Category Archives: Teaching Yoga

Is Yoga Unchristian?

I had an unusual e-mail conversation with a potential reader a few days ago.  Unusual in that we disagreed with each other, yet the tone of our conversation remained respectful, supportive, and honest.  At the end of the conversation, I lost a reader.

It still makes me sad.  This lovely woman had originally entered a contest to win Murder Strikes a Pose, and she was very excited.  She asked me to mail her some bookmarks so she could spread the word.  She is a huge cozy mystery fan and she loves German shepherds.  What book could be more perfect? Then it hit her.

Murder Strikes a Pose is about a yoga teacher.

She became concerned.  She and her friends are Christian, and they believe that yoga conflicts with the teachings of the Bible.  I myself was raised in the Christian church, and although The Yoga Sutras use terms that sound unusual, that’s primarily because they are from a different language. But as far as religion, The Yoga Sutras teach that for a believer of ANY faith, the most effective path to mental clarity is by practicing that faith. The sutras never say what form that faith should take.   For nonbelievers, there are other tools that can bring clarity as well.

Still, I wanted to be honest with this reader and respectful of her concerns.  My protagonist is an often-not-yogic yoga teacher, but she tries to follow the teachings, and she does occasionally throw out a Sanskrit word or two.   So I found what I thought was likely to be the most concerning passage in the book and sent it her. I’ve included it below.

“Less than twenty-four hours later, I was elbow-deep in my least favorite activity—updating the studio’s database—when the Power Yoga class entered Savasana, a pose of quiet rest. Vedic chanting flowed from the studio’s speakers, filling the lobby with sounds of cherubic bliss.

Ahhhh … just the excuse I was looking for.

I cracked open the door to the yoga room, intending to eavesdrop as the instructor lulled her students into a state of samadhi—yoga-induced ecstasy. I returned to my chair, leaned back, and closed my eyes, mentally transporting myself out of the lobby and into the practice space.

In my mind’s eye, I savored the room’s peaceful atmosphere. Dimmed incandescent lights reflected off unadorned yellow-beige walls, illuminating the space in a soft golden hue; meditation candles cast dancing light beams along the maple floor; a fresh-cut bouquet of soft pink tulips decorated the altar, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. The room currently held twenty practicing yogis, but in my imagination, it was mine. All mine. I practically purred, feeling as content as a recently-fed kitten.

The teacher’s voice soothed my nerves and dissolved salt-like grains of tension from behind my eyes. “Release your weight into the mat. Imagine that your muscles are made of softened wax, melting on a smooth, warm surface.” My jaw muscles loosened. My shoulders eased down from my ears.

She continued her spoken lullaby. “With each inhale, imagine a white light entering the crown of your head and pouring through your body, illuminating every cell.” A soft sigh escaped from my lips. “With each exhale—”

The now-familiar sound of barking drowned out the teacher’s voice and jolted me awake.

Loud, angry barking.

My momentary tranquility vanished. As if in one motion, my jaw tightened, my shoulders lifted, and my hands clenched into tight fists. An embarrassing litany of swear words spewed from my lips.”

Reading this passage confirmed the reader’s fears.  She said she couldn’t read Murder Strikes a Pose without violating her ethical principles, and she couldn’t in good conscience recommend it to her friends.  She donated her copy and the bookmarks to a bookstore.

All-in-all, I was thoroughly impressed with this woman.  She was kind, respectful, ethical, and honest.  And I’m sad.  Sure, I think she would have enjoyed my book. Sure, I want to find every reader I can.  Sure, I was hoping she’d become a rabid fan and spread word of the series to everyone she met.

But I’m mainly sad that she’ll never try yoga, and even sadder that some people think my life’s work is unchristian. Yoga teaches us compassion, honesty, and faith, among other principles. It simply calls them ahimsa, satya and sraddha. My Bible studies as a child and teenager taught me the same concepts.  To me, yoga IS Christian. And Hindu. And  Jewish. And Buddhist. And Athiest. It is for all faiths and all belief systems.  Yoga teaches you how to become clear, understand your own values, and live in alignment with your own spiritual beliefs.

What do you think?  How can we, as people who practice and teach yoga, make this work accessible to all faiths?


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 now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

What I’ve learned in My First Year of Teaching

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

You can reach her at or find her on her blog, The Savoury Soul or Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My teaching was forever changed.

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

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

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

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



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

Yoga and the Maggie

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Maggie Toussaint. Maggie is a mystery/suspense author and a yoga teacher!   Find out more about Maggie at

Maggie ToussaintLet’s jump back in time nearly eleven years. Imagine, if you would, a 45-50 year old female, that would be me, who is having auto-immune issues. Also imagine that I have a closed mindset.

Closed, that’s right. New things are scary. If I don’t know about it, I don’t need to know about it. Aches and pains I understand. They run in my family. I’ve been to the doctor. I know what’s going on with my health.

Enter my guy who loves to try new things and always keeps me on my toes. He’s been looking into a new gym membership and instead of getting a single membership, is thinking about a family deal because of all the classes offered at this gym. And would I please come look at it with him.

Since this invite also included a stop at my favorite pizza place, I agreed. The gym was pretty much what I expected. Lots of people churning and burning calories, but the manager got my attention when she noticed how stiffly I moved and she showed me a hip-stretching yoga move in the middle of the floor. Going with the flow and trying not to hyperventilate, I tried it and was more than pleasantly surprised with the results. Not only did my hip feel better – I felt better.

Soon we had a gym membership, and I started taking yoga from a willowy, gentle soul named Erica. Her yoga was a mix of styles she’d done throughout her lifelong practice. I loved her choices of music and I loved how she worked with me, even in a large class of nearly 30 men and women, she showed me how to adjust and compensate and strengthen my body – and my spirit.

Other gals subbed or taught different yoga classes in time, but Erica really reached me. I learned to see what I could do, instead of focusing on the negative, and from that starting point, I learned to do more. A few years passed, and we moved six hundred miles away from the gym, back to my hometown, a place where yoga was viewed with outright suspicion because it was different.

I found a kindred spirit, another person with outsider ways, like me. We practiced yoga together, taking turns “leading” our small class for each other, and then others heard about it and wanted to participate. The two of us got certified to teach through AAFAA, but insurance concerns kept my friend from moving forward with a yoga studio.

The start-up YMCA invited me to teach yoga, and they would handle the insurance issues. I said yes to the Y. Much to my surprise, the class kept growing and growing. And many students came to the class who were more advanced than I was. I worked to offer something for beginner through advanced students, which was more challenging than my formerly all beginner’s class. At the same time, two family members developed what became terminal illnesses. I had to let the yoga teaching go to handle my other responsibilities.

Time passed. A niece approached me about yoga. She was recently diagnosed with a related autoimmune issue, and it was suggested that yoga would help her. Would I show her some yoga moves? Yes, of course I would. We began to meet weekly in my living room, both of us benefitting from the yoga time. Soon more family members joined us, and my lifelong best friend.

Family yoga is what we’re calling this iteration of my yoga class. It’s a way I pay it forward to help my family. Our practice consists of various breathing techniques, asanas from Erica’s blended Iyengar/Hatha/other styles of yoga, stretches I learned from various physical therapists, and meditation. Not your typical yoga class, but lots of love and laughter and fellowship.

(Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d tell my sisters to twist themselves this way and that, and they’d do it! But each week they come back for more.)

Lessons learned: there’s an ebb and flow to life; we adjust to life’s changes or we become out of sorts; and there is deep joy in helping others.


Maggie Toussaint

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available January 8, 2014 from Midnight Ink!

Touch Me or Touch Me Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

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.


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

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.


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.

The Magic of Movement

One of the key hallmarks of Viniyoga is its unique combination of movement, flow and stay.  Some yoga lineages, such as Iyengar and Yin, focus primarily on staying in poses.  Others, such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, primarily flow from pose to pose.  Viniyoga, on the other hand, uses stays in poses and flows between them. And we do something even more powerful: we move in and out of most poses before staying in them.

Each of the three—movement, stay, and flow—has a unique cost/benefit tradeoff:


  • Re-patterns dysfunctional movement patterns
  • Warms the entire body (especially when large muscle groups are contracted)
  • Warms and brings circulation to the specific muscle groups being contracted
  • Builds energy  (especially faster movement)
  • Prepares the body to stay in a posture
  • Compensates for and erases residual stress


  • Provides deeper internal organ work
  • Calms energy (especially in forward bends and twists)
  • Stretches  muscles (Exercise physiology fact: a stretch needs to be held a minimum of twenty seconds to be effective.)
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Focuses attention internally
  • Allows for deepening micro-movements with the breath


  • Significantly builds energy
  • Builds heat
  • Does not compensate for residual stresses as well as repetition
  • Compromises form, which generally becomes sloppier

What does all of this mean for your teaching and your practice?

Understand the tool you’re using and why you’re using it. If your goal is to prepare your mind for meditation, a strong flow class won’t work as well as a class that includes the interior focusing of stays. If you’re a beginner, start by learning appropriate form in individual postures before trying to link multiple postures together in flows. If you’re working to re-pattern negative movement patterns, use repetition in and out of a pose more than stay.

And remember: Each tool has its unique purpose and gifts. Over time try to explore all of them. One of the many beauties of the Viniyoga approach is that it skillfully combines all three.


Tracy Weber

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

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 and


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.


Designing a Series 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

Alicia asks: I’m designing my first four-week yoga series, and I am feeling stuck. I’m confident in sequencing an individual class, but unsure about how to build a series. How much of the series should change week to week, and how much should be consistent? How do you make a series flow as a whole?

Series are fun to teach and can be much more powerful than drop-in classes. With a consistent set of students and a defined goal, a series teacher can build on the learnings of each class, and students often notice dramatic progress. But series classes have an added level of complexity. As you’ve noticed, the whole series must be sequenced, not just each individual class. I have a few thoughts that may help.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

The above quote, from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, sums up my first recommendation best. Ask yourself, “What do I want students to take away from the series?” Then build that intention pose by pose, week by week. Students need to do a pose several times before they understand it. Which poses will most effectively achieve the goals of your series? Those are the ones you should repeat most frequently.

One goal of my Yoga for Healthy Backs series, for example, is to gently strengthen and stretch the low back. So Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Cakravakasana (Cat) are core poses that repeat each week. Students in my recent Energize and Strengthen series, on the other hand, wanted to learn Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand). I spent the first two weeks building up to it, and then I repeated it in the last three classes. Only through repetition could students improve their form and confidence.

Remember the days between classes.

Do you plan to give your students home practices as part of your series? If so, every pose in the home practice should be repeated throughout the series. I recommend teaching a pose at least twice before asking a student to do it at home. Make sure the student can do the pose comfortably and with reasonable form, even when you’re not present to guide them.

If a pose is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

In an asana-focused class, pay close attention to your students’ form each week. If a pose seems appropriate for their bodies but their form is compromised, teach it several times with a focus on correct form. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) is appropriate for most people, and it is an important pose in this lineage. It is also difficult to learn. Teach Uttanasana in every class until students can do it correctly.

Don’t repeat your mistakes.

If you discover a pose is too strong for your students, don’t teach it again. For example, even though Pascimatanasana (Seated Forward Bend) is simple, many people are too restricted in their hips, backs, and hamstrings to do it safely and effectively. I might plan to teach it in a series for fit beginners. But I’d throw it out in a heartbeat if students didn’t have the strength and flexibility to do it safely.

Be willing to toss your plans in the trash.

Sometimes your best work isn’t appropriate for your students, so try not to get attached. You may need to change your design significantly after you see how students respond to the first class or two. When I develop a new series, I start with an overall goal and a weekly outline of sub-goals. But I only design the first class. Each subsequence class is developed after I teach the class preceding it. What seems like a good idea in theory is sometimes a disaster in practice. I almost always simplify my original plans.

I hope that helps, at least as a starting point!



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

Keeping Yourself (and Your Students) Safe with Viniyoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author and Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate Jacqui Trent.   Congratulations, Jacqui, on your recent graduation! Jacqui can be contacted at

When I started this training program I’ll admit – I had no idea what Viniyoga was.  I knew very little about other lineages, but this one was completely foreign to me. My experience was in general Hatha/Vinyasa flow that didn’t really follow any sort of rules.  I’ve been in
group classes where we’d start the practice popping right into headstand, without any regard to the neck or shoulders, and (I won’t lie) I loved it!  I wasn’t sure about all these (in my first impression) “restrictions.” Now, as a WLY graduate, I have so much appreciation for these restrictions!

In January of this year I got quite a shock.  All of a sudden I felt an intense pang from my neck and shoulder all the way down my right arm as well as awful sciatica.  It basically came out of nowhere.  This pain was so debilitating that I had to completely stop all yoga and running and since then it’s only gotten worse.

While I couldn’t really say that my prior yoga experience caused my pain, I know that it didn’t help.  Every week for the past nine months, it’s become more and more apparent to me.  I should never have been starting a class in headstand; my neck and shoulders were in no way shape or form prepared for all that weight.

Two things Tracy has ingrained into our heads: “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should” and “you have to ask yourself if the risks outweigh the benefits.”  Had I not been going through this training when my pain started and had I never heard those words, I guarantee you I would be doing headstand right now (as well as other poses that could be harmful for me) instead of typing this article.

Another amazing thing I learned from Tracy is the art of sequencing practices. Yes, there are rules, but they meant for protecting and preparing the body for poses. While daunting and completely overwhelming at first, I’ve really come to love designing classes!  It’s like a puzzle.  How can you keep your student(s) safe while also meeting their needs? I’m still working on maximizing my sequences, but I believe that will only come with time.

Finally, (although I promise you I’ve learned quite a bit!) I’ve learned how to teach a class without having to do the entire practice with the students. It is my goal to talk students through the practice and only demo if needed and when it’s safe for my body (grabbing a demo student if I can’t do it). This not only allows me to more closely observe my students; it also saves me from injuring myself even more by trying to demonstrate a pose.

While I may have started this training slightly skeptical, I really see the value and beauty of this lineage.  It baffles me that not everyone would put as much emphasis on protecting your body as Viniyoga does.  It has stopped me from further injury and taught me how to keep my future students safe.  These principles will definitely always be a part of my teachings!


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