Staying Centered in Turbulent Times

Meditation: An Effective Tool for Promoting Inner Peace

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, I think most people would agree that the energy of our world seems more divisive lately.  The yoga teachings never promised us a peaceful world–they provided us tools to have more personal peace, in spite of what happens to or around us.  According to the teachings, the most powerful tool for developing inner peace is meditation.  Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my favorites.

The meditation below is simple yet powerful. Enjoy!

Simple Counting Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation. For example, when you exhale the first time, think “one”. The next time you exhale, count “two”.  Keep counting silently to yourself like that, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one”.
  4. You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one”.   Notice how often you need to restart counting without judgment or frustration.   The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Please visit us soon at Whole Life Yoga!

Tracy Weber

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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 (www.yogacara.in). 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 www.yogacara.in  or connect with Radhika at radhika.vachani@yogacara.in and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy Double-Five Birthday to Hubby, Marc Martin!

Put your hands together and cheer for the wonderful man who had the poor judgment to marry me over twenty years ago.  Yesterday was his fifty-fifth birthday!  Those of you who know my better half realize how totally lost I’d be without him.  Not only is he my best friend and the love of my life, but he helps with both my yoga studio and my writing efforts while still providing most of the income for our family from his forty-hour-a-week job.

On top of that, he has enough of a sense of humor to have agreed to buy me this magnet for my car:

Is that the perfect man for me, or what?

Honey, I don’t tell you often enough, but I love you.  I hope I’ll be next to you, driving you crazy for the next fifty five years of you life.

Tracy

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

Visiting the Scene of the Crime

Happy Labor Day, everyone!  As promised last week, below are some photos of Marc, Ana’s and my recent trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon.  The trip was doubly special because we both got to see the full eclipse and spend some time at the location of my upcoming mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder!

We got into town early enough to settle in to our tiny beach house and do an early romp on the beach.

Ana inaugurated the beach with her first paw print.

Then we rested up to leave at six the next morning to drive to the path of totality.  Ana practiced wearing her eclipse glasses.

But seemed relatively unimpressed.  (Do you see the mini-eclipses in her fur?)

Still, totality was pretty amazing, at least for us humans.

We made it up to Ana by taking her to the beach and letting her run.

Day…

And night.

She was a very happy girl.

The humans saw starfish.

And got a little exercise themselves.

We even visited our favorite sailor statue.

Man how Ana has grown!  (This photo was taken ten months ago.)

Alas, it was finally time to say goodbye.

But we had a fabulous surprise shortly after we returned home!

We’re already planning our next trip to this very special place.  In the meantime, I’ll share it with you this January in Pre-Meditated Murder!

Hope you all had a wonderful summer filled with love, laughter, and vacation adventures.

Tracy

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

I Think She was Murdered

Note from Tracy:

I’ve spent the last eight days soaking up the sun and vacationing at the site of my next Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder. Next month, I’ll share some photos of my visit.  This month, I’ll tempt you with an excerpt.  Enjoy!

Pre-Meditated Murder  releases January 8, 2018.

We followed the shoreline back toward Cannon Beach. I swung Bella’s leash in my right hand while she herded waves on my left. By the time we reached the rock wall at Arcadia State Park, the tide had gone out enough that we could walk around it without getting wet. Now that it was almost noon, small groups of matchstick-sized people wandered the beach. Some of them were walking toward us.

I reached for Bella’s collar, but stopped. A few hundred feet ahead, a colony of seagulls—dozens of them—dotted the shore. Bella’s eyes begged me.

Please? Just one more run?

Why not? One of us should be having fun. “Okay girl. Go get ‘em!”

Bella galloped after those birds like a cheetah after a gazelle. It was ridiculous, really. All of us—human, canine, and seabird included—knew that Bella would never catch them. But that didn’t diminish anyone’s fun. When Bella was about fifteen feet away, the birds took off in unison, flew a hundred feet down the beach, and landed, still in formation. Bella skidded to a stop, let out a single, loud bark, and tore after them again.

May as well give up, hunter dog.

I reached out my arms and yelled, “Bella, come!”

As trained, Bella turned a one-eighty and ran back to me at full steam.

Three hundred feet … two hundred … one hundred … “Bella, slow down!” I yelled. I repeated the command three more times in a rapid-fire panic. “Slow down! Slow down! Slow down!”

Bella didn’t hear, didn’t understand, or—more likely—chose not to listen. She launched through the air, collided with my chest like a hundred-pound bowling ball, and knocked me flat on my sitting bones for the second time in thirty minutes. A quick German shepherd chin nibble later, she ran a quick circle around me and chose a new destination: a Jenga-like stack of driftwood piled up against the cliff.

I spit out a million tiny particles of sand. “Bella, come!” I commanded.

No response.

I stood, brushed the wet sand off my bottom, and trudged toward my dog. “Bella, knock it off and get over here! Leave it!”

Bella pretended to be deaf.

What on earth was she so interested in? Half-eaten hotdogs? Urine from a particularly studly Golden Retriever? A seagull corpse?

Bella stopped sniffing and commenced digging.

I groaned. It had to be a dead creature of some kind. Bella couldn’t digest real food unless it was incubated in expensive prescription enzymes. I imagined scooping up undigested seagull parts and groaned louder.

“Bella, I said come!”

Not even an ear twitch. This level of disobedience was unusual, even for her.

I broke into a jog. When Bella wanted something this badly, it was a sure bet that I didn’t want her to have it. I skidded to a stop next to my recalcitrant canine and clipped the leash to her collar. “That’s enough girl. Leave it.”

She ignored me.

I tightened the leash and made my voice especially stern. “I mean it.”

Bella refused to move.

Whatever she’d found, it was infinitely more interesting than a five-foot-three-inch yoga teacher.

Bella channeled her inner Ricky, grabbed onto something and pulled, exposing a woman’s tennis shoe.

“Seriously, Bella?” I grumped. “This much drama over a shoe?”

Then I looked closer and gagged.

The shoe was attached to a foot. A foot that was attached to a caramel-skinned ankle. A caramel-skinned ankle wearing a starfish ankle bracelet.

Oh God, no.

Bella had unearthed a body—a woman. She was buried, facedown, in an obviously man-made mountain of driftwood, seaweed, and sand.

I wish I could say I was horrified. I wish I could say I screamed like a scared little schoolgirl. I wish I could say I vomited like I did the night I found my friend George’s body.

But I didn’t. I simply stood there, thinking the same words over and over: not again.

I clawed through the rocks, unearthed the broken body’s left wrist, and forced myself to feel for a pulse. Her fourth finger was bare, except for a band of lighter skin where her wedding ring used to be. I suppressed the urge to run off to warn Michael, pulled out my cell phone, and dialed 911.

“Hi. My name’s Kate Davidson. I found a woman’s body. I think she was murdered.”

Tracy Weber

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

Welcome New Teachers to Whole Life Yoga!

The last few months have been unusually chaotic at Whole Life Yoga, but I believe (hope!) things are settling down now.  With that new calm, come some transitions.  Sheryl Stich and Katie West are both cutting back on their classes, which is sad news, because they are both awesome teachers who are loved by their students.  It has, however has allowed me to bring three new teachers into the Whole Life Yoga drop-in class lineup.  I’ve been wanting to hire them for  years (literally!) so I hope you share my excitement.  Photos and a brief hello from each of these lovely ladies is below.

Oh–and if you’ve been wondering where in the heck I’ve been lately, I AM coming back.  I was in a car accident a couple of months ago, which injured my neck and back, but I will return to teaching in September.  I’m really looking forward to seeing you all then!

In the meantime, please give a warm welcome to Jen Boyce, Jocelyn Hess, Sarah Mercier.

Jen Boyce: 

Whole Life Yoga has been a sanctuary of peace for me since I started coming to classes in 2005.  I am honored to have the opportunity to teach at WLY and look forward to sharing my love of yoga with others. Teaching inspires me to strengthen my personal practice and improve my health.  My “day job” as an occupational therapist often focuses on illness so I am excited for the opportunity to guide my yoga students in their quest for mind/body wellness and PEACE.  Jen teaches All Levels Yoga Thursdays from 4:30 – 5:45 PM starting in September.

Jocelyn Hess:

I love teaching yoga because yoga is such a happy place to me and I wanted to extend that joy out to the world and to other people. I really enjoy helping people especially in a way that can better their life and their health. I think that yoga is much more accessible to people than they realize and I like being that person that can show people the way in to yoga. I look forward to meeting new students and working with them in whatever way they need. Together we can create a better life for ourselves, healthier body, and clearer mind. Josie teaches All Levels Yoga Wednesdays from 6:00 – 7:15 PM starting in September.

Sarah Mercier:

I am a certified yoga instructor through Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program at the 500-hour level. Living with a Chronic Illness from childhood has led me to the mindfulness and breath-centered practices of Viniyoga.  My passion is inspiring others to be the best version of themselves, gain confidence and work to overcome their own personal obstacles.  Through yoga, I hope to bring peacefulness and mindfulness to each student, no matter what their age and level of experience. Sarah teaches All Levels Yoga Mondays from 9:30 – 10:45 AM starting in September.

 

Please help me welcome these ladies to the Whole Life Yoga Family and check out their teaching in a class soon!

Namaste,

Tracy Weber

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

Breath and Movement: A Powerful Union

Hi all!  Two weeks into my summer writing sabbatical, and I’m still sick!  Today’s article is a reprint of one of this blog’s first articles, but I think it’s important enough to share again.  Enjoy, and send me some healing vibes!

People new to Viniyoga often tell me they are surprised at the effects of class.  Although class feels gentle while they practice, they often feel “good” muscle soreness the next day.   They are also surprised that although the first class or two may seem easy, the more they practice the more challenging it becomes.  I believe this is completely due to the distinctive way Viniyoga uses the breath.

Viniyoga uses breath in a subtle, yet powerful way.  In asana (movement) practice, we breathe as we do each movement in a way that maximizes the effect of the breath on the spine and the muscles that support it.   Therefore opening, lifting and extending movements are typically done on inhale, whereas bending, compressing and twisting movements are typically done on exhale.

But it’s not as simple as moving with the breath.  Rather, the breath informs, guides and fully surrounds the movement, like a blanket wraps your body on a chilly winter evening.   The breath begins before the movement starts and ends after the movement completes.   This is often called “envelope breathing.”

This integration of breath and movement requires mindful attention and is the key reason viniyoga is so powerful at connecting body, breath and mind.  Only by completely focusing the mind can the movement and breath link together in this elegant dance.  Furthermore, this connection doesn’t stop when the movement ends.  Even when “staying” in a pose, subtle breath focused movement continues.  The student consciously lengthens her spine on inhale and engages and strengthens the muscles of her core on exhale, creating a delicious dance of “micro-movement” that deepens the posture with every successive breath.

So the next time you take a yoga class, pay attention to each breath you take and mindfully allow the breath to guide your movement.   You might be surprised at the profound impact this relatively simple change will have on your practice.

Namaste,

Tracy Weber

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

The Fourteenth Year: A Celebration

Last Monday marked the graduation of my 14th yoga teacher training.  Here are some photos of our last night together.

We gathered in a circle to share what the past ten months have taught us.

Then we cemented our intentions for the future.

My students surprised me with a wonderful gift—a gift certificate for a portrait of the Ana Pup!

We ate lots of yummy food.

The chocolate and baklava groups were well represented.

We shared some fun stories.

And took a selfie or two.

The evening wasn’t complete until the final group pictures. Some serious …

And some not so serious.

And then it was time for some hugs goodbye.

Leftover dessert, anyone?

As always, I loved this year’s teacher training group. I will miss them.  And I will always feel blessed to have been gifted with their presence in my life.

Namaste

Tracy

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

Saying Goodbye

Such a bittersweet day for me. Tonight’s graduation ceremony will mark the end of my fourteenth yoga teacher training.  Each year’s training seems to go by faster than the one before it. Each group offers new definitions of sweetness. New learnings.  New opportunities for growth.

I still can’t explain it, but the process of completing this training changes people, myself included. Actually, I can. (Explain it, that is.) As my teacher says, “Yoga is much more than stretching your hamstrings.”

Yoga is the process of examining the most important priorities of your life and endeavoring to live them. Yoga is sangha, community. People supporting each other through birth, joy, sadness, frustration, and heartbreak. Yoga is learning to find peace in silence.  And yes, yoga is bringing balance, strength, resiliency, and health, to not only your body, but also your heart and your mind.

Every year when I start a new training class, I secretly assure myself that this will definitely be the last one. After graduation, I’ll take a deep breath, convince my husband to move to a tiny house in the country, and finally get those goats I’ve wanted for so long.  I tell myself that I won’t have to remain tied to Seattle, which seems so very different from the city I moved to 35 years ago. I promise myself that I’ll get that dog training certification I’ve been thinking about for well over a decade.

I even believe it.

But about halfway through the training, something changes. I grow close to my new group. I read their Yoga Sutra papers. Their often-powerful insights show me how important this work has been to them. I see the steps they’re taking to positively impact their worlds. In short, I realize I’ve made a difference.

So I set the next dates, print the new flyers, and start meeting with the students who will comprise the next class. I vow not to slip into sadness on graduation night. I’m rarely successful, but I can live with that.

I say this about most of my classes, but I still mean it. This class was special.  To those of you graduating tonight, I’m proud of you. I adore you. Man, will I miss you. So let’s not say goodbye, let’s say, “Until later.”

Namaste

Tracy Weber

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. 

Pre-Meditated Murder: An Excerpt

Hi all!  I’m heads down this month promoting my second audiobook and writing my sixth mystery, so for this week’s blog, I decided to share an excerpt from my upcoming Downward Dog Mystery. Pre-Meditated Murder  releases January 8, 2018. The excerpt has not gone through Midnight Ink’s editing process yet, so please forgive any errors. 

I put Alice back into the carrier and followed Rene to the sidewalk. I would have kept chiding her all the way to the car, but when we were a few steps away from the street, Bella froze, halting my forward motion and practically dislocating my shoulder. “Bella, knock it—” I stopped mid-sentence.

Something was wrong.

Bella stared straight ahead, teeth exposed, ears pricked forward. The guard hairs along her spine stood on end like the quills of an angry porcupine. Low growls rumbled from deep in her chest.

“What is it, sweetie?” I kneeled next to her and followed her gaze. It was locked on a man who was standing—or rather skulking—in a dark, narrow alley across the street. He wore a camouflage baseball cap.

“It’s him,” I whispered.

Rene glanced left to right. “It’s who?”

The stranger looked up and we made eye contact. For the first time, I got a good look at his face. Dark hair. Tan, weathered skin. Light blue, almost icy, eyes. He turned and bolted down the alley.

As to what happened next, I can only plead temporary insanity.

“Rene, stay here.” I ordered. I thrust Bella’s leash into her hand and broke into a run, determined to catch the suspicious stranger.

“Where are you going?” Rene yelled to my back.

I ignored her and shoved past an elderly woman. “Excuse me.” I dodged to the right and twirled past a young mother pushing a stroller. “Sorry!” I leapt over a low bench and landed—hard—on the edge of my right foot. Pain jolted from my ankle to my knee. I recovered my balance and kept running, but the camo-capped man ran faster. He was getting away!

I didn’t think. More importantly, I didn’t look. I acted on pure instinct. I darted off the curb and into the busy street. The driver of a black pickup truck slammed on his brakes.

The next three seconds passed with petrifying clarity. The horrified expression on the driver’s face; the ear-piercing screech of locked tires against pavement; the chemical smell of burning rubber; the sour taste of adrenaline. I gaped down at my knees, or more accurately at the truck’s bumper, which had stopped an inch from my legs. The driver leaned out his window and yelled, “Jesus, lady! Watch where you’re going!”

“My fault!” I yelled. I started running again.

Across the street, down the alley, and out to the sidewalk on the other side. I skidded to a stop, lungs heaving, and whipped my head back and forth.

The suspicious stranger had vanished.

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