What if you could always come back to your true north? Even after a day that’s left you spinning on your bottom like a wobbling Weeble, one of those old children’s toys.
This is the intention of dru yoga, which is based on dhruva, a Sanskrit word for the ever-constant north star. It’s about finding your center, that strong still point inside of you. The lineage can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi, who practiced the style of yoga.
Last week, I unrolled my magenta mat alongside five other yoginis and our teacher, Deb Housman, in the west gallery of downtown’s Kreuser Gallery. That’s right, we did our hourlong practice among the September exhibit “Solace — Women of the Trees,” gorgeous tree-inspired works by Suz Stovall, Deb Komitor, Carol McIntyre, Lori DiPasquale, Julie Kirkland, Jana Bussanich and many others.
Housman, one of the Pikes Peak region’s few dru yoga teachers, promised me a very gentle class before we started, and she delivered. I’m accustomed to heated power vinyasa classes, a vigorous physical practice full of sun salutations, standing postures, standing balances, lots of core work and spine strengtheners. There was none of that in Housman’s class, and it was nice to do something completely different. A yoga teacher told me years ago it was important to balance a yang (intense) yoga practice with a yin (much softer and slower) practice. Dru yoga certainly acted as the yin to my usual yang.
Housman loves the style for its accessibility to all practitioners and the feeling you have when you’re done.
“It’s all about the subtle energy bodies and really listening to yourself and going inside and finding that center — it isn’t so far,” she said. “Our lives are very full, but when people recognize they can do it, you can take a piece of it and carry it.”
We started by standing and warming up our joints, with ankle and knee circles, big shoulder swoops, some gentle squats and side stretches. From there, we moved toward the theme for class: tree of transformation, in keeping with the gallery’s ambiance. Housman taught us energy block release sequences to clear our energy system and call our power back into the present moment. We used mudras (hand gestures) paired with gentle movements of the arms and legs done in a standing position.
“What we worked with mainly was calling our power back from situations, events, places, things, perhaps people, that just have a little bit of our energy trapped in them,” said Housman. “It’s no longer needed there, and we need to call it back to use the energy for the greatest good, for what’s in front of us. So letting go of things from the past or worrying about the past, and just empowerment and self-confidence and courage and standing in our power and being in the present moment.”
We then came to a seated position and practiced pranayama (breath work) called brahmari, otherwise known as bee breath. It’s very simple: You close your mouth and make a humming noise. It sounds very bee-like, hence the name. I find it soothing and relaxing.
From there, it was ultimate relaxation time, where you lie down on your mat, close your eyes and fall asleep. Just kidding. Though I almost did on that particular morning. But really you’re meant to find some moments of deep rest before coming back to seated and ending class.
All of Housman’s classes follow a similar format, and work with intentions, breath, movement and mudras, though themes and sequences change. Sometimes she also incorporates more traditional yoga poses, such as gentle forms of warriors, reverse warriors and bridges.
She trained in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2003, and has since taught at the longtime downtown studio Yoga Journeys. She also occasionally offers short series of classes at other locations, such as Kreuser Gallery.
Komitor, who has three pieces up in the current show, has practiced dru yoga for about a decade. She likes the focus on intention setting and learning to let things go. It’s also positively affected her art.
“When I set an intention for courage, when I’m in the zone, I’m connected to the bigger me,” said Komitor after class. “It helps me understand how we’re connected to something bigger and to each other. It feels like we’re not just doing this for us, but that the energy will go out there.”
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