August 2013 – the crane

bakasana-for-blogThis posture helps the circulation of the blood to the head as it falls into the inversion set of postures. It helps to strengthen the spine, the pelvic girdle and the legs and it also helps with physical balance.

The actual performing of the posture allows lots of muscles to be in use at the same time – the hamstrings are both stretched and contracted, the forearm flexor muscles are stretched, the gluteus maximus muscle and the core stability muscles are also contracted.

Because it is an inversion posture it helps on the mental / emotional level with releasing stubborn habit patterns. It creates a wonderful flow of energy through the spine activating all the chakras.

Who shouldn’t do this posture:
Although the benefits of this posture are excellent you need to make sure, as with all inversion postures, that if you are suffering from high blood pressure, have a hernia or a detached retina, have spinal disc problems or are pregnant then you should not do this posture.

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 causing the hips to twist. Having a partner to guide you until you become more aware of the flat lower back when in the posture will help you. To prepare for this posture you will need to strengthen the Gluteus Maximus muscles and work on stretching the hamstrings.

How to do this posture:
1. Stand in Tadasana. Place hands flat on thighs, breathe in and as you breathe out slide hands down legs towards the floor making sure you are bending at the hips.
Place both hands on the floor about two hand lengths in front of your feet (bend your knees if you need to).

2. Raise the right leg behind as high as possible but making sure the hips and lower back are flat and trying not to twist the pelvis (get someone to watch and check this for you until you can feel that you are in the correct position). Allow the stretch to extend from the hips to the toes.

3. Slowly lower leg down to original position. If this is uncomfortable you can always bend the knee and then place the foot on the floor.

4. Uncurl spine raising up to Tadasana before completing on left side.

The beauty of this posture is that even if you can’t get your hands down to the floor you can use blocks to assist. You can also use the back of a chair or the seat of a chair. If you use the back of chair you just need to lift the knee, pushing the heel away behind you whilst holding onto the chair. If you use the chair seat for support, lift the knee and push the heel behind you. It is just as important to make sure the pelvis doesn’t tilt when using any of these modifications.

Top Tip:
This is an excellent inverted posture to do, especially if you are not comfortable with shoulder stands as it allows you to fully experience the magical effects of the chakras moving throughout the body whilst you are in total control of the posture. Have fun with this and play around with the modifications too.

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June 2013 – the triangle

triangle-for-blogThe extended lateral triangle posture or ‘Utthita Trikonasana’ is invaluable for developing strength and flexibility in the trunk and thighs. It helps to mobilise the pelvic girdle, extend the spine and tones the abdominal, upper back and shoulder muscles.

The posture is also excellent for releasing stuck energy from the sides of the torso and can help us to perceive a wider picture in our lives. On an energetic level this posture activates the earth energies in the base chakra, and encourages it to raise upward, enhancing our artistic ability, creativity and powers of expression.

 

Should I do this posture?
As this posture creates a strong stimulation to the lower two chakras, it is not recommended during menstruation, pregnancy and for the first three months after giving birth. If you have back, knee or hip problems please exercise caution in performing and holding this posture.

If you have weakness in the lower back or abdominal muscles, you can do this posture with more ease by bringing your feet even closer together and bend your knee when moving into the posture.

Preparing the body
The triangle is generally quite demanding physically and therefore ensure that you have warmed up the body with some activations (one great way to get warmed up is to put your favourite music on and dance!) It would also be advantageous to stretch the pectorials and adductor muscules.

How to do the posture
1. Stand in tadasana. Allow your joints to be soft and relaxed and feel your connection with the earth.

2. Adopt the standard triangle base as follows:
 Separate your legs by two to three feet. Turn the right foot 45 degrees to the right by pivoting on the right heel. Now pivot on the ball of the right foot to bring the right heel in line with the toes. You should now find that your right heel is in line with the medial arch of the left foot. Push the left heel slightly to the left to allow you to anchor the left foot to the floor when you move into the side bend.

3. Pause and check that when you bend your right knee that the shin vertical. If its not – adjust your stance to bring your feet closer together – or if the legs are already too narrow, adjust the width between your feet accordingly.

4. Refresh your core stability. Breathing in, raise your arms sideways to shoulder height, palms facing forward. As you breathe out, reach towards the right extending from the base of your spine and then down towards the floor. Keep your body in one plane—the torso does not come forwards.

N.b. Keeping in one plane will restrict your movement considerably but it is more useful to bend just a little to the side with correct alignment than to bend a lot more but incorrectly.

5. Once you feel perfectly balanced, become aware of your arms. Rest the back of your right hand against the right calf or ankle. Stretch your left arm upwards and feel as if you are lifting from the armpit. Allow your left shoulder blade to relax towards the right shoulder blade. Elongate your neck and turn your head in order to look up towards your left hand.

6. To come out of the posture, reverse this sequence as follows:
Look forwards, bend your right knee and on an inhalation slowly raise your torso upwards, contracting your pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles to help with the lifting movement. Arms remain out sideways at shoulder height. Once in the upright position lower both arms.

7. You may wish to rest in a relaxed forward bend position before repeating on the other side.

May 2013 – the bow

bow-for-blog

Dhanurasana or the Bow is an amazing backward bend, which also opens the chest and stretches pecs and quads. This posture gives a complete activation of the whole spine, helping maintain both its suppleness and strength and also of the hips.

In the final rocking stage the bow gives a gentle massage to the abdominal organs, obviously aiding digestion.

In this posture the Manipura chakra (the solar centre) and Vishuddhi chakra (the throat centre) are activated. As a consequence we find that on a mental / emotional level this posture helps us to become more able to express yourself.

The bow is a very powerful posture for helping us to train the mind. In the practice of archery it is said that the concentrated focus on a target helps the subject and the object to become one.

Contraindications:
If you are suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure or have had recent abdominal surgery please avoid this posture. Women who are pregnant or are menstruating should also avoid this posture.

Body preparations:
It is really important to prepare the body for the stretches this posture brings. Use the Quadriceps stretch (stand on one leg and hold the other foot close to the buttocks – keeping the knees close together and the sternum lifted), the Iliopsoas stretch and the pectoralis Stretch (take a yoga strap – or your hubby’s tie – and hold onto it with your arms about 1m apart – then lift up and over your head, so your arms are stretched out behind you).

How to do this posture:
You can perform this posture on a blanket if you need to cushion the hip bones. You may also find that you need to use straps to perform the individual stages of this posture. If your hands don’t reach your feet easily then please take care not to over-stretch – use a strap or a sash hooked around the ankle. It is important to gain the benefits of the posture without any pain.

Stage 1 (preparing the knees and thighs)
Lie in the prone position with both hands extended in front and the forehead placed on the floor. Bend the right knee and bring your right hand back and take hold of the foot. Draw the foot towards the right buttock so you can feel the stretch along the front of the right thigh.

Then bring the left hand also to the right foot. Breathe in and as you exhale raise the right thigh by pushing the front of the right foot into your palms and moving your heel away from your buttock, whilst at the same time lifting your head and chest off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, breathing normally. On an exhalation lower your head and chest to the ground and release hold of your right foot. Make sure you release hands and feet gently back to the floor.

Rest in Makarasana for a few moments before repeating with the left leg.

Stage 2 (full posture)
Remain in the prone position, bend both knees and take hold of the right foot with the right hand and the left foot with the left hand. Breathe in and as you exhale raise both the top of the body and the legs off the ground. As the body balances on the abdomen it rocks gently with each breath (the breath will be faster than normal in this position).

Your arms are like the bow-string which tenses to bring the body back into the shape of the bow.

Top Tip: 
It is important to follow this posture with some forward bending postures. Either the knee-to-head posture (Janu Sirsasana) or the sitting forward bend (Paschimottanasana) would be ideal.

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

Dru Yoga helps Liverpool players

blog-sitting-twistDru Yoga helps Liverpool football players reduce injuries

In an article published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dru Yoga is quoted as being part of a successful 7 point plan, used by physiotherapists on Liverpool Football Club’s players to reduce hamstring injuries.

Recurrent hamstring injuries are a major problem in sports such as football. The research followed a professional footballer who had sustained five hamstring injuries.

Liverpool’s doctors and physiotherapists successfully used a seven point programme which included Dru Yoga. The player started regular sessions of yoga-based stretching and relaxation with a qualified Dru yoga instructor. These consisted of Dru fascial warm-up techniques; intense hamstring and low back stretches; guided Dru relaxations and Dru breath training (techniques to improve lung capacity, stamina and to activate the relaxation response through the body). Sessions were undertaken for 60 min twice per week. The player soon reported subjective improvement in his hamstring freedom.

Dru Yoga is shown to be effective in the treatment and management of low back pain and stress, and is known for being a particularly safe style of yoga.
Previous studies on the effectiveness of Dru Yoga for stress in the workplace and back pain, were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental health and the Journal of Occupational Medicine, and these were cited in this recent article.

Dru Yoga is a graceful and potent form of yoga, based on flowing movements, directed breathing and visualisation. With its foundations set firmly in ancient yogic tradition, Dru works on body, mind and spirit—improving strength and flexibility, creating core stability, building a heightened feeling of positivity, and deeply relaxing and rejuvenating your whole being.

Designed to be practised by people of all abilities, all fitness levels and all age groups, Dru is a style of yoga that can be quickly dipped into or learnt in more depth over a lifetime. Dru Yoga classes are available in the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands and across Europe, Australia and Canada. Short Dru Yoga retreats and yoga holidays in these countries are also very popular. The Dru Yoga teacher training course, which is necessary to teach this safe, therapeutic style of yoga, is available in many countries. Visit druworldwide.com for more details.

Read the original article: http://m.bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2013/01/14/bjsports-2012-091400.full

Dru Yoga reduces back pain and stress: http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/09/24/occmed.kqs168.abstract

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.