Category Archives: Teacher Training

Measuring Progress in a Viniyoga Class—Response to a Student Question

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.

Hayden, a Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate asks:  A student asked me today how he could measure his progress in my drop-in classes, since they vary so much week to week.  He mentioned, in particular, other yoga classes that always contain sun salutations, and how, if you do them regularly, you can tell that you are getting stronger. But since I don’t want to do regular sun salutations with my class, how can I design drop in classes so that my students are experiencing growth and can see it?  This seems easier to do in a series.

Hi Hayden!  As is usually the case, I don’t have any quick and easy answers to this question.  Gary (my teacher) always says that real progress in yoga practice can best be measured by your relationships.  If your relationships get more stable, your yoga practice is working, and vice–versa.   He also often says that if he were forced to measure the “accomplishments” of his teacher training graduates, he’d evaluate the level of their neuroses.  Remember, according to the sutras, physical prowess was never the intent of yoga practice.  The intent was clarifying and calming the mind.

However….

Viniyoga is multi-faceted.  It can have an orientation that is developmental (Siksana), like my Energize and Strengthen series, therapeutic (Cikitsa), like Yoga for Healthy Backs, or spiritual (Adhyatmika), like my New Years Day workshop.

Physical practice is indeed easier to measure in series classes, as you have the same students over and over again throughout a defined time period. A drop-in practice is trickier, as it’s designed each week based on the students present in class. But drop-in students can still pay attention to how they feel in common poses over time.   There’s absolutely nothing magical about sun salutations.  They are simply a series of specific postures done in a flowing manner. You can measure physical changes in any posture that is taught over and over again.

The trick is to teach the same posture over time and ask students to pay attention to how their body responds to that pose.  For flexibility, seated postures work well. They block escape valves so progress can be more directly seen.  The lateral adaptation of janu sirsansa, deep twists, or regular old pascimatanasana work well for this.  For strength, poses such as plank, caturanga, half squats, arm balances, or all of those lovely prone postures work well.  Progress in those poses would be measured in how many repetitions a student can do or how long they can stay in the pose while maintaining a smooth breath.  For endurance, any flow done repeatedly over time works well.  Breath adaptations in asana and pranayama practices provide effective measurements of breath development.

But the bigger question, I guess, is why is the student practicing?  What do they hope to gain?  And why are they so concerned about measuring themselves? Remember, external measurements are really antithetical to the goals of yoga practice.

Finally, as a teacher, you need to decide who your audience is.  Each class you teach must meet the individual needs of the students present.  This is no easy task–believe me, I know. You may find over time that you need to segment your students into levels, such as beginning, intermediate, and advanced.  Otherwise you won’t be able to adequately meet the needs of anyone.

But above all, please remember, that emotional stability is much more important that any external physical measure.  External measures are more about ego than real growth.

I hope that helps!

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.

When I Arrive

Today’s post is written by guest writer and graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour teacher training program, Amanda Whitworth.   She can be reached at amanda.whitworth6@gmail.com.

We spend so much time walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. For once, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”- Ellen Goodman

The mind is a very powerful thing. The stories we tell ourselves can be vicious and mean, things we wouldn’t even say to our worst enemy yet we hardly blink an eye when we say them to ourselves. It’s these stories we tell ourselves, whether we heard them first through someone else or devised them on our own, that lead us down a dangerous road.

I often find myself walking through life telling myself so many stories it’s almost hard to believe. I am thirty-one years old after all and I SHOULD be exactly where I expected to be at this age, right? I SHOULD be doing exactly what all my friends are doing, right?

More often than I care to admit I get caught up in what I think I should be doing that I fail to see what I AM doing and all the things I HAVE done in my life. At times I get absorbed in this idea that my glass is half empty that I find it hard to believe that in reality, my glass is more then half full.

The normal tape recorder that plays in my head goes a little like this; ‘I’m not creative enough, I don’t have a career to show for, I’m not a wife or a mom, I don’t have an excellent green thumb, I’m not as good of a writer as I wish I was, and worst yet, I’m not yogi enough.” Seriously, this is the negative tape recorder in which I often find playing in my head with little to no effort on my part. So what is my point you’re probably asking?

Lately I’ve been asking myself why do I, like some many others, get caught up in this idea of ‘when I arrive’ I’ll will be the person I always thought I would be? Why can’t I be the person I want to be right now?

To be honest, I don’t have a definitive answer because I think this is subjective to each individual. What I do know is that a lot of these feelings I have are projections and expectations I’ve placed on myself based off of what I think others think of me. Silly, huh?

So where does yoga fit in to all this mental craziness?

Yoga, for me, is teaching me slowly but surely, to see myself and others a little bit clearer. And although there is still that inevitable tape recorder playing in the back of my head, I mean, thirty-one years is a long cycle of habitual negative self talk to break, a regular yoga practice has provided me with some powerful tools to bring with me in my everyday life. For example, back before I practiced yoga, I was terribly reactive towards people who I felt were judgmental towards my life and the choices I had made. I would get super fired up, defensive, and often begrudge them for even voicing an opinion to begin with. It was a harmful and hurtful cycle for both me and those in my life.

Flash forward to now and I honestly feel that what I have learned through a regular practice of asana, meditation, and breath work combined with my experience from taking the Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training course, I have been given another opportunity to look at life differently.

Every day I work on letting go of this idea of ‘when I arrive’ and try to look at each day as an opportunity to be exactly who I am and know that I am exactly where I am suppose to be. I am me. That’s all I can ever be and what I am doing in my life has no relation to anyone else. As long as I am happy, that’s all that matter.

I think Dr. Seuss says it best, “Today you are YOU, that is truer then true. There is no one alive who is youer then YOU!

I hope that all of us can walk through the rooms of our lives and instead of looking for flaws, truly and with a clear mind see our own intentional!

Amanda

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Ten Yoga Teacher Trainings and Counting: The Eleventh Starts in October!

Our First Teacher Training Graduation in 2004

When I opened Whole Life Yoga, I never intended to offer a yoga teacher training.  In fact, it was the farthest thing from my mind. I was already beyond busy teaching classes and private sessions, managing the studio, and working my non-yoga consulting job to pay the bills.  I blame Rene.  Those of you who don’t know Rene are missing out.  He’s a kind spirit, wonderful man, awesome yoga teacher, and now Whole Life Yoga employee.  (See him in Yoga for Men and his drop-in yoga class on Tuesdays!)

Anyway, Rene and I met for coffee one day about nine years ago.  He told me that he wanted to learn how to teach yoga.  I assured him that I thought it was a fantastic idea.  Then came the kicker.  He said he wanted to study with me!  I can’t remember what I said anymore, but it was likely something eloquent like “huh?” Dumbfounded, I left the meeting, the seed planted.  Shortly after, I went on vacation.  A “yoga cruise” of all things.  I remember relaxing in a deck chair on last day of the cruise.  For whatever reason, I had the epiphany.  “I can do this!”  I pulled out a sheet of paper and started designing the training.

It took longer than that day on the deck.  Over the next few months, I added a new task to my to-do list.  I began developing the nine-month curriculum and applied for certification from Yoga Alliance.  Ever the multi-tasker, I developed my advertising plan while leading a career mentoring seminar in Ireland.  I fervently hoped I’d get some students.  I had Rene, of course, but would anyone else sign up?  I hoped to get six students who would meet at my house.  In the end, Yoga Alliance certified my program, twenty students registered, and I moved the training to the Phinney Neighborhood Association, where it’s been ever since.

The first year wasn’t without bumps, but we had a great time and learned a ton. Since then, I’ve offered nine 200-hour trainings and added a 500-hour one.  We’ve certified over 160 people, with 23 more in the program now.

I can honestly say that teaching this program is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Leading a group of people through this process of transformation is simultaneously enriching, challenging, frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking.  It’s telling that the training now takes place over 10 months—the same amount of time it takes to gestate a child.  We see each other through births, deaths, marriages and divorces.  And growth—lots and lots of growth.  We learn about yoga postures, of course, but that’s the least of it.  By studying yoga and yoga philosophy, we learn about ourselves and grow in ways so much more profound than the physical.

As I now plan for my 11th training, I hope that some of you will join us.  Our students are varied.  I’ve had students in their teens and in their mid 70’s.  Students who are physically fit and healthy, and students with injury and debilitating illness.  Students who are pregnant.  Students who are brand new to yoga and, students who have been yoga teachers for over a decade.  Students who never intend to teach, and students who plan to open yoga studios.  All are welcome.  All add to the diversity and richness of our experience.

I hope some of you will join us in October.  And be sure to thank Rene for starting me and so many others on this journey!

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.

A New Perspective, a New Yoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jacqui Trent. Jackqui is a current student  of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program.  She  can be contacted at jacquitrent@gmail.com.

Like so many people in America, I was drawn to yoga as the next big workout craze.  Boasting arms like Jennifer Aniston and abs like Madonna, yoga promised a “hot bod” – something very appealing to a twenty one year old with a poor body image. So for the next couple of years I took classes on and off at my gym.

I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t getting enough out of it.  Going only when I felt like it, i.e. when I was feeling really “fat”, I didn’t have a strong practice.  The teachers at the gym were good teachers, but they were restricted.  They couldn’t teach pranayama, bandhas, or anything related to yoga that wasn’t a pose.

And then my husband lost his job.  The next two years were really tough.  Things were tight and the stress really ate away at me.  Going against what everyone I knew told me, I took on the stress of two jobs.  Working twelve hour days baking and cleaning houses. It was draining and the extra income wasn’t easing my stress level like I had expected.  Finally the stress was eating away at me and I knew I had to do something. A we search led me to a local yoga studio that offered two months of unlimited yoga for the price of one.

Almost immediately after my first week I was hooked.  My body took to the practice right away and I loved how much better I felt. Leaving my stress at the door and just focusing on me for that hour was amazing!  I was taking most of my classes from the studio owner; she became my favorite. I loved her classes.

I had been with the studio for a few months, when my instructor announced that she would be conducting her first teacher training program starting in January.  Recently I had been considering teaching yoga and was thrilled to get the chance to learn from her.

However, shortly after the program started I wasn’t as excited.  Let’s just say that the training was supposed to last fifteen months and we didn’t even make it half way.  For many reasons it became a toxic environment and we finally had to dissolve the program. We kept telling each other it was going to get better, but in reality it was only getting worse.

I found out about the viniyoga training through one of the amazing woman with whom I bonded with during this experience. She had found out about Tracy and Whole Life Yoga and had joined her upcoming training program. It started in two weeks and encouraged us to contact her.

At first I didn’t know if I was ready. I was so shaken from my last experience that my practice had suffered. I’ll admit I knew nothing of viniyoga, and didn’t know if I should join a program that was foreign to me. After I heard about its therapeutic qualities, I wondered if this wasn’t exactly what I needed.

I still have a lot to learn about viniyoga. This lineage is so different from any style I’d ever tried. My prior knowledge was more focused on form and adjustments. Sometimes the benefits would become compromised when you’re trying to achieve the perfect form, not paying attention to what’s going on in the body.  I really appreciate the fact that there is much more of an emphasis on the benefits of a pose, not making it perfect.

The pace is different from what I’m used to as well. People, including myself, seem to be caught up in the newest yoga fad of a fast paced flow.  But I like that this style seems to be more mindful and intentional. I can’t see myself completely abandoning flow practice, but I do see how others, myself included, can benefit from a viniyoga practice.

The opportunity to study viniyoga came to me at a time when my own practice was broken.  Just like it is used to rehabilitate someone with problems with their back, sacrum or hip, it’s become my tapas and reignited my practice.

Jacqui

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

My Hips Story

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sheryl Stich. Sheryl is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 500 hour teacher training program and an instructor at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at sheryl@calmawakenings.com.

Our bodies are made up of a complex matrix of muscles, bones, organs, energy, nerves and emotions. Our hips are centrally located and intricately connected with the rest of the body. Because of theses interconnections, it can sometimes be a challenge to determine where pain originates. We can even have problems in one area of the body, but we experience the discomfort in another area of the body, called referred pain.

When I was 22 I started to have pain in my right low back, which traveled down to my knee and foot. The doctors thought I had tense muscles in my back and gluts and gave me exercises to help relieve the tightness. After 17 years of unrelenting pain, and working with various doctors and therapists, my primary care physician sent me for an x-ray of my hip joint. There it was, plain as day – the cartilage was almost non-existent, which was causing the pain in my back, and referring pain down my leg. The doctor said the only way to fix it was to have a total hip replacement. I said, “This pain can be fixed? Sign me up!” I had no injuries or other things that might cause the cartilage to erode. Many of my family members had hip replacements, so my problem was probably genetic. The surgery was highly successful. Afterwards the pain was virtually gone! Amazing – what was thought to be back pain was actually being caused by my hip joint.

Several years later, terrible pain suddenly started shooting from my other hip joint down the front of my leg. I was certain something had happened to that hip joint, so I went immediately to my orthopedic surgeon. When I described the location of the pain, he told me it was a disc in my back, not my hip joint. “Funny, I thought, this time I think it’s my hip, and it’s actually my back.” I had surgery to trim the bulging disc, which immediately relieved the pain, but left me feeling a need to do something to help preserve my joints and hopefully stave off future surgeries.

I decided to start practicing yoga. As I was walking down Greenwood Avenue one day I noticed Whole Life Yoga and met Tracy Weber as she was opening the front door. I told her about my back and hip surgeries, and asked if this would be a good yoga for me? The answer was a resounding “yes!” She explained the benefits of Viniyoga to me, and I started taking classes that week.

After a few years of yoga practice, I took the Whole Life Yoga basic, and then advanced teacher training programs. As I was designing a hips practice for myself for the training, it occurred to me that others might also benefit from the practice, so I developed Yoga for Happy Hips class. In this past year I have had a hip revision surgery on my right side to replace the worn out synthetic cartilage from my 16-year old original hip replacement (when it was first replaced, the estimated life span was ten years). I believe my yoga practice helped me to lengthen the life of the joint by keeping the muscles around my hip joint strong and flexible. My left hip joint has lost a significant amount of cartilage over the years, so I practice to keep that hip strong and flexible too.

Through yoga, I have learned to listen to my body. When I have pain, yoga helps me not only physically, but helps me remain more calm and relaxed which helps reduce stress and discomfort. I truly enjoy helping my students by sharing my knowledge and experience with them, whether it’s tight muscles, stress, injuries or the myriad of other challenges that can cause hip discomfort.

Sheryl

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Can Yoga Wreck Your Body? Response to a Student Question

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.

A student asks:   Do you have a response to the New York Times article  article called “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body?”   As a yoga teacher, how can I be safe in my own teaching and practice?  A link to the article is below.

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

Thanks for the question.  I’ve been forwarded this article several times in the past 24 hours.  Let me start with a qualification to my response:  I teach in a lineage, viniyoga, that is known for its conservative approach, and even within that lineage, I am known as a conservative teacher.  I have long been concerned about the injury rate and what I consider negligent practices in many public yoga classes. So I can’t really disagree with much of the article.

However, the article also makes me sad, because it lumps all asana practices together into one bucket.  Although I do believe most lineages have similar philosophical teachings, our physical practices differ considerably.  So to say the injury rate is the same among all is a gross oversimplification—and just plain incorrect.  When I read the specific practices the article cited as being unsafe, I kept saying to myself “But I would never teach that.”

Many public yoga classes do, however.  For example, the head of my lineage has specifically asked that we never teach headstand in group asana classes, due to the unacceptable level of risk.  Therefore I do not, nor do I allow headstand to be taught at my studio, unless it is part of my yoga teacher training program.  However, I’ve had many students tell me they were taught headstand in beginner classes at other venues.

I believe this is a mistake.  Many, most even, of the benefits of yoga can be achieved in simpler, safer poses than the ones seen on the cover of Yoga Journal.

All that said, I find it interesting that the teacher in the article claiming to be a proponent of safer yoga said to his class, “I make it as hard as possible. It’s up to you to make it easy on yourself.”  This is, in a word, wrong.

I firmly believe it is up to us as teachers to teach a class that isn’t as hard as possible.  But to teach our students how to be mindful and aware of how their body is served when it’s not working “as hard as possible.” Our work is to teach our classes in a way that is accessible and safe.

Now no physical practice, including yoga, will ever be 100% risk free.  Neither is walking down the street.  We can never guarantee a student won’t suffer an injury in a yoga class.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power to keep our classes safe.

Which comes back to your question.  What can we do as teachers?

First, get training.  Then get more training.  Study a lineage, like viniyoga, that focuses on understanding the physical issues of a student and adapts the practice of yoga to that student.  This involves not only teaching mindfulness in practice, but also using physical adaptation of postures and specific sequencing principles that maximize the benefits of yoga while minimizing its risks. Shy away from teachers and yoga styles that believe “one form fits all” regardless of the physical structure of the student.

Second, understand the level of your students and teach to that level.  Not your own level.  Not what your students wish was their level. Not even what your students think is their level.  You will lose some students this way.  But you will gain others.

Just yesterday I had two new students in my class.  They didn’t know each other, and they had different yoga experiences in the past.  Both of them came up to me after class and thanked me for making my “all levels” class accessible to them.  They told me they had been frightened to take a yoga class again, after having been asked to do things beyond their level in other “all levels” yoga classes in other venues.

“All levels” classes should be accessible to all levels.  Not taught to experienced students with the assumption that beginners and students with injuries will know when something is unsafe for them and choose not to do it.  And beginner’s classes should be beginner’s level.  Period.

Finally, if you don’t know how to keep a student safe in your class, don’t teach to that student.  There are cases in which a given class is not appropriate for a student.  We can’t be shy about letting him or her know that.  The more training and experience you have, the more you will be able to accommodate a wide variety of students.  But even with the highest level of training, group yoga classes aren’t appropriate for everyone.  Know when to say “no.”

I hope that helps!

Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

A Yoga Love Story

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Kim Tull-Esterbrook. Kim is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program, and our newest instructor!  She  can be contacted at kimte@peacemail.com.

 


I did not love yoga when I was first introduced to it in my early 20’s . My short hamstrings and patched together heart found the practice challenging, to say the least, but I knew right away that it was good for me. I could tell that it was a practice that had the potential to change so many of the patterns that felt damaging in my life; but I was unwilling to really dedicate myself to it, or more truthfully, I was afraid. I imagined that I would uncover some horrible truth about myself hidden beneath the surface and so I played with yoga inconsistently for years.

Six years later, while going through the painful transition of a divorce, I found my way to a consistent practice as the only means of keeping myself afloat, but I was a needy partner; opening myself only as far as I felt safe and expecting so much in return. My practice had a one- sided desperation but it saved me in so many ways.

Fast forward 6 more years and with the support of a dear friend, I found my way to Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. Finally I was ready to do the work. I moved step by step to open myself and was emotionally prepared for whatever horrible thing I was going to encounter in the depths of my being. What I found was very much a surprise.

Absolutely, there were things that were hard to take about patterns and choices in my life- things that I had been doing to myself to sabotage my own hopes and dreams, but it was also liberating to learn to see things with clarity and without judgement. I learned how to separate my ideas of myself from those layers of habit. I learned the great value of showing up to my practice even when I didn’t want to- when it was hard, when I was distracted, when I felt defeated.

And somewhere in the midst of all that work that I knew was good for me, I found my way to a place where I love my practice. I am not where I thought (or even hoped) I would be when I reached that terrifically adult age of 35. I have not published a book (though maybe this will be my year!), I have not landed that money making job, or even found my way anywhere close to that unattainably beautiful classical King pigeon pose but I pull out my mat almost every day and feel instantly at home.

Through my practice I feel as if I have an outlet for the best parts of me. I have found a way to feel connected to myself, my community and the world. I have found a way to be free. Some days, I think that there is still so much that I don’t know and that is true. On other days, I think this is all I could ever need to know- I take a breath in, I let a breath out. The world feels a bit simpler. It feels like love.

Kim

Please Join Kim in her new classes at Whole Life Yoga!

A Personal Journey with Yoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Matthew Peterson. Matt is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program . He  can be contacted at petersonmatthew34@yahoo.com.

I remember very clearly one particular hot summer day when change crept into my life. I would say in retrospect, that is the day that Yoga found its way into my world.  I had just gone through a trying day at a job that my heart was really not in, and grid locked traffic seemed to add a particular spice to my emotions! Upon arriving at home I had this over-whelming and heavy feeling that something was missing. There was just no possible way this was the entirety of the purpose in my life. After some time of being frustrated and short tempered, my wonderful fiancé, naturally concerned, started dialoging with me about these emotions that I just could not seem to shake

She suggested that perhaps it would be beneficial for me to pursue some of my spiritual pursuits, rather than letting them stay cerebral. I have always had a fascination with other people’s faiths and philosophies, and I would always seem to have any number of half finished books on this subject. While reflecting on this I realized that I had read some about Yoga but for some reason the concepts seemed just out of reach, but more real and obtainable than other paths I had researched. Then the thought came to me; I need someone to show me these things, as it was becoming apparent that I was quickly becoming a victim of my own mind.

To edit a bit, I did some research and found Whole Life Yoga, after setting the meeting and having the opportunity to voice my questions and worries about committing to the upcoming teacher training. I left the meeting feeling like I could most likely accomplish the training and made the decision to go ahead and at least give it a shot. Today as I write this a year plus has passed by since I started this walk, and I am simply humbled and astounded at the subtle power Yoga has had in my life! I feel blessed with a truly awakening journey and labor of love. I believe deeply that Yoga has something to offer anyone who seeks that “something else” in this life.

Looking back now I can say that I have learned to trust myself more often, even if I am scared. I have developed a deeper compassion in life, for not only others but myself as well. I have shed tears over past pains, and witnessed gratitude take the place of anger. I saw those around me leap their own hurdles and come out stronger people. Just sharing in the happiness of others breakthroughs that were facilitated by these ancient teachings has made it all seem more real, and given rise to a certain strength inside of me. The magic in all of this is in the pure simplicity and gentle nurturing that is Yoga. It is has allowed me to be able to move forward with a new found confidence, one that is not rooted in pretending that I know this or that, but one that has its foundation built on being able to say, “I don’t know, but I am willing to learn!”  And I am starting to learn that some of the greatest of all journeys begin in this way.

Matt

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Developing a Yoga Therapy practice on a Small Island

This week’s blog entry is written by guest author, Marcia Olmsted. Marcia is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program (200 hour) and has since completed her 500 hour certification with the School of Integrative Yoga Therapy with Joseph and Lillian Lepage and is currently working on her 1000 hour certification with IYT.  Marcia has spent the last three years developing an integrated yoga therapy and personal training practice on Pender Island, near Victoria, British Columbia.  You can reach Marcia at yogameko@gmail.com

My original career intentions were to work therapeutically with people but I ended up working on team effectiveness in the corporate world for 25 years.  As I became ready to transition to a different way of living, I became certified as a personal trainer to start moving back to my goal of helping people.

While I enjoyed working with individuals on their fitness, the mind-body connection was missing.  I searched for yoga teacher training in Seattle (where I lived at the time) and found what I was looking for – Whole Life Yoga.

Under Tracy Weber’s mentorship, I found the perfect combination of functional yoga training that supported my fitness certification, packaged with yogic options to increase wellness at all levels.

Tracy opened my eyes and my heart to exploring yoga therapy tools for myself as well. A week before I started studying with Tracy, I had a major disc herniation (C6-C7) and was sure I had to cancel my training.  Tracy convinced me instead that I would learn through my own experience how to protect my injury while keeping the rest of me in balance as I healed.  A year later, I was 90% healed with no surgery.

It’s been just over three years since I moved to Pender Island, a thirty minute ferry ride to Victoria, B.C.  I set out deliberately to not set up a business but to do things differently – to contribute to the island ensuring that I would feel a fair exchange of energy.   My therapeutic yoga focus, especially private yoga therapy combined with personal fitness tools distinguished my services on the Island. I set up guiding principles for myself that would support my objective of complementing and partnering with others in the wellness business, where possible. I would charge the going rate ($10 drop in and $60/session for privates – very low in comparison to city rates, I know).  I would do my best not to schedule my classes against other yoga classes on the Island.

Marcia’s yoga studio in the basement of her renovated home on Pender Island, BC

Before our house renovations, I offered small Viniyoga classes in my basement.  There two cement poles around which I carefully positioned mats for visibility.  I began to work privately with people on the island who had various issues – my neighbor who was sadly dying of terminal colon cancer with complications from pulmonary fibrosis.  I did gentle postures with him 3-4 times a week focusing on gentle breath work to relieve the anxiety he increasingly felt as he needed to use his oxygen tank more and more.  A 72 year old woman who was overweight, deconditioned and depressed felt that her active days were over.  We worked together to shape a  combined personal training program (cardio and strength) as well as a series of 15 minute private yoga home practices to increase her fitness but also her sense of self-confidence and control over how she felt.  She continues to come to my ongoing drop in classes and workshops today.

Today I offer 6 yoga classes a week – some drop in, some therapeutic series such as Yoga and Aryuveda and work with people privately on a regular basis.

Yoga for Men 55+ Class at the Anglican Parrish Hall on Pender Island, BC (registrations have remained from 20-25 for every 8-week series for the last 3 years)

I am so grateful for the solid foundation that Tracy and Whole Life Yoga gave me in yoga therapy.  I can still hear Tracy saying that I will go to “yoga jail” when I sometimes put too many backbends together or pay more attention to how I’m feeling instead of to those that I serve.

Where will yoga on the Island go from her for me?  My answer today is simply, I will do the next indicated thing, providing value where I can and continuing on this lifelong path of yoga.

Marcia

Should All Yoga Teachers be Certified? Response to a Student Question

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.

Kristen asks:  Should all yoga teachers be licensed or certified?

This is a loaded question, and one that I feel strongly about.  Currently there is no WA state or US wide regulation of yoga teachers.  Most days I think that’s a very good thing.  Government is good at many things, but understanding yoga isn’t among them.  In New York, they recently tried to pass legislation that would have required licensing and certification of yoga teachers.  That legislation, however, proposed that yoga teachers be certified by the exercise industry, not the yoga industry.   And the exercise industry knows so very little about the true meaning and purpose of yoga.  I honestly believe that, had this law passed, the quality of yoga programs in that state would have suffered.

That said, having no certification or regulation requirements can lead to misuse of the term “yoga teacher.”  There are people all over the country who teach yoga with little or no formal training.  Often times they have a strong personal practice and can do all the poses.  So, they figure, why not teach?  That not only demeans the profession of teaching yoga; it can be dangerous.  Untrained yoga teachers can ask students to do things that are unsafe, may not know how to modify poses for bodies different than their own, or may not fully understand the impact of their teaching all together.  So, if I don’t want licensing, but I DO think proper training is essential, where does that leave us?

The yoga community tackled this question a little over a decade ago.  In 1999 they came together to form an organization called Yoga Alliance.  Yoga Alliance is a voluntary certification body.  It certifies yoga schools that meet certain minimum requirements to train teachers at the 200 hour and 500 hour levels.  Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program meets these requirements and is a registered Yoga Alliance school.  Therefore every teacher that is certified through our program has been given a minimum of 200 hours of training in 5 key areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Teaching methodology
  • Yoga techniques
  • Yoga philosophy
  • Teaching practice

As a yoga studio owner, I do require that all of my instructors be certified; not for the certification paper per se, but because the certification demonstrates a level of dedication and training.  In fact, at this time I only hire people who have been certified through my program.  I know their capabilities; I know their ethics; I know their hearts.   I know I can trust them with my business and with the students that make it great.

As a consumer, I would personally only take yoga from someone who is certified or who has taken an equivalent level of training from a reputable school.  Many schools in India don’t certify per se, but they do offer excellent training.  So, as the saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.”  Wherever you take yoga, be sure to ask the instructor where they received their training, how long the training was, and if they are certified.  If they can’t answer or their training was less than 200 hours, then just be aware that they may not have a significant level of education in how to safely and effectively teach yoga.  Whether or not you want to continue taking yoga from them is a completely personal choice.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!