresh parsley

In a pot, steam cauliflower for 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Drain well using a colander. In a saucepan, combine soymilk, garlic, 1/4 cup water, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning and yeast over medium heat. When it begins to boil, slowly mix the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened.

When cauliflower is cool enough, squeeze as much water out as possible. Place the cauliflower in the processor or high-powered blender and blend for about a minute. Add sauce and fresh parsley to cauliflower and process until creamy and smooth. If it’s too thick, you may adjust the consistency by adding a little bit of soymilk. Makes 4 servings.

Vanessa Chamberlin 2

 

Vanessa Chamberlin is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach and author of The Fire-Driven Life: How to Ignite the Fire of Self-Worth, Health, and Happiness with a Plant-Based Diet. For more information, please visit, www.vanessachamberlin.com and connect with her on Twitter, @vkchamberlin.

Snacks & Blood Sugar Stabilization

Please welcome Nicole White to Whole Life Yoga’s blog today.  Nicole is a graduate of  Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training  program.  She can be reached at siennanana@gmail.com.  And be sure to check out her fabulous book!

Nourishing snacks, in combination with breakfast, keep your blood sugar stable. Snacks also give you consistent energy throughout the day. If you know your mid-day slump is at 3:30pm every day, set a timer for 3pm and eat your snack at 3pm (or sooner). Experiment with eating a meal or snack EVERY 2-3 hours, especially if you have any blood sugar or mood related issues.

Blood sugar issues affect more than diabetics or people with hypoglycemia. Certain foods, and stimulants such as caffeine, go through your blood stream quicker. Caffeine can give you a huge rise (why so many people feel that they MUST have it in the morning). Caffeine also acts as an appetite suppressant which disrupts your blood sugar balance.

When blood sugars get too low, you may become cranky, easily frustrated, shaky, light headed, etc. Remember this: Don’t make any important decisions on an empty stomach! Why? Because your brain does not have the proper balancing fuel it needs when your blood sugar drops too low.

1. STABLE blood sugar. Starting the day with a nourishing breakfast and then having snacks and meals throughout the day. Drinking purified water and incorporating the Magic Trio Combination (see below) into meals and snacks.

stable blood sugar

2. UNSTABLE blood sugar. Starting the day without breakfast or beginning with coffee and a refined sweet or processed food or cereal will give you that initial BOOST of energy you are looking for and then DROP you down low. Once you realize it, you may go for the quickest energy source available, more caffeine and refined sugars/processed foods. You have highs and lows of energy throughout the day.

Unstable blood sugar

Once you are able to Upgrade the items you love, incorporate the Magic Trio Combinations (see below) and eat at more consistent times. You will notice a Natural Rise in your ENERGY. This is the energy you have sought through caffeinated drinks and refined foods. The Easier and QUICKER route to Sustained Energy and Stable Blood Sugar is through Nourishing Foods, Snacks and the Magic Trio Combinations.

The Magic Trio Combination is:

1. Fiber

2. Protein

3. Fat

When you combine Fiber, Protein, and Fat your food cravings stabilize. For example, notice what you crave after eating a piece of fruit. Then notice what you crave AFTER eating a piece of fruit with some nut butter, nuts/seeds or full fat yogurt or raw cheese. Then create your ritual accordingly. Yes, there is the old saying ‘fruit alone’. However, with blood sugar issues it’s important to slow down fruit (natural sugar) with fat and protein (i.e. nuts/seeds etc.). This will take the fruit from acting like a fast carb to behaving more like a slow carb (which is what you want).

Want to learn more? Please visit www.upgradeology.com or pick up your copy of Upgradeology through Amazon.com

Nourishingly,

Nicole White, CHHC, AADP, RYT

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Upgradeology-Upgrade-Your-Food-Life/dp/0990981614/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1436830688&sr=8-1&keywords=upgradeology

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!

Reflections on Smiling with Sonia

Please welcome Jen Boyce to Whole Life Yoga’s blog today.  Jen is a current student in Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training  program.  She can be reached at jpboyce@comcast.net.  How will your smile (or lack of a smile) impact your world today?

00001

For those of you who attend Sonia’s Friday morning class, you know she is into monthly themes. In April, when Sonia said the focus of the month was on “smiling”, I internally rolled my eyes and thought, “Oh, brother!” I have always valued being true and telling it like it is so smiling when I don’t feel the need feels inauthentic.  In general, I don’t smile unless I want to.  Not because I hate life or feel depressed, my face is just not designed that way.  I blame it on my under bite. Some people appear to have faces that rest in a slight smile.  Me, I have “mad face”, coined by my daughter when she was a toddler.  Add to that, I run on the reserved, serious side. I rarely laugh out loud and I dislike how I feel inside myself when I smile on command (i.e., for a photo).

Sonia quoted Thich Nhat Hanh who stated “…smiling is a practice, a yoga practice. Don’t say, “I have no joy, why do I have to smile?” Because when you have joy and you smile, that is not practice, that’s very natural. When you don’t have joy and you smile, that is a real practice.” The idea of a smile as “practice” resonated with me.   However, I still felt totally awkward smiling during class. It wasn’t until we were on our backs that I played with smiling without worrying about how I looked. And I did note a slight increase in energy.

The next day my family and I headed to Santa Cruz, CA for spring break. At the airport, we jokingly plastered smiles on our faces.  It helped to pass the time and though we found it interesting to note the return smiles from others, we still felt silly. Every time something went well like getting through security without a full body pat down, we jested, “Maybe it was the smiling!”

The “aha” moment came when we were in line to board the plane. A woman noticeably brightened and widened her smile when she saw us (a happy, perfect American family eagerly awaiting vacation <:). Ever the honest one, I felt compelled to explain, “We’re totally fake smiling.”  And then I laughed.  I thought it was funny. Not so.  Her face FELL.  That’s when it hit me. She was feeding off of our energy and I had just slapped her in the face.  Something to think about….

The next day I ran the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. The day was full of reasons to smile—sun, warmth, beautiful coastal views, and most of all, GRATITUDE that I was getting to run another half marathon.  Though this was my fourth half, my last one was back in 2011, shortly before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Ever since returning to running post-treatment, I had been slowly working toward this moment. There had been bumps in the road, but I had made it. It was like coming full circle.  Definitely smile worthy.  But as one can imagine, there are plenty of instances during a race that are NOT smile worthy. It can be exhausting and painful. And sometimes, meditative. I find I go into another space for periods of time and “wake up”, realizing that a half mile has gone by and I don’t remember any of it.  I am guessing that I am not smiling then. Maybe I am.  Thich Nhat Hanh stated, “To meditate well, we have to smile, a lot…. Sometimes the mind takes the initiative and sometimes you have to allow the body to take the initiative.  Sometimes the spirit leads, and sometimes the body can lead.”  I ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than my goal.  It was my first race where there were actually some decent photos of me running (smiling!).  I looked like I was having a great time. And for the most part, I was.

Jen

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!

The Gift of Self-Doubt

me and my boys2

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste

Shelley

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

Join the Mediation Party

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jenny Zenner. Jenny is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program and a promising writer. She  can be contacted at jzenner@gmail.com.

buddha

Toying with the idea of meditating? Maybe you think to yourself, yeah, but it looks like you need all this paraphernalia. I don’t have a puffy cushion or a gong or an auspicious altar. So how can I even begin?

I’ll admit, I’m someone who likes a prop or two. I own a few sets of mala beads including a string of bodhi tree seeds harvested from the mountaintop where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Guess what…you don’t need all the props. You already have everything you need: your body and your breath. If you are someone who wants a prop or two, I’ll show you how you can take simple household items and make do.

What better time than Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday? Mardi is Tuesday in French. Mardi Gras falls on the eve of Lent, the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s a time of closing out winter and inviting spring, clearing out and indulging before a time of repentance. Celebration. Part of that celebration in the New Orleans festival includes tossing strings of beads from floats in parades. Down in the French Quarter those beads are earned by women willing to lift their tops.  Regardless of how you may have come into possession of a set, if you happen to have some stuffed in a drawer or dangling from your rear view mirror, grab them and find a seat.

No party beads? No problem. Pull out your grandma’s pearls, a rosary for you Catholics, or even a string of Christmas lights. If the string you are using doesn’t have a marker on it like a clasp, larger bead, or cross, simply tie a ribbon or rubber band on it so you have a start and end point.

When I meditate with a string of beads, I have a tangible timer. I don’t have to worry if I remembered to set my phone or watch. An annoying alarm doesn’t jolt me out of my meditative state. When I get impatient, I can always take a peek to see how close I am to nearing the end of the string.

Find a comfortable seat in a chair, on the floor, a park bench, or the solace of your car in a parking lot. Hold the string in one hand between your thumb and middle finger (picture holding a pencil). With your thumb on the bead next to your marker, take a breath in and release the breath. At the end of your exhale, let your thumb advance to the next bead and breathe your inhale and exhale. If you find your mind wandering, tell yourself breathing in with your inhale, and with your exhale tell yourself breathing out. Keep it simple, come back to the bead in hand and your breath. Advance until you are back at your marker. Going through my string of 108 beads takes less than 15 minutes. I also have a bracelet with 12 beads for a mini meditation.

Repurpose those party beads for a joyful practice.

Jenny Zenner founded Seeds Yoga www.seedsyoga.com. Based in Seattle, WA, she’s a former addictions counselor turned yoga teacher, recruiter, career coach, and writer, being mindful in as many moments as she can muster as a mom to twin boys. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook and of course connect on LinkedIn.

Yoga Meditation for Childbirth

Please welcome today’s guest , Tess Jones.  Tess is a yoga teacher, freelance writer, and mother of two.  Thanks for joining us, Tess!

TessJones_3

Meditation is a great tool to use during the physical and mental challenges of childbirth. Slowing your breath and focusing on a meditation can calm your mind and allow your body to let the contractions come.

There are many types of meditations. Some guide you to clear your mind and focus on your breath, while others have you focus on a word, phrase, image, or object. Some ask you to sit or lay still, while others may guide you to move your hands or your body. Use what works for you, trying different things until you find something you connect with that brings you to a place of peace, calm, and grounding in your body.

Once you have a few that you like, practice your meditations in the months leading up to your birth so that you feel familiar with them and can recall them quickly. Teach them to your birth partner or doula, since during labor you may not remember to try them.

Below is a short meditation to try at home:

Grounding Meditation for Pregnant Mothers –Hands on Heart and Belly

  • Find a comfortable seat, or lay on your side. Use pillows to prop yourself until comfortable.
  • Take two full minutes to relax. Breathe naturally and evenly.
  • Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Slightly tuck your chin. Fill your heart and your belly with breath on your inhales feeling them rise, and feel them fall on your exhales. Let go of any thoughts that you are holding onto. Feel a sense of inner strength, grounding down, and ultimate peace filling your body. Clear your mind as you calm your body.

If you’re looking for more meditations to try, there are two free downloadable audio meditations on my website circleheartbooks.com. These audio files can be added to your iphone and listened to for a quick calm-down moment during your day. I also have several other meditations in my book Yoga for Birth. Yoga for Birth is available on Amazon.com. It features prenatal poses, meditations, affirmations, philosophy, and more for pregnant mothers and their birth partners. The book was photographed and independently produced in the greater Seattle area.

About the Author

Tess Jones is a freelance writer and mother of two who has practiced yoga since 2002. She has studied hatha, vinyasa, prenatal, and postnatal yoga teaching. Her yoga focuses on mindful movement, self-awareness, and discovering the peaceful, grounded strength within ourselves. Her books and yoga-related articles can be found on her website circleheartyoga.com.

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!

 

Overcoming Eating Disorders with Yoga

Marlisa and her daughter

Marlisa and her daughter

Please welcome today’s guest, Marlisa Papp.  Marlisa has a powerful message about how yoga can help overcome eating disorders and other additions.  Please read my comment at the end, to learn more about her next steps in helping others fighting addiction.

According to NationalEatingDisorder.org, an estimated 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder and 1 out of 5 women struggle with some level of disordered eating. That’s 24 million people I want to help, not only because I feel strongly about it, but because I used to be one of them.

I have suffered from anorexia and bulimia for decades in my own life. I have been admitted to numerous inpatient settings as well as years of counseling. I was spiritually broken and disconnected from many things in life, including myself. I am now in recovery, not because of all the external help I received, but the fact that I was finally able to let go of control and surrender with the guidance of some very special teachers and mentors.

Most people who suffer from addiction state that they use to dull the pain or escape their problems through a detrimental substance or practice. For me, I turned to yoga. It helps me gain insight into how to stay with the pain and heal the underlying reasons. Everyone has pain, but we can choose to not suffer in harmful ways. I dabbled in yoga for many years as part of my own recovery, but did not truly comprehend the powerful transformation one experiences until I let go of what I thought was control and let my practice shape me in a way I never knew existed. What I found from practicing yoga for my own recovery and being dedicated to this practice on a regular basis was learning about limiting beliefs about myself that have kept me in my disordered eating, cultivating acceptance and trust, observing my thoughts and feelings by slowing my breath down, setting healthy boundaries, living in balance, non-judgmental awareness of self and others, and compassion and empathy towards myself and others.

People ask, “What is yoga?” It is a UNION with the body, mind and spirit, or a connection with the self and others. It is about recognizing the Lower self, ego, attachments, self-sabotaging behavior (like alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, workaholism, co-dependency, as well as lying and manipulating), and the Higher self (like the person who loves unconditionally, who has passions and a purpose in life, who is content, grateful, generous and honest). When we are aware of both of these sides in ourselves through slowing down and paying attention, then we have a choice to change. Yoga is a practice in life that brings about change physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually if one can slow down, accept and surrender.

This is the foundation to true freedom from addiction. All the answers come from within not what your family members, friends, community or society thinks you should do to change.

From Tracy: Are you interested in helping with her work?  Marlisa is currently raising funds on DreamFund.com, the circle giving platform for important dreams, to establish a private practice in Montana (which is my home state!) to “help clients on their journey of recovery (alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, co-dependency issues, gambling, workaholism, anxiety and depression).

About Marlisa: I am a Holistic Health Counselor and a Licensed Addiction Counselor and I am currently participating in an Intensive Yoga Certification Program. I have been working for a state agency for years facilitating Outpatient, Intensive Outpatient and Intensive Relapse Prevention groups as well as individual sessions. At times I teach mindfulness, yoga and meditation as part of my patients’ treatment plan. They love it and find a new sense of peace in their recovery as they slow their minds and thoughts down long enough to grasp some of the underlying reasons why they participated in self-harm behavior.

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

‘tis the Season to do Yoga

sheryl

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 sheryl@calmawakenings.com.

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. 

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 vinikatie@gmail.com.

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.

Katie

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!