Monthly Archives: December 2012

My Hope for the New Year: A Full Well

Bricktown, Oklahoma City

I learned a Sanskrit chant in yoga teacher training many years ago:

Om Purnam Adaha
Purnam Idam
Purnam Udachyate
Purnam Adaya
Purnam Evavashi

The English translation goes something like this:

This is fullness.
That is fullness.
From fullness, fullness is born.
When you take fullness from fullness,
only fullness remains.

The first time I chanted this. I thought it sounded absurd; in fact, I could barely keep from laughing. But as 2012 winds down and with it, my energy, the words seem much more profound.

I use many yoga tools to help clients build energy, but one of the most profound practices has more to do with daily life than life on the mat. Energy–our ability to give to ourselves and others–is much like a well. When we’re healthy, our energy well is full and our sources of replenishment are abundant. In those times we have plenty to give to others.

My personal energy well is fullest in the summer, when light and warmth surround me, I sleep well, and I have quality time to share with friends and family. In summer, I am “full,” and when I am full, I can give of my energy to others while still having abundant energy left for myself.

The deep dark days of winter are different. During those times, my well runs dry. If I don’t focus on filling myself first, I have nothing to give to others, no matter how worthy their cause might be.

So this winter, I plan to spend time doing activities that fill my well. Not because I’m selfish, but because I’m generous. Only when my own well is full can I give from that abundance to others.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer the reflection below to each of you.

A Meditation to Re-fill Your Well

  • Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  • Allow your eyes to close and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the sensation of the breath in your nostrils.
  • When you are ready, imagine all the things in life that fill your energy well: people you love, activities you enjoy doing, gifts of nature, even something as simple as taking a hot bubble bath or savoring a square of smooth, dark chocolate. Let these thoughts float through your awareness as images, sensations, smells, tastes, or anything else that is powerful for you.
  • When your mind wanders, bring it back to the sensations of the breath. Then imagine again everything that brings you energy and joy.
  • After several minutes, ask yourself the following questions.
    1. What do these images tell me about how I can increase energy and foster joy in my life?
    2. What actions can I take in the coming year to invite more energy, joy, and gratitude into my daily life?
  • When you become distracted by other thoughts, simply notice that distraction. Then, with your next inhale, ask yourself the above questions again.
  • Continue this meditation for ten minutes or longer if you’d like.

In this coming year, may your well–and the wells of those around you–be full to overflowing.


Tracy Weber

Meditations to Decrease Stress and Inflammation!

yogi doing meditationA recent study at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences demonstrated once again that even short meditations, when done consistently, have positive effects on both the body and the mind. The study evaluated 49 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Almost 50% of these caregivers experience clinical depression, and they are also twice as likely as the general population to report high levels of stress.

The study divided the caregivers (who ranged in ages from 45 to 91) into two groups: one that practiced a 12-minute meditation daily for 8 weeks, and one that spent 12 minutes each day for 8 weeks relaxing while listening to a relaxation CD.

The meditation group showed several benefits over the group that listened to the music:

  • Significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms
  • Improvements in reported mental health
  • Improvements in cognitive functioning
  • Increased telomerase activity in the blood (an indication of decreased cellular aging)
  • Significant decreases in blood proteins associated with inflammation.

All these benefits from just 12 minutes of meditation a day!

This specific study examined a chant and meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, but prior studies on meditation have shown similar mind-body benefits with a variety of meditations. In short, any meditation practice you do for 10 minutes or more daily is likely to achieve similar results.

The meditation below has been used in other studies on meditation’s “relaxation response.” But remember, the most effective meditation practice is one you will actually do. Hundreds, if not thousands, of meditation techniques exist and are easily found on the web. Experiment and find the one that works best for you.

Simple Counting Meditation:

  • Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up
    to the ceiling.
  • Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to
    change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath
    at the tip of your nostrils.
  • After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation.
    For example, when you exhale the first time, think “one.” The next time you exhale, count “two.”  Keep counting silently to yourself, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one.”
  • You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one.”  Without judgment or frustration, notice how often you need to restart counting.   The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
  • Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

I’ve outlined two other methods in prior blog articles: a simple Meditation for Inner Peace and a Breath Focused Meditation. I will post additional meditations in the future, so keep checking back. Remember not to worry about “being good” at mediation–just by the act of meditating, you are inherently good at it regardless of how often your mind wanders as long as you keep bringing it back.


Tracy Weber

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Allow Yoga to Enhance Your Posture and Balance

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


As I often do, I was recently thinking about the benefits of yoga and its age-defying qualities. It occurred to me that three of my friends fell this year, and each sustained fairly serious injuries.

Kathy tripped over her dog that crowded her in the bathroom; she crashed against a wall and broke her shoulder in two places. Lynae slipped on an icy street (ice is always treacherous!), fell, and fractured her left hip. And as Kristine told me, “I was feeling ungrounded that day, in a hurry, and multi-tasking when I tripped on my own feet and fell flat with my cheek breaking my fall on the edge of a retaining wall.” She suffered a broken upper jaw and concussion.

None of these women practice yoga, however I’m not implying that if they were practitioners their mishaps would not have happened. But I do believe that with a yoga practice, their chances of righting themselves before each injuring impact would have been more in their favor.

I recently taught a two-part series called Basic Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Spine, and Improve Your Posture and Balance. I knew that only two classes would not bring dramatic physical change, so my primary intent was to heighten students’ awareness of the connection between posture, balance, and the ability to stay upright?and how yoga can enhance that relationship.

We opened our hearts with poses that drew our shoulders down and back as shoulder blades moved toward one another. Immediately students stood a little taller; we were on our way to improving our posture! We practiced extension postures, such as Mountain, with long, deep inhales to lengthen and bring our spines into alignment.

Chair and Warrior poses helped strengthen students’ thighs so that they might be just strong enough to withstand gravity’s forceful pull should a stumble occur. We also thawed-out our foundation by rotating our ankles and stretching our toes, enabling them to grip and respond.

And we did balance poses! Most of us like balance postures because they’re fun and, well, they look cool once you find that sweet spot. But really, the intent of Dancer or Tree is to create an integrated, overall body balance that will serve us in our everyday activities so that maybe, just maybe, you can catch yourself when you trip over a section of raised sidewalk or you’re steady on your tiptoes as you stretch way-high to reach that bowl on the top shelf.

Overall, our two practices and new-found awareness served to remind us that it’s all about maintaining our centers of gravity. Slumping posture leads to rounded shoulders, which lead to a protruding head and neck. Given such a weak posture profile, even a small misstep can result in a fall.

Unfortunately (and especially as we age) falling down can be life-changing with injuries that steal mobility and independence. With yoga, students of any age can enjoy more freedom of movement, protect against injury, and foster and preserve their ability to move about.

Even the quiet calm and clear mind that is yoga can help save us from harm. During her recuperation, my friend Kristine who broke her jaw pondered “What is the message here?” She concluded that for her, the message is to slow down, stay mindful at all times, and examine priorities. Along with a yoga practice, I consider it a valuable message for all of us to heed.


Forgiveness: The Road to Happiness—or at Least Peace

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 student asks: I’m in the middle of an ongoing conflict with a member of my family, and although I don’t usually feel angry, I don’t feel happy, either. Do you have any suggestions?

I need to make a confession: this question has challenged me.  The yoga teachings talk about happiness, but not in the way that we might hope.  In fact, the teachings warn against seeking happiness, because within happiness lies suffering.  Instead they advise us to seek peace.

I’ll admit that I struggle with that, even though I get the point.  Happiness leads to attachment; attachment leads to suffering.  Peace, on the other hand, leads to acceptance, and acceptance reduces suffering.

So honestly, I don’t have any great yoga tools for creating happiness. But yoga has helped me find it, nonetheless.  When I practice yoga, I find peace. When I’m more peaceful, I’m happier. So perhaps a more meaningful goal is to turn anger into forgiveness, so that you too can find peace.

The Buddhist meditation below can help jump start that process.  In it, you offer healing to yourself, someone you love, someone with whom you are in conflict, and finally the world.

If sending healing to your family member is too challenging right now, start with someone less charged, like a rude grocery store clerk or someone who cuts you off on the freeway. Over time, as you forgive and find inner tranquility, happiness may sneak its way back in.

Loving Kindness Meditation:

  1. Come to a comfortable seated or lying position.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it.  Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. When you are ready, bring your own self to mind, complete with all of your strengths, weaknesses, successes, and struggles.  Silently and continuously repeat the following intentions for yourself:
    • May I be at peace. May my heart be open.
    • May I be healed, and may I be a source of healing for all beings.
  4. When you are ready, bring to mind the image of a loved one—someone you care about.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  5. When you are ready, bring to mind the image someone with whom you are in conflict, or someone who “pushes your buttons” in some away.  Perhaps someone who’s injured you in the past whom you’ve not forgiven.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  6. When you are ready, bring to mind an image of the entire planet. Visualize or sense the continents, the oceans, and the shape of the earth as it moves around the sun.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for the earth:
    • May the earth be at peace. May the hearts of the earth be open.
    • May the earth be healed, and may the earth be a source of healing for all beings.
  7. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.  Then continue with the loving kindness meditation from wherever you left off.  The “blessings” above can be modified to anything that has meaning for you.

I hope that helps, and thank you for the question!


Tracy Weber

My Yoga Journey

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Katie Burns. Katie is a student in Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at

Five years ago during my first yoga series , I noticed that my body felt better, and I felt more grounded and focused after I left class. From that first experience with yoga, I knew that I wanted to pursue a long-term relationship with yoga, but being afraid of commitment, I needed to embark on my own journey before coming to the point where I was ready to plunge into a yoga teacher training.

I started seriously thinking about taking a teacher training a little over a year ago. To begin, I researched various teacher training programs from multiple lineages and offered in a plethora of locations. I could move to India for a month to study in Dharamsala or perhaps I would trade in our rainy Northwest winters to spend a handful of weeks in Costa Rica or Mexico at a teacher training retreat center. Then again, I could move back up to Vancouver, BC for a one-month intensive training and study through the school where I used to regularly attend classes. The more I reflected on my options, the more I realized that although those choices were quite appealing, they would not help me to meet one of my personal goals: integrating yoga into my daily life.

Around this time, I came across Whole Life Yoga’s ten-month teacher training. The more that I looked into Viniyoga, the more it seemed like the best fit for me. On a personal level, I liked that the training was spread out over the better part of year so that I would have time to fully absorb and integrate the material, philosophy, and practice. I appreciated that the class meets at least once a week which provides the opportunity to create community with the other participants as well as a designates a weekly time and space for learning about and practicing the different components of yoga. Furthermore, the training schedule allows me to continue working full time while I complete the program. However, most importantly, Viniyoga takes a student-centered focus that meets the differing needs of each individual’s body and situation. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, Viniyoga is flexible and adaptable. It meets each student where he or she is currently. This tenant of Viniyoga is connected to my personal as well as professional motivation in participating in the Whole Life Yoga teacher training.

Professionally, I work as a mental health case manager with homeless and formerly homeless individuals. After completing the training, I would like to offer yoga to clients at my agency. Further down the road, I would like to integrate mental health counseling with yoga as the body holds so many emotional memories and traumas. I hope to either open a private practice or work at a wellness center and serve clients who are interested in working through these duo modalities. Finally, I would also like to teach yoga classes at a studio in addition to my work in mental health as I believe the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga should be accessible to all who are interested. In line with this belief, I would like to offer a by donation class at least once a week so that money is not prohibitive to potential students. While these are my initial goals, I am open to future opportunities that may present themselves.

The journey has already begun for each of us. Your journey may include a teacher training or it may not. Regardless of where it takes you, I encourage you to trust your instinct and follow your passion. As Rumi said, “Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.”