Yoga & Walking retreat, Snowdonia, published Yoga Magazine, August 2015

First rights feature published in Yoga Magazine, August 2015. For syndication requests, please contact Sarah on email:
yoga & walking snowdonia coverSarah Dawson heads to Snowdonia on a Dru Yoga and walking weekend
It’s April when I arrive at the Dru Worldwide Yoga Centre in the Nant Ffrancon Valley and although there’s an explosion of Spring in the abundant daffodils, the clouds are grey and the Met Office is predicting heavy rain for the weekend. Good job I packed my waterproofs.
Ever since a walking holiday at Solstice 2012, where I covered 50 miles over five days around Glastonbury I’ve been hooked on walking, so when I saw the Dru Yoga and Walking retreat advertised- I was in.
I’m one of the first arrivals so I go for a short stroll before dinner, reflecting on what an idyllic retreat this is for yogis and walkers alike. Across the road I’m straight into nature, and my feet lead me in an undirected way. Up a small hill I arrive at an Oak grove where I practice Tadasana (mountain pose) and breathe in the cool, pure air, my journey and trip preparation entirely forgotten. Checking the time, I head back – from the aroma in the Dru Cafe earlier on, I don’t want to be late for dinner.
Over a delicious lentil and sweet potato curry I meet my ‘roomie’, Lucy, and a group of yoga-loving walkers from as far as Australia, here to indulge in therapeutic yoga and some of the UK’s most beautiful mountains, lakes and forests. Some, like me, are Dru Yoga teachers here for self-nurturing, and many have been on this Dru Yoga and walking holiday before. After dinner I sleep like a baby in this tranquil Welsh valley.
Transformational yoga
Dru Yoga is deemed one of the most accessible and safest yoga styles to practice and was developed by a group of yogis some 30 years ago, with input from osteopaths, and physiotherapists. ‘Dru’, an Indian (Sanskrit) word, is short for Dhruva, and roughly translates to ‘north star’, representing our own ‘inner still-point’.
A key part of Dru is the focus on positive transformation through rebalancing the “chakras” (the body’s energy systems) and “koshas” (our subtle nature). Sessions encourage yogis to ‘feel’ into their bodies, their emotions and thoughts, resulting in a gentle, flowing yet immensely powerful workout that begins with warm up movements (‘activations’) followed by muscle stretches (‘body preps’) to prevent injury and essential core-stability awareness and strengthening.
Our morning yoga teacher, Petra, explains that after stressful experiences, the body often holds onto strong emotions, which, if not released, can cause illness: “By breathing consciously, observing thoughts and feelings while flowing through movements, and introducing positive affirmations and visualisations it’s possible to release emotional blocks, relieve back pain and restore balance” she says.
Seven Dru Energy Block Release (EBR) sequences were developed for this purpose and after the “activations” she demonstrates “EBR3”, a potent sequence involving yoga poses like the Archer, to help heal/rebalance heart energy and induce strength and power.
Master of our thoughts
After breakfast (a hearty bowl of porridge/nuts and tea) Jane Saraswati Clapham, who’s been working and teaching within Dru for 20 years, informs us that, statistically, people who practice long term meditation are 80% less prone to heart disease and 50% less likely to suffer from cancer.
“Dru Meditation goes further than simply being mindful and accepting our physical or emotional discomfort. The meditative state can help us become ‘master’ of our thoughts, rather than victims, by suggesting positive statements like; ‘I have all the resources I need to achieve my dreams’ or ‘I am calm and capable’”.
I’m ravenous after all this transformational naval gazing and after lunch, top-to-toe in waterproofs (yes, the Met Office are correct about the rain), we follow guides; Tom and Nigel into Snowdonia National Park, passing lush forests and powerful waterfalls, juxtaposed by still lakes, stone bridges, and majestic mountains.
Alongside a lake it becomes more challenging. Uphill on muddy ground I almost lose my foot, but feel a great achievement up at the top and back at base quinoa salad, soup and cauliflower cheese followed by crumble and custard more than restores me. Later, I chat to my new yogi friends in the lounge, a home-from-home on retreat, stocked with inspirational gifts, DVDs and books.
Dynamism and poise
On Sunday Dru teacher, Nanna, demonstrates that as well as being gentle and restorative, Dru Yoga is dynamic and powerful. After activations she leads us through the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara) and one of my favourite Dru sequences involving strong Warrior variations to encourage self-empowerment, known as the Dru Power Sequence.
It’s great being a student here and these excellent teachers guide me through sequences which I’m regularly practising and teaching, reminding me that the flowing, soft gentle ways of performing so called ‘stronger’ poses makes them seem effortless.
That afternoon, I opt for a shorter walk into the Ogwen valley led by teachers Jane and Joshna. Passing the powerful gushing Ogwen Falls we take a track to the coastline of Anglessey. Maybe our sun salutations contributed, but the skies are clear and the sun is shining brilliantly. Lucy, my roomie, and I feel on top of the world!
Yoga in nature
By Monday the rain is lashing down again, but it doesn’t alter our teachers’ plans. We head to the oak grove I visited on my first day, and in waterproofs, unconcerned by the elements, we practice Prithvi Namaskara – Salutation to the Earth – then pause beside a waterfall to meditate.
Listening to the birdsong, feeling the air and rain on our face, the mossy stone, we memorise the view before us. I close my eyes, imprinting this image in my mind and many months later it calms me when my mind feels overloaded.
Since yoga was inspired by nature, there’s no wonder that yoga and walking go hand-in-hand, and the Dru style is a great antidote to stress – for beginners – and more advanced yogi’s to work with the subtle energies. I feel well-rested, well-fed and all of my chakras are spinning beautifully. I leave Snowdonia renewed and lighter- and that’s the Dru Factor.
Vital statistics:
The next Dru Yoga/Walking retreat: 28th to 31st August. £480 (shared), £585 (single). Includes tuition, food, walks. Snowdonia Mountain Lodge in Bethesda, near Bangor, Wales run a wide range of retreats/holidays. For inspiration check out:
Sarah Dawson is a Brighton-based journalist, author & Hatha/Dru yoga teacher, and founder of