Monthly Archives: August 2012

Keeping Yourself (and Your Students) Safe with Viniyoga

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author and Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate Jacqui Trent.   Congratulations, Jacqui, on your recent graduation! Jacqui can be contacted at

When I started this training program I’ll admit – I had no idea what Viniyoga was.  I knew very little about other lineages, but this one was completely foreign to me. My experience was in general Hatha/Vinyasa flow that didn’t really follow any sort of rules.  I’ve been in
group classes where we’d start the practice popping right into headstand, without any regard to the neck or shoulders, and (I won’t lie) I loved it!  I wasn’t sure about all these (in my first impression) “restrictions.” Now, as a WLY graduate, I have so much appreciation for these restrictions!

In January of this year I got quite a shock.  All of a sudden I felt an intense pang from my neck and shoulder all the way down my right arm as well as awful sciatica.  It basically came out of nowhere.  This pain was so debilitating that I had to completely stop all yoga and running and since then it’s only gotten worse.

While I couldn’t really say that my prior yoga experience caused my pain, I know that it didn’t help.  Every week for the past nine months, it’s become more and more apparent to me.  I should never have been starting a class in headstand; my neck and shoulders were in no way shape or form prepared for all that weight.

Two things Tracy has ingrained into our heads: “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should” and “you have to ask yourself if the risks outweigh the benefits.”  Had I not been going through this training when my pain started and had I never heard those words, I guarantee you I would be doing headstand right now (as well as other poses that could be harmful for me) instead of typing this article.

Another amazing thing I learned from Tracy is the art of sequencing practices. Yes, there are rules, but they meant for protecting and preparing the body for poses. While daunting and completely overwhelming at first, I’ve really come to love designing classes!  It’s like a puzzle.  How can you keep your student(s) safe while also meeting their needs? I’m still working on maximizing my sequences, but I believe that will only come with time.

Finally, (although I promise you I’ve learned quite a bit!) I’ve learned how to teach a class without having to do the entire practice with the students. It is my goal to talk students through the practice and only demo if needed and when it’s safe for my body (grabbing a demo student if I can’t do it). This not only allows me to more closely observe my students; it also saves me from injuring myself even more by trying to demonstrate a pose.

While I may have started this training slightly skeptical, I really see the value and beauty of this lineage.  It baffles me that not everyone would put as much emphasis on protecting your body as Viniyoga does.  It has stopped me from further injury and taught me how to keep my future students safe.  These principles will definitely always be a part of my teachings!


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

Memories of a Celebration

Thank you to the students who gave up their Monday evening yoga practice with Cara to allow me to celebrate a final evening with Whole Life Yoga’s most recent teacher training group.  As predicted, we shared more than a few tears, but we also laughed, played, and ate more than was probably good for us. Today’s blog shares some of that celebration with all of you. Enjoy the photos!

Gorgeous tropical flowers decorated the altar and set the tropical theme.

We began by sharing stories, memories, and learnings with each other.

The class kindly wrapped me in a meditation shawl each person had worn, so I could carry their energy with me forever. I will treasure it always!

After a brief movement and meditation practice, each student set an intention for the future, about how they would use the yoga teachings personally and share them in their world.

We ended the ceremony in a final closing circle.

Of course there was food.

And even some bubbly.

Finally, a big kiss farewell.

And lots of promises that this goodbye was not forever.

Thank you, my friends, for everything.  And to the rest of the Whole Life Yoga community, thank you as well.  Your gracious acceptance of these students as participants and observers in your yoga classes has been a big part of their learning. I may not say it often enough, but we couldn’t do it without you!



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

Overcoming the Klesas (Seeds of Suffering)

According to The Yoga Sutras, the primary goal of yoga is to overcome suffering.  But it’s not the kind of suffering most people think of. Sure, yoga’s great at overcoming physical ailments, from back pain, to asthma, to insomnia. But yoga’s ultimate goal is to overcome the suffering of the mind, or what my teacher calls psycho-emotional suffering.  The kind of stress, heartache, and anxiety we create within ourselves.  The internal suffering we do over external events.  The suffering we do over our suffering, so to speak.

Sutras 2.3 – 2.12 list five klesas, or seeds of suffering:

  • Ignorance, which is especially problematic, because it is not just a source of pain. It is also the fuel that ignites all other sources of suffering.
  • Ego, the belief that we are somehow separate from those around us. Ego results in feelings of isolation, ethnocentrism, and dogmatism.
  • Attachment, or holding on to something for fear of losing it, including relationships, possessions, job titles, and stature.
  • Aversion, or avoiding something for fear of pain. Aversion results in the victim mentality so prevalent in our society today, prejudice, fear, and blame.
  • Fear, especially the fear of death.

Most of us experience all of the above at one point or another. Some will be recurrent themes in our lives, like an unwelcome house guest that visits at the worst possible time, and then decides to stay longer than planned.

For me, attachment and fear are old friends. I love my house, my dog, my husband—even my yoga studio. I worry about losing any and all of them.  Love isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but does fear of loss cause me unnecessary pain? Does fear of loss invite me to make poor decisions?

The sutras say that actions based on the klesas have undesirable effects.  They leave behind a nasty trail, not unlike a slug’s gooey slime trail.  Worse yet, those effects may not even be seen in our lifetimes.  Future generations may instead pay the price of our folly.  One look at our current political climate, and I know the sutras are still correct, even thousands of years after they were written.

But the sutras also offer hope!  They say that yoga, especially meditation, can help us develop a clear mind. And when our minds are clear, we can choose to act differently. By doing so, we not only decrease our own personal suffering, we also leave a cleaner imprint on our world.

We Seattleites, are known for our concern about the environment.  We reduce, reuse and recycle. We encourage people to drink tap water instead of buying those evil plastic bottles.  We even ban plastic bags in grocery stores.  Our goal is worthy: to leave our world a better place than we found it.  But perhaps we’re missing at least part of the point.  Perhaps we should also work to reduce our internal garbage. By doing so, we may just erase the psychic slug trail of negative energy we’re leaving behind.

According to my favorite Native American saying, “We will forever be known by the tracks we leave.”  Today, I invite you all to make your tracks lighter.  Act mindfully, lovingly, with a pure mind.  Take the Sutras’ advice, and start a consistent meditation practice, not just for your own benefit, but for that of your world.

And here is my blessing for you. May your tracks be invisible.  May your actions support your values.  May you live beyond the klesas so that all beings after you are brightened by the path you leave behind.



Congratulations and “Breathing Easier”

As unbelievable as it seems, tonight is Whole Life Yoga’s tenth Yoga Teacher Training graduation.  I swear every year goes just a little bit faster than the last. (And I know I get a little bit grayer!)  Tonight twenty brave souls who started class last September will practice together for a final time.  I hope our celebration will be filled with more laughter than tears, but I’m betting there will be plenty of both.

My soon-to-be-graduates tell me that they have mixed emotions about tonight’s graduation.  They’ve been working their collective butts off this past ten months designing sequences, writing essays, practicing, and teaching yoga. And they’ve spent every Monday evening, rain or shine, together in class.  Frankly, they’re pretty happy to get their normal lives back.  And yet they’re sad, too.  After all, they’ve spent the last ten months learning, practicing yoga, and supporting each other. They’ve had the privilege of spending every Monday evening with an incredible, supportive community of like-minded people.

Speaking personally, I feel their ambivalence. In fact, I suffer the same pain.  Nothing in my professional life is harder than leading this teacher training program.  Nothing is, at times, more frustrating. Nothing pushes my boundaries or forces me to grow more, both as a human being and as a teacher.  And absolutely nothing is more rewarding.

I remember giving a speech at my 8th grade graduation. It feels like a hundred years ago, but since I was thirteen, it must have been somewhat more recent than that.  I don’t remember a single word of that speech, except how it ended.  I closed with a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its last line has guided my life ever since.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I started teaching yoga because I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to leave my world a better place, even if only subtly.  Some days I feel more successful than others. But I never feel that difference more than when I think about my teacher training graduates.

This current group has been through a lot in the last ten months. We’ve seen each other through job changes, illnesses, car accidents, pregnancies and births.  And we’ve learned to navigate these sometimes-overwhelming life changes using yoga tools.  Students have found their own voice, gained confidence, forgiven past mistakes, and learned lots and lots and lots about yoga practice. I wish I could take credit for all this. But the most profound learnings and changes are a direct result of this lineage and its ancient teachings.  I’m just the messenger.

My sadness tonight will be lessened only because I know these wonderful individuals are heading out into the world to share those same teachings with others.

To you, my soon-to-be alumni, a message. I’m proud of you. I’m humbled by your skills, your perseverance, your humor, and your forgiveness of my many, many mistakes.  I’m happy to send you out into the world, and yet so very sad to see you go.

The teacher in me bows to the teacher in you.



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