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

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How I discovered Dru Yoga…

dru-class-teacher-croppedI first discovered yoga in the mid-nineties. I was teaching at secondary school level at the time, and I was looking for a way of managing a stressful job and keeping flexible. I noticed my local leisure centre offered a yoga class and I joined up.

At the time I wasn’t aware of different yoga styles, but from what I recall it was a hatha style class, with the emphasis on holding various hatha poses for a period of time.  I had never tried yoga before and loved it – it offered me time out after a busy day’s teaching for myself to just be and quieten my busy mind.

Soon after starting yoga I began to re-evaluate my life and as a result left teaching. I loved the job in many ways, but the practice of yoga really brought home to me the effects that my teaching job was having on my health.  I entered into a series of jobs in heritage, moving around the country. I endeavored to keep my yoga up – using videos when I couldn’t find a class.  And attending classes where ever possible – over the years I have attended hatha, Iyengar, Yin and Kundalini classes.

I first came across Dru yoga in 2009 whilst surfing online. I remember being intrigued by its gentle graceful nature, flowing sequences and the ‘energy block releases’ unique to this style of yoga. I looked for a local teacher but unfortunately wasn’t able to find a regular local class in my area. I contacted the Dru Midlands office based in Wolverhampton and they encouraged me to try some workshops and even try the Teacher Training Taster day they had planned.  Having attended the taster and a workshop – as well as buying the DVD – I became hooked.

I completed the Dru Teacher Training course in 2012 and I loved every minute of it. Not only did the course satisfy my appetite to discover more about Dru, I learned effective techniques to apply in my everyday life. When it’s all feeling a bit hectic my favorite is to take some time out and stand in mountain pose, breathe and ground myself. Simple, yet very effective!   And the energy block releases have taught me the importance of releasing unresolved emotional energy.

Dru yoga has been a valuable addition to my life on many levels. It helps me manage the demands of daily life, keeps my energy levels up and also allows me the time and space to focus. I am now teaching Dru Yoga and I am constantly delighted to see how Dru yoga positively helps and empowers my students.

Susan Hardwick
Dru Yoga Teacher, Nottingham

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

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

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.

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!