Category Archives: Teacher Training

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

Memories of a Celebration

Thank you to the students who gave up their Monday evening yoga practice with Cara to allow me to celebrate a final evening with Whole Life Yoga’s most recent teacher training group.  As predicted, we shared more than a few tears, but we also laughed, played, and ate more than was probably good for us. Today’s blog shares some of that celebration with all of you. Enjoy the photos!

Gorgeous tropical flowers decorated the altar and set the tropical theme.

We began by sharing stories, memories, and learnings with each other.

The class kindly wrapped me in a meditation shawl each person had worn, so I could carry their energy with me forever. I will treasure it always!

After a brief movement and meditation practice, each student set an intention for the future, about how they would use the yoga teachings personally and share them in their world.

We ended the ceremony in a final closing circle.

Of course there was food.

And even some bubbly.

Finally, a big kiss farewell.

And lots of promises that this goodbye was not forever.

Thank you, my friends, for everything.  And to the rest of the Whole Life Yoga community, thank you as well.  Your gracious acceptance of these students as participants and observers in your yoga classes has been a big part of their learning. I may not say it often enough, but we couldn’t do it without you!

Namaste

Tracy

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

Congratulations and “Breathing Easier”

As unbelievable as it seems, tonight is Whole Life Yoga’s tenth Yoga Teacher Training graduation.  I swear every year goes just a little bit faster than the last. (And I know I get a little bit grayer!)  Tonight twenty brave souls who started class last September will practice together for a final time.  I hope our celebration will be filled with more laughter than tears, but I’m betting there will be plenty of both.

My soon-to-be-graduates tell me that they have mixed emotions about tonight’s graduation.  They’ve been working their collective butts off this past ten months designing sequences, writing essays, practicing, and teaching yoga. And they’ve spent every Monday evening, rain or shine, together in class.  Frankly, they’re pretty happy to get their normal lives back.  And yet they’re sad, too.  After all, they’ve spent the last ten months learning, practicing yoga, and supporting each other. They’ve had the privilege of spending every Monday evening with an incredible, supportive community of like-minded people.

Speaking personally, I feel their ambivalence. In fact, I suffer the same pain.  Nothing in my professional life is harder than leading this teacher training program.  Nothing is, at times, more frustrating. Nothing pushes my boundaries or forces me to grow more, both as a human being and as a teacher.  And absolutely nothing is more rewarding.

I remember giving a speech at my 8th grade graduation. It feels like a hundred years ago, but since I was thirteen, it must have been somewhat more recent than that.  I don’t remember a single word of that speech, except how it ended.  I closed with a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its last line has guided my life ever since.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I started teaching yoga because I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to leave my world a better place, even if only subtly.  Some days I feel more successful than others. But I never feel that difference more than when I think about my teacher training graduates.

This current group has been through a lot in the last ten months. We’ve seen each other through job changes, illnesses, car accidents, pregnancies and births.  And we’ve learned to navigate these sometimes-overwhelming life changes using yoga tools.  Students have found their own voice, gained confidence, forgiven past mistakes, and learned lots and lots and lots about yoga practice. I wish I could take credit for all this. But the most profound learnings and changes are a direct result of this lineage and its ancient teachings.  I’m just the messenger.

My sadness tonight will be lessened only because I know these wonderful individuals are heading out into the world to share those same teachings with others.

To you, my soon-to-be alumni, a message. I’m proud of you. I’m humbled by your skills, your perseverance, your humor, and your forgiveness of my many, many mistakes.  I’m happy to send you out into the world, and yet so very sad to see you go.

The teacher in me bows to the teacher in you.

Namaste

Tracy

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