October – Natarajasana

Natarajasana or the ‘lord of the dance’ is an ancient posture which is indicative of a place of perfect poise and balance. It is a graceful and elegant posture which helps us to connect to those qualities within us.

At a deeper level, this posture also connects us to the energy of Shiva. Shiva, in ancient Hindu mythology, relates to the qualities of letting go – of completion and fulfillment. With autumn nearby, this posture is perfect to help us ‘tune in’ to the rhythm of the earth as it begins it’s autumnal cycle, ready for the quietness of winter before once again bursting to life with the warmth of spring. “In the midst of movement we find stillness and peace – the Dru point.”

Benefits: Physically this posture helps to strengthen the legs and stretch the quads/ iliopsoas. The pectorial muscles and shoulder are stretched as the chest opens. Balance is also improved. Mentally, this posture helps with the qualities of concentration and clarity,.

Contraindications: As this is a balancing posture, you may feel more confident with a chair, or wall to keep you stable. Also if you have knee problems, please go gently.

Body preparations: This posture takes your body into a very strong stretch, especially around the quads and iliopsoas, therefore it is very important to prepare for this posture by doing some extended runner positions (as in the sun sequence). Also please do some general body movements, such as activations or Energy Block Release 1 to ensure the rest of the body is prepared.

How to do this posture:
Stand in Tadasana. Breathe deeply and engage your core muscles. Place your left palm on the left thigh. Bend the right elbow, so the back of the right hand comes toward the right shoulder, at the same time raise the left thigh, bending at the knee.

Keeping your left hand in contact with the leg, slide the left hand down the leg to the ankle and take hold of the left foot with the left hand. Slowly raise the left leg out behind you and reach forward with the right arm.

Be aware not to extend the left leg too far back that it becomes uncomfortable and not to twist the pelvis  – imagine headlights on the hip bones – and both of them still facing forwards.

To come out of the posture bring the knees closer together and slide your left hand up the left leg and the knee comes forward, simultaneously drawing in the right arm. Lower the left foot to the floor as you lower your arms. Repeat on the other side.

Top Tip: This posture represents the dance of nature itself. The whole power of natarajasana comes from the very centre of your being. It begins and ends from a place of stillness. If you find yourself stuck in a particular emotion, you can practice this posture facing the rising or setting sun or moon. It will assist the letting go process. This posture works best when performed outside. Enjoy!

Advertisements

September – Vipariti Karani

Vipariti Karini – supported inversion

This powerful yet gentle yoga posture is classed as an inversion, but for those of us who think ‘up-side-down’ means head stands, wheels and peacocks; this posture is most definitely a welcome relief!

Annie Jones, one of the founders of Dru has been practicing this posture for years: “Vipariti Karani is one of my favourite postures, indeed, the whole of my personal yoga practice builds up to this point. Not only is it calming for the mind, but it seems to create space around my thoughts – giving me the perspective and time to think. It’s said to be beneficial in preventing conditions such as alzheimer’s as well as helping us to keep our minds alert and our memories sharp.

It is a calming posture which helps to lower blood pressure, and yet, if you are tired, a simple 5 minutes of this posture will see you restored and ready to face your next task. Due to the inversion, the downward pressure of gravity is taken off the organs, allowing them time to relax, it also helps gently increase the blood supply to the brain, and therefore nourishing the cells with fresh oxygen and nutrients.

Finally, my favourite benefit of this posture is that it helps to nourish and calm the area of the throat. The gentle compression of the thyroid gland stimulates the metabolism assisting in weight management and physical energy levels as well as gently activating and nourishing the vishuddhi chakra, the centre of our self expression and communication which resides at the level of the throat. In fact, Vipariti Karani is perfect for anyone like me who does a lot of communicating.”

> watch how to do this posture here

Who shouldn’t do this posture?
As a low supported inversion this posture can be done by most people. It is even said to be beneficial  for those with high blood pressure, as it has a calming effect on the body, and you can choose to have a very low inversion or higher, depending on how you feel. If you have extreme high or low blood pressure, you can get the same benefits by simply placing the legs up a wall with you back flat. Take extra caution during pregnancy, as you shouldn’t be on your back for too long, especially after 4 months, but placing the legs up the wall for a short period of time in early pregnancy can help reduce swelling and tirdness in the legs. If you have glaucoma, you are on the first 3 days of your menstrual cycle, have a neck problem or a heart condition, please don’t do this posture.

How to do this posture
1. Place a blanket on the floor, it needs to be folded so that your hips to your shoulders are on the blanket, with the head comfortably on the floor. This ensures when you are in the posture that the neck is free to move easily.

2. Place more folded blankets, a folded duvet, or cushions on top of the base blanket.

3. Sit carefully onto the pile of blankets. Reach one hand back to balance your weight as you lie down onto your back, with you hips supported by the blankets. Your head should be on the floor, and the shoulders on the base blanket.

4. Engage your core stability muscles and begin to raise the legs till they are vertical with your arms resting comfortably by your sides.

5. Relax for as long as you feel comfortable. You may need to bring the knees to the chest to give your legs a break if they get tired. To come out of the posture, place the feet on the floor and roll to one side. Pause for a minute to balance the blood pressure before you push yourself up into seated.

6. Sit quietly for a few minutes and absorb the incredible benefits of this posture.

> You can do this posture as part of Annie Jones’ Natural Weight Loss Class 1 on the Dru Yoga Online Studio
> Watch this posture here
> Posture taken from the Dru Yoga Teacher Training course
> Yoga retreats in Snowdonia

August – the archer

The archer is the highlight of EBR 3 – the sequence to awaken the heart. This sequence as a whole is very powerful. It activates the heart centre and then we put all that energy to very effective and powerful use by focusing it into the archer. It is a posture that is dynamic and moving; it is focused, intense, and yet also detached. A paradox indeed!

The important thing with the archer is that we do it with a high intension or goal. It is the way we can express our heart energy out into the world around us, and helps us to understand and move towards our goals. It is the dynamic forward motion of this posture, which helps to drive us towards our goals. If you would like to use the archer as a part of EBR 3 you can buy the CD here. Below is a story about one of the greatest archers who ever lived. This story will help you to understand a little more about the energetics, and the benefits of this posture, and how it came into being. Enjoy!

How to do this posture: >     Stand with the feet about shoulder width apart. Pause for a few moments to bring to mind an image of your current goal. Choose one, powerful image that you think most reflects your goal. It could be an image of you as you would like to be emotionally or physically, it could be your ideal new house or it could be a situation at work or home. Just draw it into your mind and make it real.

>     Turn the right foot out 90 degrees, and drop the left heel away from you. Raise the right arm up sideways to shoulder height with the palm facing away from you. Bring the left arm up, elbow bent, so that the palm of the left hand is level with the collar bones. Extend the thumb up towards the ceiling and tuck the ring and little fingers in towards the palm.

>     Imagine you are holding a bow in your right hand. Bring the left arm across the body to the right hand. Imagine you are taking hold of the bow string. Slowly pull the left arm back – the left hand towards your left ear.

>     Bending into the left knee, keep the right leg straight, and very gently raise the right arm a fraction, so that your bow is pointing above the horizontal, still keeping a straight line between the bent left arm and the extended right arm.

>     Bring your mental picture into your mind. Focus on it. And imagine it out in front of you. When you are ready take a deep breath in and with a dynamic out breath allow that arrow of energy, passion and success to fly straight to your goal. As you release your arrow your body weight shifts forward onto the front leg and your left arm moves forward to meet with the right hand.

>     Repeat twice more to the right. Then release the hand mudra, allowing both arms to raise up and overhead. Feet turn forwards and then out the left. Repeat 3 times on the left side. Raise arms to overhead and then allow the arms to separate and come back to standing tall and strong. Visualising your goal, and knowing that it will become manifest. “Manage your mind and you will manage your life – otherwise your mind will manage you!”

The story of Arjuna, the best archer In ancient Indian mythology there was a teacher called Dronacharya. He was one of the greatest warriors of his time – having mastered the use of various weapons. Dronacharya was asked to teach a group of young princes (5 brothers, called the Pandavas and their rivals, the Kauravas) in the art of weaponry. The Pandavas and the Kauravas were quick to learn, and soon picked up various skills. While all the princes learnt the use of all the weapons, each of them had their own favorites. While Dronacharya was a fair teacher and treated all the students equally, he couldn’t help admiring Arjuna the most. Arjuna was not only the best archer of all, he was the most focused, he most enthusiastic and the most driven. However, this admiration was misconstrued as favoritism by the Kauravas, and they continually complained against it.

Deciding that it was time these misunderstandings were set at rest, Dronacharya decided that it was time to prove Arjuna’s uniqueness to the rest of the students. He called all the students to the grove outside the ashram. He had placed on one of the trees a wooden bird with a prominently painted eye. He addressed all the students and said, “Young princes, you have learnt most of the skills necessary for a warrior, and it is time you take a test and show me your abilities. Right now, I want you to show me your skill in archery. There, on that tree is a wooden bird with a painted eye. You have to aim for, and hit that eye.” The first one to be called was Yudhishtra. Dronacharya asked him to aim at the bird, but wait for him to say the word before letting the arrow loose. When Yudhishtra was ready, Dronacharya asked, “Yudhishtra, please tell me what you can see.” Yudhishtra replied, “I can see the bird, the tree, the fruits on the tree and more birds.” Dronacharya replied, “All right. Leave your bow and arrow and go.” Yudhishtra was surprised, but obeyed his teacher and did as he was told. Next was the turn of Duryodhana. Asked the same question, he replied, “Master, I can see the bird, the tree, the leaves, the fruits, another bird…” But before he could complete, Dronacharya said, “You can go!”

Duryodhana was wild, and he flung the bow and arrow to the ground before he stood aside. Next was the turn of Bhima. Again, he was asked the same question by Dronacharya, and he replied, “Master, I too can see the bird, the tree, the fruits……” he too was interrupted and made to stand aside. Next was the turn of the Pandava twins, one by one. When posed the same question, Nakula said, “I can see the people, the trees and the bird” and Sahadeva said, “I can see the bird, the fruits and the tree.” They too were turned away. Finally, it was the turn of Arjuna. As soon as Arjuna was ready, Dronacharya asked, “Arjuna, what can you see?” Arjuna replied, “Master, I can see only the eye of the bird, and nothing else.” With a smile on his face, Dronacharya said, “Fire!” and Arjuna let loose the arrow which found its mark. Dronacharya turned to the other princes and said, “Did you all understand the point of this test? When you aim for something, you must look at nothing else but the target. Only intense concentration can help you strike the target. All of you could see the other things like the trees, the fruits, the leaves and the people because you were not concentrating on the task given to you. It was only Arjuna who was really concentrating. So now all of you know why Arjuna is the best student!” Dronacharya’s test silenced the Kauravas, and all understood that Arjuna was indeed the best student.

Source; http://anustoriesforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/arjuna-passes-test.html

July – Sacral-lumbar release

This month, rather than a specific asana, we have chosen to share with you one of the most powerful ways to keep your lower back and spine healthy, flexible and aligned. It is called the Sacro-lumbar release. This sequence is best used as a preventative to back pain, rather than when you are in the acute phases of back pain. If you have got a back condition currently, please do go gently with this one, and build up the strength and length of the movements when you are more comfortable.

Eight out of ten of us experience some form of back pain during our lives from a dull ache, to a shooting pain and anything in between! Our sacrum, especially the lumber spine joins the sacrum at L5, is a very important part of our spinal support. The sacrum consists of 5 vertebra, which throughout the late teens and the twenties, becomes fused into one bone. This bone holds much of the weight of the torso and upper body, therefore has to be very strong. It was also referred to as the ‘sacred bone’ by the ancient Greeks and Romans, amongst other reasons because this is usually the last bone in the body to decay it was therefore thought that this was the bone around which the soul could be regenerated in the afterlife.

Sacro-lumbar Release sequence.

1. Standing with the feet at shoulder width apart, rise both arms up to the right and pause at shoulder height.

2. Allow both arms to drop, then describe a full circle over to the left, up above and back to the right. Simultaneously drop the arms down to the centre line, and as the arms circle round to the left, step back with the right foot, placing it behind the stationary left foot. Almost as if you were sinking down into a curtsy. Arms stay at shoulder height out to the left. Pause here and then pull the right hand back towards your right ear, as if drawing a bow. Open and expand the chest.

3. Release the arms down to the centre line as you step the right foot back to centre. Allow the arms to continue up and over head describing a full circle. As the arms lower past the hips and move out to the right at shoulder height, step back with the left foot, placing it behind your stationary right foot. Sinking down into a curtsey and puling back with the left hand towards the left ear, again as if drawing a bow.

Repeat a few times to either side. If you back is strong, you can lower the depth of the curtsey each time by taking the back leg just a little further away and sinking lower through the knees.

To complete step the feet back to centre and finish the circle of the arms. Pausing in tasasana, standing tall and strong.

> click here to watch the Sacro-lumbar release on you tube
> click here to do Sacro-lumbar release on Dru Yoga Online Studio class

June – the chair of the heart

Utkatasana is a great yoga posture that alleviates stiffness in the shoulders and encourages good alignment in the legs.

The ankles are strengthened and the achilles tendons are stretched. The heart receives a gentle massage. The abdominal organs and back are toned and the chest is opened. It is also a posture that can create balance and brings joy. On an energy level this posture acts directly on the heart chakra at the level of the manomaya kosha, inducing feelings of devotion, compassion and love. So what are we waiting for?

CONTRA-INDICATIONS Those with ankle, knee, hip or shoulder joint problems should keep the movements core stability muscles contracted. Anyone with neck problems, high blood pressure or heart disease should limit the amount of time the arms are held in the overhead position.

How to do Utkatasana, the chair of the heart
Before you do the posture do a few warming up movements by shaking out the joints, twisting the spine and generally activating the body and energy flow. It’s also beneficial to stretch out the solaus muscle at the base of the calves by placing one foot slightly in front of the other, both feet pointing forward. Then bend both knees, taking the centre of gravity down to the point between the feet. Repeat the stretch on both sides.

Part 1
Stand in tadasana. Breathe out, then engage your core muscles. Breathe in and raise your arms from your sides until your right palm meets your left overhead in the praying hands mudra. Breathe out and bend your elbows, allowing your hands to come towards the crown of your head.

Part 2
On the inhalation, bend your knees while straightening your arms, creating space in your heart region. Keep the heels down and sink down as far as you can, stretching your calf muscles. Keep the core muscles strong so your pelvis stays in the neutral position.

Part 3
Breathe out, straightening your legs again and at the same time bending your elbows, lowering the praying hands towards the crown of your head. Repeat these movements a few more times. Finish by lowering your hands down the midline of your body towards your sternum. Hold in namaste for a few breaths while observing the effect of the posture. Relax your hands by your sides.

For more information about Dru Yoga classes, workshops, holidays and teacher training, visit us at www.druworldwide.com

May – the tree

Vrksasana or the Tree Posture is  a fantastic balancing posture which is close to any Dru Yogi’s heart! This posture has many levels and many layers of understanding.

Physically this posture is great for balancing the leg muscles, toning the gluteals and core muscles as well as introducing flexibility to the shoulders and back. The real benefits of this posture, however, come from the deeper levels of the emotions and the mind, bringing you into a place of deep stillness – this ‘Still Point’ or ‘Dru Point’ is the essence of Dru Yoga. This posture can be easily modified for those who have hip, knee or balance problems by placing the toes on the floor and placing the heel against the ankle. This posture is a perfect balance of flow, breath and movement. It is graceful and powerful, even in its simplicity. Practice this regularly to gain clarity of mind, perspective and concentration on the matter at hand.

Stage 1: Stand in Tadasana, the Mountain Pose. Feet hip width, parallel and facing forward. Feel strength lifting through the legs, gently contracting the abdominal muscles as you lift up through the spine, lift through the sternum and then through the crown of the head. Then taking the weight onto the left leg, strengthen the left gluteal. When ready turn the right knee out to the side.

Stage 2: Breathe in and simultaneously lift the right leg and raise the arms sideways  and reach upwards above the head. Place the foot onto the floor, knee or thigh (wherever you can reach comfortably), and join the palms together above the head (if you have high blood pressure allow the arms to lower, so the palms are level with the forehead).

Stage 3: Breathe out as you stay balanced on the left leg and draw the hands down to the level of the heart.

Stage 4: Breathe in, as in a small movement, you rotate the fingertips of the palms to turn away from you to point forward at the level of the chest.

Stage 5: Breathing out push the palms forward so the arms straighten out level with the heart (still standing on one leg).

Stage 6: Soften the shoulders, arms and wrists as the hands separate and open the arms out to the side taking a deep breath in.

Stage 7: Next out breath allow the arms to slowly come down the sides as you release the leg and place the foot on the floor.

Return to Tadasana, a place of focus and balance with the body’s weight equally on both feet. Repeat on the other side. Allow there to be a gentle flow as you transfer one side to the other.

How did you get on? Let us know by writing in the comments section below!