Improving non-specific back pain with Dru yoga

In the last few posts, I’ve been looking at the spine and today I want to share with you how Dru Yoga made a difference to my back problems.

My journey with back pain

I have always had issues with back pain due to a series of incidents in my younger years (accidents and self-inflicted!). When I was about 8 years old, I had a nasty fall where I bruised my back very badly. In my late teens and early 20’s, I was into heavy metal…and yes, that involved headbanging – really not great for the neck (I did warn you that some of this was self-inflicted!). A car accident when I was 19 years old gave me whiplash. In my 20’s I experienced a herniated disc in my neck after helping someone move house. Unfortunately, it was misdiagnosed as a shoulder injury and I was put in a sling for over 6 weeks. When it was finally recognised as a herniated disc, I needed a lot of physio to bring my shoulder back down and to release my neck. But it doesn’t end there. While I finished my degree I worked with children with autism and challenging behaviour, in specialist care centres, and with the elderly. I sustained numerous neck and back injuries during this time. Despite the injuries, I have never regretted working in these areas – the work was very rewarding.

Unsurprisingly after this catalogue of spinal disrespect, I ended up with a very sore back and chronic neck pain! I suffered severe headaches and had an atrocious posture (even though I had done a lot of different types of yoga since I was a teenager). I was eventually diagnosed with spondylosis in the cervical spine in my early 30’s. I thought I would always have to put up with the pain – not a pleasant prospect. I can totally emphasise with people when they tell me how miserable back and neck pain can be. So what changed for me?

Doing the Dru!

About four years or so ago, I found Dru Yoga. Not only did Dru Yoga save me from anxiety and depression but it helped alleviate my neck and back problems…in fact now, most people would not realise that I ever had a problem! So what did I do?

Every day I practised Energy Block Release One and the Dru spinal alignment sequence. I soon started to notice that my posture was improving and the creaks and clunks in my neck and shoulders were starting to become less and less. The other amazing thing was my headaches started to diminish. and eventually stopped completely! I now rarely get headaches and they usually happen when I have been doing computer work for long periods without a break – never a good plan!

As long as I do my Dru Yoga practice, I rarely get neck or back pain these days; I feel flexible and mobile…but don’t just take my word for it! Here’s why Dru Yoga is so good for easing back pain.

Why is Dru Yoga so beneficial?

In Dru yoga, movements flow with the breath and joints remain soft so that they are relaxed and flexible (1) .This type of yoga is particularly effective at alleviating lower back pain because spinal movements and core stability are important elements of a Dru Yoga class. Every posture is actually a flowing sequence. The aim with each movement is to focus on energy travelling through the spine (through the chakras) like a wave and for the limbs to move effortlessly – all movement is generated from the spine and the breath. The Spinal Wave is an important element of Dru Yoga; the movement flows from the base of the spine upwards, so that each vertebra is moving separately, expanding the spine and easing compression. The movement is then reversed so that the it  travels up and down the spine  like a wave (1). The Spinal Twist is also a key component of Dru Yoga ­– all twisting movements start from the base of the spine and move upwards so that the neck moves last and then the motion is reversed (1). Concentrating on the base of the spine helps to improve non-specific lower back pain and also ensures we are moving in balance. Furthermore, the movements increase flexibility of the facet joints and help the discs to hydrate due to the pumping motion.

Strong, yet flexible, core stability muscles (see earlier blogs) are important for supporting and stabilising the spine. Movements in Dru Yoga are practised with a contraction of the lower abdominal muscles and pelvic floor which in turn activates the transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus. These muscles become strengthened leading to improved posture and spinal alignment (1). Ultimately, a Dru yoga class empowers a student to take control of their non-specific lower back pain and helps them to become more positive about a pain-free future – easing stress and improving well-being.

The science behind Dru Yoga

So for all you people who like things to be evidence-based – here’s the science bit! Dr Ned Hartfiel is a leading researcher into the benefits of yoga for alleviated perceived stress and back pain. Here’s a summary of some of the back-pain related evidence:

  • A 2012 study demonstrated that Dru yoga is effective at alleviating back pain in the workplace (2). Participants of the study received a 50 minute Dru yoga class each week for eight consecutive weeks and were also given a 20 minute DVD to allow them to continue practising at home. The Dru yoga group, in comparison with controls who did not perform yoga,  achieved statistically significant reductions in back pain (as measured using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire [RDQ]; p<0.01) at the end of the programme (2).
  • A recent study (2017) demonstrated that an eight week Dru Yoga programme, versus usual care (i.e. an educational programme with no yoga), was associated with reductions in physical and psychosocial components of back pain. At eight weeks statistically significant reductions in back pain-related disability were reported (as measured by RDQ [−0.84 (95% CI −1.78, −0.06); p < 0.05] and Keele STarT [−0.61 (95% CI −1.19, −0.39); p <0.001]) (3).
Dr Ned Hartfiel, leading yoga researcher

If you would like to know more:

 

Come to a Dru Yoga class and find out for yourself!

In addition to standard Dru Yoga classes, I also run specific back care classes for those people who already have problems with their backs. If you would like more information, please feel free to get in touch…I’m always happy to answer questions. Namaste

 

References

  1. Barrington C, Goswāmī A, Jones A. Dru Yoga: Stillness in Motion. Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, North Wales, U.K.: DRU Publications; 2005.
  2. Hartfiel N, Burton C, Rycroft-Malone J, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, et al. Yoga for Reducing Perceived Stress and Back Pain at Work. Occup Med 2012;62:606–12. Available from: http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/62/8/606
  3. Hartfiel N, Clarke G, Havenhand J, Phillips C, and Edwards RT. Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing
    musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. Occup Med 2017;67:687–695. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/9/687/4676035

 

Reflections on the miracle of life

Do we stop and appreciate life? Do we celebrate every breath? Probably not…especially when life doesn’t go as we planned. Yesterday, I was given an incredible lesson – one which I will deeply cherish for the rest of my life. I experienced the miracle of life.

I should probably give you a little background to that bold statement! A few months back, my best friend/spiritual sister asked me to be her birthing partner. I was honoured and accepted straight away. However, as time went on, we realised that it might not be logistically possible (as I live nearly 3 hours away from her). I really wanted to be there to support her though…so I put it to the Universe and trusted that whatever was to unfold would be for a higher purpose.

Anyway, this weekend, everything aligned as it was meant to and I found myself exactly where I needed to be. My friend went into labour and I was there to support her. What I witnessed was a testament to my friend’s yoga and meditation practice throughout her pregnancy and her incredible resilience.

My friend had an incredible pregnancy – she flourished and mde it look easy. I expect you’re thinking “I bet she’s going to say how easy the birth was”…well, I’m not – nothing went as planned! Arriving at hospital, she was monitored and it became apparent that baby’s heart rate would suddenly drop with the very strong contractions. The option for a water birth rapidly disappeared –my friend took it in her stride and accepted that. Then it became clear that staying on a midwife-led ward was not possible – my friend accepted that too.

During her labour, the staff were impressed at her amazing calm and how she went from contraction to contraction with such grace and peace. Despite being in considerable pain she was determined to give baby the most relaxed entry into the world as possible. Each push should have been bringing baby closer to the outside world, but there was something wrong. Despite her strength and resolve, baby was not able to slide past the base of her spine.

After a very long time of trying to allow baby to enter naturally into the world, it was confirmed that baby was in the wrong position and that an instrument delivery would be necessary. This was the last thing my friend had wanted, but as baby’s heart-rate was dropping with each contraction, she accepted the change in plans and put her trust in the Universe that baby would be delivered safely.

Sat outside the theatre, waiting for the team to administer an epidural, were the longest minutes of my life so far. I used my mala and I prayed that my friend and baby would be OK. When I was called in, after what seemed like an eternity, it all became a blur. Suddenly, my friend was pushing as hard as she could and the doctor was using forceps to free baby. And there was a Guru present! A radiant consultant called Miss Guru stood offering guidance. She exuded calm and serenity. Soon baby appeared.

Baby was placed on my friend’s chest but was quickly whisked away. Although the fantastic theatre staff were very calm, I could see baby was very floppy and he wasn’t crying. Again, I prayed. The team were doing something to baby, but I couldn’t see. Miss Guru gave me a beaming smile and said baby would be OK and was beautiful. I instantly trusted her and in that moment I heard baby crying!

At first it looked like baby would need to be taken to the special care baby unit. He had to be given rescue breaths straight after being born. My friend said to me with confidence “he needs to be with me” and I knew he would be coming with us. It was as if my friend was telling the Universe tshe was happy to accept everything that had happened, but this part of the plan was non-negotiable! Sure enough, while my friend was in recovery, the team decided baby should go with Mum and be monitored on the maternity ward.

As soon as baby lay in my friend’s ams, he became so tranquil and relaxed. She enveloped him in unconditional love. When it was my turn to hold him at last, I sang him a mantra – he opened his eyes and looked straight at me. I’m sure he recognised the mantra from when he was inside the womb. I was flooded with an immense sense of gratitude – gratitude for this perfect little soul, gratitude for my beautiful friend, gratitude for the dedicated hospital staff, and gratitude for the miracle of life.

So what lessons was I taught?

  • We are born to do amazing things with our lives, whether it be giving life to another or doing a job where we are serving others. We should embrace our gifts and trust in our higher purpose.
  • Go with the flow, no attachment – acceptance is the key to peace.
  • Trust the Universe and it will unfold as it should (even though the path may not always be easy).
  • Value friendship – we are all connected.
  • Be grateful for every moment.
  • Life is a wondrous gift.
  • Life is a miracle.

I want to thank my dear friend – she is a shining light and a great inspiration to all she meets. I feel so privileged to have been present at such a auspicious event.

What can you do with the amazing gift of life? Do something fantastic today. Namaste.

What’s happened so far

Thanks for joining me on my first week of blogging! Just in case you’ve missed anything, here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far over the last nine days!

So here goes!

I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts so far and have found them useful! Tomorrow I’m going to look at the chakras – hope you can join me! Namaste.


 

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?