Category Archives: Viniyoga

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. 

Can You Do Yoga Over 50? You Bet!

Please welcome Sheryl Stich back to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Sheryl teaches four (!) classes each week specifically designed for students over 50.  Continue reading to discover what makes so many students come back week after week.  It’s never too late to start a consistent yoga practice!

As students were chatting and stacking their mats and blankets after the Monday Yoga for Over 50 class, I started to reminisce about how the class began seven years ago with three dedicated students. After a few months, attendance began to flourish and in response we added a class on Wednesdays and Fridays. The classes have continued to grow, so we recently introduced a 4:30 PM class on Wednesdays.

Why is this class so popular? The Yoga for Over 50 class is very similar to an All-Levels class with modifications to accommodate the over 50 body. There are countless benefits of yoga for people over 50, including staying active, improving quality of life and slowing down the aging process. I teach a variety of strengthening postures, always include a balance posture and exclude postures that could possibly compromise bodies with arthritis, osteoporosis and other issues we may face.

When I asked my students what specifically draws them to the class, one student approached me immediately, saying the class matches her energy level, and that Viniyoga is great for the body, and just feels right – this class is perfect for people over 50.

Several students shared that they appreciate working around any physical limitations but still getting benefits from the postures. They recognize the importance of the individual modifications and they feel safe because they are not pressured into positions. One student proclaimed that the practice and postures helped her recover from breast cancer!

One recurring theme was that the class helps with every day things like increasing strength, flexibility, balance, body awareness and a sense of serenity. And the practice helps students be more confident and have an increased ease of movement throughout the day. Stress management, minimizing physical discomfort and preventing accidents also came up several times.

The class has helped one student feel stronger when skiing and another said it has increased her time in the garden from one to three hours. One student shared that she couldn’t walk very far because her hips hurt – this class has helped her be more flexible and strong and has taught how to move so she can spend more time walking.

The Yoga for Over 50 class also has a great sense of community. Catherine Williford has coordinated monthly luncheons for students in all the Over 50 classes, and this is what she had to say:

I love Over 50 Yoga at Whole Life Yoga because Sheryl is a gifted teacher who teaches with clear language and she keeps the pace perfect for those of us who might need a little more time. The poses seem to always be just what my body needed that day. I also love the community that is being created with monthly luncheons for whomever wants to join. I highly recommend this class!

Sheryl Stich is a certified yoga instructor through Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. Sheryl came to Viniyoga after recovering from disc hernia surgery in 2002. She also had hip replacement surgery, and found that yoga and breath work not only helped retain her health physically, but also helped mentally and emotionally. She finds much joy and happiness in sharing this “calm awakening” connecting the mind, body and breath with her students.

Benefits of Yoga for Chronic Pain: A Practice of Conscious Movement, Breath, and Meditation

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga instructor Katie West to the blog today!  Katie is such an inspiration to me and her students. Yoga is an incredible tool to help manage chronic pain, and I’m delighted to offer a new drop-in Yoga for Chronic Pain class by Katie on Thursdays at noon starting May 4.  Please join us!

The Body (movement/asana):

When living with chronic pain, one often develops a negative relationship with the body. If the body is limited and causing distress, frustrations, depression, or anxiety, the natural reaction is to disconnect from it. Many people want to suppress those emotions that are provoked by a chronic condition, so one might try to silence it, when all that is needed is to listen and respond with compassion.

Self-compassion is paramount when it comes to yoga and chronic pain. To be able to look at our own dysfunctional body, feel and nourish it, takes great courage and persistence. Our normal is a different kind of normal from those who do not have physical limitations. It is more delicate and special in that way. It is important to see this, to create a baseline for yourself and adapt from there. What differentiates Viniyoga from other lineages is its adaptability for different bodies and conditions. Correct movement for your body helps manage and minimize chronic pains, change old movement patterns, and build a more positive connection to your body. Viniyoga practices breath-centric movement where the breath is the core of conscious movement and builds a deeper connection to the body.

The Breath (pranayama)

One evening, I was on my side in the middle of the living room floor in crippling pain. Just a typical Friday evening. I began to focus my awareness on the expansion and release of my breath. I felt the warmth and vibrations of my breath within my body and the subtle contraction and relaxation of my muscles as I directed gentle awareness to achy areas. My exhale made my body feel at ease, and the control I had over the expansion in my body through my inhales left me feeling empowered. I slowly breathed life back into my body and realized I have the power to change my responses to what I had been labeling as negative physical sensations. Rather than wallowing in pity and complaining about my physical problems, I just breathed with intention and control, easing my achy joints and busy mind.

To breathe is to live. To consciously breathe is a persistent practice and affects our systems and energy on different levels based on the conscious control of the lengths, segments, pauses, and accentuation of the breath.

The Mind (meditation):

The mind is the control room, reigning over breath and body. Meditation can provide tools to change your thoughts, emotions, behavior, and habitual patterns allowing you to control your mind’s process.  If you choose to focus your attention fully on something, and catch your mind as it is wandering, the act of bringing your attention back to that original focal point is the practice of meditation. If you choose to focus on more positive things such as building a more positive relationship with your body, it will begin to become a habitual pattern. The same goes for negative habitual thought. Meditation teaches us how to listen and respond to the patterns in our mind and change them if desired.

The combination of correct gentle movement, conscious breathing, and focused intention or visualization creates an empowering practice for those with chronic pain.

Katie West has completed 500 hours of yoga teacher training via Whole Life Yoga (WLY) and continued as a TA for WLY’s 200 hour training. She believes yoga is a gift to share with all, having found Viniyoga after years of chronic conditions stemming from structural and muscular issues.The lineage’s teachings yielded the tools to begin her journey of reintegrating body, breath, and mind. This exploration of connection helped minimize and manage her chronic pain and revealed a constant practice of balance to life as a whole. Her teaching style highlights the accessibility, therapeutic, and rehabilitative aspects of yoga. Katie honors the Viniyoga lineage as an instructor and finds any way for students to integrate yoga into their daily lives. She holds that yoga is for everybody and adaptable to all.

 

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!

How to Keep Cobra Pose From Being a Pain In The Neck

When practiced appropriately, Cobra Pose and all of its fantastic variations can be an important exercise for creating and maintaining back and neck health. If you practice it incorrectly, however, you can create the very neck issues you’re trying to prevent. Below are five ways you can practice Cobra while protecting your neck.

  • Lead with your collar bones, not with your chin. The origin of motion (the place where the movement starts) should be your low back, not your neck. The photos below show a Yogi leading with her chin, and another practicing correctly. Most students find the right motion if I tell them to imagine they’re leading with their collarbones.

Correct form

Student incorrectly leading with her chin

  • Extend out through the crown of your head as you lift. Extending through the spine (called intervertebral extension) increases the space between your vertebra and prevents that pinching sensation at the base of your neck. It also engages and strengthens neck muscles in a more effective way.
  • Turn your head as you lower, not as you lift. As you lift up into Cobra Pose, your eyes should point toward your mat, not toward the ceiling, and certainly not to either side of the room. Turn your head only after you have started lowering back to the floor. The photo below shows a person practicing with her head in the incorrect position.

  • Don’t lift your chin, or if you do, lift it at the very end of your inhale, after you have fully extended your spine. Most yogis would be best served if they kept their neck in a neutral position. Experienced yogis can lift the chin a little to stretch the throat, but only at the very end of the movement.
  • On the other hand, don’t overly tuck your chin, either. Students often interpret “don’t lift your chin” as “squash your chin to the pit of your throat.” Keeping the chin in a tucked position places extra strain on the very muscles you’re trying to protect. You should be able to hold an object about the size of a Granny Smith apple between your chin and your throat. The student below is holding her chin in an inappropriate position.

If you have neck issues (or even if you don’t!) give these tips try and let me know what you think. I hope that they help.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

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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.

Research Proves It! Yoga Improves Bone Density

Skeleton of the man. 3D the image of a man's skeleton under a transparent skin

I became interested in methods to build bone health in my early thirties.  Not coincidentally, it was the same day my first DEXA scan showed that I already had osteoporosis, likely due to excessively low estrogen levels in spite of estrogen replacement therapy.

I’ve long believed that yoga could safely help build bones, as has my teacher, Gary Kraftsow. It makes sense. After all, yoga is a low impact, weight-bearing exercise that strengthens the muscles supporting the spine, wrist, and hip, which are at particularly high fracture risk in individuals with osteoporosis.  Anecdotally, I also know that my own bone density increased from moderate osteoporosis and osteopenia (depending on the bone) to “low normal.” The increases began after I started practicing yoga–in spite of the fact that the doctor took me off of bone-building medication.

Finally, we have some research that backs us up.

The ten-year study done by Dr. Loren M. Fishman—a physiatrist at Columbia University who specializes in rehabilitative medicine—involved Iyengar postures, but I have every reason to believe Viniyoga (which uses repetition as well as “staying” in poses to build strength) would have results that are as good, if not better.

Study practitioners performed yoga poses for twelve minutes every day (or at least every other day) for ten years. The time period is important:  Bone density builds slowly. It can take years to find measurable change. According to a December 21 New York Times article:

“The findings, as reported last month in Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur of the 227 participants who were moderately or fully compliant with the assigned yoga exercises.

Improvements were seen in bone density in the hip as well, but they were not statistically significant.”

Even more encouraging, there were no fractures or significant injuries among any of the participants in the study—indicating that yoga is a safe activity even for older individuals with significant bone loss. And unlike bone-building drugs, which come with a host of gastrointestinal and other side effects, yoga gives increased strength, better posture and improved mental health.

Go forth and practice! Your body, breath, mind, and bones will thank you!

Tracy

books available

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

How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Hi all!  Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and Whole Life Yoga instructor Roxie Dufour to the Whole Life blog today.  Roxie can be contacted at YogaRoxSeattle@gmail.com. Roxie will always hold the honor of being the yoga student I saw get married in a kayak.  It’s only natural that she should combine teaching yoga with her favorite pastime.  Roxie, please share!

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How Did I Spend My Weekend?

Answer: Combining my favorite things!

Over the weekend, my husband Dave and I assisted in the Washington Kayak Club Basic Sea Kayak Class at Deception Pass. Yes, we are the kayakers under the bridge in the swirly waters, 28 students, and 9 instructors.  The best way to describe it is going to camp with your kayak.  I was asked to squeeze in a ‘brief’ yoga class.  I knew the students needed to warm up shoulders, neck and hips, side body stretching, and lots of torso rotation for paddling, calming anxieties and tension, and to invite balance, integrate left/right movements.  In any yoga class, there are adaptations and options to incorporate factors.  Some students have never been in a kayak or taken a yoga class.

No pressure, right?

Tapping on the Viniyoga lineage, Tracy Weber’s teachings, meeting the students where they were, and from experience…keeping it simple was my plan. Did I mention, we were at the beach, wearing dry suits, PFDs, and dressed ready for immersion?

Basic Kayak Yoga2

The sequencing was simple with about seven postures, all standing, because dry suits are expensive. Connecting simple movements to the breath impacts the autonomic nervous system and increases circulation.  I visualized the student’s shortened breath patterns, muscle tension, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. I was nervous, too. Having students recognize where they are and accept that place with compassion is important to any student, anxious kayakers included.

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My reward was seeing shoulders relax, smiles, sighs of relief, thank yous, and “When do we get wet?”

Whether you are on the mat or heading to your kayak, yoga is a positive piece of the day, keep it simple.

Roxie

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. 

Yogi Interview of the Month–Jenny Zenner!

I’m delighted to host Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and phenomenal yoga teacher Jenny Zenner here on the blog today. She’s been kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me. Pour yourself a cup of tea (or mix up and appletini!)and join us!

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Tell us a little about your journey to yoga. Why and when did you start practicing?

Yoga was my breakup cure starting in 2003. Lamenting the loss of a cross-country boyfriend, a friend going through a divorce invited me for “detox and retox” girls night – heated vinyasa with Hilary Steinitz followed by appletinis at the tapas bar below the studio. Between our sweaty mats and sisterhood, I became convinced that yoga was the cure for all of society’s ills.

Appletinis? YUM! Sounds like a great entry to a practice we both love.  Now that you’ve been practicing for well over a decade, how has yoga changed your life?

Initially, yoga gave me a proprioception I previously attained through years of running and strength training. It gave me my own sense of my body’s alignment, orientation, greater flexibility, and capacity for change by a simple shift into a posture.

Surely it can’t be all appletinis, sisterhood, and flexibility. Tell us the truth: Any yoga horror stories?

Why yes. While “auditioning” to teach by taking an advanced teacher training workshop, the student assisting me was unable to support my failed transition from crow to handstand. Dropped on my head like a pogo stick, to this day I feel the effects from my concussion and sprained cervical spine.

I’m so sorry that happened to you. We’ve spoken before about this experience and how it’s given you a greater appreciation for Viniyoga. What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

Viniyoga took me out of my vigorous flow practice and showed me a lifetime practice applicable to ANYONE.

Now that you’ve graduated from Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training, how are you sharing what you learned?

I teach yoga and mindfulness within organizations (workplace and schools). I like taking the practices to new audiences who might not ever visit a studio.

It’s great that you like to reach out to people outside of the traditional studio environment. What’s the most unique place you’ve taught yoga?

I led a session for a day of movement sponsored by Zella in the entrance to Nordstrom at the Northgate Mall.

That sounds like fun! I’ll bet you got a lot of interesting looks.  When you teach, what’s your favorite yoga pose, and why?

Tree. Every year or so, I have taken a picture of myself in the balance holding my twin sons, my own little monkeys. I’m due for another.

Who is your yoga hero?

I realize my yoga lineage is of yogini authors: Sharon Gannon (multiple books) who founded Jivamukti taught my first teacher Hilary (novelist) and my teacher training was with Tracy Weber (novelist). I hope to do them justice with my practice, teaching, and writing.

Ah… Now you’re making me blush. 😉  There is something about yoga and writing that go together.  It’s that whole persevering practice thing.  What non-yoga thing are you most passionate about?

After my family, it’s a tie between anti-inflammatory nutrition and neuroplasticity. I’m convinced I’m on this earth to help others heal and hurdle life’s obstacles.

Thanks so much for joining us today! How can people learn more about you? 

About Jenny Zenner:  Jenny Zenner is a career coach, product consultant, writer and the founder of Seeds Yoga. In her current chapter as a mom to twin preschoolers, she calls on all her resources to be mindful in as many moments as she can muster.

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.