The story of Dru
Here is how five young friends started a dream 45 years ago and what’s happened since then.
"The only way to truly change the world is by achieving a ‘tipping point’ where enough people (roughly about 1% of the world’s population, which is 76 million) raise their consciousness to help to make the world safer, healthier and happier for every living being.
The first 45 years of the Dru story has been about making a difference to individuals, enabling them to improve their own quality of life and teaching others.
For the next 45 years we’ll be getting really serious about reaching that tipping point. To enable as many people as possible to be healthy: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially.
It’s a huge vision: empowered people creating global unity.
Will we reach it within our own lifetime?
An old African proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
Working together is a corner-stone of Dru. We invite you to help us change the world by becoming a change-maker yourself. Start by improving your own health and then teach others - because when you find something that works, it’s only natural to want to share it.” Chris Barrington (co-founder).
Each decade had its challenges: in the 80s it was the cold war so we established the peace walks throughout Britain. We also created a cancer charity and the Dru Yoga teacher training course.
In the 90s there was a lot of turmoil in Europe and Africa so the de-traumatisation programmes and peace vigils were key, culminating in the creation of the World Peace Flame.
The 21st Century has seen the rise of chronic ill health so our focus is health education in every arena of life.
Throughout it all friendship and community building is at the heart of our work.
The Dru story began with a small group of students at Bangor University, North Wales. During their undergraduate years they explored the remarkable world of ancient yogic mysteries - their teachers were two Gandhians steeped in yogic science: Chagghanbai and Ecchaben Patel.
After graduation these five friends: Chris Barrington, Rita Goswami, Annie Jones, John Jones and Mansukh Patel, on 6th May 1978, created what would later be known as ‘Dru’.
Under the guidance of Chagghanbai and Ecchaben the team developed a yogic awareness of subtle energy and integrated it with the West’s health model.
Health is not just physical, but also mental, emotional, spiritual and social. Learning how to flow into and out of postures with heightened awareness can help redesign your body, mind and emotions. They also discovered the energetic and physical ‘keys’ within postures and sequences to make them more potent in their healing effects. All movements were developed to arise from the spine - itself a dynamic, living system. Dru quickly earned the reputation for being a potent healing tool.
Mansukh's mother, Ecchaben, was a true ‘heart master’. She had focused her entire life on the archetypal stories of yoga and its universal message of compassion. Right from the start, Dru was about empowerment and connectedness. ‘Community’ is now a hallmark of Dru teaching - wherever you go in the world, a Dru class is likely to deliver a warm, kind and supportive atmosphere.
Following Gandhi’s example, we have always encouraged walking in nature as a way of connecting one’s inner world with the outer one. In the 80s and 90s Dru teams organised many peace walks with countless thousands of footsteps for peace.
Now, it's very rare to be on a Dru course that doesn't involve walking in the natural world - drawing empowerment and strength from nature's living presence.
In the early 1990s, four of the team (John, Rita, Anita and Andrew) toured 40 countries in 18 months. They taught seminars and interviewed pioneers of peace, spirituality and the environment. Their experiments showed that Dru Yoga techniques could help heal stressed and traumatised people no matter who they were or what their situation. From aid workers in Uganda to executives in Manhattan, Rwandan refugees in Nairobi to cancer sufferers in Hong Kong, the results were impressive.
It wasn’t long before we were invited into war and conflict zones, training refugee leaders how to transform emotional trauma through techniques that combined movement, meditation, breath and visualisation. Our unique blend of heart-based movements and therapeutic programmes spread throughout the North Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Kenya, South Sudan, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh, Uganda and Nepal. At one point nearly 60 of Nepal’s 77 administrative regions had Dru programmes.
Yet by the first half of the 2000s the work was starting to get dangerous with a near kidnapping in Africa and team members contracting tropical diseases. A key teaching from Chagganbhai and Ecchaben was clarity of purpose and so we re-evaluated. It was clear that our work in conflict zones could never solve the root issues creating the problems. We further realised that these conflicts were largely caused by attitudes and politics within the West. We therefore decided to pour our efforts into transforming the consciousness of Western society. By training Dru teachers.
The first Dru Yoga teacher training took place in our renovated terrace house in Bilston, West Midlands, very close to the geographical centre of the UK. Such was the allure of the profound yoga energetics taught there that nearly 40 people crammed into a tiny teaching space. Veterans of the time describe early posture work like a game of Twister!
Dru teachers were trained not only in excellent yoga but also in how to create community and connectedness. By 2005 our first yoga research was showing remarkable results. For instance:
Dru Yoga is highly effective for helping reduce stress and tension.
- 89% say they are better able to handle stress while over 84% regularly experience less body tension.
- 91% say that Dru Yoga transforms negative thinking.
- About 69% report that they have more positive sleep patterns.
Dru Yoga helps you create a better society! It helps people have more harmonious relationships and find greater peace within.
- 79% of people practicing Dru Yoga experience higher levels of serenity.
- 73% have a better ability to deal with conflict.
- 79% report they are more patient and open with others.
- 82% feel more tolerant towards others and over 76% feel greater feelings of compassion for others.
- 74% report a positive improvement in their communication skills and over 74% report an improvement in their ability to handle relationships.
“I’ve worked in war zones all over the world and at the UN in New York and Geneva, and I’ve still yet to come across a modality that can create peace as well as Dru Yoga.”
- Andrew Wells
Dru had become one of the most potent forces for creating a peaceful society that we can think of.
From those humble beginnings, the course has produced around 3,500 teachers. It is taught in 16 locations and there are Dru teachers worldwide. Graduating more than 180 teachers each year around the world, Dru is the 2nd largest yoga and meditation training school in the UK.
By the late 1990s, we had met some of the world's most remarkable peace-makers: Mother Teresa, Maha Goshananda, the Imam of Ghana, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mueller... and countless lesser known heroes. We wanted to honour their contributions to the world.
In a little terrace house in Lancashire, the idea to accomplish this was born: bringing flames of peace from each of the world's continents to the UK, uniting them into one flame that would become a symbol of peace that everyone could relate to... The World Peace Flame.
Fortunately, no-one told us that this had never been done before! And in those pre-9/11 days, anything seemed possible. So our teams set about contacting airlines.
Seven flames were united into one
World Peace Flame
The birth of the World Peace Flame became a miracle of persistence, proof that you can accomplish anything if you believe in it strongly enough. Eventually, the military airforces of the world became the carriers of our flames of peace, led by the Royal Dutch Airforce.
In July 1999 for the first time in history seven live flames, lit by eminent peacemakers on five continents, were flown by military and commercial aircraft to the UK, where they were united into one flame: The World Peace Flame.
World Peace Flame monuments are now established across the globe, and their number is steadily increasing. Communities work together to design and build the monuments, which then become catalysts for collaboration involving all areas of society from local to national level.