March – 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. To prepare for this posture we suggest a few 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 your spine extend, exhale and relax your spine slightly.

2. With your palms facing upwards on your lap, breathe in and raise your hands slowly to the heart level, lifting upward though the sternum. 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 with the arms, moving from the base of your spine, allow yourself to reach forward as far as is comfortable. Once your arms are extended gently allow the body to fold down over your legs (you may need to bend your knees here). Pause for a moment and visualise a soft light flowing from the heart to the crown of the head and down through the arms.

4. With the next in breath, 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 back up to the heart level. Sternum lifts but keep your shoulders relaxed. As you uncurl the spine you can 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, place your hands at the furthermost point with your palms resting on your shins (or if comfortable your fingers can hook over your toes). Allow your forehead to lower gently towards the knees. Relax in this position breathing gently. Then, in your own time, uncurl gently to an upright sitting position, resting your hands in your lap 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 your 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.druyoga.com
(yoga holidays, yoga teacher training & local yoga workshops and classes)
> Online Yoga studio
> Online Meditation course
> Online Gita Course

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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

Top 10 cures for winter blues

Top 10 cures for winter blues by Jane Clapham

Just in case all the snowy weather is getting to you – have courage! During the winter months it’s even more important than ever to keep up a regular practice of yoga – but even a few moments daily will help too. Here are my top 10 tips for a few nourishing treats which don’t cost the earth, but will help keep you feeling happy even when it’s cold outside again.

  1. Warm pyjamas. On a cold winter’s night there’s really nothing like putting your nightwear on a radiator before you slip into bed with your hot water bottle. Some luxuries are quite simple! Before bed, have a luxurious stretch using yoga movements which re-align the spine. You’ll find that you have a better night’s sleep and wake up more refreshed.
  1. One of my favourite cures for any type of bad weather is meditation. Just a few minutes of silent sitting daily, using Dru meditation techniques, make me feel glad to be alive. Try this rise and shine technique. When you wake up in the morning, completely relax your body for one minute, while you’re still lying in bed. Think of five things you’re really grateful for. Then gently sit up and wrap your duvet around you. Bring your attention to your breathing and let it get deeper without forcing it at all. Focus on your heart chakra and feel warmth spreading through your body as you breathe. Continue for five minutes, then stretch (ideally a Dru Yoga sequence!) and start your day.
  1. Visualise being Australian. When I’ve traveled in dry countries such as Australia or India, rain is seen in quite a different way than it is here. When I was out there teaching a couple of years ago, when there was a bad drought in the Antipodes, any drops of precipitation were greeting with celebration. I’ve found that just changing my attitude to the wet stuff can make life a little brighter.
  1. Surya namaskar. The ancient yogis really knew a thing or two about winter. I’ve found that a good flowing Dru sun sequence blows away all those winter cobwebs, brings a wonderful sense of energy and positivity to even the darkest morning. If you can’t remember all the movements, try the sequence yourself here.
  1. Do a Cleopatra. Nourish your skin and your soul with a warm milky bath. Add 1 tablespoon runny honey, 2 chamomile tea bags, a few drops of rose essential oil and a cup of milk to a running bath, then lie back and listen to some relaxing music for the ultimate spa experience at home! Your skin will feel nourished, along with your heart!
  1. Laughter. Get the endorphins flowing with your favourite funny movies – here at Dru we’re still debating the best list, but it must include The Man Who Knew Too Little, Mr Bean, Groundhog Day, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Airplane. Why not compile a list of your favorite five, and watch them all before the start of spring?
  1. Barley grass smoothie. If you get a really good boost of nutrients for breakfast, you’ll find the bad weather easier to deal with! Blend one banana, 3 tablespoons organic bio yogurt, ½ glass water, 1 teaspoon barley grass powder, 1 teaspoon omega oils. This also is great for the skin, fantastic for improving mood and contains nearly 3 portions of fruit and veg!
  1. Plan an uplifting retreat. Somehow, even thinking about a nice holiday can do wonders for your mood. In the middle of winter it can be therapeutic to plan a yoga or meditation retreat for later in the year Take a few moments to visualize your ideal break – by the sea, in the mountains or in beautiful natural surroundings. Imagine yourself walking, stretching, laughing – healthy, happy and feeling great. Just imagining it is the next best thing to actually booking a retreat!
  1. Have a good breakfast. It might sound like something your Mum might say, but having a substantial meal first thing really does make life seem much better. My current favourite is oat porridge with tahini and a spoonful of apricot and apple spread (well, you did ask!). If you put the porridge to soak the night before and it’ll cook really quickly in the morning. Add half a cup of organic porridge oats to 2 cups of cold water and ½ cup soya or rice milk, soak overnight and in the morning, bring to the boil, stirring until smooth.
  1. Buy yourself flowers. I’ve got a small bunch of tulips and daffodils in my living room and the whole atmosphere feels so much brighter. If you want an added feel-good factor – give some flowers to a friend – for no good reason. The inner glow you’ll get will warm the cockles of your heart.

jane-claphamJane Clapham is a Dru Yoga and Dru Meditation teacher trainer, who started doing Dru Yoga at the tender age of 15 and hasn’t stopped since!  Her background is Psychology, which she now applies in her meditation teaching and youth work. She’s fascinated by what makes people tick, and how easy it is to change from being stressed, into being relaxed and focussed. She now teaches Dru yoga, meditation and sound courses in the UK, Europe, India and Australia. She runs Meditation teacher training courses in Snowdonia, Wales as well as meditation retreats worldwide.
Jane is passionate about sharing yoga and meditation with everyone, young and old alike, and developed Dru kids –  the Dru Yoga programme to train yoga teachers to teach young people. She also teaches Dru Yoga and wellbeing in the workplace, and recently has had great results helping factory workers to increase their energy levels and banish back pain and stress.
www.druworldwide.com

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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anouschka@druworldwide.com

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Journey of a Yogi – Anouschka Dack

When we are searching for meaning or inspiration, it’s really important that we’re not so busy ‘searching’ that we miss it!

As a teenager, I was most definitely ‘searching’ for something. Having been brought up attending church and youth groups every Sunday I knew something ‘more’ existed, yet I was still missing a deep, lasting connection with myself.

I consider myself extremely lucky, because right when I needed it; I found Dru Yoga! I was 16, and attended a youth event run by Jane Clapham and the Dru Yoga team at their retreat centre in North Wales. The joy and excitement of finding my path inspired me to step into my power and start practicing yoga. Dru isn’t just about performing a yoga posture, it’s about your inner connection with you. For some of us that’s through physically moving the body, releasing endorphins and healing the body. For others its the balancing of mind and emotions, gaining a clarity of thoughts and perspective, and for others it may be to touch upon our essence in the depth of meditation. Read more about Dru Yoga here…

As someone brand new to yoga I threw myself in at the deep end, and at 16 I was one of the youngest ever to start and then graduate from the Dru Yoga Teacher Training course. I was able to manage my finances by paying in installments and by 18, I was teaching at university to earn my way through my degree. As the course is standardised worldwide, I was also catch up any weekends I missed throughout the country.

I found developing my own yoga and meditation practice quite a challenge at first… sitting still has never been my strong point, but perseverance and tangible results are very helpful indeed! We used a yoga journal or portfolios to record our experiences with the different postures as well as a couple of research projects on the spine and the chakra system. These really helped me to anchor my personal experience and gave me a reason to practice regularly. This was especially useful as a busy undergrad student at uni!

I enjoyed the challenge of teaching and through my years of working in Wolverhampton I attended some of the Dru Yoga post-grad courses and as a consequence found my yoga took me into some very exciting places! From Yogi You (Dru Yoga for kids and teens) I taught in schools with kids as young as 4 and 5, through to teaching teenagers studying ‘stress’ as part of their psychology A levels! I went on to teach in retirement homes, in day centres for adults with learning difficulties, pre-natal students and even Dru Dance!

Throughout all of this I have had the unwavering support of my Dru colleagues who having started out as my teachers on a course have now become my dearest friends and mentors.

My yoga career has now developed and I now work with the Dru team in Manchester with one of the founders of Dru in the UK; Annie Jones. Together with our fantastic Dru team and volunteers we run yoga teacher training courses, meditation and yoga foundation courses, workshops, classes and1:2:1 programmes. I also have the amazing privilage to travel to teach yoga at our Dru workshops and events around the world.

My current focus is to live by Dru’s mission statement of ‘giving people the tools to transform themselves’. It is vital that we as teachers, help our students feel strong and empowered and to realise that we do make a difference to ourselves and others’ lives. We we can, and do, positively impact those around us.

That, in essence, is what Dru has given me; the confidence, strength, vision and purpose to give, inspire and uplift everyone I meet. Dru has given me the tools and techniques I needed to become an empowered individual. It is a style that everyone can enjoy, learn and teach – no matter your size, shape or age! I’ve really had to drop my pre-conceived ideas of what a yoga teacher ‘should’ be – I’ve never been a stick insect! It’s important to remember both as a student and as a teacher you are perfect just as you are – right now.

Yes, we all want to improve, but don’t keep putting yourself down – waiting and searching… because you might have just found it!!!!

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

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anouschka@druworldwide.com

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Practice makes perfect

Top tips for keeping your yoga and meditation practice strong through the summer months.

Summer is often the time when many of us drop our yoga and meditation practice.  Follow Jane Clapham’s tips to make your practice work, even through the holidays.

So many of my students on the meditation training course tell me that holidays can be the worst time for maintaining a regular routine.  Perhaps the children are on holiday from school, or you might go away.  You might have extra guests around or just find the British weather disappointing.

 

Whatever your excuse, a change in routine doesn’t have to mean the end of your yoga ‘me-time’.

1.       Get real.

I find that many people have unrealistic expectations of the length of time they can devote to their daily yoga or meditation. Then, when they don’t manage a 90 minute session daily, they think they’ve failed.  So be realistic.  Plan to do a 10 minute practice – warm ups, a swift EBR and one posture, for example, could be a minimum practice.

2.       Have a mobile practice

Going out to the beach? Then take a few minutes of me-time – with your family – and do some stretches or postures.  If you’re going for a walk, you could practise a walking meditation or chant a mantra quietly.  Don’t limit yourself to your yoga mat or meditation shawl and bell and you’ll find it easier to adapt it to your environment.

3.       Involve your family

As yogiyou teachers know well, kids adore yoga!  So if you have children, involve them in your yoga practice.  Very small children will love the animal postures (cat, dog, cobra etc), older ones love competition (how long can you stand on one leg in the tree posture?), while for teenagers, tips to tackle stress might go down well.

We’re doing the next yogiyou training this September if you’re interested in teaching yoga to children!

4.       Use your senses

On holiday, you might simply forget about your yoga because you’re in a different environment.  So use your senses to get you back on track.  Take your phone or ipod with your yoga music on, and play it!  Or take a couple of sticks of your favorite incense or essential oil which you associate with your yoga ‘smell’.  Our senses are evocative so use them to remind you how great you feel when you practice.

5.       Use different media

Many people find holiday time a good way to ring the changes – to watch Dru Yoga DVDs or downloads from the training courses in Wales.  You might prefer to catch up with lessons from the Dru Yoga Online Studio.  If you’re into meditation, you can download meditation recordings and instructions with the online meditation course – and listen to them while relaxing on the beach!

6.       Read around the subject

Summer can be a great time to catch up on yoga related reading (which can in turn inspire you to actually do some!).  Essential yoga reading which I always recommend my students get from our Dru mail order include The Dru Bhagavad Gita series, Krishna Das – Chants of a Lifetime, Victor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning, and any of Swami Rama’s books.

7.       Be kind to yourself

Lastly, don’t give yourself a hard time if your personal practice has a summer (or winter) break.  Everyone needs a holiday from time to time.  So, without judging yourself, make today the time to restart your practice – with fresh determination and an unbeatable attitude!

Jane Saraswati Clapham

Dru Yoga Retreats Office
Snowdonia Mountain Lodge
Nant Ffrancon
Bethesda
Bangor
North Wales
LL57 3LX

01248 602900

For information on Dru Yoga retreats, walking holidays, meditation and sound courses, visit http://www.druworldwide.com/