Monthly Archives: January 2013

Five Steps to Your Ideal Home Yoga Retreat

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Christine Stump. Check out Christine’s wonderful blog at

Christine Stump, Warrior Pose

When you think of a yoga retreat, do you think of bamboo, waterfalls and bathrobes? Drop some cucumber slices in your water and pull up a chair: just five factors determine your ideal home yoga retreat.

With a home retreat, you reverse your priorities and emphasize the very things you’re usually trying to squeeze in. Flip your priorities for a while, focus on morning and evening meditation, include some pampering.

Five things determine your ideal self-retreat: home situations, budget, work integration, ideal practice schedule, and menu.

  1. Home situation: If you live alone, how do you want your space arranged for retreat? If living with others, include them in your plans. Do you want to plan special activities with each one of your children during this time, so they learn self-care as well? Or do you need to arrange outside care for your elders so they don’t miss medications, baths or meals? Have a conversation with your roommate or partner to let them know these days are special, that you want a clean, organized, media free space.  Solicit their participation in common areas, and communicate they can’t count on you for late night drinks.
  2. Budget: Will your usual grocery and yoga class budget be plenty for what you have in mind? Do you want to set aside extra for a massage, time at a spa, special linens or a personal chef? Your retreat can be as simple or elaborate as you make it, but the simplest experiences can be most elegant. Candles, plush towels and great robe may be luxurious treats.
  3. Work integration: Will you take time off work or school?  Or will you take your retreat time concurrent with work and commit to coming home on time and bringing your practices with you to work. Perhaps you can close the door and meditate for 15 minutes at lunch or take that after work yoga class to make sure you leave on time.
  4. Practice schedule: What is your ideal yoga day? Do you go to class at the studio every day? Take a workshop at the weekend? Practice for two hours a day? Vinyasa practice in the morning with restorative in the afternoon? You can create your schedule any way you desire. Your schedule creates a container for your experience, so commit to whatever you choose. Include journaling and outdoor time.
  5. Menu: Plan healthy meals for your retreat. Decide which options you’ll include: fresh green juices, ten servings of leafy greens, all organic, all vegetarian or fresh fruit every day. Commit to drinking plenty of water and include anti-oxidant rich teas and vegetables.

Once your retreat days come, relax into the space you’ve created. Allow yourself to let go of your routine priorities and prioritize your practice for this time. The structure you’ve created will help you reset when your habits kick in (which they will, over and over). Give yourself to this process and let us know how it goes in the comments below!

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Practicing Non-Attachment without Becoming Detached

The concepts of attachment and non-attachment are mentioned several times in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Asana, on the other hand, is only mentioned as a preparation for meditation.  So though most people think asana is the be-all and end-all in yoga, practicing non-attachment is significantly more important.  But what is non-attachment, exactly, and what does it imply about how we relate to our world?

The sutras say raga—attachment—is neither good nor bad.  In fact, it’s an important part of human survival.  If it weren’t for attachment, I’m pretty sure my parents would have strangled me by the age of thirteen. In spite of that, the sutras warn, attachment can lead to suffering.

Not too many people argue with the fact that being attached to money or possessions can cause suffering.  But this whole idea of being non-attached to people, ideals, or outcomes? Well, that seems to be tougher.  The prevailing question is always the same: How can I be non-attached without becoming detached?

Personally, I don’t see the problem; the two concepts are completely different.  Non-attachment implies being of this world, but not caught up in it. Detachment, on the other hand implies withdrawing from the world, either in an effort to avoid its complications or because we simply don’t care.

When we are non-attached, we practice; we love; we help others. And we work to leave our best mark in the world. But we do so knowing that the outcome may be different than we envision, and we are OK with that. We’re not tied up in the specific results.

For example, I can practice yoga faithfully without caring if I ever get my foot behind my head; I can accept the actions of my friends and family even when they treat me differently than I would hope; I can give of my time and energy to others—and still feel good about it—even if they choose a different path than I think they should.  All while remaining at peace. I give to the world with a full heart regardless of the outcome, because I know that, in the long term, things generally turn out as they should.

Detachment, on the other hand, implies an uncaring numbness—a hollowness in relation to the world around us. When we are detached, we feel separate from others; we lack empathy; we feel defeated.  We may experience this as indifference, depression, self-importance, aloofness, or even numbness. But the result is inevitably the same. When I am detached, the world exists, but I don’t connect with it. I don’t take action; I don’t practice; in fact, I don’t do much of anything.  Why would I bother?

A life of detachment feels desolate; one of non-attachment, serene. Our world will be a much better place when it is overflowing with active, compassionate, non-attachment.  Only then can we find harmony and peace.

What are your thoughts? Please post a comment below.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Proper Form and Adaptations of Child’s Pose—Response to a Student Question

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to

A Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate writes: When I teach child’s pose, I have noticed that some of my students keep their back straight and hips hiked up in the air, almost downward dog-like. I’m not sure if this is a flexibility issue, or if they just don’t understand my instructions. Do you see this in your students, and if so, how do you address it?

I do see that pattern occasionally, and it can have several causes. Most yoga teachers think that child’s pose is a comfortable, forward-bended resting position—and it usually is. For some students, however, child’s pose isn’t restful at all; it’s confusing, uncomfortable, and frustrating.

The photo below shows a student doing child’s pose correctly. Note that her hips rest toward her heels, and her elbows and forehead relax comfortably toward the floor.

Yoga Pose -- Child's Pose

Sometimes, however, students touch their heads to the floor while pointing their hips to the sky. This places the spine in a subtle backbend, and usually isn’t the slightest bit comfortable.

Yoga Pose -- Adapted Child's Pose

A student usually does this for one of three reasons:

  1. Her knees are unable to acutely bend or are uncomfortable when deeply bent.
  2. She can’t breathe comfortably when her chest, belly, or breasts are pressed against her thighs.
  3. She doesn’t understand how to do the pose.

The solution, of course, depends on the cause. Two adaptations are useful for students with knee issues:

Place a bolster or folded blanket on top of the student’s calves. This allows her to rest with her knees at a less acute angle

Yoga Pose -- Adapted Child's Pose

Place a bolster under the student’s chest and belly. This has the effect of raising the floor, so her knees don’t have to bend as much when she lowers her body.

Yoga Pose -- Adapted Child's Pose

If, on the other hand, the student has difficulty breathing in child’s pose, coach her to widen her knees to make more room for the breath.

Yoga Pose -- Adapted Child's Pose

You can also have the student place a bolster, forearms or fists underneath her forehead to maintain space for the breath.

Yoga Pose -- Adapted Child's Pose

If the student doesn’t understand how to do the pose, then some individualized coaching is in order. Ask her if she is choosing to modify child’s pose for comfort. If the answer is no, she’s likely confused. Work with her to better understand the form and intention of the pose. If the answer is yes, find out specifically why she’s uncomfortable and work with her to adapt the post to get both function and ease.

Thanks for asking!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Meditation: Work or Play?

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Roy Holman. Roy is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. He can be contacted at and at

People come to my meditation classes hoping to find peace and calm. Sometimes the first thing they notice is how not peaceful and calm they are! Perhaps even long ignored or buried emotions like fear and anger surface, and they run from their meditation practice shouting, “I thought this would be fun!”

So what is meditation?  Is it blissful sitting and finding our center? Or is it hard work, using effort to struggle through our patterns? Perhaps both. Effortless Effort.

It takes courage and effort to break patterns, see our stuff, face our feelings. It takes some practice and techniques and teachings to learn how to prepare the body, sit still, and calm the mind to some degree. This is the yang or masculine side of the practice. One cannot do yoga without getting on the mat.  One cannot meditate without sitting down and finding a way to move beyond thinking and doing.

We can use whatever “techniques” or effort we can to do this.  Conscious regulation of the breath (called pranayama in yoga terms) is one of my favorite ways to still the mind. We can simply follow the breath or deepen the breath, and the breath often leads us deeper into our meditation.

Some of us like to use a mantra, such as “I am love.” This is an excellent way to still the mind and move out of the thinking and planning. We can also feel our feelings.  Bring our attention down from our thinking mind and down into the body and just feel what is going on.

Ultimately though, our meditation practice is more being than doing, more allowing than controlling, observing than changing. Our world has had the masculine do-orientation turned up for eons, and it is time to move more into the feminine effortlessness of being. This is more about heart than head, feeling rather than thinking. This is where we need to focus not only on our meditation cushion and yoga mat, but in our world.

Again, use whatever technique to get there, but know you are already always “there.”  Truth is here, now. We are not trying to get anywhere. We follow the Tao (truth), the divine flow, moving with rather than against the currents. We don’t change but observe thoughts.  We don’t control or plan where we are going. We don’t fight against life but let it teach us–and it always will.

Meditation is more about being, essence, and presence.  We are coming out of such a painful time on planet earth.  We are afraid, our energy systems are on high alert, we see enemies everywhere, and our self esteem is so low we feel we need to earn a date with the Divine. But the Divine, or Truth, or God, or Joy, or the Sacred–choose your word–is always closer than close.  And grace is always pouring in, if we can only learn to let go and receive it.

I use the words, “drop in,” when I finish my breath, prayer, and gratitude parts of my meditation. This reminds me that the “effort” part of the meditation is over.  It does not mean that I try to change or eliminate thoughts, but I watch and let go of control. Then I sometimes drop in to a sacred space, a rare moment in my day when my mind is still. This provides a baseline, a reminder that we do not have to live in the maniacal mind and the false, egotistical self, which always want to get somewhere or achieve something. As Neale Donald Walsch says, “You have to be out of your mind to find God.”

When we find ourselves in that place of stillness, the breath becomes automatic, the impermanent aspects of ourselves like personality, titles, names, and concepts fall away, leaving the energetic essence of being.  As Rumi says, “Give up your drop and become part of the ocean.” We let go of that delusion of separation, we trust, and at long last, we feel the effortless joy of our divine self, connected to all that is.

This is where we come from.  This is where we return to.  It is inevitable. Meditation is hard work.  And it is simple.  Do not think too much about it.  Let effortless effort guide the way, knowing there is nowhere to go, nothing to do.


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!