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

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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.

 

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

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.

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!