April 2013 – the tiger

twin-tigerVyaghrasana, the tiger, is a great posture which encourages flexion and extension to the entire length of the spine.

It is especially beneficial for those people who sit a lot as it strengthens the lower back, abdominal and gluteus maximus and medius muscles which are all important for good posture.

It is also good for women returning to yoga following childbirth as it tones the female reproductive organs. On the mental / emotional level a stronger sense of willpower and determination is being nurtured and the ability to be more flexible in facing life’s challenges is experienced. On the energetic level your awareness is drawn first to Swadhistana Chakra, rising to Manipura, Vishuddhi and Ajna.

You shouldn’t practice this posture if you are suffering from a hiatus hernia and you should avoid this posture if you have serious problems with your wrist or knee joints. If you have sciatica you should avoid just the first part of the posture where the knee and spine are flexed.

Body preparations:
It is really important when doing this posture, especially for the first few times, that you do not over extend the raised leg and hip causing the body to twist. Having a partner to guide you until you become more aware of the height of the raised leg will help. To prepare for this posture you will need to strengthen the Gluteus Maximus and Medius muscles.

How to do this posture:
1. First of all adopt the cat posture (make sure to have the knees hip-width apart, hands flat on the floor with the wrists and elbow under the shoulders, top of feet flat on floor, head looking towards the floor) making sure you have engaged your core stability muscles.

2. Inhale and then as you exhale bring your left knee towards the forehead. Contract your abdominal muscles and arch your upper back.

3. On the next inhalation stretch your left leg back and feel an extension throughout the entire body. Keep the hips level as you raise the left leg and look forward with the head. Take your focus to elongating the spine and the raised leg.

4. Alternate between these two positions following the rhythm of your breath. Be aware of the position of your hips and try to keep them level. This is where a partner guiding you as to the height of the leg and any twisting at the hips will be helpful until you can identify the correct alignment for yourself. Perhaps being able to look in a mirror would help you too at first. The body soon gets to know which is the correct position when you have done it a few times correctly.

5. Once you have completed a few rounds of the movement with the left leg, return to the cat position (on all fours). Take a small break before repeating on the other side by taking the weight back towards the heels, separating the knees a little and relaxing your body down over the thighs. Keep the arms stretched out in front of you, and, if its comfortable, place the forehead on the floor or a cushion. Then simply rotate the wrists a few times in either direction. When you are ready push back up onto your hands and knees and begin with the right leg.

Top Tip:

Watch the cat become the tiger with this posture! Enjoy the increased sense of will power and determination it brings! It also helps us to be able to be even more flexible and face what life throws at you!

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March 2013 – Sitting forward bend

paschimottanasana-for-blogPaschimottanasana
Sitting Forward Bend

Physically this posture is great for releasing back tension as it stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles. It also stimulates the digestive and reproductive systems by massaging the abdominal area, thereby helping peristalsis. It also activates the kidneys, liver, pancreas and adrenal glands and it can help improve diabetes.

Emotionally it helps us by calming the nerves, releasing fear and amplifies courage. It also helps bring control over our desire-dominated senses. It’s also a very powerful asana for spiritual awakening…

Contraindications:
If you are suffering from Sciatica or a slipped disc it is advisable not to do this posture. During pregnancy or if you are suffering from any spinal, hip or knee problems please work gently. If you know you have short hamstrings please make sure you keep the spine extended and don’t reach further than is comfortable.

It is really important that when doing this posture that you hinge forward at the hips, stretching up and forward from the lower back area, not just bending forward at the waist. To help with this it may help to sit on a cushion to help tilt the pelvis forward slightly. Preparations to help with this posture are some hamstring stretches.

How to do this posture
1. Sit upright (on a cushion if necessary) with both legs stretched out in front. Place hands on the ground by your hips. Extend spine upwards towards ceiling. With each inhalation feel spine extend, exhale spine relax.

2. With your palms facing inwards, breathe in and raise your hands slowly to the heart level, lifting your sternum as you lift the hands to heart level. As the hands come to the heart visualise a soft light at the heart centre.

3. Rotate the palms to face forward, away from the body and as you exhale gently stretch forward from the base of the spine, extending the arms along your legs as far as is comfortable. You may need to bend your knees here. As the hands are in the furthermost position visualise a soft light flowing from the heart to the crown of the head and down the arms.

4. Breathing in again, turn the palms to face the sides of legs and begin to uncurl the spine from the base, drawing the hands along the sides of the legs and up to the heart level, raising the sternum once again but keeping the shoulders relaxed. As you uncurl the spine visualise the soft light flowing up the legs back to the heart.

5. Continue with the flowing movements, working with the breath for a few times, creating a soft slowing rhythm of movement and visualisation of light moving through the body, trying to extend the forward bend a little each time but working within the limits of your own body at all times.

6. For the final forward bend, once you have placed the hands at the furthermost point, extend the arms so that the palms are flat on the floor and your forehead lowers gently towards the legs. Relax in this position breathing gently. Then in your own time, uncurl gently to an upright sitting position, resting your hands on your legs for a few moments, enjoying the energy and stillness of the posture.

Top Tip:
The key intention of this posture is to replenish your energy by letting go of painful emotions. Literally translated this is ‘the west-facing posture’ and like the setting sun, it soothes and calms your mind and emotions. As you back stretches forward old habits patterns are released, losing their hold on you so that your natural intuitive senses can unfold. Experience the wonderful energy this posture brings.

Disocver more about Dru:
> www.druworldwide.com
(yoga holidays, yoga teacher training & local yoga workshops and classes)
> Online Yoga studio
> Online Meditation course
> Online Gita Course

February 2013 – Dru Meditation

mediation-for-blogGrounding breath
How often in our modern world do we feel scattered, unable to find clarity or certainly in our life? Perhaps there is nothing particularly traumatic or stressful in our immediate circumstances, we just feel unsettled and unsure of which direction to take. This, in itself, can create stress.

The grounding breath will help bring steadiness to your mind, giving you greater clarity and certainty. If you practice the grounding breath regularly, you may begin to find stresses of yesterday no longer hassling you today.

1. Sit comfortably, with your spine upright. If you are sitting in a chair, keep your legs parallel; feet flat on the floor or on a rolled up mat.

2. Close your eyes and for a few breaths, become very interested in your breath as it comes in and out of your body.

3. Follow the passage of your breath with your awareness, moving inwards down to your lungs and outwards back up and out. After you become comfortable with this moving flow of awareness, extend it right through your body:

4. As you breathe in, take your awareness all the way down through your body to the ground beneath you. And as you breathe out, bring your awareness back up through your body. Try not to change your breathing in any way, just allow your awareness to move up and down through your body  as your breath comes in and out.

At the end of the next in-breath, allow your awareness to rest on the ground for a moment before returning through the body.

5. Repeat this a few more times, until you feel a calm steadiness wash all over you.
Invite your awareness to rise through the body for the last time and become aware of your body in contact with your clothes in your sitting position, allow your breath to return to normal and begin to notice the sounds in the room.
When you have completed the grounding breath, sit for a few moments and notice how much calmer your mind and body feel. Imagine how you might feel if you practice this simple breathing exercise every day.

Remember, if you are feeling a bit scattered, ground yourself with your breath!

There’s so much more…
Our online Dru Meditation course makes meditation easy, even if your mind won’t stop!

www.druworldwide.com (yoga holidays in North Wales)
Online yoga studio
Online Meditation course
Online Gita Course

January – Seat of Compassion

seat-of-compassion-for-blogThe Seat of Compassion is a very important posture within Dru Yoga as it holds the key to one of our most important principles: the opening of the heart centre or Anahata chakra.

Dru Yoga is often recognised as one of the most powerful forms of yoga to open up the heart centre in a gentle and flowing way. When you consciously open the heart many beautiful qualities become available to you including compassion, generosity, kindness, loyalty and gratitude.

In this posture, the Seat of Compassion, you are opening the lower energy centres, gently stimualting your fire and motivation and then, through the movement of the arms, you  draw that energy flow upward to the heart centre and out through the hands. This allows your creative dynamism to be expressed out into the world through the heart qualities of generosity and kindness, rather than through emotions such as anger, irritability or low self esteem. Use this posture when you need to get into your heart space.

Physically this posture also stretches the front of the hip – the illopsoas muscles, as well as being a great stretch for the quadricep muscles on the front of the thigh (it’s great for runners and cyclists!)

How to do this posture:
1. From kneeling, engage your core muscles in the lower abdomen and then take your right foot forward, ensuring that the knee is directly above the right ankle in the full extension. If you have knee problems or are pregnant, please keep a shorter distance between the front foot and back knee, and you may wish to place a blanket or cushion under the knee that is on the floor.

2. Raise both arms up in front of you to shoulder height. Keeping your right arm extended away from you, breathe in and lift your left arm up to vertical above you – gazing at your hand. With the out breath, allow the left arm to continue to arch over head and extend out behind you. Continue to follow the hand with your eyes so that you are now looking behind you.

3. With the next in breath soften both your arms, and with the out breath push the palms of the hands away from you, stretching the palms slightly. You may find that you are able to sink deeper into the hip opening stretch with each out breath. Repeat at least 3 times with slow, deep breaths. Focus on opening the heart centre, and the connection between your hands and the heart.

4. With the next in breath raise the left arm up to vertical – following your hand with your eyes and with the out breath return the hand to shoulder height in front of you. Slowly lower your arms to the floor. When you are ready swop sides and repeat with the left foot forward.

Please do not over stretch in this extended runner position. To begin with, keep the back knee directly under the hip, creating a 90 degree angle between the hip joint and knee. Gradually increase the angle by taking the back knee further away from you as your muscles lengthen and you feel more comfortable in this position.

 

December – the dog

dog-for-blogAdho Mukha Svanasana – downward facing dog

This is a great posture for helping you to settle into the moment – and let go of any Christmas tension!

As an inversion it’s important not to do this posture if you have high or low blood pressure, glaucoma have had recent abdominal surgery. It’s also advised against doing this posture on the first 3 days of your menstrual cycle.

Physically this posture stretches out the hamstrings and gastocnemius (calf muscles) and latissimus dorsi in the back. Its enhances circulation to the head and brain helping us feel refreshed and invigorated. This posture helps us let go of the past and brings us totally into the present. On an energetic level you may be aware of energy flowing from the base, mooladhara chakra, though all the chakras up to the crown.

How to do this posture
Come onto your hands and knees with the knees directly below your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Tuck the toes under, engage your core muscles and with the exhalation lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted. Lengthen your spine and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling whilst gently easing the heels towards the floor, straitening the knees.

Keeping the head relaxed in line with your arms once again soften your knees and lift the heels. Take the weight slightly forward onto the hands. Then lift the tail bone and gently take the heels back towards the floor.

Enjoy this flow for a few moves before bringing the knees back down to the floor. Rest the head to the floor and drop the arms down by your sides for a few breaths. Make sure you pause for a few breaths before you stand up in order to balance your blood pressure.

www.druworldwide.com (yoga holidays in North Wales)
Online yoga studio
Online Meditation course
Online Gita Course

November – Maltese Cross

Are you ready for this one… Sharva Udara-karshan-asana… phew! A long sanskrit name for a fantastic posture!

This posture is an extension of the simple lying twist. It opens and stretches out the chest and pectoral muscles, gives a great rotation to the spine, strengthens the core and loosens up the lower back. It also stretches out the gluteal muscles  which helps ease hip and back pain, aids digestion and helps trim the waist line!

Please take care if you have acute back pain, sciatica or a slipped disc – and please don’t do this one if you are pregnant or have had recent abdominal surgery.

This posture is great to do all year round to keep your back healthy. Its also especially useful when you need to connect with the earth element and ground your energy system. After travel or a long day at work this posture can really help you to let go of the day and help you settle again. Its also very relaxing once you are in the posture, so you can use it if you are feeling a bit tired or lethargic and want to do ‘just a little something’ to get your yoga practice started – or indeed just before your deep relaxation as a way to unwind and prepare for stillness.

How to do this posture
1. Lie comfortably on your back with the knees bent up, feet flat on the floor. Bring the right knee up to the chest and extend the left leg down onto the floor. Place your right foot on the floor on the inside of the left knee and stretch the arms out to the sides at shoulder height, palms facing upward. Take a deep breath in.

2. As you breathe out, keep your right shoulder anchored to the floor and take the right knee across your body and lower it towards the floor on the left side. Turn your head to the right. Relax and breathe normally.

3. When you feel ready extend your right leg until it is parallel with you left arm. Then relax here as long as is comfortable. Allow gravity to help you enjoy the stretch through the hamstrings, hip and lower back.

4. To come out of this posture bend the right knee and roll the right hip back onto the floor, placing the foot on the inside of your left knee again. Extend the foot out along the floor and rest for a couple of breaths before repeating on the other side.