Category Archives: Teacher Training

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

A few weeks ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner and more flexible.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for the past fourteen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy

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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

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!

What Color is Your Monster?

Whole Life Yoga’s advanced yoga teacher training started this past weekend with a three-day retreat, the primary goal of which was build a single, cohesive community out of thirty students from ten prior trainings—some that took place almost a decade ago.

I planned several small group activities, but I consciously decided to leave out the introductory large group circle, in which every person shares information about themselves, their goals, and their challenges to the rest of the group.

Three weeks ago, I had a sudden feeling that omitting the circle was a bad idea.  I sent an e-mail out to the students to get their opinion, and they agreed: the activity had to be on the agenda. One person teased that if we did the circle activity, I might give her another crystal.

Now I had a problem.

My circles come with presents, and these students knew it. In the 200-hour training, each person who introduces themselves receives a clear quartz crystal to place on the mat in front of her. The crystal tells us who has already spoken. Even more, it symbolizes my hope for each class member: the clarity of mind promised by persevering yoga practice.

What did I want for this group, and how would I symbolize it?

I already knew these wonderful people from their 200-hour trainings. Some have studying with me for well over a decade; others less than a year.  We were about to start another sixteen month journey, much of which wouldn’t be easy. Many of them were already struggling through very tough times. Clarity. Of course I wished them clarity.  But I wished them more than that.

I wished them strength.

Strength to overcome internal and external struggles. Strength to face the inevitable challenges that life would throw their way. Strength to overcome their own internal gremlins.

I told my husband to grab his car keys. Destination: Archie McPhees.

I searched through shelves filled with squishy balls, wind up dentures, rubber chickens, and bacon flavored dental floss. I finally found what I needed in a display rack next to rubber horse heads and assorted Halloween costumes.  Monster finger puppets.  The perfect symbol for the silly, yet powerful, inner demons we all have. The doubts we allow to hold us back.

Sometimes our demons are critical voices inside our head. Sometimes they take the form of exhaustion. Sometimes they feel a whole lot like fear. But in all cases, we give them their power.  Yoga promises that if we take the time, do the work, and have the courage to look at them clearly, they will have no more power over us than these silly rubber toys.

My challenge to all of you, teachers-in-training or not, is to look for the inner demon that holds you back. Confront it. Laugh at it. Refuse to let it stop you. Be all that you want to be and more.

Yoga can help.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my 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!

Yoga Teacher Training Graduation–A Visual Celebration

Today’s blog is a visual celebration of our last yoga teacher training graduation.  Enjoy, and I hope some of you join us in future classes!

We started by setting intentions.

We started by setting intentions.

Then we ended our final practice by spending time together in a circle.

Then we ended our final practice by spending time together in a circle.

We enjoyed food,

We enjoyed food,

Some presents,

Some presents,

And of course, a little bubbly.

And of course, a little bubbly.

This group added Yoga Twister to Whole Life Yoga's graduation celebration!

This group added Yoga Twister to Whole Life Yoga’s graduation celebration!

We finished with lots of celebratory hugs.

We finished with lots of celebratory hugs.

There was even a handstand or two (sequenced appropriately, of course).

There was even a handstand or two (sequenced appropriately, of course).

And what graduation would be complete without “Gangsta" yoga!

And what graduation would be complete without “Gangsta” yoga!

Thanks to all of you who joined me on this journey. A special thanks to your family and friends who allowed me to steal you every Monday.  I look forward to starting again with many of you this October.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

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

Ode to a Community

Whole Life Yoga teacher training class 2012 - 2013Tonight will be an evening of endings and beginnings. At 6:30 I’ll say goodbye to twenty-three yoga teachers-in-training; ninety minutes later, I’ll greet twenty-three newly minted teachers.  After certifying eleven classes, you’d think I’d get used to the transition. But each final ceremony remains bittersweet. The twenty-eight of us (twenty-three students, four teaching assistants, and me) have spent 200 hours together over the last ten months learning, growing, sometimes struggling, and laughing—though not often enough at my lame attempts at humor.

As I reflect on the past year, I realize that this unique group taught me many lessons.

  • All yoga is good yoga—regardless of lineage—as long as it speaks to your heart.
  • Well-taught yoga helps all populations. From autistic preteens, to homeless youth, to martial arts teachers, to runners, to “people who sit at a desk all day.” (Of course, I knew this before, but it was wonderful to see these teachers show it in action.)
  • A female instructor can teach a fabulous Yoga for Men class.
  • Be careful what you joke about—it might just come true. (The three students who broke their ankles last fall know what I mean.  And no, none were injured while doing yoga.)

Thank you to this wonderful community for being so sweet. For putting up with my sometimes chaotic life, yet seemingly not holding my personal struggles against me. For, in some cases, traveling long distances each week to take part in this adventure.

If I didn’t tell you before, I love, respect, and appreciate each of you—students and teaching assistants alike. I will miss our time together. The good news is that the whole process will start again in October when many of us embark on the fifteen-month advanced training. Whether you continue to study with me or not, please stay in touch.

The teacher in me bows to the teacher that is you.

Tracy Weber

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

The Evolution of a Yogi

I recently spent several hours digging through the mountains of paper stacked all over my house, desperately looking for some notes I’d taken while researching my next novel. I finally found them, tossed mindlessly in my yoga teacher training binder.

Disgusted with my lack of organization—it was, after all, the second time I’d lost those notes—I set aside writing for awhile, determined to tackle the disaster that was my home.

My husband came home from work, unaware of the project I’d undertaken. He looked at my clean desktop and the corresponding bags of to-be-recycled paper lining the hallway. Curious but wary, he cautiously approached as I sorted papers into ”recycle,” “re-file,” and “God only knows what this is” piles.

“Who is this woman?” he asked.

Who indeed.

Buried in the back of my file cabinet, I found an essay I wrote when applying for my first yoga teacher training.  I remember writing that essay as if it were yesterday. I sat in Maui’s warm sun, scribbling furiously in my journal, trying to explain why I loved yoga and how I wanted to share it.

But as I re-read the words, I barely recognized the person who wrote that essay.  Her goals seem so different than what I’ve achieved in the last twelve years.

In some ways, her aspirations seem nobler than what I’ve accomplished.

  • To establish a nonprofit yoga center
  • To primarily use yoga to help female survivors of violence become whole again.

On the other hand, I’ve achieved some of her goals.

  • To grow emotionally and spiritually through the practice of yoga
  • To use yoga to help others overcome emotional and physical ailments.

And she didn’t even mention some of my most impactful work.

  • To train other yoga teachers, so the benefits of Viniyoga can be spread beyond my personal teaching
  • To keep the yoga studio open, in hard times as well as good
  • To reach out to people I may never even meet, through writing.

Part of me laughs at the naiveté of the woman who wrote that essay; another part of me misses her. But even as I write these words, she continues evolving.   Yoga has that effect on people.

Who is this woman? I still don’t know.  But using the tools of yoga and writing, I’ll keep finding out.  I hope you join me.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on my hopefully soon-to-be-published yoga mystery!

To Sanskrit or Not to Sanskrit. A Pose by Any Other Name…

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to tracy@wholelifeyoga.com.

Is this cat, table, or cakravakasana?

A Whole Life Yoga teacher training student asks: In some of the classes I attend, the teacher uses the Sanskrit names of poses; other teachers do not.  Is knowing Sanskrit important for a yoga teacher?

Using the names of yoga poses, whether in Sanskrit or English, is a convenient shorthand—for the yoga teacher.  It’s easier to say “Go into down dog” or even “Do adho mukha svanasana” than to describe how to do a pose correctly.  Knowing posture names does not make you a good yoga teacher.  A good yoga teacher can verbally describe a yoga pose to students who’ve never heard its name.  And when we show off and use the Sanskrit names of poses, most of our students hear “whatchamacallit-asana,” anyway.

I rarely use Sanskrit when I teach. Using even English names creates more confusion than clarity.  I remember telling students in class once to go into Uttanasana (a very common standing forward bend). One of my long-time students stopped moving, looked at me oddly, and said, “Utta-what?”  Other times, English has been equally confusing.  I’ve told students to do bridge, and people practicing on mats next to each other have done two completely different poses.  I’ve said “Do down dog,” and half the class has gone into up dog instead.  The examples are numerous, but one thing is clear: the shorthand may be convenient for me, but I’m not communicating to my students.

In Viniyoga, there’s an even more important concern.  There are literally hundreds of ways to do any pose.  If all I say is “Do warrior 1,” I haven’t communicated anything about proper foot placement, how to use the breath, arm positions, number of repetitions, how to engage the core, visualization, etc., etc., etc.  The beauty is indeed in the details.

Sanskrit is a lovely language.  If you study yoga–whether as a teacher or as a practitioner–you may want to learn posture names and other Sanskrit terminology.  But a teacher needs to know how to describe the form, intention, and adaptations of a pose—in English.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site: Yoga Teacher Training in Seattle at Whole Life Yoga.

Allow Yoga to Enhance Your Posture and Balance

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jeanne Startzman. Jeanne is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at yogaspring@hotmail.com and www.yogaspringyoga.com.

 

As I often do, I was recently thinking about the benefits of yoga and its age-defying qualities. It occurred to me that three of my friends fell this year, and each sustained fairly serious injuries.

Kathy tripped over her dog that crowded her in the bathroom; she crashed against a wall and broke her shoulder in two places. Lynae slipped on an icy street (ice is always treacherous!), fell, and fractured her left hip. And as Kristine told me, “I was feeling ungrounded that day, in a hurry, and multi-tasking when I tripped on my own feet and fell flat with my cheek breaking my fall on the edge of a retaining wall.” She suffered a broken upper jaw and concussion.

None of these women practice yoga, however I’m not implying that if they were practitioners their mishaps would not have happened. But I do believe that with a yoga practice, their chances of righting themselves before each injuring impact would have been more in their favor.

I recently taught a two-part series called Basic Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Spine, and Improve Your Posture and Balance. I knew that only two classes would not bring dramatic physical change, so my primary intent was to heighten students’ awareness of the connection between posture, balance, and the ability to stay upright?and how yoga can enhance that relationship.

We opened our hearts with poses that drew our shoulders down and back as shoulder blades moved toward one another. Immediately students stood a little taller; we were on our way to improving our posture! We practiced extension postures, such as Mountain, with long, deep inhales to lengthen and bring our spines into alignment.

Chair and Warrior poses helped strengthen students’ thighs so that they might be just strong enough to withstand gravity’s forceful pull should a stumble occur. We also thawed-out our foundation by rotating our ankles and stretching our toes, enabling them to grip and respond.

And we did balance poses! Most of us like balance postures because they’re fun and, well, they look cool once you find that sweet spot. But really, the intent of Dancer or Tree is to create an integrated, overall body balance that will serve us in our everyday activities so that maybe, just maybe, you can catch yourself when you trip over a section of raised sidewalk or you’re steady on your tiptoes as you stretch way-high to reach that bowl on the top shelf.

Overall, our two practices and new-found awareness served to remind us that it’s all about maintaining our centers of gravity. Slumping posture leads to rounded shoulders, which lead to a protruding head and neck. Given such a weak posture profile, even a small misstep can result in a fall.

Unfortunately (and especially as we age) falling down can be life-changing with injuries that steal mobility and independence. With yoga, students of any age can enjoy more freedom of movement, protect against injury, and foster and preserve their ability to move about.

Even the quiet calm and clear mind that is yoga can help save us from harm. During her recuperation, my friend Kristine who broke her jaw pondered “What is the message here?” She concluded that for her, the message is to slow down, stay mindful at all times, and examine priorities. Along with a yoga practice, I consider it a valuable message for all of us to heed.

Jeanne

My Yoga Journey

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

Five years ago during my first yoga series , I noticed that my body felt better, and I felt more grounded and focused after I left class. From that first experience with yoga, I knew that I wanted to pursue a long-term relationship with yoga, but being afraid of commitment, I needed to embark on my own journey before coming to the point where I was ready to plunge into a yoga teacher training.

I started seriously thinking about taking a teacher training a little over a year ago. To begin, I researched various teacher training programs from multiple lineages and offered in a plethora of locations. I could move to India for a month to study in Dharamsala or perhaps I would trade in our rainy Northwest winters to spend a handful of weeks in Costa Rica or Mexico at a teacher training retreat center. Then again, I could move back up to Vancouver, BC for a one-month intensive training and study through the school where I used to regularly attend classes. The more I reflected on my options, the more I realized that although those choices were quite appealing, they would not help me to meet one of my personal goals: integrating yoga into my daily life.

Around this time, I came across Whole Life Yoga’s ten-month teacher training. The more that I looked into Viniyoga, the more it seemed like the best fit for me. On a personal level, I liked that the training was spread out over the better part of year so that I would have time to fully absorb and integrate the material, philosophy, and practice. I appreciated that the class meets at least once a week which provides the opportunity to create community with the other participants as well as a designates a weekly time and space for learning about and practicing the different components of yoga. Furthermore, the training schedule allows me to continue working full time while I complete the program. However, most importantly, Viniyoga takes a student-centered focus that meets the differing needs of each individual’s body and situation. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Viniyoga is flexible and adaptable. It meets each student where he or she is currently. This tenant of Viniyoga is connected to my personal as well as professional motivation in participating in the Whole Life Yoga teacher training.

Professionally, I work as a mental health case manager with homeless and formerly homeless individuals. After completing the training, I would like to offer yoga to clients at my agency. Further down the road, I would like to integrate mental health counseling with yoga as the body holds so many emotional memories and traumas. I hope to either open a private practice or work at a wellness center and serve clients who are interested in working through these duo modalities. Finally, I would also like to teach yoga classes at a studio in addition to my work in mental health as I believe the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga should be accessible to all who are interested. In line with this belief, I would like to offer a by donation class at least once a week so that money is not prohibitive to potential students. While these are my initial goals, I am open to future opportunities that may present themselves.

The journey has already begun for each of us. Your journey may include a teacher training or it may not. Regardless of where it takes you, I encourage you to trust your instinct and follow your passion. As Rumi said, “Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.”

Namaste

Katie

Yogi Skydiver

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Annika DiNovi. Annika is a graduate of  Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at annika.dinovi@gmail.com.

Last year I embarked on a wonderful journey, the Teacher Training program at Whole Life Yoga with certified yoga teacher and therapist Tracy Weber. As I began the program, I was excited to deepen my yoga practice and explore boarder aspects of yoga including philosophy, meditation, and the methodology of viniyoga.

Through Tracy’s teachings, I came to understand that “viniyoga” literally means “adaptation and proper application.” I discovered, through my studies and deepening practice, that yoga facilitated growth in all areas of my life, both on and off the mat. But, I was not prepared for just how adaptable viniyoga truly was…

About 9 months into my study with Tracy, my husband and I went on a great adventure – we went skydiving! It was a beautiful Sunday, the sun was shining and summer was just around the corner. I clearly recall, prior to loading the airplane at Skydive Snohomish, a bit of hesitation and anticipation. “What was I getting myself into?!” I allowed the anticipation to turn into excitement – there was no turning back.

And, excitement it was! What an experience – I still can’t find the words to describe the feeling – thank goodness my husband loved it as well. The following weekend we were both back at the drop zone enrolling in the program to become licensed skydivers – we were hooked!

As we began the coursework, the first and most essential skill to master was the ARCH, this crates a stable surface for flying. The ARCH is practiced by lying on your belly, lifting your arms in a goal post position and lifting your legs both several inches off the ground. We practiced this countless times to build muscle memory.

Our instructor jokingly said, “I hope you’re good at yoga, you might be sore.” Little did he know – this was yoga! We were practicing cobra in preparation to fly – I couldn’t believe it!!

As I mentioned before, yoga has truly facilitated growth in ALL areas of my life. When Tracy teaches that viniyoga is adaptable, she isn’t kidding! At the drop zone where we skydive there is a quote, “take risks, not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping.”

This has been a remarkable year; Tracy’s teachings have encouraged my growth in many ways. In reflection, I’ve learned that life is too short not to enjoy it. Allow yourself to grow, allow yourself to be challenged in new ways both on and off the mat and share your experiences with others.

Hope to see you on the mat soon – if I’m not there, I’m in the sky!

Namaste.

Annika