Since napping and getting a full night’s sleep are often unavailable in the lives of many people these days, especially those working in stressful jobs, childbearing parents, active duty soldiers, healthcare workers and first responders, among others, alternative methods for achieving restorative rest, such as Yoga Nidra, are important practices that need to be readily available to the general public.
Yoga Nidra is a way of accessing a new depth and quality of rest.
Yoga Nidra refers to an ancient meditation practice, as well as the state of conscious deep sleep it is said to produce.
People are often surrounded by such an accelerated pace in their daily lives and communities.
The invitation and excuse to just STOP – lie down and rest as a conscious meditative practice is revolutionary in our activity obsessed culture.
Yoga Nidra touches the doorway to a pure awareness, beyond all of the busy activities and agendas of the mind. During the practice, the body may fall asleep, as we slip through and beyond the waking and dreaming states, but there is a backdrop of awareness or consciousness that stays ‘awake’ to itself. Spending time in this conscious deep sleep state is thought to attenuate the strength of our habitual reactionary patterns, as they manifest in the bodymind. Often, these patterns or Samskara’s can restrict the free flow of energy in the bodymind system, contributing to the experience of suffering or stagnation spiritually, emotionally, mentally, energetically, and physically.
By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the deep relaxation response, Yoga Nidra offers a swift entry into all layers or facets of being. Our bodies intuitively know exactly what to do to attain and maintain perfect health and equilibrium, but we need the necessary conditions for this to occur. Yoga Nidra supports these conditions, uniquely unwinding – while also fine tuning – the nervous system.
The guided focus of the mind during Yoga Nidra can also reduce and in some cases even eliminate our habitual thought patterns. This is key for both relaxation and healing processes as habitual thought patterns are often unconscious and trigger our fight or flight response, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which creates stress.
Yoga Nidra also offers the practitioner the opportunity of welcoming and exploring complementary opposites for the purpose of practicing and pairing witnessing with deep relaxation. As longtime yogi and clinical psychologist Dr Richard Miller says, ‘with practice, you develop the ability to witness and be with every state of feeling and emotion without reactivity, while remaining relaxed and at ease’
What would it be like to be able to invite a state of consciousness that is both deeply relaxed and highly attuned and attentive – without having to move a muscle? Just by using the power of your own presence and consciousness? The idea is that with practice, eventually you will be able to guide yourself – and others – into Yoga Nidra – anywhere, anytime.
MINI SELF GUIDED YOGA NIDRA MEDITATION
This is a brief practice that can be helpful in working with the fluctuations of daily life – perhaps emotions and/or sensations, like pain, frustration, or stress. You can try guiding yourself through this 3 step practice anytime you like – whether you are alone in a quiet space with an opportunity to rest, immersed in a challenging activity or project, attending a yoga class, or running errands in a crowded marketplace! The more you practice, the more you will notice its unique potency saturating your daily life and experience of Yoga, whether on or off the mat.
Step One: Opening the Senses
In whatever position you find yourself in this moment, let your senses be wide open. Let your attention wander through your senses.
Mouth, tongue, and taste…
Ears, deeply relaxed…and receptive…sensitive to sounds in near and far distance
Nose, nostrils soft and receptive, neither flared nor pinched…sensing smell, fragrance in the air
Eyes, deeply relaxed and receptive, sense your vision expanding internally in every direction…eyes can be open or closed here, whichever you prefer
Skin, deeply relaxed and receptive, open to the touch of air temperature, textures and sensations…
Feel the palms of your hands, the spaces between your fingers…deeply relaxed and receptive, full with sensation and awareness…
Notice the natural movement of your breath, without interfering with it.
Step Two: Exploring the Opposite
As attention opens and expands… notice if there are particular thoughts, feelings or sensations that seem to dominate your current experience
Acknowledging what is going on as it is. What wants attention?
Notice the sensorial quality to this feeling – give up the concept of it and meet the pure sensation of it
Welcoming whatever is present – even if it’s nothing
Be with whatever arises – without grasping or pushing away…yet also welcoming grasping/or pushing – if they arise!
If an emotion is present, where do you feel it in your body? Are there images/stories present with this emotion?
Then, if it’s helpful, locate the opposite emotion…and where you experience this in your body, with attendant images, sensations, etc.
Move back and forth between opposites, sensing how each impacts the bodymind…the first…then the opposite at your own pace.
Step Three: Feel both Opposites Simultaneously
Feel and experience both simultaneously…don’t try to analyze this, let go of thinking and relax into the actual sensations
Feel both opposites at the same time…feel both opposites dissolving and coalescing into one another.
Feel yourself as the Awareness in which these feelings are coming and going…
Let go of the practice and rest your attention on the steady, easeful movement of your breath.