Tag Archives: viniyoga

Yoga for Imperfect Bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

It’s a Blogiday Top Five!

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of the holiday, I’m taking a blogiday, of sorts.  I’m dedicating today’s blog to the top five posts on Whole Life Yoga’s blog since its inception almost three and a half years ago!  These are the number of times an individual clicked on the link to that specific post, not counting anyone who arrived at it from the home page.

So…Here they are, for those of you who missed them

The Whole Life Yoga top 5: (Click on the link to read the specific article)

What do I take from this?  People obviously want to reduce their midsection, and as I’ve always said, “knees always win.”  I’m excited that numbers three and four were more esoteric posts that go beyond asana.  And #5?  Well, who doesn’t like Cat Pose?

Thanks for your support the last over three years, keep reading, and I hope the posts have helped you.

If you like the blog, please keep reading and tell your friends.  And send me questions or ideas to write about. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with two weekly blogs (this and Killer Hobbies) and the many guest appearances I do on other blogs.  I do Whole Life Yoga’s blog because I hope it helps people. Help me keep the momentum!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Want to Strengthen Your Core? Start with the Breath

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Most people think of crunches or even Navasana (Boat Pose) as the holy grail of yoga core strengtheners.  But what if you could strengthen your abdominal muscles simply by breathing?

You can!

This simple exercise strengthens the girdling muscles that stabilize the lower back and pelvis. You can do the motion with every breath in your yoga practice, but I like to teach it lying on the floor, where you can more easily feel the motion of the spine and you aren’t distracted by other movements.  Give it a try for 5 minutes each day.  You’ll notice the difference. Your abs may even talk to you the next day!

  1. Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Notice how this position flattens your lower back curve.
  2. Place your palms on your belly.
  3. As you inhale, allow your belly to soften.
  4. As you exhale, imagine that you are closing the zipper on a too-tight pair of jeans. Pull in your belly starting at the bottom (the pubic bone) and contract upward toward the bottom of your ribs. You might feel your belly hollow out and your lower back press toward the floor.
  5. On the following inhale, imagine that you are breathing in from your collar bones down. Keep your belly pulled in strongly for the first half of the inhale, and then slowly allow it to relax in the second half.
  6. With each following exhale, close the zipper again.

Hints:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, make the abdominal contraction on exhale about a 6.  Strong enough to feel the muscles, not so strong that you feel breathless or tired.
  • Relax the rest of your body.  In particular, notice any tension that builds in your neck, shoulders, jaw, and arms, and consciously release it.
  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual when lying on your back, try it seated crossed-legged on the floor or in a chair.
  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual without movement,  integrate it into every breath of your asana practice.

Enjoy, and happy practicing!

Tracy Weber

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

Time off, Blog Tours, and the Uniqueness of Viniyoga

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

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

I’m having a great time.

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

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

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

Thanks all!  I’ll see you in September.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

Do You Practice Hatha Yoga?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

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

A Yoga Teacher by Any Other Name….

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

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

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

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

Similarities

1.      We both own yoga studios in Seattle.

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

2.      Kate and I both have body image issues.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Where We’re Different:

1.      I’m not afraid of commitment.

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

2.      Kate and I had different childhoods.

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

3.      My neuroses are different than Kate’s.

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

4.      I adore dogs to a fault.

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

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

I’m too busy plotting murder.

Tracy Weber

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

Announcing A KILLER RETREAT!

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

What do you think? 

Available January 8, 2015 from Midnight Ink!

Available January 8, 2015 from Midnight Ink!

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

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

ABOUT A KILLER RETREAT

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

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

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

REVIEWS

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

Linda O. Johnston Author of the Pet Rescue Mysteries

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

Susan Conant     Author of the Dog Lover’s Mysteries

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

Shannon Esposito   Author of the Pet Psychic Mysteries

Thanks!

Tracy

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

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

A few weeks ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner and more flexible.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for the past fourteen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over 250 teachers in the past ten years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If we yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy

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

Airports, Conventions, and Karma: a Horror Story.

“Above all, be kind.  You have the power to bring someone hope, if only for a moment.”—David Wagner

As some of you know, I recently had a Stephen King-like horror experience traveling to a mystery convention in California. It started with a series of airline errors that left me stranded at the Los Angeles airport and ended with my ticket back home to Seattle accidentally being deleted by the same airline. In between, my luggage was lost, I was unable to sleep due to recurring travel-related nightmares, and I had a still-confusing incident with a fellow writer who I can only describe as the adult version of the “mean girls” I dealt with in high school.

But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about karma. I don’t claim to understand all of the yoga teachings, but I do have a concept of karma. Karma indicates that actions have consequences, not just to others, but to ourselves. Simply put, the law of karma promises that the actions we take in this life will have repercussions in the next.

Who knows if it’s true? As much as I’d love to have a future-life “do-over” to correct my mistakes, I can only say one thing for certain: the kindness of several people stood out this past weekend, and I appreciate them: a baggage claim clerk who went out of his way to explain what had happened to me in LA; a young person who helped an elderly gentleman place his luggage into the overhead compartment on the plane back to Seattle; a TSA employee who treated a Middle Eastern man with kindness and respect when his ID didn’t match his travel documents.

None of this seems major, but it was all yogic, and it was huge to the people it helped. Being kind doesn’t take much.  A smile, a “please sit down and join us,” a “I don’t know what happened, but I’ll try to help.”  The kindness you show others may have repercussions that are more powerful than you will ever realize.

Five authors made my awful weekend a little brighter, simply by making me feel welcome when others did not. There are a gazillion talented writers out there.  Great human beings are harder to come by. I’m already a fan of these authors, and you can bet I’ll be buying more of their books. Please join me.

Has someone made your day a little brighter?  If so, please share the story in a comment!

Tracy

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

Persevering Practice: It Isn’t Just Yoga

This week I had the honor of being a guest writer on Jungle Red Writers. I chose to write about yoga and writing.  Whenever I combine those two words, two more come to mind: persevering practice.

But persevering practice doesn’t just apply to yoga. It applies to any activity done mindfully, over time, without interruption, with enthusiasm, and without attachment to results. When I wrote the article, I asked my yoga teacher training graduates to share some of their favorite non-yoga persevering practices. Here are four answers, along with the photos my students sent to illustrate them.

I’m sorry that the photos didn’t make Jungle Red (they primarily used their own stock photos), but I hope you will read the article. Please know how much I appreciate the support of each of my students, including these lovely four ladies.

Mary Bue, whose persevering practice is singing and songwriting. Mary is truly a talent, and I plan to post a guest post from her soon!

Marcie Leek, who uses knitting, both as a mindfulness practice and to connect with others.

Sharon Gillette, who hand raises chickens at her home in Issaquah. Attending to their needs takes daily effort and mindful dedication to their well-being.

chicks

Cheryle Rivers, whose love of gardening not only provides persevering practice, but also nurtures others.

Thank you, ladies, for providing these photos.

To each of you reading this article, whatever your own personal practice may be, persevere.

Namaste

Tracy Weber