Category Archives: Yoga Books

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!

A Yoga Teacher by Any Other Name….

Long before the first book in my Downward Dog Mystery series arrived at your local bookstore, my mother received a personal laser-printed copy of Murder Strikes a Pose. Of course she told me she liked it.  What self-respecting mother wouldn’t? One of her comments caught me off guard, however.

“I’m not very far into the book yet. I just reached the part where you found the body.”

“Mom,” I replied, a little concerned about her sudden decline in mental health. “You do know this is fiction, right?”

Let me assure you, I have never found a body near Whole Life Yoga—or anywhere else for that matter. And although a part of me exists in every character, my books aren’t autobiographical. Still, people often tell me that they see me in my yoga teacher sleuth, Kate Davidson. So, for the record, here are some ways Kate and I are similar—and different.

Similarities

1.      We both own yoga studios in Seattle.

Kate and I both teach yoga in the Viniyoga tradition, and we both prefer it to other, more strenuous, types of yoga. Although we both own small neighborhood yoga studios, mine (Whole Life Yoga) is dedicated to the Viniyoga lineage. Kate’s (Serenity Yoga) offers a mixture of yoga classes and styles.

2.      Kate and I both have body image issues.

Kate and I are both short, and we both have “normal” body types (whatever that means). But when we look in the mirror, we see the “before” image in a Jenny Craig commercial. We’re working on that.

3.      Kate and I both live with a horse-sized German shepherd.

Kate fosters Bella, the German shepherd in the series; I am owned by a German shepherd named Tasha. Both of our dogs have Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, will weigh over 100 pounds when full grown, and have, shall we say, “quirky” personalities. But in spite of their issues, Kate and I would be lost without them.

4.      Neither Kate nor I are perfect yogis, but we keep trying.

Occasionally a reader tells me that Kate isn’t believable as a yoga teacher. She’s not thin enough, emotionally well-balanced enough, or flexible enough. I’m not a typical yoga teacher, either. Kate can’t do advanced yoga poses; neither can I. Kate wants to live according to yoga philosophy but often fails. So do I. If Kate’s not a realistic yoga teacher, then I’m not either. Hopefully my yoga students won’t figure that out any time soon.

Here’s Where We’re Different:

1.      I’m not afraid of commitment.

Kate has what she terms “relationship ADD,” meaning she can’t stick with a relationship for more than a date or two.  I, on the other hand, seek commitment. Just ask my husband. I pestered and goaded and hounded him for three years before he finally gave in and asked me to marry him. (Frankly, I think he proposed just so I’d shut up about it.)

2.      Kate and I had different childhoods.

Kate was raised as the only child of a single-parent Seattle cop. I grew up with both of my parents on a dairy farm in Billings, Montana. Kate’s a city girl through and through. I’m a farm girl who has taken root in the city.

3.      My neuroses are different than Kate’s.

I’m as neurotic is the next yoga teacher, but I’m neutral to facial hair. Kate has a very real phobia called pogonophobia. Being near a man with a beard makes her feel anxious, itchy, and subtly nauseated, which really sucks for her since she has a crush on Michael, the bearded owner of Pete’s Pets, the pet store near her studio.

4.      I adore dogs to a fault.

Kate likes animals, but she never wanted one of her own. I, on the other hand, yearned and planned and plotted for over ten years before my husband gave in and agreed to adopt our German shepherd. And unlike Kate, I knew that cute little fur ball would be the love of my life the moment I laid eyes on her.

To be honest, personality-wise, I’m think I’m closer to Rene, Kate’s best friend: a plotter, a jokester, a prankster, a conniver. Unlike Kate, I don’t throw coffee mugs at the heads of little old ladies, and it’s pretty rare for me to yell at anyone.

I’m too busy plotting murder.

Tracy Weber

A Killer RetreatCome 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!

Announcing A KILLER RETREAT!

Hi all!  I’m absolutely delighted  to announce the cover and publication date of my second Downward Dog Mystery, A KILLER RETREAT.  The book is in the final stages of editing now, and my publisher has finalized the cover.

What do you think? 

Available January 8, 2015 from Midnight Ink!

Available January 8, 2015 from Midnight Ink!

Leave a comment about the cover in the next week for a chance to win a Downward Dog Mysteries coffee mug!

The book will be out January 8, 2015, but I’ll likely have copies again in late December.  Why wait?  Pre-order your personalized, autographed copy from Whole Life Yoga now, and I’ll mail you a signed bookmark as soon as they are available!

ABOUT A KILLER RETREAT

Six months after solving her friend’s murder, commitment-challenged Kate Davidson has recovered from her injuries and settled into a relatively calm life with rambunctious German shepherd Bella. Now, if only her relationship with boyfriend, Michael, would slow down to match her laid-back yogic lifestyle…

When Kate gets an offer to trade teaching yoga for a weeklong stay at a newly reopened vegan retreat center, she jumps at the opportunity, even though it means being forced to endure the wedding ceremony of the center’s two caretakers. Avoiding the M-word turns out to be the least of Kate’s problems when a wedding guest is found floating face-down in the resort’s hot tub, shortly after a loud, public (and somewhat embarrassing) fight with Kate.

The police pick Kate as their number-one suspect, so she’s forced to join forces with Michael, best friend Rene, and sidekick Bella to find the real killer. But they’ll have to solve the murder before the police arrest Kate, or her next gig may last a lifetime—behind bars.

REVIEWS

“An engaging mystery full of fun and fascinating characters and unexpected twists.  An intriguing read that includes yoga lessons and feisty dogs.”

Linda O. Johnston Author of the Pet Rescue Mysteries

“Fans   of Tracy Weber’s charming Murder Strikes a Pose have eagerly awaited   the return of yoga instructor Kate Davidson and her challenging yet   lovable German shepherd, Bella.  Happily, Weber’s second yoga mystery, A Killer Retreat, is as delightful as her first. Readers will love the   setting, the complex mystery, and the romance of Kate’s second   adventure. Especially noteworthy in this popular series is the appealing   combination of strength and vulnerability that Kate and Bella share.   Enjoy!”

Susan Conant     Author of the Dog Lover’s Mysteries

“Whether yoga instructor, Kate Davidson, is wrestling her hundred-pound dog, her new love life or trying to solve a murder, A Killer Retreat is simply a killer read! Witty, fun and unpredictable, this is one cozy mystery worth barking about!”

Shannon Esposito   Author of the Pet Psychic Mysteries

Thanks!

Tracy

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!

Simple, Sweet and Profound: A Beautiful Little Book on Meditation

As a yoga studio owner, I often receive unsolicited promotional material in the mail.  Everything from food samples, to articles of clothing, to CDs, to yoga props. Most of it I promptly give away.  Every now and then a publisher sends me a book for review.

Unfortunately, the books I receive don’t usually align with the Viniyoga methodology or the yoga teachings I’ve been given. Sometimes they’re yoga related, but I’m just plain not interested in their premise.  So normally I take a quick look at them, then give them to someone else or quickly file them in our lending library, hoping one of my students will appreciate them.

A pretty, tiny book arrived not long ago.  I was in a hurry, so I almost didn’t even look at it. I’m still not sure why I did.  But as I was about to walk it to the community bookshelf, I opened it. I’m glad I did.

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Simple Meditation: A Quick and Easy Guide for Learning to Meditate is a sweet little book, only fifty-eight pages long.  The left side of each is a gorgeous full-color photograph.  On the right, A few words, no more than a hundred or so per page, formatted in a way that reminds me of poetry. The book’s presentation is beautiful, although some of the printing on my copy is blurred, and at times the center-justified formatting bothers me.

What really sold me on this book was how aligned it is with my own ideas about meditation.  It was almost like I wrote it myself.

The first thirty-five pages outline general principles on the hows, whats, and wheres of meditation.  The last twenty outline ten simple meditations any beginner can try.  The techniques cover the spectrum of senses: sound, sight, sensation—smell and taste would be nice additions, but that’s a small quibble—and seven of the ten techniques are ones I’ve taught in my own meditation classes.  My new personal favorite is a sweet little meditation on joyfulness. I just might have to steal for my next New Year’s Day yoga class.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon.com.  I’d say look for it on the studio’s bookshelf, but this one is coming home with me.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Blog Tour Report: Final Week and a Great Big Thank You

blogTourWeek3Today marks the final stop on the Murder Strikes a Pose book launch blog tour, and the last three stops were special.  Check them out, and please visit and support the people who have supported me!

Saturday, January 11: Rantin’ Ravin’ and Reading

This blog article answers the question many of you have been thinking: What kind of demented yoga teacher writes about murder?  Learn the main reasons I write the series and what I hope to accomplish through its pages.  Besides having fun, of course!

Wednesday, January 15: Killer Characters

Michael—the love interest in Murder Strikes a Pose—finally gets to tell his side of the story! Visit with Michael and learn why he thinks his new girlfriend might be crazy.

Monday, January 20: Inkspot

Inkspot is the blog created by the writers under my publisher, Midnight Ink.  Although Inkspot wasn’t an “official” stop on my tour, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge eleven of the many mystery writers that have supported me on this journey.  Take a look, check out their work, and support them by buying their books.

That’s it for this week.  Next week I’ll be back to blogging about yoga with a book stop every month or so.  Coming up in the next three months are articles on Jungle Red Writers, Coffee with a Canine, The Page 69 Test, Dog Reads and Kings River Life Magazine.

And you’ll find me every Monday here at the Whole Life Yoga Blog.  Thursdays, I blog at Killer Hobbies.

Guess I’d better get typing!

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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and wherever books are sold.

Blog Tour Report: Week 2!

Hi all!  Today is week two of what feels like my whirlwind blog tour.  Please check out the reviews, articles, and deep dark secrets of yours truly!  I promise you’ll learn things about me that my husband doesn’t even know!

Tuesday, January 7:  Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries, and Meows

This blog stop was a biggie in so many ways.  An awesome review, lots of great comments, and the chance to share information that I haven’t blogged about anywhere else.  Three teasers:

  • First, a line from her review: “You know a book is fantastic when it’s your first read of the new year and you immediately know it’s going to be on your ‘Best Books of the Year’ list.”
  • Second, learn about my cranky cat Maggie (yes, I have a cat, too!) and a specific cat treat that will guarantee you win your cat’s love and affection forever.
  • Finally, learn about the human who inspired the plot of MURDER STRIKES A POSE. This one will surprise you!

Wednesday, January 8:  Beth Groundwater  and Dru’s Book Musing

On book launch day I visited two blogs.  The first, Beth Groundwater, hosted an interview with me.  My favorite question was about how I get to know my characters.  Check it out and you, too, can realize how truly schizophrenic I am.  (Hmm…maybe I shouldn’t advertise that…)

The second stop wasn’t really by me—it was by yoga sleuth Kate.  Dru asked her to pop by her blog and talk about a typical day.  Problem is, none of Kate’s days have been typical lately.  Will she relive the embarrassing Santa incident? Will she solve George’s murder? And even more importantly, what in the world is she going to do with crazy-dog Bella? Stop by and help her figure it out!

Thursday, January 9:  Chloe Gets a Clue

Chloe hosted me for author interview.  My favorite question in this interview was “What’s your writing superpower?”  That’s me, all right.  Super Tracy!  I also share the best yoga practices for writers and amateur sleuths.

Friday, January 10: Read Your Writes Reviews

I absolutely LOVED visiting with this reviewer.  She owns a rescue dog so she really “gets” Kate’s relationship with Bella.  Here’s a quote: “Without any question, I’m a dog lover.  I will admit that towards the end of the book I actually cried.  I mean SERIOUSLY, who in the world cries reading a cozy mystery?”  She did clarify later that she cried tears of happiness.  😉

That’s all for this week.  Two more official stops on this tour, then I’ll wrap it up and go back to yoga tips, articles, and techniques.  But please do stop by these blogs and support all of the bloggers who have supported me!

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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and wherever books are sold.

Blog Tour Report Week 1!

Available Now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Booksellers Everywhere!

 Hi all!  I’m deeply immersed in my first ever blog tour for MURDER STRIKES A POSE.  Check out the progress so far, and please visit the blogs to support the people who are supporting me!

Thursday, January 2:  Thoughts in Progress

It was AWESOME to have the first stop on my first blog tour ever be such a kind and supportive one.  In my first stop, Thoughts in Progress wrote a review of Murder Strikes a Pose.    Here’s a snippet to get you interested, but please check out the full review at the website.

MURDER STRIKES A POSE is an intriguing debut for a fascinating new series that will delight mystery readers. Combining calming techniques, dog-related frolics, mystery and laughs; Weber has crafted a story that is hard to put down.”

Friday, January 3:  Books-N-Kisses

My second stop was at this wonderful blog that highlights books in the mystery, romance, and sci-fi genres.  I wrote a guest article about my book cover and “that pose on the cover.”  Check it out and learn how to Down Dog it the Murder Strikes a Pose way!

Friday, January 3:  Shelley’s Bookcase

This isn’t an official stop on my book tour, but I’m so delighted with the review that I wanted to share it anyway.  Shelley Giusti, a fellow Sister’s in Crime member, reviewed Murder Strikes a Pose.  Here’s a teaser of what she had to say.  Please check out the full review at her website.

“Tracy Weber has a number one hit on her hands with her First in a New Series book! Her characters are strong and you will love them from the start. And Bella, the German shepherd will win your heart.”

Saturday, January 4: Readalot

The final stop this week was at Readalot, which hosted both a review of Murder Strikes a Pose and a giveaway.  There’s still time to enter the giveaway for a free autographed copy!  Here’s a teaser, but please stop by the blog to check out the full review

“Murder Strikes a Pose is entertaining. I laughed, I even shed a tear. Thought of doing yoga for a sec or two.”

I may not have completely won over a new yogi, but at least I got her to consider it!  😉

Sunday, January 5: AuntieEmWrites

I wrote a guest article for this spot, telling the story of how I first became a writer.  Here’s a teaser: it involves my favorite animal, a brutal workout, and a writer named Susan Conant.  I also reveal my husband’s favorite nickname for me—and no, it’s not sweetie-pie. Check it out and leave a comment in the next week. You may win an autographed copy of the book!

That’s all for this week, but lots more fun to come. See you next week as the virtual travel continues…

And, for those of you interested, here’s a little more about the book.  I hope you read and love it!

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Praise:

“Weber’s debut, which launches the Downward Dog series, should appeal to anyone who likes canines, yoga, and a determined sleuth. … Cozy fans will eagerly await the next installment.”–Publisher’s Weekly

“The delightful start of a promising new series. I couldn’t put it down!”—Waverly Fitzgerald, author of Dial C for Chihuahua

“Murder Strikes a Pose is a delightful debut novel . . . Namaste to Weber and her fresh, new heroine!”—Penny Warner, author of How to Dine on Killer Wine

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 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and wherever books are sold!

 

And so it begins!

box of books

After what feels like an eternity, I now have copies of Murder Strikes a Pose!  I have to say, I am thrilled.  To launch the series’ beginning, I’d like to share the book’s beginning with all of you.  Take a look at Chapter 1 and let me know what you think!

Murder Strikes a Pose is available now at Whole Life Yoga and will be available at bookstores everywhere in January! Books make great Christmas gifts!  😉

CHAPTER 1

I laid my body on the cool wood floor, covered up with a blanket, and prepared to die.

Metaphorically, that is.

Corpse Pose’s ten-minute rest always soothed my stressed-out nerves, and for once I didn’t feel guilty about the indulgence. My to-do list was blank, Serenity Yoga’s phone was silent, and I had a whole blissful hour between clients to do my favorite activity: practice yoga.

Even my eclectic Greenwood neighborhood seemed uncharacteristically quiet, lulled by Seattle’s rare afternoon sun. The residents of the apartments above the yoga studio were off at their day jobs; the alcohol-addicted patrons of the block’s two dive bars slept off their Jim Beam breakfasts; the soccer moms shopping at next door’s upscale PhinneyWood Market purchased the day’s supplies in unusual silence.

I wiggled my toes under a Mexican blanket, covered my eyes with a blue satin eye pillow, and inhaled deeply. The ooey-gooey smell of Mocha Mia’s chocolate caramel cake wafted from across the street and filled my nostrils with sweet toffee-scented bliss—my all-time favorite aromatherapy.

Paradise. Simply paradise.

I released my weight into the earth and silently coached myself, exactly as I would one of my students. OK, Kate. Feel your body relax. Notice the random fluctuations of your mind and—

A vicious snarl ripped through the silence, startling me out of my catnap. I sat straight up, eye pillow falling to the floor with an undignified thump.

What the heck?

When had a dog fighting ring moved into the neighborhood?

A dog fight was the only plausible explanation for the commotion outside. Bursts of deep, frantic barking were followed by high-pitched yelping, all punctuated by the peace-shattering sounds of angry yelling. The phrases I could make out confirmed my suspicions. This had to be a dog fight, albeit one-sided.

“Control your dog!”

“Get that vicious beast out of here!”

And even a simple, “What the hell?”

I closed the door between the yoga room and the studio’s lobby, hoping to block out the intrusive sounds. Snarls, shouts, and an occasional ear-piercing shriek continued to reverberate right through the wall.

Undaunted, I imagined that the sounds were merely clouds floating across my mental horizon. Most of those clouds were dark and ominous, like the deep thunderclouds preceding a hailstorm. But every so often I heard a soft voice, more like the fluffy clouds of childhood summers. I couldn’t quite make out his words, but I could tell that the speaker was a man. From his tone, I assumed he was trying to calm beasts both human and animal.

It wasn’t working.

Neither, for that matter, was my attempted meditation.

I’d obviously have to shift tactics.

I tried drowning out the clamor with low, soft chanting. Then I increased the volume. But even as I belted out Om Santi, my favorite mantra for peace, I felt my jaw start to tighten. My fingernails bit deeply into my palms. My shoulders crept up to my ears.

An entirely different mantra began pounding through my head: Don’t get me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

A series of yelps and the words “I’m calling the cops!” zapped me like a cattle prod. I leapt from my mat and stormed across the floor, determined to put a stop to that infernal racket. I hurled open the door and came face-to-face, or rather face-to-snout, with the source of the commotion. Not more than five feet away from the studio’s entrance stood a paunchy, dark-haired man and the biggest, skinniest, meanest-looking German shepherd I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I love them, in fact. It’s their human counterparts I could sometimes do without. But this frothing breast was no Rin Tin Tin. A long line of drool oozed from its mouth. Its sharp white teeth glinted in the sunlight, and its black wiry topcoat still stood on end from the prior scuffle. The dog was obviously rabid.

I didn’t recognize the man standing next to the frightening creature, but I did recognize his activity. He worked as a vendor for Dollars for Change, a well-regarded local newspaper that published articles about homelessness and poverty while employing those same homeless individuals as salespeople. Ordinarily I would have welcomed one of their vendors outside my business. If nothing else, supporting the paper demonstrated yoga’s principles of kindness and compassion.

But this was not an ordinary circumstance. I absolutely could not allow that disgusting dog to raise a ruckus outside my studio. The prenatal class would have a fit. Suffice it to say that pregnancy hormones didn’t always leave expecting moms in the best of moods. My moms-to-be liked their yoga practice. They needed their yoga practice. And they needed to be serene while doing it. If a noisy dog fight disturbed their peaceful experience, I’d be the one getting barked at.

Thinking less than yogic thoughts, I marched up to the pair, determined to put a stop to the chaos.

“What in the world’s going on out here?”

The human half of the dastardly duo held a leash in one hand, newspapers in the other. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry about all the noise. I’m George, and this here’s Bella. What’s your name?”

“Kate Davidson, but—”

“Well, nice to meet you, Kate. I’d shake your hand, but mine are full, so Bella will have to do it instead.”

The vicious beast walked up and calmly sniffed my hand. I prayed she wasn’t about to ingest my fingers.

“Bella, say hello!”

Upon hearing her owner’s command, the giant hairy monster-dog immediately went into a perfect sit and sweetly offered me her paw. Maybe she wasn’t rabid after all. Just huge and ill-mannered.

“Don’t mind Bella,” he continued. “She’s very friendly to people. She just doesn’t like other dogs much. She’d be fine if people kept their unruly mutts to themselves, but they think if their rude dog wants to play, Bella has to as well.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t understand some people!”

I tried to interrupt, to tell him that his dog was the problem, but he didn’t give me the chance.

“Bella and I are new to this neighborhood, and we’re supposed to sell papers near the market. I tried setting up by the north entrance, but there’s a pet store at that end. Pete’s Pets, I think it’s called? The owner was a nice enough guy and all, but selling there was a disaster with all those dogs going in and out. Bella wasn’t happy at all.” He shrugged. “So I guess we’re going to have to hang out here instead.”

I bit the inside of my lip and considered my options. Up close, George wasn’t exactly the paragon of health I wanted standing outside my business. His friendly smile exposed yellowed teeth in need of significant dental care, and if the sharp, ammonia-like smell was any indication, neither he nor Bella had taken a bath in quite some time. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I could smell whiskey on his breath, and I suspected this most recent drink hadn’t been his first of the day. It would also likely be far from his last. I only knew one thing for certain: if George didn’t frighten my students away, his loud, intimidating, fur-covered companion would.

I needed them to leave, but honestly, I didn’t want to say it out loud. After all, I taught yoga for a living. People expected me to be calm and collected at all times. I wasn’t allowed to be mean, or even irritated, for that matter. I hesitated as I tried to come up with the perfect words to make him want to move, if not out of the neighborhood, then at least across the street.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), one of my favorite students picked that very moment to walk up with her five-month-old Lab pup, Coalie. “Hey, Kate!” she said. “I hoped I’d run into you! Do you still have space in your Core Strength class tonight?”

Coalie was as rude and friendly as Labs everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. She ran up to Bella, wiggling her entire body with glee, and covered Bella’s muzzle in sloppy wet puppy kisses.

Bella wasted no time. Faster than a 747 and stronger than a freight train, Bella pinned Coalie to the ground between her front legs, snarling and air-snapping on either side of Coalie’s neck. I heard the sound of canine teeth chomping together and imagined soft puppy bones shattering between them.

My student screamed. Coalie yelped. George grabbed Bella’s collar while I reached in between razor-sharp teeth to pull Coalie from the jaws of death. The three of us wrestled the two dogs apart, but not before my student almost died of heart failure.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Keep that vicious monster away from my baby!”

George quickly apologized, but said, “No damage done. Bella was just teaching that pup some manners.” He pointed at Coalie. “See, it’s all good!”

Coalie, oblivious with joy, seemed unscathed and ready to dive in again. Tail wagging and butt wiggling, she pulled with all her might, trying desperately to get back to Bella.

Bella had other plans. She sat next to George, glaring directly at that pup with a patented Clint Eastwood stare. Go ahead, she seemed to say. Make my day. My soon-to-be-former student ran off as quickly as her legs would move, dragging the still-happy puppy behind her.

“See you in class tonight!” I yelled to her rapidly retreating back. I doubted I’d be seeing her any time soon.

Yoga reputation be damned. I had to get rid of this guy.

I put my hands on my hips and stood nice and tall, taking full advantage of my five-foot-three-inch frame. “Look. I can’t let you stay here with the dog. She’s obviously frightening people. You have to leave.” I paused a moment for emphasis, then added, “Now.”

George stood a little taller, too. “Look yourself, lady. The last time I checked, I’m standing on city property. I have every right to be here. You don’t own this sidewalk, and you can’t stop me from making a living on it.” He glared at me, sharp eyes unblinking. “We Dollars for Change vendors are licensed, and no matter how much you don’t like us, the city says we can be here.”

“There’s no ‘us’ I don’t like,” I replied, frustrated. “It’s your dog. And you may have every right to be here, but the dog is another story. What do you think Animal Control will do if I report a vicious dog attacking people outside my store?”

George stepped back, pulling Bella closer. Seattle had the toughest dangerous dog laws in the nation. We both knew what would happen if I made that call. “You wouldn’t do that!” he said. “Bella’s never hurt anyone.”

I planted my feet stubbornly. “Try me.”

George gave me a wounded look and gathered his papers, shoulders slumped in depressed resignation. “OK, we’ll go. But I thought you yoga people were supposed to be kind.” He shuffled away, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. Bella followed close by his side.

“Crap,” I muttered, watching their slow departure. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.”

He was right. Like all good yoga teachers, I had extensively studied yoga philosophy and tried to live by it. The teachings were clear: A yogi should respond to suffering with active compassion. And George was clearly suffering, whether he realized that fact or not.

Threatening to call the cops on George’s dog may have been active, but it wasn’t all that compassionate, to him or to Bella. I felt like a cad. My solution probably wasn’t what the teachings had in mind, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

“Hang on there a minute!” I yelled as I ran to catch up with him. Out of breath, I said, “You’re right. I overreacted, and I’m sorry. How many papers do you have left to sell today?”

George stopped walking. When he turned to look back at me, his eyes sparkled with an unexpected hint of wry humor. “About thirty.”

The calculations weren’t difficult. I wasn’t completely broke—yet—but thirty dollars wasn’t a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, my Monday evening classes were popular, and I had to get this guy away from the front door. Mentally crossing my fingers that the toilet wouldn’t break again, I said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I hurried back to the studio and grabbed thirty dollars from the cash box.

“If I buy all of your papers, will you be done for the day?”

“Yes ma’am, and that would be very kind of you.” He gave me a broad, yellow-toothed smile. “Bella and I appreciate it very much.”

He took the money, left the papers, and wandered off, whistling. Bella happily trotted behind him.

“Well, that wasn’t so difficult,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I should follow the teachings more often!” I went back inside and finished my considerably shortened practice. I chose to ignore the quiet voice in my head telling me I’d just made a huge mistake.

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!

The Meditation Myth

Today’s blog article was written by  guest author Ashley Josephine Herzberger and was inspired by her new book The Unconventional Beginner’s Guide to Yoga, an e-book introduction to yoga practice for those who are wary of stepping on the mat. Ashley also guides an online community for busy women looking to relax, release stress, stretch and connect at http://ashleyjosephine.com.

Ashley Josephine HerzbergerThese days, the benefits of meditation grace the pages of scientific news journals, national newspapers, thoroughly researched magazine articles and entire books. Meditation is indeed becoming mainstream as more and more doctors start to prescribe the practice as a remedy for anxiety and its host of symptoms. But with the mainstream, comes the propagation of a myth that meditation must be done the  “right” way for it to be as effective as the medical journals say it can be.

The Downfall of Meditation

As any curious yoga student, I had been hearing enough about meditation to believe that I could benefit from its wide array of soothing solutions. A few years back, I decided I should probably start a meditation practice. I didn’t know much about it, but the several silent moments I’d spend in yoga classes every day quieting the mind seemed to me as good an introduction as any.

The hardest part was finding the time to do it. Once I decided I would spend 10 minutes before bed every night quietly contemplating nothing, I was ready to start practicing.

Except I kept looking at the timer, convinced that I had forgotten to set it or that it had somehow malfunctioned and I’d actually been sitting for hours instead of minutes. I couldn’t slow down my mind and my thoughts wouldn’t disappear, no matter how much I willed them to go away.

And then there were some nights I was just so tired…so my meditation practice fell by the wayside.

A month or so later, I’d try again, but the same things kept happening. I got frustrated and decided meditation wasn’t working.

Then I met a teacher. He gave me a personalized meditation practice but that still wasn’t enough.

What I came to learn through personal experience and through teaching beginning students is that meditation can be a formal practice but it doesn’t have to be.

The myth of meditation is that it must be done a certain way. The name confers a practice, when in fact we engage in contemplation every single day in our own unique way.

How To Find Your Own Meditation Practice

To find your own meditation practice, you need not look for special teachers or particular practices.

To start building your own meditation practice, look around in your life and see what it is you already do to reflect. Consider the following activities and ask yourself if you can perform these with more intention, awareness and focus.

  • Praying
  • Writing in a journal
  • Drinking coffee or tea
  • Preparing meals
  • Taking a walk
  • Working out
  • Going to yoga class
  • Listening to music
  • Gardening
  • Reading a book
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Working on a project you love
  • Playing with your kids

Notice how the activity changes and how you feel when bringing more focus to it. Notice the relaxation qualities and the struggles to maintain focus.

Let go of the need to practice something formal all the time. Be compassionate with yourself if you skip a sitting session for whatever reason.

Now that you know meditation isn’t so scary, formal and pretentious after all, email this post to a friend or two who has complained they don’t have time to start something new.

Ashley

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join Tracy Weber’s author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available early 2014 from Midnight Ink!