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.

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Dru Yoga in the Workplace

Taking Yoga into the Workplace

More and more research is being published to show that yoga reduces stress in the workplace, and yoga is being seen increasingly as a solution to stress- related absenteeism. Stress and back pain are two key factors leading to sickness absence at work, costing the British economy an estimated £17 billion per year.

Ned Hartfiel, a researcher from Bangor University, was interested in the effects of Dru Yoga on workplace stress, and as part of his doctorate research, did a 8-week randomised, controlled study with employees of Conwy County Council, which has been published in the Oxford University Press’ Journal of Occupational Medicine. The study showed that the Dru Yoga programme significantly reduced perceived stress, back pain and hostility, and that participants felt more self-assured, attentive and serene after the yoga classes.

Dru Yoga was chosen for this study, as it is a particularly safe and therapeutic form of yoga that can be practised by most people. Dru Yoga is characterized by graceful movements, directed breathing and relaxation techniques that include affirmation and visualization. The Dru Yoga classes in this study were divided into four stages: activation exercises, energy block release sequences, postures and relaxation.

One participant in the study, Susan Williams, a Community Engagement Officer, tells her story of experiencing yoga in the workplace.

‘I received an internal e-mail that explained about the yoga pilot project and that it could help with stress. I had never done any yoga before in my life, but I had been fascinated with the ancient health enhancing properties of yoga, and I thought I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from giving it a go.

As a professional with a job that required a lot of energy and drive, I was wearing myself to the ground. My stress levels had become too high, to a level whereby I had to take time off work. I had tried to hide my stress for a number of years, however, during the last year I could no longer hold it together. Physically I felt tired. Outwardly I was enthusiastic, encouraging, assisting and motivating others; however inwardly, I was empty and giving out my reserves! I couldn’t go on any more. I was burnt out and with two children to look after. I was scared, and I needed to find a way out.

I embraced the Dru Yoga programme of exercise. I was able to complete 7 out of the 8 weeks of Yoga, and I practised at home with the DVD at least once a week, but more often twice. I found that Dru Yoga had a noticeable effect on my self-esteem and levels of confidence. I felt more in control, ready, aware, dynamic and empowered. I began to recognise the inner strength within me. It had always been there, but now I knew it! I was happier, and it was so much easier to cope with my circumstances. Although my circumstances had not changed, my outlook, attitude and behaviour began to improve remarkably.

Since starting the Dru Yoga pilot study, I have had no long term stress-related sickness absence. In fact, I have now enrolled on a course to become a Dru Yoga Instructor! I would not say I am ‘cured’, as I am still susceptible to stress and anxiety. However, I am using the tools I have learned from Dru Yoga, and it works!

Emotionally I am more calm and positive. Physically I am stronger, with greater flexibility and overall in much better shape than I was before. Although I am physically active and lift
weights, Dru took my physical capabilities to a new level, and I love a challenge! Dru uses visualisation as well, which really helps when doing the movements. It works on a deeper level and leaves me feeling grounded with a feeling of harmony, acceptance and simplicity. Namaste.’

As more research shows how yoga can help with workplace stress and back pain, it’s time for yoga teachers to take their skills off the mat and into businesses – who need the benefits of yoga more than ever.

 

Yoga for reducing perceived stress and back pain at work N. Hartfiel; C. Burton; J. Rycroft-Malone; G. Clarke; J. Havenhand; S. B. Khalsa; R. T. Edwards Occupational Medicine 2012; doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqs168 More information about Dru Yoga, visit druyoga.com

Ned Hartfiel
ned@druworldwide.com

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.

Autumn – time to pause!

This autumn; pause, catch your breath and allow yourself a bit of time for clarity and perspective.

With a nip in the air and the leaves starting to fall – it’s important we regcognise this time of change; both inside us and out in nature. If we are awareful, this time of year can be very beneficial to us and our journey forward. As the earth begins to cool and the nights draw in, how about reaching inward to the warmth inside?

In Dru Yoga we often talk of ‘Dru Points’ or places of internal and eternal stillness that we can encounter through our yoga and meditation practice. It is where we find ourselves in perfect balance and harmony with ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us. Dru Points are a  powerful way to stay connected to your inner self – even when things are a little rough round the edges.

By pausing for a few breaths each day and taking just a few minutes to anchor yourself in reality, it is also less easy for people or situations to knock you off balance. How you sit or stand to do this is really important as your posture effects not just your physical body, but also your emotions. If your spine is tall,straight and strong – those are exactly the qualities you will feel inside too.

Practical Tip – Vertical Alignment Breath

Tadasana
Stand tall; ideally out in nature. Iif this is not possible, sit comfortably with your spine straight – not slouched! Close your eyes and begin to take your awareness inwards towards your physical body. Take your awareness down to the feet, where they are in contact with the earth or floor beneath you. Feel a balance between the left and right feet and the toes and heels. Feel perfectly centered and balanced.

Draw the awareness up the legs feeling a wave of strength moving upward into the hips. Engage your core muscles by gently pulling in at the lower abdomen and up from the pelvic floor muscles. Feel that wave moving up the spine, to the top of the head. Feel as though the crown is being lifted slightly, so that the rest of the body feels light. The shoulders and gluteals are relaxed.

Vertical Alignment Breath
Once more focus at the feet. This time take you awareness down into the earth beneath you. See if you can tune in to the trees around you the soft earth, the leaves on the ground. Then spread your awareness outward so you feel the hills around you, the fields, rivers and lakes. From here take the focus downward again into the solid strength of the earth. You may be able to touch a feeling of light and warmth from the earth.

With a conscious in breath, draw warmth, strength and light up from the earth to the souls of the feet and up through the legs to the heart. At the heart allow yourself to pause and as you breathe out continue the journey of the breath up to the crown of the head. Breathe naturally as you focus here. Become aware of the air and spaciousness around you. The birds in the air, the clouds, the wind and the blue sky. Move the awareness upward as in your mind’s eye you see the sky above you filled with stars, solar systems and planets. You can feel the warmth from our sun. With the next in breath draw that warmth, spaciousness and openness down to the crown of the head, and down through the chest into the heart once again. Pause here as the focus starts to move down again to the earth.

Once you have identified your visualisations of Earth and Sky, you can move through this process a little quicker. From the heart take a breath in and then breathe out and push the awareness down into the earth. Connect with the earth and with the in breath raise the awareness again to the heart. With the next out breath, push the awareness upward from the heart to the crown and beyond into the space above you pause in that expansion and again with the next in breath draw those qualities back down to the heart. Repeat several times. When you are ready to complete; rest your awareness at the heart centre for a few breaths. Touch the deep stillness within.

This technique is very powerful for helping you to establish your place on this earth. You are walking firmly anchored to the world around you, but, as Gandhi said, “your head is crowned with the stars”. At the heart is a place of balance – this is your centre. Your equilibrium. Come to rest here daily and you will feel calm and peace pervade everything you do.

Enjoy the peaceful earth this autumn!

by Anouschka Dack
Dru Yoga Teacher trainer and holistic therapist in Manchester

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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!

Dru Yoga for athletes

 

Olympics fever is here….the sporting bug is out and about…. And it’a catching us all like wild fire. Go on…admit it…you’ve been dusting off your trainers and pulling out the tennis racquet from under the stairs havn’t you? The flared tracksuit bottoms have re-discovered their dharma in life havn’t they?

Unfortunately with this fabulous sporting craze comes with it the inevitable wave of injuries as you pummel muscles that have been left sweltering in jeans for years, expecting them to perform as lithe teenage muscles when they have actually become old elastic bands!

Never fear…yoga is here….

It can be easy to see yoga as just a bit of stretching, a bit of relaxation and some core moves thrown in to make you feel good.  In our haste to get to the treadmill or the spin class, we can forget the power of yoga to condition and prepare your body for sport, to re-set muscle lengths, and ultimately, prevent or at least minimize, injuries. Yoga will also improve your capacity for sport, and your endurance.

As you may know yoga is said to work on many levels – physically it stretches, strengthens and tones the muscle groups. Emotionally it brings balance and inner control. Mentally it helps bring a little bit of calm and perspective to our lives, and spiritually it helps us to connect to our highest potential. Balance on all these levels is essential to all of us – but especially if you’re an athlete or practice sport regularly.

BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR ATHLETES

    >   Deep, full breathing
The way we breathe can deeply impact on our performance as athletes. The ability to breathe deeply, using the full lung capacity, enables our endurance to increase, by giving our muscles much needed oxygen. Deep breathing helps to improve our body awareness, making us less prone to injury.

    >   Develop core stability
Essential for maintaining a strong back and a stable pelvic area, our core stability muscles are a vital ingredient in an athlete’s training programme. The lower abdomen, pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm and lumbar multifidus (the back muscles closest to the spine) form a cylinder of strength. Most important is the gentle activation of transverse abdominal muscles, which involuntarily also activate the lumbar multifidus.

    >   Injury prevention
Dru Yoga is all about flow, stretching and strengthening specific muscle groups. Depending on the type of activity you do, you’ll find that you’ll be tight in one area and looser in others. Yoga helps to stretch out those areas which are too tight – often preventing spasm and other injuries, whilst also helping to balance muscle tone, and re-establishing muscle length after sport.

    >   Focus
Keeping calm with clear perspective and focus is essential for any athlete. It is the mental attitude which brings the results – not just the physical capability. Any athlete will tell you confidence is absolutely key to success in sport. Yoga helps to establish mind and body awareness, builds confidence, heightens mental focus, and helps you to maintain your emotional balance during and after your practice.

HOME PRACTICE

In order to keep your body performing at peak performance one of the essential factors is that of preparation. Stretching the correct muscles, general cardio-vascular activation and mental preparation. Although each activity utilises a slightly different set of muscles, there are some which are very common and that often need to be prepared.

Here are two for you to practice at home. Remember; no heroics – there shouldn’t be any pain! Hold the stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds – this is the actual length of time it take for the muscle to stretch properly – its important not to rush these stretches in order for you to get the most out of them.

    >   Hamstring stretch
Whatever your chosen sport the hamstring muscles are often very tight, but with regular practice these muscles will slowly loosen enabling you to become more flexible, give you a great range of motion and help prevent injury.

Lying on your back, bend both knees, feet flat on the floor. Take a yoga strap, tie, or scarf and place it around the sole of one foot. Contract the core muscles – keeping the lower back pressed against the floor and straighten that leg, pushing the heel up towards the ceiling. Slowly draw the foot towards you. Only go as far as you can comfortably – the knee of the straight leg should not be bent. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

    >   Gastrocnemius stretch
The calves are another susceptable area for tension in athletes. This gastrocnemius stretch is a great quick fix stretch!

From standing, step one foot forwards, keeping both heels on the floor. With both feet facing forwards, contract your abdominal muscles and bend the front knee, gently pressing back down through the back heel. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Slowly release, step back and repeat on the other side.

DRU YOGA ONLINE STUDIO

Yoga for Athletes – warming up with Coby Langford
Release date: 1/8/12

This is a great 20 min programme, specifically designed for athletes to prepare the body for intense exercise. So whether you’re about to jog round the block, join in at the Olympics, or get out the racquets on the courts, this programme stretches all the main muscle groups, preparing you for a safe sporting experience!

Yoga for Athletes – cool down with Coby Langford
Release date: 15/8/12

This short programme, takes you through your full range of movement, and uses static stretches to re-set your muscle length, help get rid of lactic acid build up and keeps your body flexible and uninjured! This cool down is designed to be used after intense exercise, please do not use this class if your muscles are cold.

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