Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Origins and History of Viniyoga

Tracy and her teacher, Gary Kraftsow

People often think that all yoga is the same.  In other words, if they take a yoga class, it is representative of all yoga classes at other venues and with other teachers.   I’m always a little saddened and surprised when people say “I tried yoga once.  It’s not for me.”

You may not realize it, but there are a myriad of yoga styles popular in the United States, and they can be dramatically different from one another.  So your experience in one class is likely to be completely different than if you try yoga in another studio or style.  So if at first you don’t find what you love, keep trying!

Although not 100% true, most yoga styles in the United States fall under the umbrella of “Hatha” yoga.  In the West, this term basically refers to the physical practice of yoga.  There are a wide variety of yoga types that fall under that umbrella.  From stronger, more athletic styles like Bikram, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, to form-focused styles like Iyengar, to more therapeutic and individualized styles like Viniyoga.

Some of these styles have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Others are more contemporary and have been “invented” or “reinvented” by Westerners.   Teachers also often combine lineages to create something uniquely their own.

Whole Life Yoga is a studio dedicated completely to the Viniyoga lineage, therefore every class you take with us will follow the Viniyoga principles.  I have great confidence in Viniyoga, and not just because of the transformations I’ve seen in myself and my students.   I also have faith because it is a lineage has been passed down through the centuries.  In other words, Viniyoga’s principles have withstood the test of time.

In our lifetimes, this lineage has been passed down through a man by the name of  Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who passed away in 1989 at over 100 years of age.  He himself studied yoga with several teachers and in many venues, including seven and a half years in the caves of Tibet with a teacher named Brahmachari.   Krishnamacharya trained several famous students, including BKS Iyengar (who later developed Iyengar Yoga) and Pattabhi Jois (who later developed Ashtanga yoga).

Krishnamacharya passed the full breadth of his teachings, however, to his son TKV Desikachar.  Desikachar passed them on to many, including Margaret Pierce of The Pierce Yoga Program and Gary Kraftsow of the American Viniyoga Institute.  Gary and Margaret have both been my teachers.    I’m continuing the tradition by passing this lineage on to my students and the teachers in my yoga teacher training program.

My hope is to continue to honor the principles of this lineage by transmitting them as clearly and purely as possible, thus helping ensure that it continues to serve future generations.

If you’d like to learn more about Krishnamacharya and the history of Viniyoga, I recommend the book Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings by A.G. Mohan.

But regardless of whether or not you’re interested in the history, rest assured that when you take a Viniyoga class you have the knowledge of many generations of teachers supporting you and your practice!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Viniyoga Books and Videos to Motivate your August Practice!

August is the month yoga teachers nationwide wonder where all the students have gone. With long days, warm weather, and summer vacations beckoning, it may be hard to motivate yourself to go to the studio for your regular yoga practice.

But not every practice has to be at a studio! I firmly believe there’s no substitute for an instructor who can personally give feedback on form, design a sequence for your goals, and teach you the basics of a safe and effective yoga practice. But what’s a yogi to do when she just can’t get herself to the studio?

I often work privately with students to develop a written practice they can do at home that is specifically catered to their needs. But that’s a subject for a future blog. 😉

The next best thing is a well conceived and safe book or video. While there are thousands of yoga books and videos out there, until recently there were no videos I felt comfortable recommending. Viniyoga relies so heavily on adapting to the person before us, that we have resisted creating videos that, by their very nature, are ”one size fits all.”

But recently some Viniyoga teachers have taken the challenge, and I’m happy to say that the resources below are quite good. All but the book are available at Whole Life Yoga, in addition to many online retailers.

Yoga for Your Life

This book was written by Martin and Margaret Pierce, with whom I studied prenatal yoga. It has always been my “go to” resource for people who want to practice at home, but don’t know which postures to do or the order in which to do them. With gorgeous photos and a series of practices that build over time, you just can’t beat it for finding or re-invigorating a yoga practice. The last half of the book has practices for different activities, including a yummy pajama-clad practice for bedtime. Unfortunately, Yoga for Your Life is out of print, but there are currently copies available at many online booksellers.

The YogaAway Video Series

This video series was developed by a friend of mine, Bija Bennet, with input from our teacher, Gary Kraftsow. The videos were originally designed for the Hyatt hotels as in-suite video practices for Hyatt guests. There are currently four videos available, with practices focusing on everything from working out to falling asleep. All four have gotten great reviews from my students.

The Viniyoga Therapy Series

These videos were developed by my teacher, Gary Kraftsow. They are a little different than the yoga videos you normally find. Each contains almost 3 hours of material, including several practices, lectures on back pain, and individual tutorials for specific postures. He currently has one for lower back issues and another for upper backs. Two more videos are in the works: one for anxiety and one for depression. I’ll let you know when they are available.

Although there’s no substitute for seeing your bright shining faces at the studio, I hope you will use these resources to continue your practice even when you can’t make it to Whole Life Yoga. And I look forward to seeing you back this fall!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

Using Yoga and Ergonomic Principles at Work

This week’s blog entry is written by Frankie Marrazzi, a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program.  Frankie can be contacted at  She wrote on this topic in response to a student request for information on yoga and ergonomics in the work place.  If you have a question or topic request, please e-mail

Take your practice to work!

Each yoga session begins with a few minutes of centering yourself, getting in touch with your breath and leaving the rest of your world behind.   Refreshed and renewed you are ready to resume your day-to-day life but this time you do not want to leave anything behind!  Take your practice with you – to the park with the kids, to the kitchen as you cook and to the desk job at work.  Everywhere you go, your practice can come along.

If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, there are ergonomic basics you can apply but you have to make the effort.  There is no magic accessory that makes it easier for you to sit for hours at a time.  And that is where your yoga practice can help.  Use your awareness of your body and breath during your work day to guide you.  If you find yourself wiggling a lot that usually means you need to take a break.  Stand up, do a few simple asanas (standing forward bend for example) .   If your shoulders and neck are feeling tight – same thing, do a few deep breaths and some shoulder circles, shake out your arms.

Listen to your body and also apply these basic ergonomic principles:

  • Chair:  invest in a good chair (yes you can find them at office supply stores for reasonable cost).  Do not purchase sight unseen unless you have tested the chair before and know that it will support you.  Look for these five minimum features:  5-legs with castors, adjustable arms (up/down and in/out if possible), adjustable seat pan (what you sit on),  adjustable height (if you are taller than average you may need a longer piston which can be special ordered for you in most cases), and lumbar support.
  • Feet:  flat on the floor or a foot rest with 90-135 degree angle.
  • Shoulders:  Relaxed not hunched.
  • Wrists:  Neutral not flexed.
  • Chin:  level so neck is not bent up or down.
  • If you are at a computer, stop typing every 20-30 minutes for 20 seconds just a quick rest pause.
  • Drink water!  Stay hydrated, this helps with every activity work or play.

For more details and ideas of how to further adjust your workspace the OSHA web site is a great resource, including a self-evaluation checklist:

Use your yoga practice and ergonomic principles together to be comfortable all day – even with a desk job!



Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!


Congratulations, and New Beginnings

Last night I said goodbye to 20 yoga students and hello to 20 new yoga teachers. This is always so very bitter sweet for me. Our teacher training graduation ceremony had lots of laughter and a few tears. When we started this journey together 10 months ago, each person had different hopes, dreams and aspirations. Over the course of those 10 months, we shared both times of joy and times of heartbreak: one marriage, some illnesses, several new jobs, lots of personal revelations. One student even moved out of state and is completing the training remotely. Two students decided along the way that this wasn’t the right path for them. But we all came together as a community, and the support and kindness I have seen in each of these individuals is a gift I won’t soon forget.

People often ask me what my favorite part of teaching yoga is, and I always say without hesitation that it’s leading this program. I teach yoga because I want to make a positive difference in the world, and nowhere is that difference more evident than in the growth and learning I see in my teacher training students.

Because we’re together so long, we see each other through career changes, births, deaths, marriages and divorces. And we learn to navigate these life changes with greater grace by using the yoga tools we will then share out in the world with others. I often think I learn at least as much from my students as they do from me.

This year I’ve seen students achieve many goals. Most learned more about asana and other tools of yoga, of course. But in a way, that’s the least of it. Some have learned to find their own voice. Others have gained confidence, and some have deepened their connection to their own spiritual path. Most have learned an incredible amount about themselves. I wish I could say these transformations happened because I’m such a great teacher. But in reality, the learning happens simply because these ancient tools are so very powerful.

The highlight for me is seeing these new teachers out in the world instructing others and spreading the message of yoga in their own communities. Each of these graduates has been out in the world teaching already. And they say it is both more challenging and more enjoyable than they ever imagined.

I asked a student recently if he was looking forward to finally be done. He said “Yes, but in reality, I’m really just about to begin!”

So true, my friend. So true.

Namaste. The teacher in me honors the teacher in you.

Tracy Weber

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

Tracy’s Sleeping Pill: A Practice for Insomnia

It is amazing to me how difficult it is for people to get a good night’s sleep. I personally have suffered from chronic insomnia since I was a teenager, and have been impressed with yoga’s ability to help. Although, when people typically think of yoga they envision postures and movements, some of yoga’s most powerful tools don’t involve movement at all. One such tool is called pranayama, and it works specifically on the energy system in the body.

The word pranayama is derived from the words prana and ayama.

Prana means life force energy, which is a concept we don’t really have in the West. It’s the energy that animates us and gives us life. When we have it, we are alive. When it is gone, we die. It is also the energy of healing, and is very similar to the concept of “Chi” in Chinese medicine. Prana already exists within each of us, but it is mobilized by the breath.

Ayama means to lengthen. So the practice of pranayama is literally the practice of lengthening life force energy by extending the breath.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pranayama practices that can be used to get dramatically different effects. I call one of my favorites “Tracy’s Sleeping Pill,” because it is a practice I regularly use to help me fall asleep. It can easily be done lying down in bed, and unlike many sleeping medications there are no unpleasant side effects the next morning.

I’ve given this practice to many clients over the years, and for most, it really makes a difference. So the next time you have trouble sleeping, give this a try. And, if like many of my clients, you never finish it because you fall asleep in the middle of practicing, so much the better!

The Practice:

  1. Lie in bed, on your back in any position that is comfortable.
    Gradually, over 6 or more breaths, lengthen both your inhale and exhale. Make your exhale at least as long as your inhale. Stay at this lengthened breath at least 6 breaths.
  2. Break the exhale portion of your breath into two approximately equal parts, with natural pauses both between the parts and at the end of the exhale. Maintain this breath for at least 6 breath cycles.
  3. After at least 6 breaths, break the exhale portion of your breath into three approximately equal parts, with natural pauses both between the parts and at the end of the exhale.
  4. Continue this breath for at least 12 breath cycles. Do not strain the breath. If you do start to feel strain, go back to the two part breath in step 3. Then continue with that new breath for the rest of the practice.
  5. Once you finish 12 or more complete breaths in step 5, release the pauses completely and breathe with a lengthened breath for at least 6 breaths. Then gradually allow the breath to come back to a normal rhythm.

Namaste, and may you have a great night’s sleep!

Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!