Category Archives: Teaching Yoga

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.

Some time 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, more flexible, and less likely to lose her temper.

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 over seventeen 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 three hundred teachers in the past fifteen years through Whole Life Yoga’s yoga teacher training, and I have met privately to discuss 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 yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What to you think?

Tracy Weber

PS: If you’re interested in Whole Life Yoga’s Teacher Training Program, you can check it out at this link.

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Welcome New Teachers to Whole Life Yoga!

The last few months have been unusually chaotic at Whole Life Yoga, but I believe (hope!) things are settling down now.  With that new calm, come some transitions.  Sheryl Stich and Katie West are both cutting back on their classes, which is sad news, because they are both awesome teachers who are loved by their students.  It has, however has allowed me to bring three new teachers into the Whole Life Yoga drop-in class lineup.  I’ve been wanting to hire them for  years (literally!) so I hope you share my excitement.  Photos and a brief hello from each of these lovely ladies is below.

Oh–and if you’ve been wondering where in the heck I’ve been lately, I AM coming back.  I was in a car accident a couple of months ago, which injured my neck and back, but I will return to teaching in September.  I’m really looking forward to seeing you all then!

In the meantime, please give a warm welcome to Jen Boyce, Jocelyn Hess, Sarah Mercier.

Jen Boyce: 

Whole Life Yoga has been a sanctuary of peace for me since I started coming to classes in 2005.  I am honored to have the opportunity to teach at WLY and look forward to sharing my love of yoga with others. Teaching inspires me to strengthen my personal practice and improve my health.  My “day job” as an occupational therapist often focuses on illness so I am excited for the opportunity to guide my yoga students in their quest for mind/body wellness and PEACE.  Jen teaches All Levels Yoga Thursdays from 4:30 – 5:45 PM starting in September.

Jocelyn Hess:

I love teaching yoga because yoga is such a happy place to me and I wanted to extend that joy out to the world and to other people. I really enjoy helping people especially in a way that can better their life and their health. I think that yoga is much more accessible to people than they realize and I like being that person that can show people the way in to yoga. I look forward to meeting new students and working with them in whatever way they need. Together we can create a better life for ourselves, healthier body, and clearer mind. Josie teaches All Levels Yoga Wednesdays from 6:00 – 7:15 PM starting in September.

Sarah Mercier:

I am a certified yoga instructor through Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program at the 500-hour level. Living with a Chronic Illness from childhood has led me to the mindfulness and breath-centered practices of Viniyoga.  My passion is inspiring others to be the best version of themselves, gain confidence and work to overcome their own personal obstacles.  Through yoga, I hope to bring peacefulness and mindfulness to each student, no matter what their age and level of experience. Sarah teaches All Levels Yoga Mondays from 9:30 – 10:45 AM starting in September.

 

Please help me welcome these ladies to the Whole Life Yoga Family and check out their teaching in a class soon!

Namaste,

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

The True Gift of Learning to Teach Yoga (It Might Not Be What You Think!)

The last month has been crazy for me, and although I’m getting better, I’m still healing from my car accident five weeks ago.  My focus has been less on writing, more on my yoga teacher training program.  Soon I’ll write to you about this year’s group and all that they have meant to me.  For now, I’m living in this weird space of observing, teaching, and correcting the final homework of this year’s class while meeting with students interested in the next one, which starts September 25.

I never know what to say to potential students. There is tremendous power in studying yoga, and I’ve seen first hand that my yoga teacher training program changes lives. I wish I could take all of the credit, but honestly, it’s not about me.  The tools I share existed thousands of years before I did.  Still, something magical  happens in the eleven months my students and I spend together.  Something that can’t happen in my regular group classes.  Since I couldn’t find words to describe it myself, I asked some of my current students to share.  This article is long, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete a single word. Here’s what they said:

What was your favorite part of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program?

  • It was really amazing for me to see how much more there is to yoga than just the Asana. In particular I love learning about the yoga sutras and pranayama. There is so many levels to yoga that can transform your life and this training really dives into that.
  • My favorite part was the weekly sessions on Monday nights, spread over 10 months.  It felt manageable and became something to look forward to each week. I was before, and still am now, working on the right yoga for my body.  Starting the program I was newly pregnant and apprehensive to be too aggressive.  Viniyoga proved to be gentle and focused on adaption/meeting you were you are.  In the middle of my pregnancy, discomfort forced me to look at bodywork and yoga from fresh eyes and have even more grace for myself – also directly relating to the philosophical principles we were learning.  At the end of my pregnancy and postpartum, the program helped me balance my body and mind for the life and body changes I was going through.  I’m proof that this program can accommodate the adult learner at any stage of life and/or career.  It is insightful and wise to spread the training out over almost a year for the personal growth, as well as the honing of yoga skills, a training program requires.
  • One of the things I most enjoyed about the program was the attention to the mental aspect of yoga. This is one of the reasons why Viniyoga appeals to me.  Linking breath with movement and increasing one’s awareness of the breath has profound effects on focus, mindset and the body.  Tracy does an excellent job teaching future yoga instructors how to help their students’ explore new means of concentration, awareness and calm.
  • I like the community, working together with the group in the learning process. Getting to know them and sharing the experience with them.  The homework is well thought out and presented in a well organized form which helps with planning and scheduling.
  • I think it was the teaching style. I never felt out of place even being totally brand new to yoga. I learned to practice yoga and to teach at the same time.
  • I love how inclusive Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program is. Tracy truly provides a welcoming and warm environment for anyone, no matter ability, size, shape, age to feel at ease and empowered in developing their personal practice and the skills needed to teach. I also appreciate that there are assignments that really hold you accountable in learning the material for certification, it’s enough structure to help me feel prepared yet flexible enough to live my life and not feel stressed.
  • The quality of the training felt amazing at the start, but over the course of the year as I learned more about yoga is taught, and met with other teachers, it became apparent how truly high quality our training has been at Whole Life Yoga. We learn so much, and we’re taught how to integrate everything into our teaching as well as our personal practice. I really saw why the studio is called “Whole Life” when I took the teacher training.
  • My favorite part was how compassionate and uplifting the group of student is. ( I really like the energy request at the beginning of each class). I also like the fact that we can ask questions and a lot of them if needed to clarify a point.
  • I like the comprehensiveness of the program, but my favorite part is understanding the energetics of practice. I also like that we use a number of textbooks written by some of the best yoga teachers in the world. This allows us to understand yoga from a number of viewpoints.
  • I only have wonderful things to say about Tracy and the Whole Life Yoga program. Tracy creates a comfortable, positive learning community for her students- I’ve grown not only as a yoga practitioner and future teacher, but also as a person throughout this process. The classroom environment let me be open and honest with myself, and at times, even those around me. I believe the material- everything from the autonomy of the poses to the intricacies of breath work to the philosophy of yoga- is well rounded, and very well taught.

What do you like about Viniyoga (the style of yoga studied in Whole Life Yoga’s training)?

  • Viniyoga is a true healing lineage of yoga, which I connected with personally and professionally as a social worker. It’s been invaluable to my own healing journey as well.
  • I really like Viniyoga because I think it’s physiologically safe. Everything from the sequencing principles which prepare the body for the time on & off the mat to the awareness of correct alignment makes sense to me.  I feel like it’s an extremely beneficial type of yoga for people at all stages of life.  Because Viniyoga meets people where they are I have been able to address the needs of my teenage athletes to my 75 year old mom.  I look forward to putting my learning to use in group classes as well as with my patients.
  • The sequencing of Viniyoga combined with the movement and stays creates a well rounded yoga practice that leaves you feeling balanced physically and emotionally.
  • I was first drawn to Viniyoga to heal back injuries and loved how adaptable and healing it is. As I healed and was able to work stronger, Viniyoga was adaptable to that too. I love that Viniyoga is easily adapted to suit the spectrum of needs and abilities that we encounter from day to day. I can work gently and therapeutically if I need or I can work very strongly when my body calls for it. There is also a certain magic in how we link the breath with movement in Viniyoga, leaving you feeling balanced mentally and physically in ways I didn’t experience in other styles of yoga.
  • I love the focus of breath – abdominal contraction and spinal lengthening.  I feel I’ve warmed and stretched my body in 20 minute sequences if I focus on the right mechanics.
  • I was drawn to viniyoga because the style is so meditative. In the beginning, I preferred the calm and meditative practices. Now however, I really enjoy trying to adjust my practice according to what I need that day. I am again and again being amazed over the effect a yoga practice can have – both on my body and my mind. Viniyoga is a wonderful tool to help me calm down, but the practices can also be adjusted to give me more energy – when that is what I need. This is something very interesting and powerful – and I am just in the beginning of exploring it!  I also love that viniyoga is a style for all ages and all body types. There is no one right way to do a pose or practice in viniyoga. The right way for you is the adaptation that best serves your body and mind. This is truly a yoga style for everybody – and every body!
  • I like that viniyoga is suitable for everyone that has ever wanted to practice yoga. It’s so universal.
  • I love how Viniyoga is for everyone and every body. I’m so far away from the traditional cliche of the woman yogi, I’m much bigger and I have a chronic illness. Occasionally I could find a class that seemed willing to accept me, but to find an entire lineage that not only embraces my body but empowers me to teach, is a huge gift.
  • I like that it is a non competitive yoga style , it has a big emphasis on breath work and inside focus.  I feel that it is a yoga that can be adapted to all, a healing style of yoga.
  • Viniyoga is so accessible to anyone. I am proud to say I am an viniyoga teacher because we are able to essentially teach to anyone at any level. I like being able to reach a wide range of clients that are interested in doing yoga who may have not been able to otherwise.
  • The fact that I am able to do it! I am not flexible (although getting a bit better now) and yoga was never something I was drawn to previously. Connecting breath with movement in viniyoga is the reason I am in teacher training

What surprised you about the program?

  • I was surprised how much I learned in so little time. I’m surprised that I actually feel so comfortable & confident teaching.
  • How much I learned in 10 months about Viniyoga, the depth of yoga beyond asana or the postures and myself.  It was easy to incorporate the Monday’s and Sunday’s into my life activities.
  • How in depth it is! We have covered an unbelievable amount of information in such a short time without it ever feeling overwhelming. I feel far more prepared and confident to teach than I ever thought possible after just 11 months.
  • I was surprised by the diversity of the reasons people were attracted to the program – from personal growth and health, to fitness, to learning more about the yoga lifestyle philosophically, to starting a new career path.  It was intimidating to start the program without much experience in Viniyoga myself.  But, everyone had such varied skill and background, we all learned from each other.
  • I am a bit surprised over how much I have actually learned – both about viniyoga and myself. And also over how much more I would like to learn. It feels like this is just the beginning.
  • I don’t know that I was surprised by any particular part of the program- all of the high recommendations I received before signing up for the program held incredibly true to the Whole Life Yoga Teaching Training. I’d pass along that same sentiment to anyone interested in deepening their knowledge of Viniyoga either professionally, personally, or both. I’ll carry this experience with me for the rest of my life journey, and if the opportunity to progress to the 500 hour training under Tracy’s honest and caring guidance were to arise for me, I’d take it in a heartbeat.
  • How much I didn’t know! I thought yoga was 80% asana (poses), and 20% fancy breathing and some philosophy. I was so delightfully wrong! My mind has been opened to so much more. Yoga is a vast and beautiful path, that can and will accept anyone. I thought the teacher training program would feel like school. I didn’t expect it to feel like being adopted into an amazing family, and make me so excited about yoga that I would wish the program didn’t end!
  • The program is very thorough, this style of yoga is complex and I feel well prepared for teaching . I felt that all the facets of practicing and teaching yoga were explored. It is a strong learning curve.
  • I was surprised by the amazing community of people. I had always seen the same people when I would attend classes but after the training the connection and family like atmosphere was so much more prominent. You feel like you’ve found a home. People are all so supportive and caring.
  •  It was a surprise to me that I was actually taking yoga to integrate (Mohan textbook allowed me to discover that). Yoga is so much wider and deeper than how we practice it in the West. It is a lifelong study and practice.

What would you tell a student who is considering taking the training?

  • I would say it’s an amazing program for you to do weather you want to teach or not. You will learn so much about yoga and yourself in the teachings. I am so glad I did this program I have met amazing people along the way.
  • It will be worth it – the financial and time commitments and the “unknowns” of the next 10 months.  It will spark something in your heart that you didn’t know needed to be lit.   As I practice my written sequences at home now or teach my husband and two-year-old daughter occasional principles, I know I’ve gotten my money’s worth in learning a great way to care for myself and family.  I hope to teach and stay part of this yoga community.  But even if I never teach a class, this has been a great learning experience I will carry with me forever.
  • You will not regret it! Whether you intend to teach or not, or aren’t sure, go into it with the intention of staying open to the possibilities. You will grow and learn more about yourself than you can even imagine, it is truly a life changing experience and the outcome might surprise you!
  • You will never be sorry you did this. Even if you decide to take the training for your own enrichment and not follow a teaching path (although don’t be surprised if you change your mind!), every single thing you learn will enhance not just your own personal practice, but your life. I draw on skills that I’ve learned in my yoga teacher training on a daily basis. I’m currently struggling with an illness and won’t be able to teach for some time, but what’s amazing is how much this training has helped with my illness. I didn’t have to become a teacher to reap the benefits of my time here. I’ve learned to take care of my body and mind, together. It’s called “yoga teacher training”, but it’s also just in-depth viniyoga training. If you love yoga, you’ll love doing this.
  • I would encourage a student to take the class … it is very rewarding to be able to teach yoga to students.
  • You will be surprised how much you learn and the fun you have in the process!
  • Do it. My life has been forever changed for the better since taking this training. Tracy works so well with you to make sure that your able to get through the training, any hesitations should be let go. Go for it and don’t look back.
  • If you want to do it, you should do it.  Listen to that small inner voice. You will learn a lot about yourself, regardless of whether you ever teach yoga. Your life will show up during this program, and Tracy will be there to teach you and shepherd you through the process of training to be a yoga teacher, as well as the personal growth yoga brings. Tracy is a honest and true teacher of this lineage. It is an honor to be her student, and in following her example, I know I will never go wrong.

Thank you Sarina, Cassidy, Emma, Hollie, Isabelle, Jocelyn, Susan, Rebecca, Grace, Laurie, and Jodi for providing this feedback!  I’m honored to have shared the past eleven months with you.

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Six Considerations When Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training Program

Note from Tracy:  If you live in the Seattle area, Whole Life Yoga’s next yoga teacher training begins September 25.  Early registration discount ends July 31. E-mail me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com to set up an information session.  Detailed information about the program is at this link.

Although I’m truly fond of the yoga teacher training program at Whole Life Yoga, Seattle yogis have a wide variety of excellent programs to choose from. So how do you decide? Reflecting on the questions below may help.

  1. What style of yoga meets your needs and the needs of your students? Consider the style of yoga you personally like to practice, as well as the style that serves the audience you want to teach. Some programs (including Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program) adhere rigorously to a given lineage. Others offer a blended approach.  Either way, it’s important that you understand and can support the style(s) of yoga you will be studying. Never enroll in a teacher training program if you don’t appreciate what you will be learning.
  2. What are the  physical requirements of the program? Some yoga teacher training programs  require that their graduates be able to perform a wide range of vigorous yoga poses.  Others, like the program at Whole Life Yoga, embrace all practitioners, regardless of physical capability.  Can your body safely meet the requirements of the training?  If not, you might be setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Does the structure of the program meet your learning style? Some students learn yoga best when they are removed from the demands of daily life. This happens most effectively in residential trainings. Others do better with what I call a trickle approach, in which bite-sized pieces of information are provided consistently over a longer period of time. I designed Whole Life Yoga’s training utilizing the trickle approach.  We meet Monday evenings and one Sunday afternoon a month for 11 months, which gives students plenty of time to absorb what they are learning.
  4. Can you realistically meet the program’s requirements? Ask about the the program’s complete costs, time investments, and other commitments.  Cost calculations should include any extra classes you’ll be required to attend, mentoring costs, materials, registration fees, and lodging. When you’re budgeting time, include the hours you will actually spend in yoga teacher training classes, personal practice, teaching time, and written homework. Whole Life Yoga’s program has significant homework requirements, though we liberally extend deadlines and work individually with students who need extra help.  Be honest with yourself. Choose a program that has the flexibility you need while still offering a rigorous learning experience.
  5. Are you drawn to the primary teacher(s) of the program? Some teacher training programs are led almost exclusively by a single teacher; others use a panel of instructors, each of whom leads classes on different topics. If you’ll be studying with multiple teachers, who will be responsible for helping facilitate your success? If there is a primary teacher, do you respect them? Do you trust them? At a minimum, you’ll spend 200 to 500 hours of your life with this person. Make sure the student/teacher fit is a good one.
  6. Do you want/need a certification that is nationally recognized? What other licensing requirements are important to you? Yoga Alliance is currently the only nationally-recognized regulatory body in the yoga teacher community. If your program is registered with Yoga Alliance, you may have career opportunities that others do not. In Washington State, a handful of yoga programs (including Whole Life Yoga’s) are licensed as private vocational centers.  In addition to Yoga Alliance’s quality requirements, licensed vocational centers pass rigorous tests of financial stability, longevity, and contractual fairness.  Additionally, every employee of a WA state licensed vocational center passes in-depth background checks. How important is certification and licensing to you?

As with most questions in life, there are no right answers, only answers that are right for you. If you’re interested in learning more about Whole Life Yoga’s program, I’d be happy to meet and discuss our program in detail.  Email me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com to set up a time.

Best of luck to you in your yoga journey!

Tracy

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Finding Inspiration

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I’ve been feeling uninspired lately. Lots of reasons, none all that compelling.  But compelling or not, they have temporarily eclipsed my drive to write.  So today’s blog will draw from the words of two people much wiser than me.  Two people who have influenced my yoga style, my teaching, and my philosophy of life, even though I never studied with either of them directly.  Those of you who follow my yoga teacher/sleuth Kate’s adventures, these are the same people who influence her.

If you’re curious about Viniyoga and its key tenants, the words of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar (both who devoted their lives to this work) express its power better than I can ever hope to.

Teacher training students and grads, hopefully some of this sounds familiar.

Enjoy.

On the Purpose of Yoga:

  • “Anybody can breathe. Therefore anybody can practice yoga.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga must not be measured by how flexible your body becomes, but rather by how much it opens your heart.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Yoga, unlike dance or mime, is not an expression of form for others to watch.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga does not like in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and relationships.” T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Teaching:

  • “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “A good teacher sees the commonality of all human beings and helps each individual find his uniqueness.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Life:

  • “Whether things get better or worse depends to a considerable extent on our own actions.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The way that we see things today does not have to be the way we saw them yesterday. This is because the situations, our relationships to them, and we ourselves have changed in the interim.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “However powerful or disturbing something may appear to be, it is our reaction to it that determines its effects.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Let your speech be true and sweet.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “Meditation results in marvels.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

May each of you find inspiration wherever you can.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Enough

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga 500-hour graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  I’m so INCREDIBLY proud of Marcie and the work she’s doing.  Thanks for joining us here today!

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For the past few years, I’ve been teaching classes called “Befriending Your Body through Yoga” to plus size women. My intention with these classes is to create a comfortable space where women who have bigger bodies are able to come and see what yoga can offer them. As the name implies, there is also an element of self-compassion underlying the classes. Teaching self-compassion to my students is as important to me as teaching pose adaptations because in my own life I have found that practicing yoga has led to a much kinder, gentler, and more accepting relationship between my (overcritical) mind and my (overweight) body. This is nothing short of a miracle.

I grew up in a small desert town in the 70s. My perceptions of beauty came from the Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, and Tiger Beat. At that time, there was no body positivity movement and no Yoga and Body Image Coalition and, as a girl of a certain size, I could have used them. My body didn’t look or move like the bodies of most girls around me, and I felt markedly different. No matter how much I dieted, I couldn’t get down to the movie-star weight of 107 pounds. So, I abandoned my body in favor of my mind, striving for excellence in order to make myself good enough, lovable enough, and acceptable enough.

I’m no longer a girl, and I’ve learned from some of my students that not all rounder-bodied women grew up ashamed of their bodies. I’m wistful when I meet women like that. I wonder what my life might have been like had I not spent years aiming to be invisible for fear of mockery or rejection. There have been other students in my classes who grew up like me and who say that it takes every bit of their will just to get to class, particularly the first few times. They are afraid of being visible, of being watched and judged. I feel so deeply for them because I recognize that struggle. They, like me, have samskaras, as yoga philosophy would call it. Samskaras are patterns deeply imprinted at a subconscious level. They can affect our habits, thoughts and actions. The samskaras about my body that I learned from and cultivated in my youth followed me for much of my young adulthood and still affect me today, even after years of conscious work with them. They are familiar to some of my plus-size students because the messages that conditioned them permeate our culture. The messages we receive are that bigger bodies are not normal, acceptable, or desirable. That we are lazy, undisciplined, and ugly. That the sum total of who we are will never be enough to compensate for the fact that we are fat.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received from yoga is the ability to find a place within myself that is not only quiet and accepting but also has no interest in following the patterns and beliefs of my samskaras. This is what I want to pass along to my students: the understanding that yoga can help them access this same place within themselves, and that it is a place of deep kindness and self-love that is unimaginable when the samskaras are running the show. My deepest Self isn’t interested in what I weigh or what I’m wearing to class, nor is it interested in comparing my body or my abilities to the other students around me. It’s such a relief! I practice yoga to experience that connection with my Self and to experience my body and my breath as it is in the moment, and I’ve learned that what it is in each moment is enough.

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies.  She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie on her Facebook Page or at her website www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com. Marcie’s Befriending Your Body through Yoga E-Course begins on January 17.

Whole Life Yoga–Fifteen Years and Counting.

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OMG  I can’t believe I missed Whole Life Yoga’s 15th anniversary!  We opened on October 12, 2001, about a month after my father’s death.  I didn’t think Dad approved of my decision to quit my management job at Microsoft and open a yoga studio until the day of his funeral. During the eulogy, the pastor mentioned how proud my father was that his daughter decided to dedicate her life to helping others. That sentence has kept me going for the past fifteen years.

So many things have happened since then….

  • Literally thousands of people have come through our door to take yoga classes.  Almost 15,000 unique individuals, by my best estimate.  WOW!  Fifteen thousand people that we’ve impacted, hopefully for the better.
  • We’ve hosted fourteen teacher trainings, which represents well  over 250 yoga teachers that have been certified in the Viniyoga lineage.
  • We’ve donated classes to hundreds of nonprofits for auctions and other events.
  • We’ve held fundraising events for nonprofits, neighborhood businesses, and friends struggling with illness.

When I opened the studio, the longest I’d stayed with any career was five years. The fact that I still work at Whole Life Yoga after fifteen years is nothing short of astounding.

Running a small business hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, some days I wonder how many more years I have left in me.  But I can honestly say there’s nothing I’m more proud of in my life.  Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey.

Tracy Weber

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Yogi Interview of the Month: Marcie Leek!

Hi everyone! Please help me welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  Marcie is truly amazing, both in the audiences she touches and the innovative ways in which she teaches.  Enjoy!

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What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

When I first came to Viniyoga, I was a burned-out (English) teacher taking a sabbatical. In the classes I attended at Whole Life, my chaotic and self-critical mind stilled during class. This was miraculous to me (truly!). I found a peace there I had not found in previous yoga classes. My hunch is that Viniyoga’s focus on the breath, and connection between breath and movement, helped me find a meditative, calm, and (self-)loving side of myself that I hadn’t been able to access before.

How has yoga changed your life?

So many ways! I am so much better at practicing living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or being fearful about the future. I’m not cured of this, of course, but I often notice when I go there (into my head and/or into my fear), and I even manage to call myself back pretty quickly sometimes. I also have become much better at observing self-care boundaries than I was. I’ve slowed down, and I pause more. I’m nicer to myself in my head. I am more aware of my body and of the connections, positive and negative, between my body and my mind. I’ve also become more courageous about bringing ideas into fruition and putting them out in the world, even though it scares me. I know myself more, and I trust my Self more. And I have made some wonderful friends!

What made you decide to take a yoga teacher training program?

I wanted to help other people find that peaceful place within themselves.

Now that you’ve graduated, how are you sharing what you learned?

First, I teach two series classes that aim to bring two very different populations to that peaceful place I have found through yoga. I teach a series and classes called Befriending Your Body through Yoga, in Seattle and now online. It’s a series for plus-size women who want to learn how yoga can help them develop or maintain a self-compassionate relationship between body and mind. I also teach a series called Moving through Grief with Yoga, which teaches people how the tools of yoga can help them as they go through the process of grieving. I am passionate about both of these series and have loved watching them grow! I also teach cancer patients and caregivers for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance the same tools as I teach my other students: self-compassion and how to work with the body, breath, and mind as they navigate a challenging time. I’m so grateful to be able to share yoga with all of these people who might not otherwise know how it can benefit them.

What specific populations do you most enjoy teaching?

I love to teach yoga to anyone who will let me teach them, but I am particularly fond of what I call “tender” populations. This might be the people who come to a particular series, but it also includes newcomers to yoga (especially people who think they can’t do it), expecting mothers, and more.

What would you say to someone who thinks they “can’t” do yoga?

Yes, you can!

How are you different from a “typical” yogi?

Well, I sure don’t fit the physical image most people have of a “typical” yogi – my body is much rounder, and I’m much older than most people I see on the cover of yoga magazines. I was in my late 40s when I graduated my first round of yoga school and 50 when I finished the advanced training.

Where do you teach?

My series (Befriending Your Body through Yoga and Moving through Grief with Yoga) alternate 6-week blocks most quarters of the year, and classes are on Thursday evenings at OmTown Yoga (5500 35th Ave NE in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood). I also teach a drop in class at OmTown on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm. Befriending Your Body through Yoga has a Level 2 drop-in class at 7:45 on Tuesdays as well as the Level 1 series on Thursdays. The SCCA classes are limited to residents of the Pete Gross House.

How can people learn more about you? 

My website: www.nourishingbreathyoga.com

My NBY Facebook Page: Nourishing Breath Yoga

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies. She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie’s classes at her website, www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com.

Three Key Ways a Yoga Practice Can Support Trauma Recovery

Please help me welcome Lisa Danylchuk to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Lisa’s acclaimed book, Embodied Healing shares her learnings about yoga and how it can help people who are rebuilding their lives after trauma. And who among us hasn’t experienced trauma?  Lisa, can you please tell my readers how yoga–and its teachers–can help students overcome trauma?

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As yoga’s popularity continues to increase, yoga teachers, mental health providers and researchers are all becoming more clear on the depths of its benefits. As a yoga teacher and trauma therapist, I have seen a myriad of ways that mindfulness and movement help clients, whether they are doing a traditional hatha practice or applying yoga philosophy to their healing journey. Here are three ways that yoga teachers and healthcare providers can help clients and students who are navigating trauma recovery.

Grounding

Grounding is the act of connecting to the earth, and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The most common ways to ground are to feel your feet on the floor, as we do in tadasana, or to feel the sit bones grounding to the earth, as we do in many seated postures. Often, people who are experiencing anxiety and extreme stress report feeling a spinning or rising sensation; this conscious effort to ground can counteract the pull of energy away from the body,, bringing attention back to the safety of the current moment. If you are teaching to a group of people who have experienced trauma, offer grounding cues repeatedly throughout class. Not only is it helpful in building a physical foundation for a pose, it can also have psychological benefits.

Present moment attention

Intrusive thoughts and feelings from past trauma can show up in the present and memories can even pull us away from our current surroundings. Getting connected to present moment time – right here, right now – is one way to distance from the intensity of a past trauma in a helpful way. Yogis are familiar with the practice of cultivating presence, and it is important to find ways to describe how to practice presence, rather than simply instruct participants to “be present.” Consider guiding attention to a specific place in the room, a lamp on the wall or the corner of a mat. Consider instructing participants to follow the sound of your voice, or to listen to the sound of a bell as it fades. While, due to sensitivities, we can’t always use smells in the yoga room, think of these present moment attention practices as smelling salts, bringing students more fully  into present time and space.

Compassion towards self

In the aftermath of trauma it can become easy to struggle with oneself, wondering why something is still upsetting or feeling there is some defectiveness of self that allows the bad feelings to persist. By definition, something traumatic is too much to process all at once and approaching the feelings with tenderness can facilitate healing, rather than self-criticism or judgement. Recall that the word yoga means union, so we are looking to unite the parts of ourselves that need healing, rather than cut them off. Practicing curiosity and compassion facilitates the gentle approach our psyches need – just as you would not shout at a plant to help it grow, criticizing ourselves does not foster healing. Encourage compassion instead.

Questions, thoughts? Post a comment below or go to www.howwecanheal.com to contact Lisa.

Headshot.L.DanylchukLisa Danylchuk teaches internationally on integrating yoga and mental health treatment. As a licensed psychotherapist and Yogaworks certified yoga instructor, she has provided counseling and yoga classes in prisons, schools, non-profits and community programs across the US. Lisa holds degrees from both UCLA and Harvard University and is the author of the bestselling book Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress. She is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she hosts the Yoga for Trauma (Y4T) online training program, accessible world-wide. More information at: www.howwecanheal.com/y4t.

 

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Forming Good Professional Relationships: An Excerpt from The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga

As a long term blogger, I often get requests to review yoga books.  I almost always decline.  I couldn’t resist this one, though.  Books on the business of teaching yoga are few and far between.  This one has tips on all aspects of the business of teaching  yoga.  This chapter below on relationships in yoga especially spoke to me.  Enjoy!  If you’re interested in exploring it further, check it out at this link.

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As yoga teachers, we are in a relationship business. To be successful, we must embrace relationship building on many different levels. It’s especially important for us to see our students not as devotees who should serve their teacher or guru but as paying clients deserving of nurturing care and attention.

There are seven primary kinds of relationships that are important to yoga teaching:

  1. Relationship with the divine
  2. Relationship with oneself
  3. Relationships with family and friends
  4. Relationships with individual students
  5. Relationships with staff and colleagues
  6. Online relationships
  7. Relationships with classes and community

For your own personal growth and for the good of your teaching, it’s important to assess each of these types of relationships in your life and ask yourself whether any of them need more attention. This may seem repetitive, but self-inquiry and growth are a huge part of being a yogi.

Let’s consider some of these relationships in more detail.

Relationship with the Divine

When we are connected to the divine, we feel more inspired, and thus we teach at our best. But this relationship often gets put on hold when we get busy. Today, with all the distractions of electronic devices and social media, it has become more and more challenging to unplug and find a moment of quiet. When I feel cut off from spirit, I increase my meditation and mantra repetition, get outside, put my bare feet in the grass, light a candle, or write in a gratitude journal. It does not take much to revive the dialogue.

Relationship with Oneself

Yoga teachers are taught to model self-care, but they’re often not consistent about following through. Being more stressed than your students is not a basis for good teaching. One of our graduates reported that after she consciously increased her self-care and spent more time unplugged, her teaching improved dramatically. Her students noticed and responded very positively to the difference.

Relationships with Family and Friends

According to the author and actor Ben Stein, “Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows.” Your closest friends, loved ones, and family are vital to your growth and ability to stay inspired as a yoga teacher. When these relationships are nurtured, you also model the importance of personal relationships to your students.

To make sure you’re devoting time to tending these relationships, schedule a regular date night with your partner, put regular hang-out time with your kids on your calendar, keep in touch with out-of-town family more consistently, or set up frequent get-togethers with friends.

Relationships with Individual Students

Early in my career, more than a decade ago, I taught a weekly class in a basement room to sixty-five wholehearted New Yorkers at Crunch Fitness in Manhattan. Little did I know that the relationships I formed in that gym would lead to meaningful lifelong connections.

Every week, I came to class early and stayed after to talk with students, work on their therapeutic issues and injuries, answer their questions — and just hang out and gab. Some people sat around talking for an hour afterward. Most nights after class I brought students with me upstairs to Jivamukti Yoga Center to catch the tail end of Krishna Das’s weekly New York kirtans. We’d sing and sway, do puja, and delight in the fruit salad Prasad.

I am still in touch with many students from that time. Some of them went on to travel with me to new and beautiful places on retreat, and some became master yoga instructors in their own right.

These kinds of students can become loyal supporters who spread the word about your classes and help build a loving community of people around a common interest: yoga.

Relationships with Staff and Colleagues

Do you make a habit of being kind and speaking respectfully to gym and studio staff? I don’t claim to be any kind of saint, but I do my best to be friendly and considerate to these colleagues. Not only is this important to my sense of myself, but it makes for easier and more collegial working relationships, which make for better teaching.

Stories abound of yoga teachers at fitness gyms who act entitled, elitist, and pretentious, brusquely demanding specific conditions for their classes and acting as if the other gym staff are ignorant about yoga in general. How much cooperation do you think these teachers are likely to receive?

Because yogis often practice in community, we have a tendency to develop what I call yoga tunnel vision. Yoga, like anything else, can be taken to fanatical levels, to the point where practitioners can’t relate to non-yogis! And isn’t yoga supposed to be about connection?

Good manners, curiosity, kindness, helpfulness, generosity, enthusiasm, and sensitivity go a long way to demonstrate the spiritual and emotional benefits of yoga, as well as the physical ones, and help yoga continue to grow in the mainstream. Here are some specific ways to nurture relationships with colleagues at a gym or studio.

  • Get to know other teachers at the gym or studio and take their classes. Learning from other yoga teachers is a vital part of a yoga practice. Taking fitness classes at the gym can boost other aspects of your physical health as well as help you develop good relationships with the other instructors.
  • Attend all meetings and social functions of the gym or studio. Showing up for meetings and gatherings where you work, even if you are busy, does two very important things: it helps you know and be a part of the team, and it increases your visibility among managers and students. Managers who see you getting involved with the gym or studio are more likely to give your name when a student asks what class to take or is looking for a teacher to work at a special function, like a wedding party. Attending studio functions lets you get to know current students and gets your name out among potential new students.
  • Keep lines of communication open with colleagues and staff. Whether you’re a studio owner/manager or an employee, touch base regularly with the people you work alongside. Share your needs, goals, visions, feedback, and even grievances. Don’t let ill-feeling fester to the point where neither party is willing to try to resolve a problem.
  • Maintain good communication by establishing it before there’s a problem. If you teach at a studio, for example, chat with the studio owners about getting classes covered, or share with them how you handled a difficult student. By establishing a dialogue when nothing is wrong, you will have a good channel of communication in place if you need to bring up a touchy subject.
  • Be friendly with teachers of other styles of yoga. It’s simply unattractive when a yoga teacher says something negative about another teacher or style of yoga. Don’t do it. You’re the one who ends up looking bad. Instead, use differences in opinion as an opportunity to see and learn from another perspective.
  • When you don’t like something, offer a solution. If you are upset about something going on where you work, go directly to the source or the person in charge, state the problem, and then offer to find a solution. This way you won’t be seen as a gossiper or complainer.
  • Be a “go-giver,” not a “go-getter.” A go-getter comes in, teaches a class, and leaves. A go-giver comes in, sees what he can do to pitch in, and asks what announcements need to be made for upcoming events. After class, he folds blankets, puts away props, blows out candles, and picks up water bottles and Kleenex left behind.

Never think that you are above these tasks. Making this effort increases the feeling of goodwill in the studio, and studio managers who see you pitching in will be more apt to give you prime teaching slots when they open up.

Amy_Taro2-BlueAmy Ippoliti and Taro Smith, PhD are the authors of The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga and founders of the online school 90 Monkeys, which has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in over 40 countries. Amy is known for bringing yoga to modern-day life in a genuine way and has been featured on the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine. Taro is the Chief Content Officer at Yoga Glo and has over two decades of experience developing yoga, medical, and wellness enterprises. They both live in Boulder, Colorado. Visit them online at www.90monkeys.com and www.AmyIppoliti.com.

Excerpted from the book The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga: The Yoga Professional’s Guide to a Fulfilling Career. Copyright © 2016 by Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith, PhD. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com

PS–all three books in Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!