Category Archives: Viniyoga

Yoga, Attachment, and Testing Error–Ode to a Bad Week

I’m pretty open about what happens to me in life.  Some of my friends and students use words like “gutsy” and “courageous” to describe me. Detractors sometimes refer to me as “overly self-revelatory.”  Regardless, after 50 years on planet earth, I’m unlikely to change.  I always warn my teacher training students that when they choose me as a teacher, they get what they see.  Readers, I guess the same is true for you. I’ve always felt that the best yoga teachers are those who use The Yoga Sutras to learn about themselves.

I had a stressful week last week.  My husband learned that his job will be moving to Oklahoma next year.  We will not be going with it, so after 30 years with the same company, our primary bread winner will likely embarking on a new career, and we will shortly thereafter be looking for a new home.  We are both committed to staying in Seattle at least until 2016 when I will finish my next 200-hour yoga teacher training  and release my third book. After that?  It’s one of our current life unknowns.

We learned that on Monday.

On Tuesday my doctor e-mailed me the results of some routine blood work.

It wasn’t good.  Well, that’s an exaggeration.  Most of it was, indeed, very good.  There were some hints that I need to eat more veggies (smoothies, anyone?) and I definitely need to take more vitamin D.  None of this was news to me. One number, however, was oddly high.

I called the doctor’s office and they said we should re-do the test in case I was dehydrated.  In the meantime, hubby and I independently did what you should never do: we Googled it. According to the Internet, if that number went up much higher, I would be at risk for sudden heart failure. Husband sent me a scary article and we talked about him learning CPR.

To make a long story short, I was terrified, and my doctor was less than helpful. Friday, I received the results of the re-test.  The original number was a lab error.

I’d love to say that this week gave me some great insight on life, or that it has inspired a new story that will soon top the best-seller lists.  I’d even love to say that I handled the situation with the aplomb and equanimity you’d expect from a yoga teacher.  In the end, I can only say that those were three days of my life that I’ll never get back.

Why do I write about this?

I guess to say that my yoga knowledge did actually help me last week.  I’m surprisingly calm about Marc’s job situation.  The teachings promise that there are several life paths we can take, all of which are a source for our learning.  I’m confident that Marc and I will end up in the right place, even if it’s a challenging one.

And in the midst of my health-related panic, I remembered that according to yoga, the mind is riddled with error. Most of what we worry about never actually happens. That was my mantra. It helped, at least a little.  The teachings also say that fear of death is a source of suffering for even the wisest sage.

No one said yoga was magic.

Finally, even yoga teachers have flaws.  This particular one has too many to count. If I were truly in samadhi, I wouldn’t be attached to this body, this life, this city, this house. I’m rather fond of all of them. Life offers us many challenges, and as my husband says, the future is always an unknown. The yoga teachings provide hope.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Can Yoga Really Be Murder?

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Brown

Hi all!  Once a month I’ll be blogging on Ink Spot–the blog for the writers of Midnight Ink–and cross posting here. This week, I’m blogging about my thoughts about combining yoga and murder in my writing.

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2014/09/can-yoga-really-be-murder.html

Check it out, and let me know what you think!  There’s even a yoga philosophy lesson in there!

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

 

Yoga for Imperfect Bodies

I’ve spent the weekend answering press questions for the release of my next book, A Killer Retreat. Most of them were about writing, but one seemed particularly relevant to my yoga blog readers.  Here’s the question and my answer.  I hope you benefit from reading it.

How can yoga be applied to people with imperfect bodies? Is yoga really about exercise or something else?

Two thoughts came to me when I read these two questions:  First, I’ve yet to come across a human being with a perfect body, either inside or outside of my yoga classes. Second, my favorite yoga quote is “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” Yoga is ultimately the connection of body, breath and mind. Anyone can do it, and everyone can benefit from a well-designed yoga practice.

I’ve taught yoga to professional ballet dancers, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors. I’ve certified yoga teachers who have multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve taught kids as young as six (others teach students who are even younger!) and adults who are ninety-years-old plus.  I’ve taught students who were deaf, blind, and one who was both deaf and blind. I’ve taught group classes to students who use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. I know of yogis who have no arms; others who have lost both legs. I have yet to find a student who couldn’t do some form of yoga, if it was appropriately modified.

Yoga as a form of exercise is a Western idea.  Its origins were more closely aligned with clarifying and balancing the mind.  Physical fitness was simply a cool side benefit.  We often confuse yoga in the West with asana (yoga postures), which is only one of many tools of yoga. Yoga encompasses that and so much more: meditation, pranayama, ritual, chant, right relationship, and so on.  So yes, anyone and everyone can benefit from doing yoga.

Even asana, which is the simplest of yoga’s tools, can be done by anyone if appropriately modified.  That’s what I love so much about Viniyoga, the style of yoga that Kate—the yoga teacher sleuth in my series—and I both teach.  The word viniyoga means “proper application and adaptation.”

In Viniyoga, we adapt poses to the individual. The goal is to work within a pain-free range of motion with the goal of increasing that pain-free range of motion over time. My most rewarding work as a teacher is helping students learn how to move in a pain-free way, both during practice and out in their daily lives.

Regardless of age, body type, injury, fitness level, or goals, yoga is a tool that that can help anyone.  If you try a class and it doesn’t work for your body, try another! There are dozens of yoga styles, each different from the rest. There are at least a gazillion yoga teachers.  I truly believe there is yoga for everyone.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Competition to Compassion

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Daniela Maurie. Daniela is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour teacher training, and a student in our current advanced training. Besides yoga & dance, she is an avid animal advocate who frequently does yoga practices with her constant canine companion, Chai. Daniela can be contacted at danielamaurie@gmail.com.

I came to Viniyoga from the professional, competitive dance world. My self-worth was entirely based on my ability to be the best – the fastest, the smoothest, the prettiest, the best body, the most precise, entertaining, flexible, expressive, artistic, etc., ad infinitum. There was no such thing as enough. I was always striving to be better, to improve something. Well, everything, actually. And while I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with striving for improvement, basing my value in the ability to achieve perfection was a fruitless, empty, and damaging trip to take.

Back and knee injuries ended my full-time dance career. I needed to find another profession that would keep me active and challenged, without breaking my body any further. That need was what brought me to yoga. I remember clearly my first night of Yoga Teacher Training. I was an insecure dancer who thought she had something to prove. I walked in to the program with many years of experience, but little understanding. I expected yoga to be another endeavor where being the best was what mattered. As I said, loads of experience, zero understanding.

Little by little, attending Yoga Teacher Training week after week, taking classes, and listening to my fellow yogis, I began to understand, yoga is not a competition, not even with myself. On any given day, I may or may not be able to maintain the form and balance required of warrior III. On any given day, I may or may not be able to complete a pranayama practice at my maximum breath threshold. On any given day, I may or may not have the focus to do a meditation. But on any given day, on every given day, I can accept wherever I am at, and whatever I am feeling. Through Viniyoga, I have learned compassion for myself, something I never knew as a dancer. I can now accept my imperfections, and not only accept them but celebrate them as part of this whole, wild, human experience. That hunger to be the best has been replaced with a deep and abiding desire to be authentic. That is the best I can be. Real.

I still dance, both socially and professionally. It is my oldest passion, one I am very grateful for, and doubtful will ever change. What has changed, though, is my ability to divorce my self-worth from my ability to perform, whether I am performing an Argentine tango or downward facing dog. There is no best in yoga, or life. There is only where I authentically am, right here, right now. And that is always perfect.

Daniela

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Time off, Blog Tours, and the Uniqueness of Viniyoga

As many of you know, I’m on a five-week-long sabbatical from teaching yoga.  This isn’t a vacation—it’s a chance to devote myself to my writing. You see, writing a book (or books!) is only the first step.  Right now I’m in different parts of the publishing process for three. I’m deeply immersed in a one–month blog tour for my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, working with my publicists to plan for the launch of my second, A Killer Retreat, and finishing up the second draft of my third book, tentatively titled Karma can be Killer.  Whew!

Part of the fun of this sometimes-overwhelming flurry of activity is getting the chance to share the principles of yoga with people who might otherwise never even consider it.  I have fans (those three words alone give me a thrill!) who have taken their first yoga class after reading my first book.  Others have recommitted to a yoga practice they dropped years ago.  Still others are asking me for coaching and yoga advice.

I’m having a great time.

This week’s blog article invites you to share in the fun.  Check out the article I wrote for The Top Shelf about Viniyoga in “Kate Davidson’s Guide to Yoga (with a little Murder on the Side).”  As an added bonus, you can enter to win a free Kindle!  Here’s a quote from the article to whet your appetite….

“The beauty of Viniyoga lies in its accessibility, which is part of what makes it so perfect for a mystery series. You don’t have to be ultra flexible or super fit to partake, just willing to be more mindful in everyday life. For those of you curious, the following four characteristics differentiate Viniyoga from other yoga styles….”

You’ll have to click on the link to the article to read the rest.  😉

Thanks all!  I’ll see you in September.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

My Journey to Wellness with Yoga and Ayurveda

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Heidi Mair. Heidi is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at heidi.mair@gmail.com.

Torrey Pines Namaste

For most of my life, I have been blessed with health and vitality. I enjoy gardening, cooking, eating healthy foods and an active lifestyle. I began practicing yoga in my teens and continued a regular practice throughout my twenties. In my early thirties, my husband and I bought a 100-year-old house. Much of my free time was spent on renovation projects, gardening, hiking and socializing. I no longer made time in my busy life to practice yoga.

I have had digestive issues including heartburn for as long as I can remember, but I considered it a minor irritation. After 13 years as a vegetarian I began eating meat again. I was busy at work and didn’t have the time to make balanced vegetarian meals. When I hit the big 5-0, the accumulation of a life well-lived began to take its toll. I became more sluggish with achy joints and experienced a bout of sciatica. My heartburn became more frequent and was accompanied by painful, abdominal bloating. I knew it was time to reassess my life and change some of my habits.

I began attending regular yoga classes and soon felt lighter, stronger and more flexible. Around the same time, I attended an Ayurveda workshop and was immediately enthralled by its holistic approach to wellness. Ayurveda is the science of life and is considered the sister science of yoga. Rather than treating symptoms, Ayurveda focuses on each person’s unique constitution (prakriti), nutrition and lifestyle. I researched and found Kerala Ayurveda Academy where I could be certified as a Wellness Counselor in 11 months. Although I was primarily on a path of self-healing, I was also intrigued by the possibility of counseling and teaching.

About 4 months into the program, I made several simple changes and my heartburn went away! I stopped drinking orange juice every morning, cut back on spicy foods and quit drinking wine. Ayurveda teaches us to live according to the seasons and emphasizes the six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. These concepts may sound challenging in our fast-paced and convenience-oriented world, but it can be as simple as waiting for ripe produce rather than eating out of season. And it increases your body awareness. Why didn’t I realize that my love of salsa was related to my heartburn? It is too easy to get out of touch with our own bodies!

Other changes I’ve made include a morning routine (dinacharya): scraping my tongue, using my neti pot, pranayama and yoga. I also discovered trifala, a digestive aid that has really worked for me. I have learned to cook some delicious and healthy meals using ayurvedic spices and nutritional principles. And I try to eat according to the seasons –  warming soups in late fall and winter, salads in the spring and early summer and cooling foods including  fresh apples in the late summer and early fall. These and other small changes have balanced my energy, reduced my stress and increased my sense of general well-being. I am not super-strict and still love my morning coffee. When I slip into old patterns, I am less judging and more self-aware.

Part of the Wellness Counselor program at Kerala included a regular yoga practice. One of my classmates is a Viniyoga teacher and therapist and she thought I’d enjoy Viniyoga.  Through her recommendation, I discovered Whole Life Yoga. After attending a few classes, I knew I had found my yoga home! I was certified at the 200-level in 2010 and have been teaching ever since. My classes are gentle and primarily geared to people over 50. I LOVE teaching and practicing yoga. Lilias Folan wrote a book entitled, Yoga Gets Better with Age and I believe that is true for me. I continue to deepen my practice of both Ayurveda and Viniyoga and look forward to the years ahead of me. There is always more to learn, no matter our stage of life!

Thanks to all of my teachers for helping me learn to age gracefully.

Heidi L. Mair

Some of my writings about Ayurveda and Yoga:

 http://floralinnae.blogspot.com/

 http://ayurvedaprograms.blogspot.com/2010/04/seven-sacred-plants-of-india.html

 http://www.ayurvedawama.com/91

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Do You Practice Hatha Yoga?

I recently sat next to a very kind gentleman on an airplane for a six-hour flight back to Seattle from Malice Domestic (a mystery fan convention.). I don’t think he knew I was a yoga teacher, especially since he spent a good thirty minutes educating me about the benefits of yoga. Of course, I agreed with him. Yoga is good stuff. He then said something that made me both externally smile and internally cringe, at least a little. He mentioned that he doesn’t like the more strenuous yoga forms of yoga, and that he only practices “Hatha” yoga.

I didn’t disagree with them. After all, he’s right, in a way. He does practice Hatha yoga. Almost all of us who practice yoga in America do. “Hatha” is an umbrella term that means the physical practice of yoga.  But referring to all yoga as simply “Hatha” is a little misleading. Although there are definite similarities between yoga styles, there are even more differences.

One Hatha yoga class may be practiced at a hundred and five degrees. Another may focus on “proper” alignment. Yet another, on connecting movement and breath. Some Hatha practices flow from pose to pose, while others stay in each posture for a minute or more before moving on to the next. Teachers of some styles teach the exact same sequence of poses each time. Some classes, like most Viniyoga classes, are designed in the moment based on what the practitioners need that day.

When you sign up for your first yoga class—or next, for that matter—ask the instructor what style they teach and explore with them whether that style will fit your goals. If the teacher says they teach “Hatha,” dig deeper. What lineages has she been influenced by? Who did she train with? Does she believe form follows function or the reverse? Her answers will help you find the right practice for you.

Most importantly, if you don’t like the first yoga class you try, take another. There’s a yoga style, teacher, and philosophy that fits everyone.

This article from Yoga Journal is a great starting place to explore the options available.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Breathe Before You Act

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Rene De los Santos. Rene is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program, a student in our advanced training, and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. He can be contacted at theyogirene@yahoo.com.

You may be familiar with the phrase “think before you act” or the ever popular “what were you thinking?” I heard the latter quite often during my adolescent years, although I very seldom had a chance to respond while adults conversed loudly around me.

We all know that our actions are conceived in thought, but luckily (or should I say thoughtfully) we don’t do everything we think because we (usually) think before we act.

Here’s a proposition for you and one I have set for myself; breathe before you act.

Working on pranayama assignments in the yoga teacher training over the last few weeks has made me think a lot about the breath and lengthening the breath; conscious breathing.  A question that came up for me was “What is the point?”  This question continued to plague me until it occurred to me that I was practicing without intention. I must confess now that this revelation did not drop on my head from heaven; it was a part of a discussion we had in the teacher training–my big AH HA moment of the evening. That’s what’s missing: intention!

Because we have been discussing obstacles over the past few weeks, I decided to set my intention on seeing things more clearly so that obstacles could be recognized as they appeared. The breath work and meditating on Yoga Sutras 2.10 & 2.11 helped me set my intention and enhance my experience (not every pranayama practice should suck, right?)

In his book Reflections on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, TKV Desikachar comments on Sutra 2.11 “Any means that will help us free ourselves from the consequences of these obstacles is acceptable.”

Here’s a thought: if we think before we act (theoretically changing the outcome) what will change if we take some time to breathe before we act? Not a long pranayama practice; just take a minute or two to notice your breath, notice the pauses and quality.

Of course, a successful practice takes more than a couple of minutes, but what if we just noticed the breath throughout the day…and what would happen if we took a minute or two to just breathe before we acted?  I remember being in a Q&A session with Desikachar several years ago and noted how he always takes a couple of deep breaths before answering a question. He was breathing before acting whereas I tend to say the first thing that pops into my head.

How different would our day be if we could step outside every now and then, take a few deep breaths and let the sun shine on us for a minute or two?

Breathe.

Rene De los Santos

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

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.

A few weeks 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 and more flexible.

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 the past fourteen 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 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s 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 we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy

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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and bookstores everywhere!

Research Proves It! Yoga Helps Lower Fatigue and Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors

I doubt many of you know this, but before I opened Whole Life Yoga, I taught yoga classes to women in all stages of cancer recovery through Team Survivor Northwest.  Some of my classes were taught in English; others through a Spanish language interpreter.  Some of my students were currently undergoing treatment; others had been cancer-free for years. But in all cases I was impressed by the resiliency, joy, and courage I saw in my students.

I knew, deep down inside, that yoga helped my students. Now I have research to back me up. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser—professer of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University—followed two hundred breast cancer survivors. Some of the women participated in ninety-minute Hatha yoga classes two times a week for twelve weeks.  The rest (the control group) were wait-listed for the same class.  All participants were new to yoga, and students were encouraged to practice with DVDs at home.

The practitioners were diverse. Participants ranged in age from twenty-seven to seventy-six, were diagnosed with breast cancer staged 0 – 3A, and were two months to three years past their latest treatment.  The results were impressive:

  • Yoga practitioners had fifty-seven percent less fatigue than the non-yoga group.
  • Inflammation-related blood proteins were twenty percent lower in the yoga group than the non-yoga group.

The researchers were surprised, because similar results have not been seen with studies of other types of exercise.  They now believe that the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga are especially impactful, which is great news for Viniyoga practitioners.  Viniyoga focuses on the connection of body, breath and mind, making it especially breath and meditation-focused. 

The researchers believe that yoga might have similar benefits with other groups of people who suffer from fatigue and inflammation, including patients suffering from coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

All of this just goes to show what I’ve known all along. Yoga works!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

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