Category Archives: Teacher Training Graduate Stories

Wanting it all, Getting away from it all … And finding my center: An indie-folk musician’s yoga journey

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Mary Bue. Mary is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at marybue@gmail.com

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I’ve always wanted to be a rock star.  In high school I bought an electric guitar with a hot pink strap.  I’d sit in my bedroom writing songs dripping with adolescent poetry. In the midst of this rock star fantasy,  I found a short yoga practice in a teen magazine and started incorporating simple practices into my 15 year old life.  

Eventually I had my own gigs, recorded and took my music on the road (leading to four CDs and performing in 38 states) .  Yoga has been a parallel path.  It helped to soothe my nerves and assisted in “keeping it all together” in this one-woman-band enterprise.  

In Minneapolis years later,  I was working with a booking agent to plan my tours – a dream come true.  I’m not sure if it was Minnesota’s winter that made me lose my cool, a relationship ending or fear of putting my heart on the line – but on NYE of ’07,  I made the decision to leave it all behind.  Indie artist responsibility, insecurity of not being good/talented/cool enough, desire of getting what I hoped but not feeling like I deserved it – all inner signs pointed to running.  

Months later I moved to Seattle.  I met my teacher – Tracy Weber at Whole Life Yoga.  Music took the back burner while I delved into my 200 hour teacher training.  

As Viniyoga’s breath-centered asana began to penetrate my cells, it started to soothe my being.  Looking back, the move was stressful.  Things got worse before they got better as I moved deeper into the process of  “going internal.” I was healing myself.  I spent three years studying at Whole Life Yoga. 

Yet, I started to feel the siren’s call of music.  And what a better place to pursue it than the city where I got my start – Duluth, Minnesota.  Again, I chose to leave it all behind and follow my heart’s desire.  

This brings us to NOW.  Depths of winter.  Too often, it is 20 below zero. The mind starts rattling.  I want to get away from it all.  My home morning practice has become paramount to my sanity.  I start looking into 500 hour yoga teacher training programs,  feeling called to learn & evolve.  My teacher is already in the thick of her training. I research other programs and eventually settle on Gary Kraftsow’s in California.  In talks with the student advisor, she kindly offers the possibility of work study.  I am pumped; I am filling out applications;  I am … CRYING EVERY DAY.  

Finally, after weeks of turmoil,  I reach out to Dona (student advisor) and Tracy who had given her blessing for further study.  I say that I must devote myself to music and give it the focus it deserves.  In healing words, they offered me two great gifts:  Time and the root of yoga: Union. 

Tracy: “Mary, you have a very long life ahead of you and nothing is in your way from doing the training when the TIMING IS RIGHT.”  Dona: “You are STILL DOING YOGA as you share this gift from a place of great awareness.”  

With a blown mind,  I am off to practice the guitar … and simultaneously practice yoga.  

May you carry your yoga practice with you and find it – with great awareness – in all that you do.  

Mary

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

Pain: Turning “Weaknesses” into Strength

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 advanced teacher training program. She can be contacted at vinikatie@gmail.com.

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that “feeling” is a sign of physical or emotional weakness. Our culture has conditioned us to put people who elicit feelings of sadness, anxiety, or pain into a category of being “weak,” projecting a negative self-image and association with these feelings onto those who endure them. In reality, physical, mental and emotional conflicts can actually give you strength. When you can recognize, accept and control them, you will gain more power and clarity about yourself and the world around you than you ever thought possible.

Growing up, I was conditioned to look at pain as a weakness and to always push through it. Like everyone else, athletes have a pain threshold. Most hover just below it, where the body is screaming at you, telling you not to go any farther and you quiet it just enough to push through your practice, game or day. The problem is, once you have gone over that threshold, it is incredibly difficult to get your body back to “normal.” I broke my pain threshold, multiple times. I created injury on top of injury, until muscular and structural issues within my own body literally stopped me in my tracks.

Discouragement, pain pills and anti-inflammatories were thrown at me from all angles, providing me with zero resolution, only masking my pain and shoving me farther into the depths of my mind. When you are in physical pain, your mind and emotions suffer as well, causing depression, anxiety, negative thinking and poor sleep quality. These conflicts are normal, but no one tells you this. I’d like to invite you to embrace this. Our bodies tell the story of our lives. Learn to empower that story. No matter how tragic or lost you may feel it is, it is beautiful and unique to you. Make your “weaknesses” your strength. It is a long journey that requires perseverance. When I started, I was still attached to my negative conditioning of pain. I didn’t want to talk about it; I just wanted to hide it.

You may receive discouragement, resulting in self-doubt and feelings of weakness. When that happens to me, I slow my thoughts down, quiet the mind, and think of all the positive things my pain has brought me. I think of how it defines me, and only I can define my Self. Yoga has provided me with a completely different outlook on life that yes, I have this mess of a body, but I have a choice. I can sit back and let my “weaknesses” overcome me, or I can embrace them, empower them. I chose the latter and I have let my “weak” body become my teacher and my strength, allowing me to pass my gift of yoga along to others through teaching and sharing what I have learned.

By embracing your “weaknesses,” you will learn to appreciate, love and hopefully share your story so that others can do the same, knowing they are not alone.

Namaste Friends,

Katie West

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

Just Be this Holiday Season

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Katie Burns. Katie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our advanced teacher training program. She can be contacted at katie@pacheholistichealth.com.

As this holiday season approaches, many of us increase our doing. There are cards to write, gifts to buy, homes to decorate, parties to attend, and many other events and tasks demanding our attention and energy. We participate in many of these activities because we care deeply about the people in our lives, and the holidays present an opportunity to let them know that we love them. We become so busy that some of us begin to cut back in other areas. We sleep fewer hours each night. We run non-stop from work to activity to activity. We buy new underwear because we have three weeks’ worth of dirty laundry in the hamper, and it’s faster to buy new undergarments than to go to the laundry mat. However, this constant state of doing and cutting back our healthy habits may not be the only option for making the holidays special.

During my early twenties, I moved to Chicago to volunteer with an inner-city teaching program. After a brief stint of student teaching summer school, come September I quickly found myself with a second grade class of my own. I felt for these new students. They were stuck with me, a brand new teacher who wasn’t sure what she was doing those first few months. To compensate for my lack of experience, I worked hard. I stayed up late and woke up early to grade papers, write lesson plans, and acquire materials for projects since this low-income school had limited resources. I wanted to give my students the best second grade year that I could. I felt exhausted daily, but I believed that it was worth it.

Then one night, on a fluke (or likely due to exhaustion), I went to bed early knowing the next day would be a struggle since I wouldn’t be fully prepared.  I slept for eight hours that night. When I went to school the next day, I discovered that even though I was less prepared, I felt energized. I was flexible and had more patience with my students. I noticed that my enjoyment in working with these kiddos increased. I was actually a better teacher. It seemed that by taking care of myself, I could roll with the punches and see the joy in the small moments. The rest of the year, I made it a priority to get more sleep.  I learned that I needed to let go of doing in order to really be present with my students.

As we prepare for the holidays this year, I encourage you to continue the activities that allow you to be present with the ones you love. Go to bed early. Attend that yoga class that you’ve been eyeing. Take ten minutes to meditate even if it involves hiding from your family by staying in the bathroom for a mini-meditation post-shower. By letting go of the “need” to do, you may find that you are more peaceful being around loved ones.

Namaste and Happy Holidays,

Katie

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

Growing Gratitude

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Katie Burns. Katie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our advanced teacher training program. She can be contacted at katieburns09@gmail.com.

As we awake from our Thanksgiving food comas, the mind quickly transitions full swing into the holiday season. We know our next Thanksgiving—aka, day of the double Gs: gratitude and gluttony—is a good 350+ days away. Daydreams of gifts we would like to receive enter our conscious space, and brainstorms of presents for those we love occupy our thinking. As we move forward, I invite you to carry the spirit of gratitude from Thanksgiving into your daily life.

In the field of positive psychology, researchers set out to investigate wellness, the good things in life, and factors that contribute to overall well-being. Gratitude is one of their areas of focus. After collecting the results from multiple studies, researcher Christopher Peterson concluded, “Counting your blessings on a regular basis makes you happier and more content with life.” Based on this statement, Peterson, along with fellow researchers Seligman, Steen, and Park, conducted a research study in which they asked people to record three things that went well during the day everyday for one week. From their study, they discovered that attuning to positive things in life and expressing gratitude “increased happiness and decreased symptoms of depression for up to six months.”

I invite you to reap these benefits by keeping a gratitude journal for one week. The instructions that the researchers provided for their participants are below.

Gratitude Journal Instructions

by Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson (as published in A Primer in Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson, 2006)

“At the end of each day, after dinner and before going to sleep, write down three things that went well during the day. Do this every night for a week. The three things you list can be relatively small in importance (‘my husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today’) or relatively large in importance (‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy’). After each positive event on your list, answer in your own words the question, ‘Why did this good thing happen?’ For example, you might speculate that your husband picked up ice cream ‘because he can be really thoughtful’ or ‘because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.’”

You can follow their suggestion or adapt your gratitude journal to fit you. Regardless of the form that your gratitude journal takes, you are planting the seed to focus on the positive moments in your life. Watch to see how that seed grows, and if you are willing, share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Wishing you a happy holiday season filled with gratitude!

Namaste,

Katie Burns

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

 

 

 

It Took. Words.

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.

It took language to undo the language lashed at me, to make me raw, exposed, weep, alive, aware. Tracy’s words were not tender. No. Tracy Weber is perfectly matter-of-fact. Hearing her voice of honesty broke open my heart and awareness to recognize the earlier words said to me that I believed true. That I was not wanted. That I was an ungrateful, selfish slob. A burden. Three and a half months into Tracy’s yoga teacher training program, I awoke in a new year with the obvious realization of my truth, my completely un-unique experience that I’d accepted as true and denied as existing.

Hearing girlfriends share their own experience, several years of yoga on the mat, several more years of meditation on the cushion, and finally, through Tracy’s open disclosure of words said to her, it added up. By writing the sutra paper assignments, I finally revealed the experiences I had let grip me. Words hysterically sobbed at me stuck. Finally, unstuck, I put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, and began to release the load, letting new language lead me.

It took sitting to find some stillness. It took vinyasa to begin the loosening. It took breath to recognize the shallowness. I was taken. At my tipping point primed by the practice, I arrived to Tracy ripe. Through the language of the sutras, the language of Tracy’s experience, the language of the instruction, I found my own story.

I don’t have to repeat what all words were uttered or by whom. The only finger pointing required is to give credit to those who spoke and wrote the words that healed.

My practice began as an undergrad. As a philosophy minor, I studied eastern religion and finagled an independent study of Living Buddha, Living Christ byThich Naht Hanh (aka “Thay”). Thay’s words paved the way from my Catholic upbringing to Buddhism. Off to grad school, I sought a meditation group led by Pam Perrugi Marraccini in Thay’s lineage. I read and heard speak Tara Brach, Robert Thurman, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and whoever happened to be on Oprah. A dear friend, Allison Parry Leach introduced me to Hilary Steinitz Jackson’s juicy vinyasa flow yoga classes, our girls night out breakup cure. All this prepped me to arrive at Whole Life Yoga to begin becoming whole.

It continued. It took finding love. Getting dropped on my head. Losing my asana practice. Fawn’s physical therapy. Burnstein’s traditional therapy. Bibliotherapy. Acupuncture. Massage.

Putting words to what is, I continue to write. Some stories take manual extraction. Moving through sun salutations, twisting, compressing, and holding poses, yoga unleashes. A jog jars stagnation. Ginger lovingly maneuvers me to necessary insights on her massage table. Touch. Recognition. Connection. The union of rejection and acceptance. Beyond forgiveness to compassion. The words at me. The words with me. The words forward.

Jenny Zenner, MEd, MBA, RYT © 2013

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

What I’ve learned in My First Year of Teaching

amandaAmanda Moore is a health and wellness coach, blogger, and yoga teacher working with people who are ready to let go of self-limiting beliefs, bust through fears, and begin living their biggest, most wild dreams. Through carefully crafted one-on-one or group coaching sessions, she empowers her clients to reach big, dig deep and dissolve what’s holding them back so they can build their best lives. Amanda is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program.

You can reach her at thesavourysoul@gmail.com or find her on her blog, The Savoury Soul or Facebook.

When I enrolled in the Whole Life Yoga 200 hour teacher training program I couldn’t even wrap my head around the idea of actually teaching at the end of the 10 months. How was I, little old cautious, timid me going to get in front of people and teach them for 75 minutes?

What I admired most about my favorite teachers were the insightful words that effortlessly left their lips and left a mark on my soul. I wanted to be THAT kind of teacher.

The October after graduation I taught my first class. I showed up, script in hand, wise words ready to be said. I was ready to make a difference in others’ lives. However, when I opened my mouth to speak these profound words, nothing inspiring came. I found myself just going through the motions of teaching.

I continued to show up, and so did my students.  I continued to teach off of my script. I wasn’t a bad teacher, I just didn’t feel connected to what I was doing. Something felt off, and I found myself dreading class because I wasn’t able to deliver what I thought I was supposed to.

What was going on, I wondered? This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  Did I really want to teach yoga? Was there something deeper tugging at my soul? I continued to teach, but I still felt stale.  I used the proper language, spoke like a true yogi and came ready with my class tailored around a certain theme. But still, something was missing.

On a cool morning late last spring, I drove to the studio, exhausted from subbing, being back in school and surviving the chaos that life sometimes brings.  I sank down in the driver’s seat and sighed, thinking that I just didn’t have it in me to put on my ‘yoga teacher show.’  Then it hit me.  No wonder I was exhausted!

I climbed out of my car with new found energy and peace in my heart. I had found the missing link. I had been so consumed by the idea of being a perfect yoga teacher that I forgot to be myself.

“I’m done,” I said to myself.  I’m done trying to be someone I’m not. As my students and I sat in silence that day, I silently whispered to my inner guide, “Give me the words that need be heard and help me to speak directly from my heart.”

What came out of my mouth surprised me. It wasn’t something profound, but something that made us all giggle. A lightness  fell over the room. My students filled the room with tiny smiles.

My teaching was forever changed.

I now connect with my students in a deeper, more authentic way.  And isn’t that the goal of yoga anyway? Finding your authenticity, letting go of the filters in which we perceive ourselves and others?

For those of you just starting to teach or exploring the idea of teaching, here’s my advice: Give up the goal of being the perfect teacher and let your own personality come through. Speak from what’s yearning to be said from deep within. Listen to yourself; ask yourself for wisdom and the words need to be heard. Or heck, don’t say much of anything other than the instructions needed to keep your students safe.

Don’t try to teach like someone else because it will feel untrue and yucky and heavy on your heart. Teach because you believe in the power of yoga and the power to share an important message with others.

Give your students, and most importantly, yourself that gift.

Namaste.

Amanda

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

Motherhood and Viniyoga

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

curtis-geiss

If you’d told me in my 20s and 30s that I would someday be both a yoga teacher and a mother, I would’ve giggled myself silly. But yoga – and motherhood – found me when I needed them the most.

In our late 30s, my partner (now husband) and I were quite content with being childless; watching in amusement how chaotic and out-of-control the lives of our friends with children appeared to be. But at some point we began to feel that having children would bring more joy than chaos. We were ready for a change in our lives that would bring self growth and a new perspective.

At about the same time, I injured my back and began practicing hatha yoga to rebuild my strength and flexibility.  Once I conceived, my growing belly made practicing the asanas I was used to more challenging. A friend (later one of my viniyoga mentors) invited me to come to her prenatal yoga series at Whole Life Yoga.  I didn’t know anything about viniyoga, but I was eager to find a yoga practice that I could continue through my pregnancy.

Turns out, viniyoga was the exact thing my body needed. At the time, I had no idea it was also exactly what my mind needed. I focused on the physical aspects of my practice, but little by little I began to connect breath, body and mind.

My transition to motherhood wasn’t quite as smooth.

I felt overwhelmed, isolated and I struggled with my new identity. I realize now that I was completely attached to the outcome of my actions. I measured my success as a mother by how well my child nursed, slept, ate, and behaved. I loved my son with all my heart, but my mind was often occupied by thoughts of the future and planning for what was (maybe) to come. Sometimes being in the present moment was too painful and scary.

Even though the first couple of years were a struggle at times, the joy of being parents overcame us and we decided to have a second child. My pregnancy coincided with my teacher training at Whole Life Yoga. What a gift! I loved learning about the physical asanas, sequencing and anatomy (ok, maybe not anatomy). But the real joy was learning how to quiet my mind – how to stay present with my breath and my body. As a result, my transition to motherhood the second time seemed way less overwhelming. Yes, I had done it once before, but I truly believe my attempts to internalize the principles of yoga made the difference.

My viniyoga practice made me a better mother.

The effects of viniyoga on motherhood come in many shapes and sizes. First, I am able to be in the present moment more often and more fully. Second, I am better able to practice non-attachment, which frees me (to some degree) from the outcomes of my mothering. Third, paying attention to my breath and trying as best I can to live in the present moment make me less reactive and more patient. Finally, my yoga and meditation practices teach my kids about the importance of self-care, even if they don’t know it yet.

Motherhood and yoga practice are both life-long journeys that teach me to slow down, breathe, and be more fully present. I can’t think of a better combination.

Shelley

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join Tracy Weber’s author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available early 2014 from Midnight Ink!

My Life as a Poser

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Claire Ricci. Claire is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at Claire@Clairericci.com.

For years I lived with the tyranny of the yoga pose. I tried hard to make mine look the way my teacher’s did; the way I thought it “should” look.  I had marginal success, was set back by injury, generally felt pretty small, and like I would always be a beginner.

I stumbled into Viniyoga, which holds that the pose should meet the student, rather than the student meeting the pose. This changed everything.

When I tried to meet the pose where it was I felt inadequate. The pose was right, I was wrong. The tightness of my hamstrings or the length of my arms was irrelevant. My energetic condition of no interest. To be “good” at yoga meant serving the pose.

Meeting the pose where I was meant the pose served me.  My physical, mental, and emotional state mattered, so every practice mattered. I no longer had to struggle or be “propped” into position.  This shift in perspective caused a revolution. Like a well-planted tree growing from its roots, I expanded.

There is true beauty in allowing yourself to be exactly where you are, and striking out from there. It makes each practice a bit of an adventure as you discover what it has for you today, this one special day. Truthfully, this is the only real place we can start; no matter what we tell ourselves, or how hard we work we just can’t leap from a place we’re not standing. Missing that is what led me to perpetual beginner-hood.

I’ve had the honor of working with students facing challenges that made them doubt they would be “good” at yoga. Some expected to hate it. I get this. Who wants to return to a practice that feels like it doesn’t quite fit, or worse that you don’t?

It’s exciting and incredibly rewarding to see how fast these students progress as they shift away from the limitations they hold for themselves. Once you release the notion that you need to fit the practice and allow your practice to fit you, it becomes a whole new ball game. Struggle evaporates when you become aligned with yourself and stop pursuing the perfect posture. This is the payoff.

Now here’s the even bigger news: What happens in yoga happens in life. What we learn on the mat walks with us right into our daily lives.

Meeting ourselves in yoga is the path for meeting ourselves in all aspects of our lives. Being aligned with ourselves can become a way of being, allowing us to root and expand, transforming our work, our family lives and how we meet the world.

This is a giant gift to ourselves, and to those we encourage to meet themselves where they are whatever the context.

The next time you find yourself on your mat take a minute to greet yourself and ask, what can I do for you? This may be the most important question of your day.

Claire Ricci

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Preserve Your Active Lifestyle with Yoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jeanne Startzman. Jeanne is a Whole Life Yoga graduate and certified yoga instructor who teaches Breath-Centered Yoga Basics in downtown Edmonds each Thursday evening. Jeanne can be contacted at yogaspring@hotmail.com and www.yogaspringyoga.com

We all want to maintain our ability to enjoy an active lifestyle–to get in and out of a car with ease, bend over to pick-up something, sit on the floor and play with our dog, or climb up-and-down stairs without pain. Simple things, yet each add richness to our quality of life.

Once we reach a certain age, however, many of us begin to limit our body positions to standing up, lying down, and sitting in a chair. And over time, that lack of movement begins to erode flexibility, mobility, stamina, and our overall health.

Consider the Tin Man. With his joints rusted motionless, he was unable to move until Dorothy came along and used his oil can to release him. If Dorothy had known–and in the context of a yoga practice–consistent, gentle movement of his joints would have brought about the same welcome release.

I have watched yoga students as young as their 40s struggle with beginning, basic postures. Not because of any specific physical issues, but due simply to years of moving within a very limited range of motion.

And depending on the pose, yoga can look easier than it is. Some new students come to class completely unaware that their body is less strong and less limber than even a few years earlier. I can read the surprise and discouragement on their faces when they struggle to bend laterally or exhale into a deep forward bend. As a result, some decide they can’t do yoga and unfortunately, don’t return.

A person who decides to start running doesn’t register for a marathon their first day out. A budding photographer realizes that learning the mechanics of her camera is the first step toward capturing beautiful shots.

And so it is with yoga. It is an unfolding process; we start where we are with mindful breath and basic movement, and within a short time of beginning a consistent practice, we feel our bodies begin to soften and respond. Our very first yoga class leaves us with a greater sense of calm and peace.

If you’ve been thinking about doing yoga, it’s never too late to start. But why not make it a priority now? Think about how you want your body to move and the activities you want to continue into your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. Yoga is designed to be a lifelong practice. Poses are modified to integrate the changes in your body as the years progress. Yet at the same time, your yoga practice will allow you to keep moving, whether it’s mowing your lawn, skiing, or keeping the beat playing an 18-pound bass during a four-hour Blues performance.

Jim Brandt, 62, practices yoga, commutes 25 miles round trip to work on his bicycle, runs with Run Seattle for Life, babysits two young granddaughters, and is bass guitarist for the Curtis Hammond Band.

Jeanne

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join Tracy Weber’s author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available early 2014 from Midnight Ink!

Touch Me or Touch Me Not?

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Brandy Reinke. Brandy is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at brandy.reinke@gmail.com.

I love when I lay my fingers just under the arc of my ribs on my inhale my fingers expand so far apart. That’s what I watch in the mirrors at my current yoga studio. It is what I feel. It is hypnotic: my ribs expanding, collapsing, expanding, collapsing-wider with my breath, wider with my life.

In the mirror, I see this sweet-faced girl walk up to stand behind me. She’s helping the instructor in my evening class. I see before I feel the sweet-faced girl’s hands start to slide over my ribs while I am in a standing twist. I feel both her hands rub back and forth and back and forth from the top of my right ribs, over my diaphragm, to my bottom left ribs. I am disarmed. Up and down, hand over hand. Immediately, all I can think is: who was the last person to touch my ribs with any focused intensity? An odd thought.  She says “is this okay?” and I nod just as she hooks her fingers just under my right ribs and pulls back, gently, gently, to open my side more deeply into the twist.

At least I would guess that is what she would say she is doing, trying to get me deeper into my posture. But she is also dominating me. She has just taken my pose from me and made it something she is shaping, into her practice. Always with the best of intentions I’m sure, but my yoga practice just bounced out of my body and into hers.

I experience her hands on me with the viewpoint of a student and a teacher. She has helped me answer my own question if I as a teacher should touch my students or not. My answer is not ‘no’ even though I learned in my teacher training to be very wary of touch.  No touch is always a fair response. Touch is the most magnificent of the senses and the most dangerous. As teachers, as students, we must take care.

But what I find is that this isn’t actually a yes or no question.  Because in this circumstance when as a teacher we want to put our hands on someone, we are both teachers and students.  The question really is a compromise where we must take care to equally include our will with our student’s.

My sweet-faced teacher may know about the proper technique/form over what my body is showing. In putting her hands on me, I understand she is trying to get me the full benefit of the posture. But I am also the teacher in my body for her, showing her what I am and am not able to tolerate and she must understand that. Her job is to guide me, but my job is to accept her guidance.

I believe the question shouldn’t be ‘is this okay?’ I believe we should teach and be taught.  The question should be ‘can you go farther?’ If my sweet-faced teacher had asked me that, perhaps of my own volition I would’ve broken through my own barriers and moved my ribs back on my own. Perhaps she said ‘can I show you?’ and then placed her hands on me, which would truly be the essence of teaching: to show me how to get there myself.

Both options seem better than a passive yes or no, where I am tacitly asked to usurp my practice to what she thinks my practice should be, and where she then is forced to bear the responsibility of my practice herself.  As teachers and students we need to compromise with touch to enhance the experience so we both grow from it equally.

Brandy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!