“Now is the time to mirror the flowering in the plant world by expressing your own creative fullness in your heart, life and expression in the world” ~ Shiva Rea
Unfurling: unfolding, expanding, developing, opening out, spreading out…..
The natural world often inspires my yoga practice, and I love doing yoga outside on the grass in my garden, on a hillside or on the beach (with my husband pretending he’s not with me!). At this time of year, the ferns in my garden are just unrolling and unfurling, changing almost by the day. I took some of them in to my classes a week or so ago, and got a few strange looks when I said how much they remind me of the spine unfurling.
The spinal wave is a key concept in Dru yoga, and we often mention unrolling the spine from the base up to the crown of the head with a flowing wave-like movement. To me, the fern perfectly illustrates that concept as it grows taller and unfurls from the bottom of it’s stem right up to the top. As it unfurls, its leaves expand too – like the ribs on either side of the spine. So it ends up like this……
Tall, open, expanded, strong yet flexible. All qualities that I aspire to through my yoga practice.
Does anything in nature inspire you or help you with your yoga practice?
“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~ Jack Kornfield.
With Valentine’s day coming up, this week’s classes had to have a heart-centred theme. Whether you are in a relationship or not, you can give yourself some love and compassion. We are often so busy caring for others, that we forget to look after ourselves. Yoga is a great way of looking after your body, mind and emotions, helping to restore balance and harmony to every part of your being. Time on the mat is time for you to replenish and relax.
Parsvottanasana (the charity pose) is a gentle backbend that expands the chest and opens the heart, giving rise to feelings of generosity and compassion. It’s also great for stretching the hamstrings, strengthening the core muscles and increasing flexibility in the spine and around the hips. In Dru yoga, we work with the breath and do a lovely flowing form of this posture, encouraging a fluid, wave-like movement in the spine.
From ‘The Inner Life of Asanas’ by Swami Lalitananda…….
“…. in the city, I see the effects of stressful lifestyles often related to work – the tight shoulders, the worried brows, the feeling that ‘I don’t have time’…The principles that are learned in class can be taken back to work. Once you experience the difference between tension and relaxation, you can relax in the moment. … The spinal twist, in a modified form can be discreetly practiced in most work situations. Symbolically, too, the twist relates to work. How often do you wind yourself into action and only take time to ‘unwind’ when you leave the workplace?”
Twisting movements are very good for keeping the spine flexible, and also give the internal organs a nice massage, so are good for the digestion and for detoxing. The spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana) can transform negative emotions into more positive ones by spiralling our energy upwards, and often has a rejuvenating effect. As above, the twisting postures remind us to unwind and release knots of tension.
One of the seven keys of Dru yoga is the Spinal Wave.
“Life and vitality are brought to the spine by the natural wave-like movements created from the base to the top of the spine when we move and breathe correctly. These movements also encourage the free flow of cerebrospinal fluid and other bodily secretions. Muscles receive their instructions from the brain via the spinal cord, therefore it is vital to maintain a healthy, flexible and strong spine through this natural wave-like movement”.
From Dru Yoga, Stillness in Motion by Barrington, Goswami and Jones
Yoga is incredibly good for the spine, both in preventing problems and in relieving back pain. In Dru yoga, the spine is thought of as a dynamic, living being, with the spinal wave being a key to the movement. This wave encourages movement of the spine from the base to the top and makes you aware of moving each of the 24 (movable) vertebrae individually. Tadasana, the mountain pose helps to improve our posture by maintaining the normal S-shape curve, which takes strain off the spine. Developing core strength through many of the postures creates a circle of strength around the centre of the trunk, protecting and stabilising the spine.
Every yoga class benefits the spine, but this week in particular, we’ll be thinking about the spine and doing some postures for spinal health.
Top five tips for spinal health
- every day, move the spine forwards, backwards, sideways and twist it
- drink plenty of water to keep the discs hydrated
- if you sit or drive a lot, take a break regularly and arch the spine backwards
- be aware of your standing posture – stand tall, weight balanced equally on both feet
- take care when you lift anything – bend the knees and engage your core muscles