Category Archives: Yoga Philosophy

Say Nothing

The yoga teachings on communication are simple but clear:

Say less.
Say only the truth.
When the truth will cause harm, say nothing.

I was reminded of that on my walk with Ana Pup last Tuesday.

I wasn’t on Facebook when my German Shepherd Tasha was young. I didn’t have a blog or a mystery series at that time, either. So very few people, other than my yoga teacher training students, know about her first years. When Tasha turned a little over a year, she started losing weight. I took her to multiple vets, none of whom could find figure out why she was ill, much less how to help her. Experimental surgeries were recommended. I stayed awake nights worrying about her. I prayed that if she were suffering, God would take her from me. I didn’t want to send her to her next life too soon, but I didn’t want to allow her to suffer in this one, either.

In spite of the weight loss, Tasha loved our daily walks, and I couldn’t take them away from her. I walked her around our neighborhood sometimes, but mostly she and I strolled around Green Lake. In those final few weeks before diagnosis, Tasha’s ribs started showing, and she needed to rest frequently. She’d lost twenty-five pounds, and she looked it.

People stared at Tasha and made assumptions about me, none of them good. I never understood why people believed a woman who was purposefully starving her dog would walk her around Green Lake, but think that, they did. People stopped me multiple times each walk. Some firmly told me that my dog was too skinny, as if I’d been too oblivious to notice. Others asserted that I obviously wasn’t feeding her or that I was feeding her garbage. Still others angrily threatened to call the Humane Society. I explained over and over and over again that I wasn’t abusing my dog, but many of them never believed me. Still, the walks were important to Tasha, so we kept walking.

Finally one day, a kind man stopped to tell me that my dog was gorgeous. While we were talking he jokingly asked, “Is she working on being a supermodel?” I knew he was hinting at her weight, but the way that he said it was so much kinder than anyone else. So I told him that she was sick, that we hadn’t found a diagnosis yet, and that I was afraid I would lose her.

He replied with a single sentence. “I was afraid of that.”

He then told me that his dog, the gorgeous husky that was walking next to him, had almost starved to death too, and that he had worked with a wonderful vet who had diagnosed his dog’s issue when no other vet could. He gave me her name, and I called her the instant I got home. That’s how I met the wonderful doctors Marta Norbrega and Jackie Sehn at Mercy Vet. I will always be grateful to this man, though I never saw him again. He and the vets at Mercy Vet saved Tasha’s life.

Once we got a diagnosis, (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) we immediately started treatment, but the path to weight gain for Tasha was slow. The comments about how I was obviously abusing her continued. My vet even offered to write a letter that I could show to the strangers who accosted me.

My experience wasn’t unique. Other owners of dogs with EPI face similar challenges. I know some who don’t walk their dogs in public at all anymore. Some dress them in T-shirts. Some do what Jackie recommended and carry signed notes from their veterinarians. All because people are so ready to make assumptions. Our society has become mean. We don’t ask questions, we make judgments. I find that tragic.

Over twelve years later, I was reminded of my experience when I spoke with a man walking a tiny poodle mix wearing bright yellow dog boots. He volunteered to me that his dog has severe allergies to grass, and without the boots she becomes lame. I congratulated him on how well he had trained her, and he told me that she was his medic alert dog. I don’t know everything the dog does for him, but one of her jobs is to wake him up at night when he stops breathing. This dog keeps him alive. To say that he loves her and takes excellent care of her would be an understatement.

At the end of our conversation, he sighed and said that on his way home, he would have to talk to the “Phinney People.” I didn’t know what he was referring to at first, but he explained that he meant people on Phinney Avenue North, a busy thoroughfare a block away from where we were speaking.

He then added, “People always accuse me of abusing my dog because she wears dog boots. I used to stop and explain to them why she needed them, but now I just keep walking. I tell myself that it’s great to live in a place where everyone cares for all living things, but…”

My heart broke for this man. He’s doing the best that he can, with love, with the resources available to him. And yet rather than ask questions, people choose to judge him.

Which brings me back to the yoga teachings.

We see the world through filters, which are often darker than reality. We make attributions about others’ motivations. We judge people, often harshly. Yoga is about clarifying our filters. Yoga is about learning to be kinder. Yoga teaches us that the only people we’re meant to change are ourselves.

When it comes to communications, I think these teachings have great applicability to our society today. As the teachings assert, sometimes the most important thing we can say is nothing.

Thanks for listening.

Tracy Weber

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


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

Change, Challenges and Uncertainty

Welcome Radhika Vachani to the Whole Life Yoga blog today. Those of you who’ve taken yoga teacher training with me know how powerful The Yoga Sutras are. They help you find stability in an inherently unstable world. Radhika shares how in an excerpt from her new book below!

By Radhika Vachani

Excerpt from Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness

How many of us spend our entire lives trying to avoid change because we fear the uncertainty, pain and difficulty involved? We might hope that our challenges will simply disappear. To cope, some might resort to drugs and alcohol, overeating, TV, social media or other distractions. While others put up emotional walls, live with insecurities and bitterness, or in a fantasy world embedded in memories, or dream of a more hopeful future.

When we do not confront problems, and make the necessary changes to enable growth, we risk perpetuating the issues. Over time this can cause our energy to stagnate and make us feel dull and listless, as it accumulates through repetitive, restrictive behaviors and thought patterns, such as fear, anger, doubt, blame, insecurity, disappointment and jealousy. Stagnant energy is decaying energy, which then becomes a far greater challenge to overcome than the original issue itself, and can lead to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual deterioration. Confronting the challenge and allowing change to occur naturally restores our vitality and releases all that is not supportive of us—be it our thoughts, emotions, actions or experiences.

Life encompasses an amazing diversity of experiences— happiness and pain, hope and despair, confidence and insecurity; and a variety of sights, sounds, tastes, thoughts and feelings. These are neither good nor bad but simply represent a journey that propels our human evolution and spiritual growth. It is overcoming our challenges that gives life meaning, as our obstacles then become opportunities for growth. Challenges bridge the gap between success and failure, mediocrity and excellence, shallowness and depth. Once we accept this great truth, we can learn to approach life with a fresh, broader perspective.

For thousands of years the Yoga Sutras have taught us that life is filled with trials and tribulations, and that nothing ever remains the same; that the nature of the external world is challenging, impermanent and uncertain. Sometimes life is calm and peaceful, but it can also be a rocky ride. In spite of this, the mind keeps seeking permanence, happiness and certainty from this very environment. Once we develop this understanding, the natural question arises: Who are we in context of this complex environment, and how do we find peace, happiness and stability, given the nature of the physical world?

The answer lies in our relationship with our environment, our perception of it and how we maneuver within it. Only by taking the first step—fully accepting the dichotomy of the world—will we be able to change the experiences we have with it.

Our physical world represents a stormy ocean. We are ships on these choppy waters, trying to seek calm. To be able to anchor and stabilize, the ship must return to harbor, and so the Yoga Sutras help us to move inwards to the discovery of ourselves and our true nature, and to the only place where we can experience any calm.

When we are willing to go on a journey within and to try something new, we come into our own power and access the consciousness within. We no longer need to rely on the outside world for fulfilment, as we do when living an unexamined and mediocre life.

Living life is an art. It involves techniques that we must learn and master, as we would any other skill. When we lack the essential knowledge to thrive, we become absorbed in fear-based conditioning, such as stress, anxiety, doubt and insecurity.

It is only when we truly know ourselves, free from a cluttered mind and fluctuating emotions, that we are able to see life for what it is, with new-born freshness. We then develop the capability to solve all our problems, to stand in our truth and to evolve into the best version of ourselves. But first we must develop resilience, strength and clarity so that we can live life fully, despite trying circumstances.

RADHIKA VACHANI is the author of Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness. She is also a motivational speaker, yoga and holistic wellness expert, and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India ( Radhika also runs life-transforming retreats all over the world, in the Himalayas, Ladakh and at her Retreat Center outside of Mumbai in Alibaug. To learn more, visit  or connect with Radhika at and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Dark Side of a Yoga Lifestyle


Hi all!  Please welcome Hayley Maguire To the Whole Life Blog today.  I don’t personally know Hayley, but I was struck by this article and wanted to share it with you.  Those of you who have been to Whole Life Yoga know that we are no yoga fashionistas.  Yoga can benefit everyone.  You are welcome here!

In recent years, yoga has become very fashionable. It’s the little black dress of the health and well-being industry, with people around the world aspiring to bendy perfection. Instagram is full of yoga ‘celebrities’ with a cult following, and yoga is seen by many as the best way to live a healthy, balanced life. So, what is a yoga lifestyle? And why do so many people want a slice of it?

First of all, I would like to add a little disclaimer. I love yoga, I have been a regular practitioner for several years and I fully endorse the benefits of it. However, I’ve been feeling a little uninspired by the level of conformity that seems to be creeping in. Since when do we all have to dress the same, eat the same and live the same way? I thought yoga allowed us to enjoy the physical benefits of the postures while discovering more about ourselves and becoming tolerant of others. I didn’t think it involved competitiveness over who spent the most amount of money on a mat, leggings, or an eco-friendly water bottle.


I remember the first time I tried yoga while I was living in Sydney several years ago. I didn’t think about whether my leggings were branded or if my yoga outfit matched. And neither did most of the people who were practicing in the room alongside me. The focus was on our personal development and the creation of community. That’s why I loved it. These days though, I look around and I see many women competing over who has the better body and who can outsmart the others with their knowledge of how to better live a yoga lifestyle. It makes me a little sad.

That brings me back to the question, what is a yoga lifestyle? Is it copying what we see on social media? Is it bragging about our consumption of the latest healthy food? Or is it more than that? I’m an advocate for the latter. I believe there is no perfect yoga lifestyle, it’s different for all of us. Some people may want to wear Lululemon, others may want to wear something completely different, but as long as they are comfortable, does it really matter?


The same applies to people that are vegetarian, gluten-free, social drinkers, tea total, caffeine addicts or cake lovers. Everyone is different and people are drawn to yoga for various reasons. Some practice every day, others do yoga once a week, or just every now and then. What is important is the outcome. If people feel the benefits of their practice and are happy with it, then they are doing it right. For me, that is a yoga lifestyle. So, let’s embrace individuality and enjoy practicing yogahowever we choose to do it!

About the Author:Authors profile picture

Hayley Maguire is a writer and editor with a focus on travel and lifestyle. She has spent several years working and traveling around the world and loves learning about new cultures. She is currently based in the Austrian Alps exploring the mountains and sharing her interests and experiences on her blog Nomadic Maguire. Hayley is also a contributor at

Finding Inspiration

Abstract background with sunflowers over field and sunlight

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.


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


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

Meeting myself where I am

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher and 500-hour alumnus Sheryl Stich to the Whole Life Blog today. Teaching yoga is a practice. A sometimes deeply personal practice.  I’m delighted she is willing to share some of her insights with us here today.


Through the course of over 500 hours of Yoga Teacher Training, Tracy ingrained in our brains to always “meet our students where they are.” Today I was experiencing intense feelings of bereavement over losing my life partner Mark nearly a year and a half ago to a serious illness. Instead of heeding that niggling little voice inside me telling me that I should be further along in the grief process, I decided to let go of the “should” and completely honor how I was feeling: lost, alone and super unclear about my future. I tell my students that my class is safe for them, whatever their emotional responses, and today I needed to tell myself that I am also safe – with myself! I decided I would be much better served if I “met myself where I am.”  So throwing all logic out the window, I cried and cursed and hugged Daisy my puppy and talked to Mark, telling him I was actually miffed at him for leaving me. I know from studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that we create filters through which we see the world and ourselves. By being brutally honest with myself and telling the truth about how I really feel, not how I think I should feel based on my filters, I felt the layers of sorrow slowly peeling away little by little. Not that I am totally healed by any chance, but by meeting myself where I am, as Mark would often quote, I started “The journey of a thousand miles that starts with a single step.” Life is a preserving practice – and always try to meet yourselves and others where we are, whether on the mat or on the street.

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.


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


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

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

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

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

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

Ahimsa for children: How to encourage your children to respect animals and care for the environment

Please welcome Emma Mills to the Whole Life Blog today. Emma is a freelance writer and mom of two, who loves nothing more than taking her pet dogs for long walks.  

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love both yoga and animals.  The concept of ahimsa, “doing no harm,” encompasses both.  So when Emma asked to write an article about encouraging children to respect animals, I had to say yes!  Enjoy!

Girl feeding chickens

If you are a yoga enthusiast you will know that yoga as a belief system goes beyond the actual exercise element and is in fact a philosophy which promotes inner peace, self control and self realisation. One of the most important principles of Yoga is ahimsa, i.e. non-violence. This is used as a guideline for how we should treat other human beings but it also teaches us not to hurt living things including animals and the world that we live in, which is why many many Hindu’s and Buddhists who adhere to this philosophy are vegetarian. If you want to encourage others to follow the ahimsa principle you must first promote respect for the world around us and the animals that share this earth with us. This is especially important for children because it is an important step in creating a sustainable, animal friendly future.

There are many things you can do to encourage children to respect animals and the environment. One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children and exhibit the behaviours you want them to learn. So for example if you want to encourage your children to be kind to animals you must be kind to animals around them. Buy mouse-friendly traps that won’t harm the rodent, take spiders outside rather than killing them and try to teach your children that bees should be respected rather than feared. Take your children to your local zoo, watch a film about animals with your children and, if you have the time, consider buying an animal that your whole family can take care of and learn to love.

In regards to the environment, it’s important that children spend lots of time outside and learn to appreciate nature. Focus on play and experience and encourage your children to explore your back garden or take them on regular trips to a local green area. Make sure they are comfortable with nature and they have positive early experiences in the great outdoors, because not only will they learn to appreciate mother earth but they will be healthier and fitter in the process!

Encouraging your children to respect animals and engage with nature is really important and once you get started it can be a rewarding and fun experience for everyone. If you would like more information on how to promote respect towards animals refer to these tips.


PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at  Thanks for reading!

A Beginners Guide to the Chakras

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and instructor Julie Miller to the Whole Life blog today.  Julie can be reached at  Julie, I know you teach classes on Yoga Nidra and the Chakras.  Can you tell us a little about the chakra system?


No matter what you may think of Donald Trump you will likely agree that lack of self-confidence is not an area where he struggles. Third chakra in overdrive! Cookie Monster’s addiction may be driven by second chakra issues (especially if the desire is emotionally driven), and one could consider the Dalai Lama’s immense capability for compassion as coming from an open fourth chakra. That said, there are no “good” or “bad” chakras. No one is better or more important than the others. When they are balanced, all work together to support good health in mind, body, and spirit. When they are out of balance, behavior or energy can swing to extremes, i.e. an out of balance fourth chakra might look like someone who can’t act without seeking approval from others first or the opposite extreme of being very guarded and untrusting.

To back up a bit and give a quick introduction to the chakras, they are centers of energy in the body –places where pathways of energy, called nadis, converge. These nadis often overlap with the energy meridians diagramed and used in Chinese Medicine. While you are probably most familiar with the seven chakras that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, there are other chakras in the body as well particularly on the palms of the hands (engaged for energy healing) and soles of the feet (absorbing healing energy from the earth). Yoga is just one of the many ways to work with bringing the chakras into balance. Mediation, chanting, color, sound, scent, foods, and crystals are other popular ways to clear, balance, and activate your energy centers. The ordering and synthesis of the chakras has been compared to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or an elevator from which one gains a wider perspective with each level. Just like with the elevator, it is important to have a strong foundation and stability in the lower levels before moving in to the top floor. Let’s take a quick tour of the seven main chakras that run up the spine.

1st Chakra – Muladara (Root Support). Located at the base of your spine, this is where you ground yourself. Working with this chakra means looking at what makes you feel safe, secure, and centered. It can also mean taking a look at ancestral patterns, these might be inherited habits or tendencies that may have made sense in another time or generation but do not serve your highest good. Practices: walk barefoot, surrender in child’s pose.

2nd Chakra – Svadisthana (Sweetness-also thought of as one’s own base). Located just below your navel, this is where you awaken to pleasure. It is associated with the element water and all that water often symbolizes: emotions, movement, and sexuality. Practices: dancing, journaling, or any other form of art that that allows you to express your emotions.

3rd Chakra – Manipura (Lustrous Gem). Located at the solar plexus, here is where our light shines through. The qualities of this chakra are courage, self-confidence, personal power, and will. The element of fire associated with this chakra is the element of transformation. Focused intention here can help you to get motivated and transform old habits. Practices: candle meditation, twists with the intention to release can be very powerful.

4th Chakra – Anahata (Unstruck, as in the unstruck sound of the sound of the Universe).  Located in the center of the chest. The energy of the heart center is that of compassion, tenderness, and unconditional love. Practices: heart opening poses like bridge or warrior 1, especially with hands starting at the heart, loving kindness meditation.

5th Chakra- Vishuddha (Purification). Located at the throat, opening this center clears the way for self-expression, communication, and speaking your truth. As we move into the upper chakras the practices become less physical and more inward focused. Practices: chanting your favorite mantra or kirtan.

6th Chakra- Ajna (Perception). Located between the eyebrows, often called the third eye. The association here is with the mind, imagination, and intuition. This chakra can be utilized to help to visualize your best life path. Practice: one of the best practices to access this chakra is Yoga Nidra.

7th Chakra- Sahasrara (Thousandfold). Located at the crown of the head and symbolized by the 1,000 petaled lotus flower that connects us to our highest self. Opening the crown chakra leads to a path of recognizing the wonders of the Universe and our connection to all living beings. It is the chakra of community. Practices: silent meditation or prayer.

A great way to begin is to start with a grounding practice engaging the root chakra and then working with whichever of the chakras may feel a little out of balance. There are many great resources online included guided mediations or suggestion on colors, foods or scents. Be gentle with yourself and know that it is an ongoing process, like the practice of yoga, working with chakras can be a tool for cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and a general sense of increased well-being.

Many blessings!


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. 

Three Key Ways a Yoga Practice Can Support Trauma Recovery

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


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


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

Present moment attention

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

Compassion towards self

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

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

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


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. 

Training Your Mind

I am delighted to welcome author Jennifer Niles here to the Whole Life Blog today!  Jennifer recently published My Yoga Transformation: One Woman’s Story of Her Healing Yoga Journey and 85 Pound Weight Loss, which outlines her journey with yoga and how it changed her life–in every way for the better.  Check out the excerpt below, and support her by reading her work!

My Yoga Transformation (1)-page-001

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ~Napoleon Hill

Thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits, which become character, which becomes your destiny.  Since you “bring about what you think about,” obviously it would be wise to learn how to control your incessant thoughts.  You have to understand that your mind is designed to be constantly working in at least some capacity for 24 hours a day.  So, if the mind insists on focusing on something at all times, give it something positive or calming to focus on.

Training your mind is not the easiest task.  Especially if you are anything like I was prior to starting a yoga practice and learning about the ego.  That pesky little voice in the back of my mind, the ego, was running wild day after day and needlessly stressing me out over anything and everything that was less than perfect about my life.  By identifying with the mind instead of the soul, we give that little voice/ego the power to consume so much of our time and energy by dominating our thoughts and limiting our potential.

During my initial yoga years, during the time when I was suddenly feeling the desire to gradually cut down on my drinking and partying, my ego never ceased to remind me, “You are a party girl; therefore you must go out and drink with your friends tonight.  Who cares if it is a Monday night and you just feel like staying home, cooking dinner and doing some yoga.  You have to go get drunk instead.  It is who you are and what you have always done, and it is what you will always do.  You can’t change now.  Who will you be if you are not a party girl?  Party girls don’t stay home and do yoga!  Now go out and get wasted with your friends!”

For a long time, I identified with my ego and therefore let its persuasive little speeches win the battle every time.  Despite what my heart and soul wanted to do, which was sometimes to just stay home and dry out for a night, I would get in my car, drive to the bar, and proceed to get drunk until I could barely stand up without stumbling all over the place.  When you identify with and listen to your ego instead of your heart/soul, you will just continue doing the same destructive things, day after day.  Never changing, never growing, and never evolving.

I knew that my yoga practice was really starting to work when my heart/soul began winning the battle more times than my ego.  The nights that I actually stayed home to practice yoga versus drinking at the bars became more and more frequent.  Over time, my nights at the bars became obsolete.  If my lack of wanting to get drunk wasn’t a result of my yoga practice, I don’t know what is.


Jennifer B. Niles is an author, yogi, vegan, and animal rights activist currently living on a small island in the South Pacific. Born and raised on the East Coast, Jennifer moved to California in her 20’s, where she taught yoga and enjoyed living among the palm trees.  During her time living in the South Pacific, Jennifer was finally able to pursue her lifelong dream of writing books.  Blessed (or cursed) with the opportunity to go through many drastic life-changing experiences, Jennifer mainly writes about her lessons learned in an attempt to help other people who may be struggling with the same or similar issues.

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.