Monthly Archives: May 2013

Karma Yoga—the Yoga of Service—and a Special Class on Sunday, June 2nd

Westerners often mistakenly believe that yoga means performing asanas, or yoga postures. Although yogis gain many emotional and physical benefits by practicing asana, it is only one small part of yoga. Hatha Yoga—the type of yoga most often practiced in the West—actually contains five practices: asana, pranayama (breath exercises), chant (use of sound), meditation, and ritual.

But Hatha Yoga isn’t the full extent of yoga, either. Even though many of Hatha Yoga’s practices are physical, its goal is to clarify the mind. Other types of yoga have different goals: exploring truth, practicing spiritual devotion, providing service, even experiencing sensory pleasure.

This weekend, I invite you to explore Karma Yoga: the yoga of service.

The word karma means action; yoga means union. So the phrase “karma yoga” literally translates as “union through action.” The internet defines Karma Yoga as service without consideration of personal gains, likes, or dislikes. I define it as compassion in action without attachment. In other words, Karma yogis take action in order to decrease suffering in another—without being hung up on the results.

At Whole Life Yoga we typically practice Hatha Yoga, but this Sunday’s special afternoon class—a by-donation fundraising class for City of Hope—will be all about karma. City of Hope provides research, care, and alternative therapies for people fighting cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses.

City of Hope is a very special organization.  I think their website says it best:

We are proud of our numerous institutional distinctions…as we remain true to our overriding mission to heal the whole person. That means nurturing the emotional, spiritual, social, as well as physical well-being of those in our care.

For many people, City of Hope is where hope begins.

Please join Rene de Los Santos in this special class on Sunday, June 3, from 12:30 to 2:00. The class is appropriate for all levels, and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to City of Hope.

If you can’t attend, you can still help. Simply drop a donation by the studio at any class before Sunday at 2:00 PM. Make checks payable to “Yoga for Hope,” and place cash in an envelope marked “Donation: Yoga for Hope.”

You can also donate online at this link.

Thank you for helping bring hope to those who desperately need it.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available January 8, 2014 from Midnight Ink!

Nine Tips for a Successful Home Yoga Practice

Let’s face it. We all live busy lives. Most of us can barely carve out one hour once a week for yoga class, let alone several. Unfortunately, yoga practiced that infrequently is unlikely to yield long-term benefits. The solution? Supplement your studio practice with yoga at home. Below are some hints to get you started.

Guidelines for a Successful Home Yoga Practice

  • Short and simple beats long and complex every time. Why wait until you have a spare hour? Three twenty-minute practices each week will yield significantly better results than a single sixty minute one.
  • Yoga is more than asana. Only have five minutes?  Try a simple breath or meditation session. The mental and emotional benefits from ten minutes of deep breathing can be profound.
  • Make your practice place special. Most people don’t have a yoga room in their home, but you can turn any room into a sacred practice space. Dim the lights; light a few candles; ring a pair of Tibetan chimes. Create a ritual that signals the transition from daily life to practice.
  • Celebrate success. Give yourself a mental high-five each time you practice, whether it’s for sixty seconds or sixty minutes. If you chastise yourself for not practicing, you never will. Instead, celebrate each and every time your feet land on your mat.
  • Integrate or distract kids and pets. Pets love interrupting yoga practice, so give them something else to do instead. Feed Fluffy some tuna; give Fido a chew toy; pop a Looney Tunes DVD in the player for the kids. And if you can’t distract them, have them join you. Yoga with the kids might become your favorite part of the day.
  • The best time to practice is when you’ll actually do it. Be honest with yourself. If you’re more likely to win Lotto than get up fifteen minutes early, don’t plan to practice at 5:00 AM.  Morning, lunch time, evening, before bed….Any time is yoga time.
  • When you get discouraged—keep going!   There will be days that you don’t want to practice. Days that you don’t have time to practice. Practice anyway. Remind yourself what you love about yoga. If that doesn’t work, take the advice of dog trainers everywhere and treat yourself for practicing. I understand chocolate is particularly effective. 😉
  • Schedule practice time on your calendar—in ink! If you practice whenever you can squeeze it in, you’ll never unroll your mat. Choose a consistent time, write it down, and set up a reminder system.  Make your practice a priority.
  • Above all else, enjoy yourself!  Yoga is truly a gift.  Treasure it!

What has worked for you? Please let me know by leaving a comment.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available January 8, 2014 from Midnight Ink!

A Meditation to Create Tranquility and Joy

This meditation practice is one of my favorites for clearing out emotional “gunk” and creating a state of inner peace, tranquility, joy and healing. Even better, it can be done anytime, anywhere. I hope you like it!

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine in neutral and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.  Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  2. Begin focusing your mind by paying attention to the sensation of the breath just inside your nostrils.
  3. When you feel ready, think of a quality you’d like to increase in your life.  Imagine that quality is a bright white light entering your body through your heart center and spreading throughout your entire body—from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and toes.  This light can represent any positive quality you wish it to—love, joy, health, healing, or anything else. Imagine every cell of your body illuminated by this light, and feel the quality it carries flow into every cell.
  4. Imagine that this quality is replacing everything that clutters your life—anger, impatience, stress, desire, greed. As the light grows brighter in your mind, visualize its pure radiance washing all negative qualities away.
  5. 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 begin to focus on the white, healing light once again.
  6. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Let me know how it goes!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available early 2014 from Midnight Ink!

Breathing in Asana: The Anatomical Breath

Some yoga teachers describe breathing as filling a bucket of water, asking students to breathe from the bottom up, as if they were breathing into their bellies.  This would make sense if air were a liquid; it’s not. 

Air is a gas, and the lungs act more like balloons than buckets, inflating from the top down and creating specific effects on the spine. In Viniyoga, we breathe in a way that magnifies those effects. This breath is called anatomical breathing. How you breathe in asana may seem insignificant, but the results are powerful. Anatomical breathing provides the core stability required to do asana safely and effectively.

The Natural Breath

The natural inhale is a process of muscle contraction. 

  • The intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) contract, causing the ribs to lift and the rib cage to widen.
  • The diaphragm (a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage) contracts and flattens, pressing the internal organs into the belly. This causes the belly to expand.
  • The collar bones and rib cage elevate, the spine extends, and the thoracic curve flattens.
  • Space inside the chest increases, creating a vacuum.  Air flows into the lungs.

The natural exhale, on the other hand, is a process of relaxation.

  • The intercostal muscles relax, allowing the chest to lower and narrow.
  • The diaphragm relaxes to its original dome-shaped position.
  • The lower back curve naturally flattens.
  • Space inside the chest decreases. Pressure inside the chest becomes higher than the pressure outside it. Air is pushed out of the lungs. 

So what does this have to do with asana?  

In asana, we utilize the natural breath and magnify its effects on the spine. Our goal on inhale is to increase the spaces between the vertebrae. On exhale we contract the abdominal muscles, thereby flattening the lumbar curve and stabilizing the low back and pelvis.

Using Anatomical Breathing in Asana:

On inhale: 

  • Imagine a downward flow of breath starting at your collar bones and moving down to your belly.
  • Consciously extend your entire spine as you feel your rib cage expand.
  • In the last 1/3 of your breath, allow your belly to soften.

On exhale: 

  • Maintain length in the spine.
  • Progressively contract the abdominal muscles, first from the pubic bone to the navel, then from the navel to the bottom ribs.
  • Keep the belly pulled in during the first half of the following inhale.

By breathing this way, we magnify the benefits of breath while minimizing the risks of movement.  Over time, our spines get longer; our bellies grow stronger; our backs and pelvises become more stable. 

Give it a shot. You might be surprised how sore your belly is the next day.  And the next time your yoga teacher tells you to pull in your belly as you exhale, you’ll know why!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!