Category Archives: Yoga Philosophy

Enough

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga 500-hour graduate Marcie Leek to the blog today.  I’m so INCREDIBLY proud of Marcie and the work she’s doing.  Thanks for joining us here today!

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For the past few years, I’ve been teaching classes called “Befriending Your Body through Yoga” to plus size women. My intention with these classes is to create a comfortable space where women who have bigger bodies are able to come and see what yoga can offer them. As the name implies, there is also an element of self-compassion underlying the classes. Teaching self-compassion to my students is as important to me as teaching pose adaptations because in my own life I have found that practicing yoga has led to a much kinder, gentler, and more accepting relationship between my (overcritical) mind and my (overweight) body. This is nothing short of a miracle.

I grew up in a small desert town in the 70s. My perceptions of beauty came from the Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, and Tiger Beat. At that time, there was no body positivity movement and no Yoga and Body Image Coalition and, as a girl of a certain size, I could have used them. My body didn’t look or move like the bodies of most girls around me, and I felt markedly different. No matter how much I dieted, I couldn’t get down to the movie-star weight of 107 pounds. So, I abandoned my body in favor of my mind, striving for excellence in order to make myself good enough, lovable enough, and acceptable enough.

I’m no longer a girl, and I’ve learned from some of my students that not all rounder-bodied women grew up ashamed of their bodies. I’m wistful when I meet women like that. I wonder what my life might have been like had I not spent years aiming to be invisible for fear of mockery or rejection. There have been other students in my classes who grew up like me and who say that it takes every bit of their will just to get to class, particularly the first few times. They are afraid of being visible, of being watched and judged. I feel so deeply for them because I recognize that struggle. They, like me, have samskaras, as yoga philosophy would call it. Samskaras are patterns deeply imprinted at a subconscious level. They can affect our habits, thoughts and actions. The samskaras about my body that I learned from and cultivated in my youth followed me for much of my young adulthood and still affect me today, even after years of conscious work with them. They are familiar to some of my plus-size students because the messages that conditioned them permeate our culture. The messages we receive are that bigger bodies are not normal, acceptable, or desirable. That we are lazy, undisciplined, and ugly. That the sum total of who we are will never be enough to compensate for the fact that we are fat.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received from yoga is the ability to find a place within myself that is not only quiet and accepting but also has no interest in following the patterns and beliefs of my samskaras. This is what I want to pass along to my students: the understanding that yoga can help them access this same place within themselves, and that it is a place of deep kindness and self-love that is unimaginable when the samskaras are running the show. My deepest Self isn’t interested in what I weigh or what I’m wearing to class, nor is it interested in comparing my body or my abilities to the other students around me. It’s such a relief! I practice yoga to experience that connection with my Self and to experience my body and my breath as it is in the moment, and I’ve learned that what it is in each moment is enough.

Marcie Leek is a Seattle-based yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level. She is also certified in Yoga for Round Bodies.  She has found yoga, meditation, and breath work to be powerful tools in her life, and she is inspired to help others do the same. You can learn more about Marcie on her Facebook Page or at her website www.nourishingbreathyoga.com and contact her at marcie@nourishingbreathyoga.com. Marcie’s Befriending Your Body through Yoga E-Course begins on January 17.

Ahimsa for children: How to encourage your children to respect animals and care for the environment

Please welcome Emma Mills to the Whole Life Blog today. Emma is a freelance writer and mom of two, who loves nothing more than taking her pet dogs for long walks.  

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love both yoga and animals.  The concept of ahimsa, “doing no harm,” encompasses both.  So when Emma asked to write an article about encouraging children to respect animals, I had to say yes!  Enjoy!

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If you are a yoga enthusiast you will know that yoga as a belief system goes beyond the actual exercise element and is in fact a philosophy which promotes inner peace, self control and self realisation. One of the most important principles of Yoga is ahimsa, i.e. non-violence. This is used as a guideline for how we should treat other human beings but it also teaches us not to hurt living things including animals and the world that we live in, which is why many many Hindu’s and Buddhists who adhere to this philosophy are vegetarian. If you want to encourage others to follow the ahimsa principle you must first promote respect for the world around us and the animals that share this earth with us. This is especially important for children because it is an important step in creating a sustainable, animal friendly future.

There are many things you can do to encourage children to respect animals and the environment. One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children and exhibit the behaviours you want them to learn. So for example if you want to encourage your children to be kind to animals you must be kind to animals around them. Buy mouse-friendly traps that won’t harm the rodent, take spiders outside rather than killing them and try to teach your children that bees should be respected rather than feared. Take your children to your local zoo, watch a film about animals with your children and, if you have the time, consider buying an animal that your whole family can take care of and learn to love.

In regards to the environment, it’s important that children spend lots of time outside and learn to appreciate nature. Focus on play and experience and encourage your children to explore your back garden or take them on regular trips to a local green area. Make sure they are comfortable with nature and they have positive early experiences in the great outdoors, because not only will they learn to appreciate mother earth but they will be healthier and fitter in the process!

Encouraging your children to respect animals and engage with nature is really important and once you get started it can be a rewarding and fun experience for everyone. If you would like more information on how to promote respect towards animals refer to these tips.

Emma

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

A Beginners Guide to the Chakras

Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and instructor Julie Miller to the Whole Life blog today.  Julie can be reached at   ecojamill@yahoo.com.  Julie, I know you teach classes on Yoga Nidra and the Chakras.  Can you tell us a little about the chakra system?

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No matter what you may think of Donald Trump you will likely agree that lack of self-confidence is not an area where he struggles. Third chakra in overdrive! Cookie Monster’s addiction may be driven by second chakra issues (especially if the desire is emotionally driven), and one could consider the Dalai Lama’s immense capability for compassion as coming from an open fourth chakra. That said, there are no “good” or “bad” chakras. No one is better or more important than the others. When they are balanced, all work together to support good health in mind, body, and spirit. When they are out of balance, behavior or energy can swing to extremes, i.e. an out of balance fourth chakra might look like someone who can’t act without seeking approval from others first or the opposite extreme of being very guarded and untrusting.

To back up a bit and give a quick introduction to the chakras, they are centers of energy in the body –places where pathways of energy, called nadis, converge. These nadis often overlap with the energy meridians diagramed and used in Chinese Medicine. While you are probably most familiar with the seven chakras that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, there are other chakras in the body as well particularly on the palms of the hands (engaged for energy healing) and soles of the feet (absorbing healing energy from the earth). Yoga is just one of the many ways to work with bringing the chakras into balance. Mediation, chanting, color, sound, scent, foods, and crystals are other popular ways to clear, balance, and activate your energy centers. The ordering and synthesis of the chakras has been compared to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or an elevator from which one gains a wider perspective with each level. Just like with the elevator, it is important to have a strong foundation and stability in the lower levels before moving in to the top floor. Let’s take a quick tour of the seven main chakras that run up the spine.

1st Chakra – Muladara (Root Support). Located at the base of your spine, this is where you ground yourself. Working with this chakra means looking at what makes you feel safe, secure, and centered. It can also mean taking a look at ancestral patterns, these might be inherited habits or tendencies that may have made sense in another time or generation but do not serve your highest good. Practices: walk barefoot, surrender in child’s pose.

2nd Chakra – Svadisthana (Sweetness-also thought of as one’s own base). Located just below your navel, this is where you awaken to pleasure. It is associated with the element water and all that water often symbolizes: emotions, movement, and sexuality. Practices: dancing, journaling, or any other form of art that that allows you to express your emotions.

3rd Chakra – Manipura (Lustrous Gem). Located at the solar plexus, here is where our light shines through. The qualities of this chakra are courage, self-confidence, personal power, and will. The element of fire associated with this chakra is the element of transformation. Focused intention here can help you to get motivated and transform old habits. Practices: candle meditation, twists with the intention to release can be very powerful.

4th Chakra – Anahata (Unstruck, as in the unstruck sound of the sound of the Universe).  Located in the center of the chest. The energy of the heart center is that of compassion, tenderness, and unconditional love. Practices: heart opening poses like bridge or warrior 1, especially with hands starting at the heart, loving kindness meditation.

5th Chakra- Vishuddha (Purification). Located at the throat, opening this center clears the way for self-expression, communication, and speaking your truth. As we move into the upper chakras the practices become less physical and more inward focused. Practices: chanting your favorite mantra or kirtan.

6th Chakra- Ajna (Perception). Located between the eyebrows, often called the third eye. The association here is with the mind, imagination, and intuition. This chakra can be utilized to help to visualize your best life path. Practice: one of the best practices to access this chakra is Yoga Nidra.

7th Chakra- Sahasrara (Thousandfold). Located at the crown of the head and symbolized by the 1,000 petaled lotus flower that connects us to our highest self. Opening the crown chakra leads to a path of recognizing the wonders of the Universe and our connection to all living beings. It is the chakra of community. Practices: silent meditation or prayer.

A great way to begin is to start with a grounding practice engaging the root chakra and then working with whichever of the chakras may feel a little out of balance. There are many great resources online included guided mediations or suggestion on colors, foods or scents. Be gentle with yourself and know that it is an ongoing process, like the practice of yoga, working with chakras can be a tool for cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and a general sense of increased well-being.

Many blessings!

-Julie

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Three Key Ways a Yoga Practice Can Support Trauma Recovery

Please help me welcome Lisa Danylchuk to the Whole Life Yoga blog today.  Lisa’s acclaimed book, Embodied Healing shares her learnings about yoga and how it can help people who are rebuilding their lives after trauma. And who among us hasn’t experienced trauma?  Lisa, can you please tell my readers how yoga–and its teachers–can help students overcome trauma?

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As yoga’s popularity continues to increase, yoga teachers, mental health providers and researchers are all becoming more clear on the depths of its benefits. As a yoga teacher and trauma therapist, I have seen a myriad of ways that mindfulness and movement help clients, whether they are doing a traditional hatha practice or applying yoga philosophy to their healing journey. Here are three ways that yoga teachers and healthcare providers can help clients and students who are navigating trauma recovery.

Grounding

Grounding is the act of connecting to the earth, and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The most common ways to ground are to feel your feet on the floor, as we do in tadasana, or to feel the sit bones grounding to the earth, as we do in many seated postures. Often, people who are experiencing anxiety and extreme stress report feeling a spinning or rising sensation; this conscious effort to ground can counteract the pull of energy away from the body,, bringing attention back to the safety of the current moment. If you are teaching to a group of people who have experienced trauma, offer grounding cues repeatedly throughout class. Not only is it helpful in building a physical foundation for a pose, it can also have psychological benefits.

Present moment attention

Intrusive thoughts and feelings from past trauma can show up in the present and memories can even pull us away from our current surroundings. Getting connected to present moment time – right here, right now – is one way to distance from the intensity of a past trauma in a helpful way. Yogis are familiar with the practice of cultivating presence, and it is important to find ways to describe how to practice presence, rather than simply instruct participants to “be present.” Consider guiding attention to a specific place in the room, a lamp on the wall or the corner of a mat. Consider instructing participants to follow the sound of your voice, or to listen to the sound of a bell as it fades. While, due to sensitivities, we can’t always use smells in the yoga room, think of these present moment attention practices as smelling salts, bringing students more fully  into present time and space.

Compassion towards self

In the aftermath of trauma it can become easy to struggle with oneself, wondering why something is still upsetting or feeling there is some defectiveness of self that allows the bad feelings to persist. By definition, something traumatic is too much to process all at once and approaching the feelings with tenderness can facilitate healing, rather than self-criticism or judgement. Recall that the word yoga means union, so we are looking to unite the parts of ourselves that need healing, rather than cut them off. Practicing curiosity and compassion facilitates the gentle approach our psyches need – just as you would not shout at a plant to help it grow, criticizing ourselves does not foster healing. Encourage compassion instead.

Questions, thoughts? Post a comment below or go to www.howwecanheal.com to contact Lisa.

Headshot.L.DanylchukLisa Danylchuk teaches internationally on integrating yoga and mental health treatment. As a licensed psychotherapist and Yogaworks certified yoga instructor, she has provided counseling and yoga classes in prisons, schools, non-profits and community programs across the US. Lisa holds degrees from both UCLA and Harvard University and is the author of the bestselling book Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress. She is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she hosts the Yoga for Trauma (Y4T) online training program, accessible world-wide. More information at: www.howwecanheal.com/y4t.

 

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Training Your Mind

I am delighted to welcome author Jennifer Niles here to the Whole Life Blog today!  Jennifer recently published My Yoga Transformation: One Woman’s Story of Her Healing Yoga Journey and 85 Pound Weight Loss, which outlines her journey with yoga and how it changed her life–in every way for the better.  Check out the excerpt below, and support her by reading her work!

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“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ~Napoleon Hill

Thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits, which become character, which becomes your destiny.  Since you “bring about what you think about,” obviously it would be wise to learn how to control your incessant thoughts.  You have to understand that your mind is designed to be constantly working in at least some capacity for 24 hours a day.  So, if the mind insists on focusing on something at all times, give it something positive or calming to focus on.

Training your mind is not the easiest task.  Especially if you are anything like I was prior to starting a yoga practice and learning about the ego.  That pesky little voice in the back of my mind, the ego, was running wild day after day and needlessly stressing me out over anything and everything that was less than perfect about my life.  By identifying with the mind instead of the soul, we give that little voice/ego the power to consume so much of our time and energy by dominating our thoughts and limiting our potential.

During my initial yoga years, during the time when I was suddenly feeling the desire to gradually cut down on my drinking and partying, my ego never ceased to remind me, “You are a party girl; therefore you must go out and drink with your friends tonight.  Who cares if it is a Monday night and you just feel like staying home, cooking dinner and doing some yoga.  You have to go get drunk instead.  It is who you are and what you have always done, and it is what you will always do.  You can’t change now.  Who will you be if you are not a party girl?  Party girls don’t stay home and do yoga!  Now go out and get wasted with your friends!”

For a long time, I identified with my ego and therefore let its persuasive little speeches win the battle every time.  Despite what my heart and soul wanted to do, which was sometimes to just stay home and dry out for a night, I would get in my car, drive to the bar, and proceed to get drunk until I could barely stand up without stumbling all over the place.  When you identify with and listen to your ego instead of your heart/soul, you will just continue doing the same destructive things, day after day.  Never changing, never growing, and never evolving.

I knew that my yoga practice was really starting to work when my heart/soul began winning the battle more times than my ego.  The nights that I actually stayed home to practice yoga versus drinking at the bars became more and more frequent.  Over time, my nights at the bars became obsolete.  If my lack of wanting to get drunk wasn’t a result of my yoga practice, I don’t know what is.

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Jennifer B. Niles is an author, yogi, vegan, and animal rights activist currently living on a small island in the South Pacific. Born and raised on the East Coast, Jennifer moved to California in her 20’s, where she taught yoga and enjoyed living among the palm trees.  During her time living in the South Pacific, Jennifer was finally able to pursue her lifelong dream of writing books.  Blessed (or cursed) with the opportunity to go through many drastic life-changing experiences, Jennifer mainly writes about her lessons learned in an attempt to help other people who may be struggling with the same or similar issues.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. 

Five Reasons to go Veggie in Seattle:

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Most of my yoga students know that I’m vegetarian. I rarely try to influence other people’s food choices, but this weekend I’ll be hanging out at Veg Fest at Seattle Center.  So how can I not give a few reasons to go veg? Below are my top five reasons (and a bonus!) for being vegetarian in Seattle.

  1. Vegetarianism is good for the planet. Seattleites are known for their dedication to the planet. We reduce, re-use, and recycle. We ban grocery bags. Seattle Kayaktivists keep “big oil” from parking in our harbors. So why aren’t more of us vegetarian? Livestock generates 40% more greenhouse gasses than all of the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the world—combined! So while you’re riding your bike and lamenting the evil petroleum-based cars on the road next to you, know that putting pedal to pavement is only the start. That roast beef sandwich you’re eating creates way more greenhouse gasses than your evil neighbor’s SUV. And if you’re worried about wasting water? It takes up to 15 times more water to produce an ounce of animal protein than it does to produce the same amount of plant protein. Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone can claim to be an environmentalist and still eat meat.
  2. Going veggie is good for your health. The benefits of vegetarianism are well documented. Eating a plant-based diet helps prevent health issues ranging from obesity, to diabetes, to arthritis, to Multiple Sclerosis, to heart disease, to osteoporosis, to cancer. And you get way more vitamins from eating veggies than munching on Wilbur or Bessie.
  3. Going veggie is good for animals. All of you paleo dieters out there might argue that a meat-based diet has some health benefits of its own. But who on earth can argue that eating animals is good for the animal you’re eating? Love Fluffy and Fido? Pigs are of much higher intelligence. Studies show that chickens may be smarter than cats and dogs (though Tasha would strongly disagree with that assertion.) Cows are down-right sweet. And who possibly couldn’t love a baby goat? The lives of most livestock animals are downright horrific. I won’t go into it here, because it makes me cry. But I grew up on a farm. I’ve seen the cruelty, even from people I love. Anyone who claims to love animals should seriously reconsider their food choices.
  4. Seattle is blessed with abundant, delectable vegetarian restaurants. When I go home to Montana, I can’t even order green beans without finding bacon bits scattered within. Here in Seattle, vegetarian choices are everywhere. From vegan Thai restaurants like Arayas to entrees like my favorite black bean pita burger at the 74th Street Alehouse, I can almost always find abundant, delicious entrees at every Seattle restaurant. And if they don’t have veg choices on the menu, most places can create something special. Just ask!
  5. Vegetarian grocery shopping is easy! From prepared mock meats to fresh vegetables, to canned food, to frozen vegetarian entrees. The vegetarian options at PCC, Whole Foods Market, even my favorite corner grocer, Ken’s Market, are nothing short of amazing! And the best news yet? You can sample many of those same foods this weekend at Veg Fest!

And a Bonus reason:  I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 25 years—long before I took my first yoga class.  My food choices have nothing to do with yoga philosophy.  Still, yoga supports them.  The Yoga teachings ask us to live with ahimsa–non-violence.  For me, that means eating vegetarian.

For you?

One beauty of the yoga teachings is that they’re not prescriptive. They ask us to evaluate our own values and live by them.  But I ask you to think about it. I mean REALLY think about it.  Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t guarantee that you won’t act out in violence. But can you honestly say you live in ahimsa if an animal died for your mid-afternoon snack?  I know I can’t.

Regardless of your food choices, I hope you’ll come see me this weekend at Veg Fest at Seattle Center. I’ll be there talking about Whole Life Yoga and my Downward Dog yoga and dog-related mystery series.  (Which, by the way, has a vegetarian sleuth!)  I’d love to see you and give you a hug.  And there are hundreds of delicious food samples to try.

Vegan ice cream. Can you say YUM?

I hope to see you there!

Tracy Weber

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Creating Beauty from Devastation

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I borrowed the title of today’s blog from the Facebook post of one of my favorite yogis, Jillian Cobo.  She attended yesterday’s fundraiser for the Greenwood Neighborhood, which was devastated less than two weeks ago by a natural gas explosion.

In spite of the devastation, there are always blessings.  Over 50 businesses and homes were damaged, several completely destroyed. But there were no severe injuries or deaths. That’s probably the most important miracle we could have hoped for.  The most beautiful miracle is how people in the neighborhood have come together to support the individuals impacted by the explosion.

Reconstruction is already beginning.  Windows are being replaced.  The stark brown plywood panels of those still missing have been decorated by murals, most of which (like the three below) are  wonderfully appropriate for the businesses they decorate.  The community will rebuild.  Of that I have no doubt.

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The yoga teachings have a concept called sangha–community.  The drawing together of people with united intentions.  Sangha has been wonderfully present in my neighborhood these last two weeks.  Many businesses, including mine, have pulled together to raise funds.  Whole Life Yoga’s fundraiser today reunited me with yogis I hadn’t seen in a very long time and introduced me to new friends.  In three short classes we raised over $1500.  As always, my students make me proud.12419261_10154265207043268_8936778293896193307_o[1]

I know many of my friends and students have donated via the Phinney Center’s donation link, and those donations aren’t included in the $1500 total.  But all of the money goes to the same fund and will be distributed to those who need it most.  If you haven’t yet donated and would like to, you can still do so at this link.

Thank you all!

Tracy Weber

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

Compassion in a Fractured World

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I met my dog-mom doppleganger today. A woman about my age with long dark hair who was crying outside of my vet clinic. She was very upset about her 12-year-old German shepherd, who has many of the same neurological symptoms as my German shepherd, Tasha.

I told her to wait for me, put Tasha in the car, and chatted with her for about 30 minutes. I described the therapies we’ve been doing with Tasha. I confided my own fears for the future. I explained as best I could what the neurologist had just told her, which is basically the same thing they told me. “We don’t know.” She said I used the same words the vet had just used in describing the potential diagnoses, but she felt like she could hear them from me. Frankly, I think she simply felt heard.

Why am I writing about this? I worry about our world lately, especially now that the political rhetoric keeps getting louder. We spend much more time talking at each other than communicating with each other. Listening has become a lost art. I’m not taking sides here. I see the same problem on all sides of the political spectrum—and there are way more than two. Our political candidates are simply a reflection of the rest of our world. None of us is innocent.

I don’t know how we change it, but perhaps opportunities like the one I had today are a start. Rather than walk past someone who is a struggling, why not walk toward them? Human connection comes in so many forms, and it has infinite benefits. We’re just out of practice.

Remember what the yoga teachings say about communication:

  • Speak less
  • Speak only the truth
  • When the truth will cause harm, say nothing.

As for the stranger I met today, I don’t know what the future holds for either of us, and the end is inevitable for both of our dogs. (For all of us, really.) But I feel like talking to me helped her. At least I hope it did.

May we all find a kind ear when we need it the most. More importantly, may we be willing to offer that same kindness to others.

Tracy Weber

books available

PS–all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!

The Tracks We Leave

“We are remembered forever by the tracks we leave.” — Native American Proverb

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This past Monday, twenty-two students, five teacher training assistants, and I completed an eleven-month journey together.  A journey that saw us through illnesses, addictions, pregnancies, deaths, engagements, divorces, moves, job changes, and more challenges than one could think possible in less than a year.  And yet we stuck through it.  Together.  It was only appropriate that we should celebrate.

We began with a ceremony to set intentions and commemorate our time together.

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We finished in a circle to honor our community.

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Afterwards we drank wine and ate delicious Greek food.

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Which is, of course, infinitely more delicious when shared with friends.

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Before we knew it, it was time to clean up, stack the blankets and head home.

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But even though the training is over, their work is just beginning. You see, these people are my tracks: the imprint I hope to leave in the world.

Taking yoga teacher training is a responsibility. It only starts with the classes, the homework, the missed family events, and the late nights designing seemingly impossible yoga sequences.  The real responsibility begins the date you finish.  The head of our lineage, Desikachar, says that if you learn the yoga teachings but do not share them, you have stolen them.  They are not the property of any individual—they belong out in the world.  During our ceremony, we chanted a single mantra: Om Namaha “not mine.”  A reminder that what we’ve learned is meant to be shared, whether or not we ever perform another asana.  Yoga is the act of living in greater balance,  more aligned with our values. Yoga helps us ensure that the tracks we leave behind are positive ones.

A personal message to all of these lovely new teachers: You were my thirteenth yoga teacher training, and like each group that preceded you, you were special. I wish I could give you the confidence to know what great teachers you already are, but the best teachers only gain confidence with time and practice. I’d like to say “make me proud,” but you already have. Instead, I’ll just tell you the truth: you’ve each taken a piece of my heart.  

Use it well.

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Namaste, my friends. I am better for knowing you.

Tracy Weber

Home Again, Forever Changed

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I suspect that most of you already know, but I’ve spent most of the past two weeks unexpectedly out of town, and not for a fun reason.

Just before Christmas ten months ago, a nurse convinced my mother—who had refused to have a mammogram since her first one thirty years ago—to finally get the lump she’d been ignoring scanned. The mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast took place a few days later. A week after that, we learned that the cancer had spread to both of Mom’s lungs. Since her cancer—which we now knew was stage IV—was aggressive, she went through equally aggressive chemotherapy.

Who knew all of that would be the easy part?

Time went on; the roughest of the chemotherapy treatments were completed. Mom’s hair, fingernails, and toenails started growing back. About five weeks ago, we celebrated her second completely clear scan. We all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we had more time, hopefully years.

A few days later, Mom started to act confused.

When she told me three weeks ago that the cancer had spread to her brain, she had already completed ten of her thirteen radiation treatments. I knew time was short, but I still thought we had it. At least a few months. I decided to spend her last Christmas with her.

Later that same night, she was hospitalized for a severe nosebleed. I won’t go into any more specifics other than to say that a few weeks after Mom’s clear scans, I found myself on an airplane to Montana with a single goal: get her out of the hospital so she could die at home.

If I’m honest, the week I spent getting her home and sharing her last days was beyond brutal. But I did find a few gifts. Someday I’ll write more about that time and the dichotomy that was my mother. For now, as I fly back to Seattle on my way home from her funeral, I mainly want to say thank you to the Whole Life Yoga teachers and teacher training students who have both helped me and had patience with me during the past two weeks. As I said at her funeral, the world permanently changed the day my mother was born. Mine permanently changed the day she died. I don’t know where any of this will lead me—yet—but I’m open to figuring it out.

To everyone reading this blog, I offer two learnings:

  • Life on this earth is a loaner, and we don’t know how long we can keep it. Live today as if it will end tomorrow.
  • Women, get your mammograms. I honestly don’t know if my mother’s story would have had a different ending with early detection, but at least she would have had a fighting chance. Life is too precious to waste due to embarrassment or fear. You owe yourself better than that.

To Mom: I’m sorry your life ended this way and that you never got to visit Hawaii or live in that little house in Seaside. Our relationship was never easy, for so many reasons. But I can say with absolute honesty, I loved you. You will be missed.

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)My newest mystery, KARMA’S A KILLER, is now available for pre-order from Amazon Barnes and Noble.