Monthly Archives: April 2013

Touch Me or Touch Me Not?

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Brandy Reinke. Brandy is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at

I love when I lay my fingers just under the arc of my ribs on my inhale my fingers expand so far apart. That’s what I watch in the mirrors at my current yoga studio. It is what I feel. It is hypnotic: my ribs expanding, collapsing, expanding, collapsing-wider with my breath, wider with my life.

In the mirror, I see this sweet-faced girl walk up to stand behind me. She’s helping the instructor in my evening class. I see before I feel the sweet-faced girl’s hands start to slide over my ribs while I am in a standing twist. I feel both her hands rub back and forth and back and forth from the top of my right ribs, over my diaphragm, to my bottom left ribs. I am disarmed. Up and down, hand over hand. Immediately, all I can think is: who was the last person to touch my ribs with any focused intensity? An odd thought.  She says “is this okay?” and I nod just as she hooks her fingers just under my right ribs and pulls back, gently, gently, to open my side more deeply into the twist.

At least I would guess that is what she would say she is doing, trying to get me deeper into my posture. But she is also dominating me. She has just taken my pose from me and made it something she is shaping, into her practice. Always with the best of intentions I’m sure, but my yoga practice just bounced out of my body and into hers.

I experience her hands on me with the viewpoint of a student and a teacher. She has helped me answer my own question if I as a teacher should touch my students or not. My answer is not ‘no’ even though I learned in my teacher training to be very wary of touch.  No touch is always a fair response. Touch is the most magnificent of the senses and the most dangerous. As teachers, as students, we must take care.

But what I find is that this isn’t actually a yes or no question.  Because in this circumstance when as a teacher we want to put our hands on someone, we are both teachers and students.  The question really is a compromise where we must take care to equally include our will with our student’s.

My sweet-faced teacher may know about the proper technique/form over what my body is showing. In putting her hands on me, I understand she is trying to get me the full benefit of the posture. But I am also the teacher in my body for her, showing her what I am and am not able to tolerate and she must understand that. Her job is to guide me, but my job is to accept her guidance.

I believe the question shouldn’t be ‘is this okay?’ I believe we should teach and be taught.  The question should be ‘can you go farther?’ If my sweet-faced teacher had asked me that, perhaps of my own volition I would’ve broken through my own barriers and moved my ribs back on my own. Perhaps she said ‘can I show you?’ and then placed her hands on me, which would truly be the essence of teaching: to show me how to get there myself.

Both options seem better than a passive yes or no, where I am tacitly asked to usurp my practice to what she thinks my practice should be, and where she then is forced to bear the responsibility of my practice herself.  As teachers and students we need to compromise with touch to enhance the experience so we both grow from it equally.


Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Zen on the Go

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Wesley Vonn. He can be contacted at

Traveling can bring stress to your mind and body that can hinder your happiness and affect the overall quality of your trip. Even if you are traveling for pleasure, cramped plane rides, different mattresses, or stressful situations can put a knot in your back or give you headaches. Incorporating some yoga into your travel plans can greatly improve your experience, letting you relax and enjoy yourself.

With more and more people understanding the benefits of yoga, there is plenty of opportunity to find a great place to do yoga while you travel. Of course, a series of sun salutations in your hotel room can work just fine, but maybe take the opportunity to check out a new class while you are away. Maybe you always do Bikram, but have never given Vinyasa a try. Find a studio nearby or even check with your hotel to see if they offer any classes.

Some airports and hotels now even dedicated yoga rooms. According to Jane Levere “Hotels are providing yoga equipment and videos in guest rooms, as well as classes, often for no charge, while airports are offering yoga studios to passengers in transit.” Stepping into one of these zen rooms before or after your flight can ease your tension and nerves about flying or help you reground yourself and refocus. If your hotel does not offer these classes, then you could just perform your own yoga in the comfort of your hotel room. When I took a trip to Las Vegas I did my research before booking a hotel. I landed on a bunch of great reviews for the Mandarin Hotel. Those reviews showed me that they have an excellent spa and yoga studio, which I took full advantage of. Moral of the story is that if you do a little do-diligence before your trip you can take full advantage of the amenities that you want.

If you aren’t lucky enough to stumble into a hotel with yoga capabilities, try to find the time to incorporate some of your daily yoga into your routine. Travel easily throws of our body’s natural rhythm and doing some simple practices in the morning can help you get back on track. The wonderful thing about yoga is you don’t need to pack any extra shoes or equipment to get in a session. All you need is yourself and you can find a way to do your routine.

So, next time you are feeling irritable on a trip or find your body feeling stiff and out of whack, think about doing some simple yoga poses or stopping into a new class at your hotel. Take control of your mind and your body, wherever you may be.


The Evolution of a Yogi

I recently spent several hours digging through the mountains of paper stacked all over my house, desperately looking for some notes I’d taken while researching my next novel. I finally found them, tossed mindlessly in my yoga teacher training binder.

Disgusted with my lack of organization—it was, after all, the second time I’d lost those notes—I set aside writing for awhile, determined to tackle the disaster that was my home.

My husband came home from work, unaware of the project I’d undertaken. He looked at my clean desktop and the corresponding bags of to-be-recycled paper lining the hallway. Curious but wary, he cautiously approached as I sorted papers into ”recycle,” “re-file,” and “God only knows what this is” piles.

“Who is this woman?” he asked.

Who indeed.

Buried in the back of my file cabinet, I found an essay I wrote when applying for my first yoga teacher training.  I remember writing that essay as if it were yesterday. I sat in Maui’s warm sun, scribbling furiously in my journal, trying to explain why I loved yoga and how I wanted to share it.

But as I re-read the words, I barely recognized the person who wrote that essay.  Her goals seem so different than what I’ve achieved in the last twelve years.

In some ways, her aspirations seem nobler than what I’ve accomplished.

  • To establish a nonprofit yoga center
  • To primarily use yoga to help female survivors of violence become whole again.

On the other hand, I’ve achieved some of her goals.

  • To grow emotionally and spiritually through the practice of yoga
  • To use yoga to help others overcome emotional and physical ailments.

And she didn’t even mention some of my most impactful work.

  • To train other yoga teachers, so the benefits of Viniyoga can be spread beyond my personal teaching
  • To keep the yoga studio open, in hard times as well as good
  • To reach out to people I may never even meet, through writing.

Part of me laughs at the naiveté of the woman who wrote that essay; another part of me misses her. But even as I write these words, she continues evolving.   Yoga has that effect on people.

Who is this woman? I still don’t know.  But using the tools of yoga and writing, I’ll keep finding out.  I hope you join me.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on my hopefully soon-to-be-published yoga mystery!

The Balancing Breath

There are literally thousands of breath techniques used in yoga, but the most simple are also often most profoundly effective.

Krama pranayama is a breathing technique that most of my yoga students—even those who don’t normally like pranayama—love. The word krama simply means segmented. Krama Pranayama segments portions of the breath—the inhale, the exhale, or both—into parts. Segmenting the inhale has an energizing effect; segmenting the exhale has a relaxing effect. If, on the other hand, both the inhale and the exhale are segmented, the effect is balancing.

The breath practice below can be used to bring balance to your energy system, whether it is stressed, anxious, exhausted, or depressed. I hope you enjoy it.

Two Part Krama Pranayama

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine neutral and the crown of your head extending up toward the ceiling.
  2. Take at least six breaths to lengthen both your inhale and your exhale, trying to make them approximately equal. Then remain at that lengthened breath for at least six breaths.
  3. Break your inhale into two equal parts with a one to two second pause in between each part. Maintain that breathing pattern for at least six breaths.
  4. After several breaths, also break your exhale into two equal parts with the same one to two second pause in between each part. Maintain this breathing pattern for at least 12 breaths.
  5. After at least 12 breaths, begin to ramp the breath back down. First delete the pauses in the middle of the inhale and exhale, but continue breathing at a lengthened rate for at least six breaths.
  6. Then take at least six breaths to return your breath to a new normal rhythm. Notice the new length and fullness of your breath and the effects of this practice on your body, breath, and mind.

I hope you enjoy this breath practice, and that it invites balance to your body, your energy system, and your life.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my Tracy Weber author mailing list for updates on my hopefully soon-to-be-published yoga mystery!

To Sanskrit or Not to Sanskrit. A Pose by Any Other Name…

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

Is this cat, table, or cakravakasana?

A Whole Life Yoga teacher training student asks: In some of the classes I attend, the teacher uses the Sanskrit names of poses; other teachers do not.  Is knowing Sanskrit important for a yoga teacher?

Using the names of yoga poses, whether in Sanskrit or English, is a convenient shorthand—for the yoga teacher.  It’s easier to say “Go into down dog” or even “Do adho mukha svanasana” than to describe how to do a pose correctly.  Knowing posture names does not make you a good yoga teacher.  A good yoga teacher can verbally describe a yoga pose to students who’ve never heard its name.  And when we show off and use the Sanskrit names of poses, most of our students hear “whatchamacallit-asana,” anyway.

I rarely use Sanskrit when I teach. Using even English names creates more confusion than clarity.  I remember telling students in class once to go into Uttanasana (a very common standing forward bend). One of my long-time students stopped moving, looked at me oddly, and said, “Utta-what?”  Other times, English has been equally confusing.  I’ve told students to do bridge, and people practicing on mats next to each other have done two completely different poses.  I’ve said “Do down dog,” and half the class has gone into up dog instead.  The examples are numerous, but one thing is clear: the shorthand may be convenient for me, but I’m not communicating to my students.

In Viniyoga, there’s an even more important concern.  There are literally hundreds of ways to do any pose.  If all I say is “Do warrior 1,” I haven’t communicated anything about proper foot placement, how to use the breath, arm positions, number of repetitions, how to engage the core, visualization, etc., etc., etc.  The beauty is indeed in the details.

Sanskrit is a lovely language.  If you study yoga–whether as a teacher or as a practitioner–you may want to learn posture names and other Sanskrit terminology.  But a teacher needs to know how to describe the form, intention, and adaptations of a pose—in English.


Tracy Weber

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