Monthly Archives: July 2011

How in the world did I get here? My journey to teaching yoga

This week’s blog entry is written by guest author Melanie Reed.  Melanie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s advanced 500 hour teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga.    She can be contacted at

I never imagined myself as a teacher of anything.  Most of my life, I have struggled with issues of anxiety and confidence, especially in groups, most especially in front of a group.  The thought of directing a practice as my yoga teachers did never once crossed my mind.

I had been taking private instruction with Tracy and dropping into classes at  Whole Life Yoga for about 6 months and felt a bit of confidence growing in my body and a deepening awareness and sensitivity physically and energetically (and the low back and hip pain I had experienced for years was gone – the first of many yoga miracles!).  One Wednesday night during Tracy’s 6:00 pm All-Levels class I experienced what I can only describe as ground rising up underneath me.  I remember the whole experience had a soft golden hue and I felt a kind of loving support that seemed endless.  I somehow ‘knew’ that this ground was connected with the yoga practice.

After the practice, Tracy happened to ask me how I was doing and I burst out sobbing.  When I told her what I had experienced during the practice and that I felt so strongly a desire to know more, she suggested that I take the 200 hour yoga teacher training that the studio offers.

I was completely astounded!  And, I said,’ but I can’t do any of the poses right’.

Tracy said, ‘That doesn’t matter at all.  The correct form of the postures is the least important element in yoga.’  It took a number of weeks to become accustomed to the idea of taking the training.  Meanwhile, I started reading Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga and began to see a small bit of the beauty and wisdom of this path.

Throughout the 9 months of the training, I steadfastly held to my belief that I did not want to teach, but was only interested in deepening my personal practice – which of course happened in spades.  I learned many details and options which allowed me to modify poses and sequences not only to keep myself safe while practicing, but also this made the practice of yoga far more interesting.  I learned that each posture offers so many adaptations that I could match exactly what I needed no matter what my physical, energetic, or emotional state.  I loved being in a drop-in yoga class and understanding the hidden meaning of the posture sequence being taught.  It was like learning a new language; I had been given the secret yoga decoder ring.

In the last months of the training, it did finally come down to teaching – I taught my own 4 series class; which was at once the most challenging thing I’ve ever done and one of the most rewarding – because I learned so much about myself.  I learned that I can feel terrified and still speak, still move, still function and more personal to me, function as a teacher.  Albeit – a teacher in the very beginning stage.

In other words, I could move though the terror of being in front of a group, being the one speaking, the one directing others; and on the other side of the fear, I survived, in a purer form for having gone through the experience.  I had to give up the belief that I never know enough – and to trust and even relax while teaching others of the beauty and harmony in each posture, in each sequence taught in this Viniyoga tradition.

I found the Whole Life Yoga 200 hour teacher training program an intensely transformative experience and this process continues each time I am privileged to teach a yoga class – and no one is more surprised than I to find that the words, ‘on inhale, sweep your arms up, on exhale…’ are coming out of my mouth.

More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

The Philosophy of Yoga

In this week’s post I introduce the key philosophical text of yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In future posts I will delve into more detail about some of the teachings of this wonderful text.

One of my first yoga teachers once said to me “People start taking yoga because of benefits they hope to find in their body. They stay with it because they find something more.”  That quote has always stuck with me, because I’ve found it to be so very true, not just for myself but for many I’ve taught over the years.

People in the West usually think of yoga as strictly a form of exercise. In reality, it is that and so much more! Yoga was originally developed as a method of calming the mind and connecting with the heart. These teachings are wonderfully conveyed in an ancient text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Written sometime between 400 BC and 200 AD, this text describes in a compact and almost poetic form the teachings of yoga and how it can help us become more centered, balanced, clear and connected.

The first 2 sutras describe yoga’s purpose: Learning to control the random fluctuations of the mind. They then go on to describe how, in calming those random fluctuations, we can become more connected to our values—to who we truly are at our core—while being less influenced by our filters, projection, fears and anxieties.

This clarity of mind was the undeniable benefit I personally found in practicing yoga, long before I actually studied the sutras. I became clearer about who I am and the mark I want to leave on my world. Things that used to drive me crazy became interesting observations instead of painful traumas. Fears diminished. Courage returned. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m hopefully getting a bit more balanced every day.

If you’re interested in exploring these teachings further, there are many wonderful translations and commentaries available. My personal favorite is The Essence of Yoga, by Bernard Bouanchaud. It is occasionally difficult to find in the United States, so I have some copies available it at Whole Life Yoga. But if you go to any major bookseller you will find many different translations of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali on their shelves.

Frugal yogis can also find many wonderful free translations on the internet. Swami J has a translation many of my students have found very useful. But my biggest advice is to be open to changes that happen as you continue your yoga practice. Listen to the voices of truth you may begin to hear. Yoga is not at all about achieving a certain posture.  Release the shackles of thinking that it is all about “stretching” or even “exercise.”  You likely will get stronger, leaner and more flexible. But the most powerful thing you can stretch is your mind!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Teaching Yoga to the Airforce

This week’s blog entry is written by Kristen Nelson, a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program.  Kristen can be contacted at

I recently volunteered to teach three yoga classes at the Air Force Combat Rescue Squadron in Oregon.  Having a brother who is a Major at this unit, I was on the schedule and couldn’t back out-or decide I was too nervous.

My first morning, I scanned the group–a few Pararescuemen (or para jumpers/PJs) and majority from their Combat Support Team. Overall the athletic ability would be diverse with a few major, past injuries thrown in.   One had bruised his spinal cord in a parachuting accident resulting in loss to his range of motion and strength.   My brother had torn his PCL and LCL in his knee, and suffered a compression fracture to his ankle.  These injuries would put the average person out, some crippled for life.  But giving up isn’t an option for them. Teaching the military was completely new for me but I knew they deserved the same care, the same conscious instruction I gave to anyone who came to my class.   As I introduced Viniyoga, its benefits and relevance, I worried there would be eye rolling and smug expressions.  But they listened.  Attentive and respectful, they tried everything I threw at them.

As beginning yogis, the pararescue guys were strong, supple and more flexible than I expected.   I was surprised at how easily my brother could get into pigeon pose, or how one guy, doing Cobra, without using arms, looked like he was pushing himself into Up Dog.   And here I am, saying, “Now, don’t strain, only come up as far is comfortable…”  One other guy had such a beautiful Bridge that I almost cried. But what was shocking… ask one of those elite pararescue guys to stand on one foot in Tree, and oh dear, our national security could be at stake.  Now, I wouldn’t normally make jest of a student’s weakness, but these guys can take it and I bet secretly, some are balancing on one foot when no one is looking.  One guy commented that while balancing, his leg felt like it was burning. It was obvious he was trying to ‘muscle’ his way through, trying to compensate for the weakness.  But he’s been trained to do exactly that-muscle through a challenge.  I know though, if I worked with this group regularly, it would be only a matter of time and they would be doing crazy stuff on one leg.

My hope, both for the pararescue guys who jump out of the sky and rescue people in all kinds of horrible situations, and to their support staff who are their bolsters, is that something about yoga sticks with them.  Working an unused muscle, relieving tension in their spine, or just giving them a bit of peace and quiet.  I believe yoga can help.

After I was there, there was talk about the unit doing yoga on a regular basis- to seek out a yoga instructor.  My brother also asked me to recommend a book to take with him on deployment.   He is taking Yoga For Your Life, by Margaret and Martin Pierce.  I like to think of him, far away, saying to his fellow Airmen, “Let’s begin by focusing on the breath.”  This brings me some comfort.  I hope it does the same for them.


More information about Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program can be found at our web site:  Yoga Teacher Training at Whole Life Yoga.

The Meaning of Namaste

You often hear it at the end of yoga classes, and I usually sign my blog posts with this word.  But what does it mean, anyway?

Namaste (pronounced Nah-mah-stay) is used as a salutation in India and other countries in the East.   I even heard it spoken in my non yoga travels to Thailand a few years ago.   Namaste is similar, in a way, to “Aloha” in Hawaii.  It has many meanings and uses, including “Hello” and “Goodbye” in verbal communication.  In written communication it is used in a manner similar to how we use “Sincerely.”   In short, it is a considerate way to acknowledge and pay respect to another.

Namaste is a Sanskrit word that has been given many meanings, and I encourage you to find one that works for you and make it your own.  Here are some I’ve heard often…

  • The spirit in me honors the spirit in you.
  • The teacher in me acknowledges the teacher in you.
  • The light in me sees the light in you.

Whenever I say Namaste, however, I am reminded of the derivation of the word, as given to me by my teacher.  If you study the origin of the word and meaning of each syllable, Namaste translates roughly to “Not me, but you.”   This meaning reminds me that every class I teach and every blog I write is not really for me, but for the students in front of me.  It reconnects me to why I teach yoga in the first place:  To create a space of healing and growth for my students.  The other definitions above keep me humble and remind me that each of my students is both my teacher and a source of light in my life.

And if you attend a yoga class and are uncomfortable saying “Namaste?”  Then please feel free to refrain from saying it.   Simply holding a “Thank you” in your heart for your fellow yogis and your practice is perfect!


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!