Reduce back pain with Dru Yoga

Did you know that back pain is one of the most common reasons for a visit to a UK doctor? Perhaps you’ve experienced back pain? If you have then you know how miserable it can be. Dru Yoga is backed by scientific research which indicates that it can help reduce back pain!

The science bit

A lot of the research into Dru yoga has been conducted by Dr. Ned Hartfiel. His research in 150 NHS employees suggested that an 8-week Dru Yoga programme, compared with usual-care, was associated with improvements in health-related quality of life and reductions in both physical and psychosocial components of back pain. He also found that the yoga group visited health professionals for back pain only half as often as the usual care group during the six month study. The results are very encouraging but larger trials are needed to further prove the impact yoga has on back pain. You can read Dr. Hartfiel’s research here: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/9/687/4676035

An earlier study by Dr Hartfiel also indicated that workplace yoga may reduce perceived stress and back pain and improve psychological well-being. You can read about this here: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/62/8/606/1441276

My experience with Dru Yoga

When I started my Dru Yoga teacher training, I was very stressed. I’ve already talked about how Dru Yoga helped reduce my stress and anxiety and really changed my life but I haven’t mentioned the physical benefits!

I was suffering from back, neck, and shoulder pain related to old injuries. I often had chronic headaches and musculoskeletal pain – I was a constant pest asking for massages! I’d had physiotherapy, osteopathy, cranial sacral therapy, and acupuncture. All these techniques provided relief but it was never long-lasting.

I began to practice Dru Yoga everyday. I did Energy Block Releases like EBR1 and EBR7, and practiced the spinal alignment sequence regularly. I soon noticed the difference – my posture improved and my neck began to crack less. Lower back pain was reduced and my shoulders also moved more freely and crunched less. Soon I stopped pestering for massages and my regular headaches became a thing of the past. Now I use my Dru Yoga like a first-aid kit – any sign of musculoskeletal pain and I use poses and stretches to deal with it! It’s not just me – my back care class tell me how much easier they find it to move now; that’s so encouraging to hear.

Find out for yourself

The best way to evaluate something is to find out for yourself! If you’re interested in Dru Yoga (and you’re in the Bicester area) you can contact me about classes and 1:1s. Alternatively, check out the Dru website at www.druyoga.com.

Have a great day!

Privacy Policy

What is this Privacy Policy for?

This privacy policy is for this website www.raisinyoga.co.uk and people attending RaisinYoga classes and massages.

The information I use and where I get it from

  • RaisinYoga holds the email addresses and mobile phone numbers of people that have got in touch to ask about classes/massages or who have filled in a consent form at a yoga class or massage. I will only use this data to keep you informed of classes, workshops, and events.
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  • I will never spam you – if at anytime you are no longer comfortable with me processing your data or you do not wish to be contacted, please email “unsubscribe” to  raisinyoga.co.uk.
  • I am happy to update/amend your information at your request.
  • Data for people that attend my classes (and have provided consent on the health form) are kept for insurance purposes for 7 years and then destroyed. Data are kept secure and strictly confidential.

Discover Ayurvedic Massage

Ayurvedic massage – sounds exotic and mysterious, right? In today’s blog, I’m going to talk a bit about Ayurvedic massage and hopefully demystify it for you! First of all…let’s take a trip to India!

The roots of Ayurveda

Simply translated, Ayurveda means the “science of life” and is a traditional system of medicine originating in India. An holistic form of healing, Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems in the world – it was first documented nearly 4,000 years ago (1,500 BCE)! It is even said in the South Indian Keralan tradition that Ayurveda began over 6,000 years ago, when Lord Brahma remembered it! Ayurveda includes medicinal compounds, spiritual and mental practices, philosophy, mythology, diet, yoga, and massage. It’s the massage part that I’m going to blog about today.

Ayurvedic massage

Ayurvedic massage involves a variety of techniques that are suggested to:

  • Stimulate and enhance skin tone.
  • Detoxify and revitalise the body.
  • Induce relaxation.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Improve blood circulation.
  • Increase energy reserves.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Enhance the immune system.
  • Help chronic pain management.

A key feature of Ayurvedic massage is its long, gentle strokes which are so amazing! I absolutely love Ayurvedic massage! So, what is it about Ayurvedic massage (apart from all these suggested benefits) that make it so special?

The special nature of Ayurvedic massage – discovering your dosha

For me, the most amazing thing about Ayurvedic massage is the wonderful herb-infused oils. These oils are carefully selected for your individual constitution – an Ayurvedic massage is tailor made! Secondly these oils are warm which allows the massage to be very relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time. If you’ve never tried a warm oil massage, I can highly recommend them. Before I float away imagining a massage, let’s quickly go back to the “tailor-made” bit!

The oils used in an Ayurvedic massage are selected based on a consultation to discover your constitution (dosha). Within Ayurveda, there are three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We all contain these doshas in varying degrees. To go into detail about these doshas would take another few blog posts, so I will come back to these another time. However, to put it simply, these doshas represent the elements in the body; Vata is primarily air, Pitta – fire, and Kapha – water. We are composed of all three doshas, but one or two are often dominant. The consultation before an Ayurvedic massage shows how your doshas are now. This is called your vikriti (imbalance). It’s worth pointing out here, to discover the dosha you were born with (prakriti), it is necessary to see an Ayurvedic practitioner who will be able to give you a more detailed picture and recommend herbs to take to correct an imbalance. In Ayurvedic massage, insights are gained as to why doshas may be aggravated but a massage therapist will not give a diagnosis or assess your prakriti. However, the massage therapist will choose a specific oil and massage techniques suitable for your vikriti.

The theory behind Ayurvedic massage

The aim of Ayurvedic massage is to remove toxins (ama) from the body. In Ayurvedic theory, ama is said to be fat soluble, which is why Ayurveda aims to saturate cells with oil. However, some doshas (such as kapha) can benefit from dry, friction massages. It is thought that Ayurvedic massage cleanses the skin and opens the pores. As dead skin cells are removed during the process, skin tone and texture is improved and rejuvenation is encouraged. In addition, ayurvedic massage is believed to enhance the elasticity and strength of the skin, aid the functioning of organs like the large intestine, kidneys and lungs, and stimulate blood circulation and flow of the lymph. At its most simple, Ayurvedic massage is nurturing and relaxing.

Giving an Ayurvedic massage

An Ayurvedic massage is fabulous to receive but I find them wonderful to give – they feel like such an amazing gift. The process can be meditative due to the long, rhythmic massage techniques and I like to use silent mantras to focus entirely on the client. I also use my reiki techniques to channel prana during the session. In April (2018), I was so excited to fully qualify for Abhyanga (full-body) massage. I am currently practising on my marma back, head, and facial massage and hope to sit my exams for these later this year – so watch this space!

If you would like to book an Abhyanga (full body) massage, please get in touch – I’m honouring my reduced prices until I fully qualify for all four techniques…why not treat yourself to an Ayurvedic massage?

Yoga classes – what to expect in your first Dru class

Yoga classes – this phrase might fill you with joy if you’ve been to lots of classes and love yoga! However, if it’s your first ever class, you might be feeling a little nervous. In today’s blog, I’m going to guide you through what to expect in your first Dru Yoga class!

What to expect in your first Dru yoga class

So the day has arrived of your first class – you might be feeling nervous…that’s totally normal. I’m used to people feeling a little anxious and I’ll be there to greet you at the door as you come in…I always like to welcome people to the class. So here’s what to expect!

  • A warm welcome. I’ll come and introduce myself and invite you to take your shoes off and come in.
  • Health form. I’ll ask you to fill in a short health form. This is to make me aware of any health considerations you may have. This helps me plan my classes and offer modifications. Everyone works to their own ability during a class and it is non-competitive.
  • A cosy yoga room. I’ll invite you in to my cosy yoga room which has a lovely soft floor, colourful wall hangings, salt lamps,and crystals. During the darker months, there are little lights to keep a warm, inviting glow. I also sometimes diffuse essential oils. Let me know if you have any sensitivity to essential oils and I will make sure these aren’t diffused during your class.
  • A yoga mat will be ready for you. There’s no need to bring your own yoga mat as there will be one ready and waiting for you. No one has a set place so you can come and stand wherever you want.
  • Small classes. Sometimes it can be a bit scary coming into a class where you don’tknow people. The good news is, I teach small classes so you only ever need to meet up to four other people. I typically teach four people per class and only ever teach a maximum of five. I like to keep classes personal and friendly. I’ll introduce everyone by name so you can get to know one another.
  • Activations. The class starts with some light movements designed to get your muscles warm and ready for yoga. The music is usually upbeat and flowing and we often have a giggle!
  • Energy Block Release (EBR). After activations we flow through one of the EBRS. These are easy-to-practice sequences designed to ease physical, emotional, and mental tension as well as preparing the body for postures.
  • Sequences or postures. The next stage of the class is performing flowing yoga sequences or poses (called asanas). These are adapted to your body type and flexibility so are suitable for beginners and also more experienced yogis. As the class sizes are small, I can come and work with you individually to help you get the most from your practice. I will always ask your permission before I touch you to offer an adjustment. I will never pull you around, sit on you, or force you to do something you are not comfortable with.
  • Breath-work. We sometimes do breath-work (pranayama) at the end of a class to get us ready for relaxation. These are simple guided breathing techniques.
  • Deep relaxation. Every class ends with at least a 15-20 minute guided relaxation. This is your chance to switch off, release, and relax. I’ll help you find a comfortable position with bolsters, cushions or chairs, and you can drift away listening to relaxing music or nature sounds. During the quieter phases, I channel reiki/pranic energy and offer silent mantras for the group – this is done in silence so you won’t be disturbed at all.
  • Grounding. At the end of the relaxation we spend a few moments grounding and chatting to make sure you’re ready to go out into the world! This is your chance to book more sessions.
  • Goodbye. I’ll wave you off and if you’re a huggy person, I’ll give you a big hug goodbye.

Other useful info

  • Comfy clothes. Wear comfy clothing suitable for exercise, such as leggings or jogging bottoms and a t-shirt or sports top. Yoga is typically done bare foot.
  • Bring a blanket or warm jumper and socks. At the end of each class there is a deep relaxation. As you relax, your body temperature tends to drop so it’s important to feel cosy and warm. I have some blankets available but it’s always nice to have your own snuggle!
  • Drink. I ask that you bring your own drinks bottle to the class but if you have forgotten, I can give you a glass of water, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Toilets. A toilet is available at the side of the class – no need to ask, just use it if you need to.
  • Parking. There is ample parking on the main road before you turn into my street. It’s best to park there as there is lots of room.
  • Book in advance. Always book your place in advance as my classes are small and can fill up quickly. People with block bookings get priority.
  • Let me know in advance if you can’t come. As my classes are small, I really appreciate it if you let me know in advance if you can’t come. That way I can offer your place as a drop-in for someone else.
  • Ask questions. If you are finding something challenging or would like more information – ask away. I’m always happy to answer questions.

Dispelling some yoga myths

  • You need to be flexible to do yoga…this is so not true. Doing yoga is a way to improve your flexibility but this comes with practice. Dru yoga is taught with modifications and props so that everyone can enjoy a pose, regardless of their flexibility or experience.
  • Yoga classes are expensive…I try to keep my prices as low as I can. I offer concessions for over 65’s, students, and people on benefits. Karmically there has to be some sort of exchange though. I am even known to do therapy swaps for my classes.
  • Yoga is always serious…ha ha, if you come to some of my classes you would definitely disagree with that myth! Often my classes are full of giggles and smiles. I like to keep my classes relaxed and friendly. I’ve had lovely feedback saying people feel like they are meeting with a group of friends.
  • Yoga teachers are stuffy…my classes would agree that’s definitely not me – I like to make a joke and make people feel relaxed. If you’re happy with hugs then you will definitely get one from me!

Have a wonderful day! Namaste (the light in me recognises the light in you) and hopefully you won’t feel nervous next time you think of yoga classes!

Yoga poses – spotlight on natarajasana (dancer)

Yoga poses…so many to choose from! In my first blog of the 30 day challenge, I talked about my favourite pose – Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance or dancer pose). You might know that there is usually a story behind a yoga pose…so what’s the story of Natarajasana?

The story behind Natarajasana

To understand the story behind Natarajasana, we first need to be introduced to Shiva. Shiva is one of the three Hindu deities that form the Trimurti (the other two being Brahma and Vishnu). The Trimurti are responsible for the cycle of creation, maintenance, and destruction. Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu sustains it, and Shiva destroys it to clear a path for renewal and transformation.

Shiva as Nataraja

At the end of each age, Shiva becomes Nataraja and performs the Natana which includes the dance of destruction (tandava) and creation (Lasya). He dances inside a circle of fire called samsara which represents the pattern of birth, life, and death.

In his Nataraja form, Shiva is often seen with four arms which represent the four directions (north, south, east, and west). Two of the arms represent the balance between creation and destruction. Creation is represented by a hand holding an hourglass-shaped drum (damaru). The drum signifies the passing of time, the sound of creation (Aum/Om), and both genders. Destruction is represented by a flame in the palm of another hand, which is also symbolic of knowledge (vidya). Shiva also gestures with one hand in the abhaya mudra (representing fearlessness). The remaining hand points to the raised lower leg, symbolising release from the cycle of birth and death. This hand also forms the gaja-hasta mudra which represents Shiva’s son, Ganesha (the remover of obstacles).

Shiva dances on a dwarf/demon called apasmara-purusha (the man of forgetfulness) or Muyalaka. This tiny figure represents ignorance, which Shiva crushes. Around Shiva’s necks is a cobra (Naga) which symbolises the past, present, and future, and also Shakti. The venom of the cobra has also been said to represent the toxic nature of ignorance (avidya).

There’s a lot more that could be said about Shiva’s dance but let’s look at the pose before I get too carried away!

Natarajasana – Dru style

How to perform Natarajasana

  • In tadasana (Mountain pose) find a point to gaze at.
  • Shift weight onto your right leg – ensure your core is engaged as you breathe out.
  • Breathe in and raise your left leg (bent at the knee) and right hand (into the abhaya mudra) – maintain your balance and focus.
  • Breathing out, flow your left hand from your left knee to the left shin and then on to your ankle or foot.
  • Breathe in, draw your left foot behind you (like a quad stretch).
  • Breathe out as you extend your left leg backwards and right arm outwards and upwards – make sure your hips are flat and do not come out of alignment.
  • Feel energy move through your whole body to your fingertips then create the Jnaana mudra.
  • Reverse the movements to come out of the posture and bring the Jnaana mudra to your heart.
  • Repeat on the other side and then finish in tadasana.

If you would like to see a video of the pose, then please go to YouTube: Natarajasana – Dru style.

Health considerations

Always work within your own ability and remember that yoga shouldn’t be painful!

Take care if you have knee cap issues (anterior knee pain), knee problems or balance issues –work gently and use modifications as appropriate.

Modifications

  • Try a standing variation without the strong balance.
  • Use a strap to support the foot.
  • Use a chair or wall for support.
  • Seated with a focus on the arm extension to the Jnaana mudra.
  • Visualise the process.

Benefits

  • Stretches spine.
  • Improves balance
  • Tones leg muscles.
  • Opens chest.
  • Performing Jnaana mudra links with creativity, calmness, and concentration and directs the prana for increased focus and connectedness.
  • Builds strength, releases fear, and allows us to stand in our own power

Tips

  • Do preparatory stretches for the iliopsoas, quadriceps, and pectoralis muscles before you begin the pose.
  • Before starting, stand for a moment in Tadasana and visualise breathing into the heart and out into the earth. Imagine roots extending down into the earth and see your legs strong like the trunk of a tree.
  • Find a point that does not move and look at it with a soft, focused gaze (drishti).
  • Make sure you have activated your core and transferred your weight to the standing leg before starting to move.
  • Spend a moment at each stage to make sure you have your balance – try not to rush the pose.
  • Use the Jnaana mudra as the Dru point (still point) during the pose.
  • Enjoy your practice!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite pose, Natarajasana – a Lord among yoga poses!

Yoga near me – how to find the right yoga for you

Yoga near me…this is a popular Google search when looking for a yoga class…but there are so many different types out there…how do you choose the right one? We are all unique so the key thing is to find a yoga style that works for you. Here’s a short guide on different types of yoga to help you find your way!

Dru Yoga

Dru Yoga is the style of yoga that I fell in love with and now teach. It has its roots in hatha yoga and includes traditional yoga poses (asanas), pranayama (breath-work), mudras (gestures), affirmations, visualisations, and flowing sequences. Dru Yoga can be practised by people of all fitness levels and abilities. I use lots of props, modifications, and lovely deep relaxations during my classes.

Features of Dru Yoga

  • Soft joints (as in tai chi) to create flexibility and the flow of subtle energy.
  • Energy Block Release sequences (EBRs) with flowing movements which ease physical, emotional, and mental tension.
  • Movements originating from the spine which facilitate spinal flexibility.
  • The spinal wave and spinal twist which enhance spinal health and vitality.
  • A major focus on core stability.
  • Balancing of the chakras (the body’s energy centres) and accessing heart energy.
  • Powerful moments of stillness called “still points” or “Dru points”.

So that’s a bit about my style of yoga but there are many other types out there. Here’s a quick guide to some of the other yoga styles.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga was popularised by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It is an intense, physically demanding style of yoga which synchronises movement and breath. Ashtanga yoga typically involves the practice of a Sun Sequence followed by a certain order of poses (known as the primary, intermediate, and advanced series). It is good for building core strength and toning the body; it can be fast-paced.

Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga)

Bikram yoga (or Hot yoga) was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It involves a series of 26 positions and breathing exercises and takes place in a heated studio. The temperature can reach 40 degrees centigrade and is designed to simulate the climate in India. In this type of yoga you can expect to get hot and sweaty!

Hatha Yoga

Hatha (ha-sun, tha-moon or “forceful”) is a traditional style of yoga. Many types of yoga have roots in Hatha yoga. It’s a reasonably gentle style of yoga that is accessible for most abilities. It includes asanas and pranayama.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is a varient of Hatha yoga and was developed by B.K.S Iyengar. It is strongly focused on breath control with precision and alignment in each pose. Iyengar yoga uses props and includes static asanas, with jumps to get in and out of poses.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is a blend of spiritual and physical practices that use movement, mantras (such as Sat Nam), and meditation. The aim is to increase vitality and consciousness.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is a more free-flowing form of Ashtanga yoga that allows more creativity in the sequences. As with most types of yoga, poses are performed with awareness of the breath. Classes are often based around variations of the Sun Sequence and include Ashtanga poses without the need to perform them in a set series.

Types of yoga which are usually classed as Vinyasa yoga include Power Yoga, Flow Yoga, Anusara, and Jivamukti.

So there you have it – a very quick guide to some of the different types of yoga out there. The key thing is to find a style of yoga that works for your body and mind – you’re unique! I hope this guide helps you next time you Google for yoga near me!

The story of me and Dru Yoga

I often get asked – “how did you get into Dru Yoga?” – so here’s my story!

I’ve loved yoga every since I was a teenager. Back then I was inspired by a contemporary dance teacher who used yoga during our warm ups. In one session, we got to show a stretch to the group and everyone tried it. One girl did an amazing stretch – a feat of balance and strength. I thought it looked amazing and began to practice it. Years later I discovered it was the dancer pose (Natarajasana). This is me doing a gentle Natarajasana by an amazing waterfall in Snowdonia!

I started teaching myself yoga from Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” and entered the world of ploughs and shoulderstands. I discovered a variety of yoga poses (asanas – which means comfortable seat). Although I was practicing physical yoga – I had no idea about anything else yoga-related. It was the in the days before social media, mobile phones, and more then four TV channels! It was years later that my true yogic path began and I discovered Dru Yoga.

I had been suffering from severe anxiety and depression for many years. I had experienced two nervous breakdowns and was feeling at the end of my tether. It was around this time, I was introduced to Dru Yoga. I was invited to a Dru dance weekend in Snowdonia (home of the residential Dru centre). I hadn’t combined yoga and dance since my teen years at school doing contemporary dance. I loved it! Instantly I felt that I was experiencing something life-changing and before the end of the weekend, I signed up to the Dru yoga teacher training course in Snowdonia. I haven’t looked back since!

Over the next two years, I began to learn yoga as if for the first time. I learnt to get deeper into my poses – not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. I learnt to work with the breath in pranayama and how to use poses almost like a first-aid kit to ease stress, tiredness, and depression. My life began to change and I am deeply grateful.

I feel that Dru Yoga saved my life. I have become a stronger, adaptable human being and anxiety and depression are a thing of the past. I didn’t start the course with the aim of teaching – I did it as a personal journey. However, by the end of the course, I knew I had to share this amazing style of yoga with as many people as possible.

Now I teach Mondays to Fridays at my home yoga room, at festivals (like Om & Bass in Oxfordshire), and at workshops whenever I can. I volunteer regularly with the Dru team and take additional Dru courses when possible! My journey continues to evolve and I feel like I have blossomed as a person.

Dru Yoga gave me the tools to transform myself – and it can help you too! Are you ready to start that amazing journey?

Meditation classes in Bicester!

In preparation for my meditation teacher training assessment in July, I will be starting to run meditation classes on a Monday morning in Bicester. If you would be interested in taking part please let me know (email me at raisinloaf@yahoo.co.uk or via Facebook). The classes will run on a “pay what you feel” basis while I am a student!