Category Archives: Yoga student/teacher interviews

Yogi Interview of the Month: Marcie Leek!

Hi everyone! Please help me welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  Marcie is truly amazing, both in the audiences she touches and the innovative ways in which she teaches.  Enjoy!

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What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

When I first came to Viniyoga, I was a burned-out (English) teacher taking a sabbatical. In the classes I attended at Whole Life, my chaotic and self-critical mind stilled during class. This was miraculous to me (truly!). I found a peace there I had not found in previous yoga classes. My hunch is that Viniyoga’s focus on the breath, and connection between breath and movement, helped me find a meditative, calm, and (self-)loving side of myself that I hadn’t been able to access before.

How has yoga changed your life?

So many ways! I am so much better at practicing living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or being fearful about the future. I’m not cured of this, of course, but I often notice when I go there (into my head and/or into my fear), and I even manage to call myself back pretty quickly sometimes. I also have become much better at observing self-care boundaries than I was. I’ve slowed down, and I pause more. I’m nicer to myself in my head. I am more aware of my body and of the connections, positive and negative, between my body and my mind. I’ve also become more courageous about bringing ideas into fruition and putting them out in the world, even though it scares me. I know myself more, and I trust my Self more. And I have made some wonderful friends!

What made you decide to take a yoga teacher training program?

I wanted to help other people find that peaceful place within themselves.

Now that you’ve graduated, how are you sharing what you learned?

First, I teach two series classes that aim to bring two very different populations to that peaceful place I have found through yoga. I teach a series and classes called Befriending Your Body through Yoga, in Seattle and now online. It’s a series for plus-size women who want to learn how yoga can help them develop or maintain a self-compassionate relationship between body and mind. I also teach a series called Moving through Grief with Yoga, which teaches people how the tools of yoga can help them as they go through the process of grieving. I am passionate about both of these series and have loved watching them grow! I also teach cancer patients and caregivers for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance the same tools as I teach my other students: self-compassion and how to work with the body, breath, and mind as they navigate a challenging time. I’m so grateful to be able to share yoga with all of these people who might not otherwise know how it can benefit them.

What specific populations do you most enjoy teaching?

I love to teach yoga to anyone who will let me teach them, but I am particularly fond of what I call “tender” populations. This might be the people who come to a particular series, but it also includes newcomers to yoga (especially people who think they can’t do it), expecting mothers, and more.

What would you say to someone who thinks they “can’t” do yoga?

Yes, you can!

How are you different from a “typical” yogi?

Well, I sure don’t fit the physical image most people have of a “typical” yogi – my body is much rounder, and I’m much older than most people I see on the cover of yoga magazines. I was in my late 40s when I graduated my first round of yoga school and 50 when I finished the advanced training.

Where do you teach?

My series (Befriending Your Body through Yoga and Moving through Grief with Yoga) alternate 6-week blocks most quarters of the year, and classes are on Thursday evenings at OmTown Yoga (5500 35th Ave NE in the Ravenna/Bryant neighborhood). I also teach a drop in class at OmTown on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm. Befriending Your Body through Yoga has a Level 2 drop-in class at 7:45 on Tuesdays as well as the Level 1 series on Thursdays. The SCCA classes are limited to residents of the Pete Gross House.

How can people learn more about you? 

My website: www.nourishingbreathyoga.com

My NBY Facebook Page: Nourishing Breath Yoga

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies. She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie’s classes at her website, www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com.

Yogi Interview of the Month with Rene de los Santos! AND a YOGA CRUISE!

Important note from Tracy:  Rene will always have a special place in my heart, because he was the person who talked me into offering my first yoga teacher training oh-so-many years ago.  He’s a fabulous yogi, a great friend, and an overall wonderful human being. 

And you can see that for yourself this November!  Rene is leading a Mexican Riviera yoga cruise! He’s got a great group already formed and they’d love to have you join them.  Double click on the flyer below for more information or e-mail Rene at theyogirene@yahoo.com

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Now, on to Rene. Tell us your yoga story!

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I discovered Yoga (some would say “you were ready to discover”) in early 2001 after two different Yoga instructors mentioned “You should try this”!

My belief system dictates that when two different people who don’t know each other make the same request of me in a relatively short period of time – it’s really the universe (or ancestors or spirit) making the request.

My mothers voice resonates in the back of my head “If all of your friends went and jumped off the end of a bridge – would you jump too”?! To which I always responded “Probably”.

The connection was immediate in the very first practice. Yes, the very first class. Although the room was filed with people, I felt completely at peace. My body responded positively to the movements. The practice was lead by a male instructor, Roy Holman (who later became a good friend) which gave me hope! This was definitely for me. By the third class – I knew this was something to be pursued and shared.

After taking classes from several instructors over the course of three or four months, the time had come to practice more consistently and on the regular basis. The search was on to find a Yoga studio where I could go connect with other yogis and expand my experience.

Walking down the street one day with my partner Mark on Greenwood Avenue,  I noticed a woman placing balloons on the sidewalk underneath a sign that read Whole Life Yoga. It had a nice ring to it. Another sign read Join Us for Our One Year Anniversary Celebration! I was in class the following Sunday morning.

I didn’t know then that the simple act of connecting movement to breath would change me profoundly.

After that first class at Whole Life Yoga, I distinctly remember having a conversation with Tracy… not sure what was said but my mind was going a hundred miles per hour; This is great! Have to do this! Yoga, where have you been my whole life?! When are the classes?! Do I need special pants? Etc..etc.

After participating in 500 hours of formal training with Tracy at Whole Life Yoga, endless workshops from coast to coast, traveling to India, lectures, books, more books, years of personal practice, videos and classes, I am still discovering Yoga. My studies are in their infancy.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned as an instructor is to share. Share what you know so that other can benefit. krishnamacharya said “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.  The greatest lesson as a student; Desikachar said “The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships”.

I truly believe that the most successful Yoga teachers are those who teach with the intention of helping and serving others.

What I really appreciate about Viniyoga practice and Viniyoga philosophy is that it focuses totally on the practitioners and what THEY need on every level; obvious and subtle through the use of breath, movement, chant and meditation to name a few tools. As Yoga instructors, we must connect with our participants on a deeper level over time; as Yoga students we must be willing to adapt over time in order to serve others. There is no room for superficiality. It’s not meant to be cool or trendy – it’s a lot of work! It’s life changing.

And I have a lot of work to do! I’m glad that Yoga allows me to learn and grow, to adapt.  I’m not perfect and I’m ok with that. Looking forward to more training, practicing, moving changing and growing.

Although not currently teaching a regular on-going class – I know I will be when the time is right.

You should try this!

Thanks, Rene.  You inspire me every single day.  It was my great fortune that the universe pulled us in each others’ directions.

Rene De los Santos is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings. He can be contacted at theyogirene@yahoo.com.

Yogi Interview of the Month–Jenny Zenner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your yoga hero?

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

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

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

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

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

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Yogi Interview of the Month–Laura Miller!

Please join me in welcoming Whole Life Yogi Laura Miller to the Whole Life Blog this month.  I’ve been honored to have Laura in my teacher training this past year, and she’s been kind enough to answer a few questions for me today.  You can reach Laura at msnailtek@yahoo.com and on her Facebook page.  Laura, take it away!

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Why and when did you start practicing yoga?

I remember being a little girl and when you would walk out of the grocery store there were these little small books about everything from dieting and recipes to different kinds of exercise. This would’ve been back in the 1960s. And I remember asking my mom if I could get one little book and it was about yoga.

Now I didn’t understand the concept behind it but I really enjoyed doing it, practicing those poses in that little book. Yoga still was not something that I knew much about really until I was a teenager but in grade school I sure enjoyed paging through that cute little book and practicing the yoga positions.

What made you decide to take a teacher training program?

Even though I’ve been taking a variety of types of yoga classes throughout probably the past 30 years, I felt that at this stage in my life I wanted to know yoga far better than I already did.

I wanted to be able to immerse myself in a program that I really believed in, not just to perhaps help others especially my massage therapy clients, but to be able to have a yoga foundation that would last me for the rest of my life especially as I am now approaching 60 years old. To be able to keep my flexibility, balance, and strength is extremely important to me.

Knowing that Yoga encompasses so many facets other than just asana, the ability to practice breathing techniques and meditation and calming the monkey mind, are all so beneficial to anyone at any stage but I felt such a need to just understand it all deeper and to know the background and the heritage.

Finding Viniyoga, and this was the first school I had even gone to inquire about the teacher training, and I was not familiar with this type of yoga, and yet it certainly spoke to me and I knew that it’s therapeutic nature would benefit me the rest of my own life much less the people that I would be teaching it to.

What population do you most enjoy teaching?

I am happy teaching any age group from children all the way on up through seniors, but I would say that given my own age that being able to work with seniors and helping them to have a basic practice is one of the most helpful things anyone can do to aid the aging process and keep it as graceful as possible.

I’m also very interesting it in designing a program for doing yoga outdoors, and also incorporating yoga with hiking. Definitely a passion of mine that I will be working on this summer.

What is the worst thing about yoga in America?

This is an easy one for me, I think the worst thing is that unlike a country like India, we don’t teach children yoga at an extremely young age whether it’s at home or in school. To have a yoga practice starting early in life, the health benefits alone would be tremendous. I certainly wish for myself to have had a foundation like this, and I would love to see yoga integrated into schools and into more park and rec programs for children. And then that reaches out to the far end of the age spectrum as we become seniors, to include more yoga classes in senior centers and nursing homes, to help bring some peace and calm and gentle movement as we age.

What non-yoga thing are you very passionate about?

I am extremely passionate about animals, all animals but dogs in particular because that is what I am able to fill my home with! We volunteer for a local dog rescue organization, that takes in blind dogs and any with medical issues. We have fostered and also adopted some of our foster dogs, and being an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves is extremely important to me.

As a society, ensuring that all creatures are respected and well taken care of I believe it’s something that should just automatically happen but it doesn’t. There is a lot of work to be done in the area of animal rescue and I’m happy that were able to do our small part.

I love dogs, too!  And I think what you and your partner Patrick do for special needs dogs is simply astounding.  Now, here’s an offbeat question for you: Yoga pants, Fashion statement or work of the devil!

I think that yoga pants are extremely comfortable and I definitely wear them a lot. I think for movement whether it’s yoga or other forms of exercise, they are about the best thing out there for working out. Now I’ve seen some amazing styles and colors, but I’m kind of a neutral black yoga pants kind of gal! But there are some amazing fashion statement outfits out there for yoga,

What is the best thing about yoga in America?

Well I probably should say yoga pants, ha ha! But I would say the best thing is that we’re seeing it more and more often, at health clubs and park and rec centers, yoga studios are popping up all over the place. At least it gets more exposure for yoga and then hopefully people will find what type of yoga works best for them.

What is your favorite yoga pose and why?

At first thought I would say child’s pose, it’s relaxing and a wonderful transition between other poses. But I guess really mountain pose or savasana also jump out at me because they are more difficult to keep the monkey mind and focus in check. Balance poses are also a favorite because of the concentration level to maintain the pose. Being able to calm the mind and focus on one thing is probably one of the most rewarding things about yoga to me, in my own personal practice.

Who is your yoga hero?

I would say that my yoga hero is Tracy Weber. And the reasons why, she’s not only able to take and articulate the vastness of this lineage to her students, she also walks the walk and talks the talk. She lives her life, from my perspective, in a way that touches others in such a positive manner, through the teachings of the yoga sutras and because that’s just her personality, she is someone to aspire to in all of our teaching experiences. To be able to eventually instruct a yoga class even half as well as Tracy does, then I will have felt like I accomplished the highest goal I have for my teaching ability.

Oh my!

Now you’re making me blush.  😉  Here’s a final question:  What do you most appreciate about Viniyoga?

It is therapeutic, it can be very gentle or you can also make it pretty kick butt if you want to! It’s key differentiators make it unique and applicable to everyone. Function over form, the use of movement and stay, linking your movement with your breath, sequencing, and adaptation. I believe that anyone can learn and use Viniyoga in their lives.

Thanks for coming to chat with us today, Laura.  Having you on the blog was almost as great as having you in class.  Make me proud!

IMG_1218About Laura Miller: I was born and raised in Seattle although I’ve had the opportunity to live a number of other places in our beautiful country. I am a licensed massage practitioner and a nail technician, and a yoga instructor! Along with my partner Patrick, we have 6 adorable dogs, one feisty cockatiel, and a very mellow bearded dragon. We love hiking, traveling, and hanging out with our fur babies. I have 5 beautiful grandchildren and they are the lights of my life! Namaste

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Yogi Interview of the Month–Cynthia Heckman!

Hi all! Please welcome Cynthia Heckman to the Whole Life Blog today!  Cynthia is a talented yoga teacher as well as one of my favorite graduates of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings.  Cynthia is a much braver woman than I for teaching yoga to families. Please join me in welcoming her and ask her any questions you have in the comments!

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Why and when did you start practicing yoga?

I started practicing yoga in 1994, when my first son was 3. At the time I was just looking for any class at the gym to help me get in shape.

After the first class, I knew yoga was different. Instead of just feeling energized after class, I felt energized and peaceful.

What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

It wasn’t until more than a decade after that first class that I had the good fortune to find Tracy Weber and my introduction to Viniyoga. After so many years of gym class yoga and Iyengar yoga, it took me awhile to fully integrate Viniyoga into my practice.

Now I wouldn’t have my yoga any other way. Firstly, in Viniyoga movement and breath are fully fused together. This brings a totally new awareness of the body and encourages more focus during practice, as well as other physiological benefits. Secondly, in Viniyoga the practice is designed to suit the individual who is doing it. No more trying to force my body into an ideal pose, but, instead, I get to choose the poses that my body needs. With regular practice, this has resulted in new love and appreciation for the body I was born with.

What yoga myths would you most like to debunk?

The yoga myth I would most like to debunk is the idea that if you are a yoga teacher you must be some kind of human pretzel. Flexibility is nice, but it isn’t a pre –requisite for teaching or practicing yoga. The body you have will work just fine, thank-you.

I completely agree.  If you had to be a human pretzel to teach yoga, I’d have been disqualified long ago.  That’s why I like teaching yoga to people who think they “can’t” do yoga.  Who do you most enjoy teaching? 

When I first graduated from teacher training I promised myself I would say “Yes!” to the first person who asked me to teach. I imagined this would be a class for adults at a studio or gym, but, no. The first person to ask me was a friend of mine, a mom who wanted a family yoga class at a local community center. I said yes, and I was terrified.

It turned out though, after a few bumpy classes, teaching kids with their parents was a good fit for me. I learn so much from the kids with their open hearts and playfulness and try to help the parents find a few moments to relax in the midst of yoga chaos. We all laugh and laugh, which may be the best practice of all.

Tip for teachers who would like to try teaching kids: After you graduate from teacher training, consider taking an Improv class, and/or a class specifically geared toward teaching kids yoga. It really helps when you need to change your plans on the fly.

Now that you’ve graduated from yoga teacher training, how are you sharing what you learned?

It has been said that if you are given the yoga teachings and don’t share them, you are a thief. As a teacher who only finds time to teach an occasional class or series of classes, I’ve thought about this a lot.

How do I share yoga when I’m not formally teaching without being annoying and preachy? I like to think that doing my best to follow the yoga sutras is the answer. I share their beauty whenever I’m given the opportunity. Here’s one I love:

Sutra 1.33: “The mind becomes quiet when it cultivates friendliness in the presence of happiness, active compassion in the presence of unhappiness, joy in the presence of virtue, and indifference toward error.”

Easier said than done, right? But as some wise soul once said, “That’s why they call it a yoga practice not a yoga perfect.”

What is your favorite book about yoga?

My favorite book about yoga is The Essence of Yoga , Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Bernard Bouanchaud. Quoted above.

Who is your yoga hero?

I have many yoga heroes. From great teachers who spend their lives sharing the yoga tradition, to the regular practitioner, who, despite all of life’s obstacles, returns to the mat again and again. Namaste to you all!

Cynthia Heckman is a homeschool mom and yoga teacher. She graduated from Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training in 2009. She occasionally teaches kids’ and family yoga at Loyal Heights Community Center in Seattle and tries to live by and share the yoga teachings every day. Contact her at Chyoga@earthlink.net.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Yogi Interview of the Month–Roy Holman!

Hi all! Today is the first of what I hope will be monthly interviews with some of my favorite yogis!  Roy Holman is a fabulous yoga teacher as well as a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings.  I understand his retreats are to die for!  Please join me in welcoming him, and ask him any questions you have in the comments!

Tracy Weber

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Roy, thanks so much for joining me on the Whole Life Yoga blog today! Let’s dive right into the questions.

Why and when did you start practicing yoga?

1996, during a dark night of the soul, depressed, with an eating disorder. I felt so good and grounded from yoga, I knew if it could help me, it could help anyone!

What do you specifically appreciate about Viniyoga?

The breath connection and presence, and the look in people’s eyes after class. A spark!

Any yoga horror stories?

Too many to list! Farting when I was adjusting someone’s head in Savasana comes to mind. Another time while teaching, during a stretch, I split the back of my pants.

Oh my. I hesitate to ask after that, but what is one of your most humbling moments as a teacher? 

I usually share a few thoughts before we begin the asana. A woman would always come to my YMCA class 10 minutes late. I finally gently, kindly asked her if it was difficult to arrive on time, and she said “I purposely show up late to avoid listening to your psychobabble!”

At least she was honest! Tell me, what would you tell people interested in trying yoga for the first time?

If you don’t like it, don’t quit. Try another teacher or style until your body purrrs … I’m biased, but I feel there is a yoga for every body.

I totally agree. And there  is a yoga TEACHER for every student. What do you think are the most important qualities of a great yoga teacher?

Authenticity, humility, kindness, and one who is doing the inner work and has a spiritual practice (not just asana).

Kate (the yoga teacher/sleuth in my series) has anger management issues, but she uses yoga to mitigate them.  What challenges do you face, and how does yoga help you overcome them?

I have no issues–except denial! Truthfully, I feel like it may take several lifetimes before I truly love myself, sigh. Practice, practice, practice…

Who is your yoga hero?

Krishnamacharya. Talk about devoted and committed! Not too many yogis like that these days.

Agree. He’s my hero, too.  I often wonder what he would think about yoga as we practice it in America today. What would you change about the American yoga scene, if you could?

I’m trying to stop controlling everything so I think I’ll just let it be! I’m thrilled that 36 million Americans are now doing yoga, including 10 million men, according to a recent study. It has to start somewhere, but again, I wish there was more breath connected, gentle, slow, traditional yoga aimed less at developing six pack abs and more on ahimsa, satya and isvara pranidhana.

I totally agree. No wonder I think you are so awesome!  How can people learn more about you and your classes? 

www.holmanhealthconnections.com … or my Blog at http://holmanhealthconnections.com/blog/

Roy Holman has run Holman Health Connections in Everett, Washington since 2000. Roy is a 500 hour certified Yoga, Meditation, and Healing Instructor, a Oneness Blessing giver and trainer, and leads retreats to Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Hawaii, Bali, Sedona, and in his home state of Washington. Roy Holman is author of two books: Healing Self, Healing Earth: Awakening Presence, Power, and Passion, and Poems from the Passionate Heart: Reflections on Healing and Awakening.  Roy does a health and healing radio commentary every week on KSER 90.7 FM. Roy also lived several years abroad, mostly doing human rights work in Central America. Roy has a passion for assisting the healing of our Earth and evolution / shift of humanity.  He teaches with humor and joy.

Contact Roy at 425-303-8150 — Holmanhealth@gmail.com

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.