“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?
Like a wave, the breath is always moving and flowing. Sometimes smoothly and calmly like gentle waves on the beach, other times faster and more uneven like a stormy sea. Mostly we’re not even aware of the movement of the breath, and one of the great benefits of yoga is that it brings you to an awareness of the breath and with awareness comes an ability to bring the breath under your control, rather than the breath controlling you. And a huge advantage of bringing the breath under your control is that it can help to change your emotional state. Usually we use the breath to slow us down and help us relax, but changing the breath can also lift your spirits and energise you.
There are many breathing techniques (pranayama) in yoga, but one of my favourites is simply to lengthen the out-breath. Breathe in to a count of 1 or 2 and breath out to a count of 3 or 4. It slows the breath, calms the mind and relieves stress. A good one to try if you can’t get to sleep.
As with all breathing practices, start slowly and gently and revert to your normal breathing pattern if it becomes uncomfortable or you feel light-headed.
“Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know
as the in-breath grows deep,
the out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm.
Breathing out brings me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.”
From: Present Moment Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh
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