Four years ago, almost to the day, I headed out to California to take a 5-day training in Yoga Nidra at the Sivananda Yoga Center in Marina del Rey. I remember when it was, not only because we were about to open the studio the following month, but also because during my time there, I got a text from my youngest daughter Ellie, who was just 12 at the time, celebrating the fact that gay marriage had just been legalized in the US. It was a lovely moment, and I shared her text with the 20 or so other students in the training course.
I had discovered Yoga Nidra during my quest to find natural interventions to help me deal with Lupus, with which I was diagnosed back in 2004 or so. It takes on average 6 years to diagnose someone with this insidious condition, and I now suspect that I had had it for far longer, even from the age of about 17 years old after I suffered a severe sun poisoning. I had begun to develop an interest in Ayurveda, often referred to the sister science of Yoga, and found that most likely what was at the center of my having developed Lupus was inflammation, and what most likely had caused that was stress.
Just to diverge a little here. When I grew up, I would hear my mum talk about her own or other people’s ailments and illnesses and conclude that it was all due to ‘nerves’, and as a family we would tease her for her diagnosis of the problem. But do you know what, turns out my mum was bloody well right. What she called nerves back then, we now refer to as stress, and YES, we now know that stress IS pretty much the root cause of all illness and disease (DIS-EASE).
In researching Ayurveda, I came across a teacher training offered by Dr Marc Halpern, who is the President of the California College of Ayurveda, and author of ‘Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda’, whom I had met during another teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in Nassau. I listened to him tell his story about how, as a young man, he was pretty much invalided after he contracted Lyme Disease. Until he developed a regular Yoga Nidra practice that is. He says he believes that, “Yoga Nidra kept me both alive and sane.”
Yoga Nidra became a regular practice for me too, and something that I longed to share with others. I did the training, and since we opened the studio in July of 2015, I have taught a weekly class every Monday evening, and it has consistently been among our most well attended ever since.
Yoga Nidra is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the most accessible to all ages and abilities. It is also a much-needed antidote to the modern-day 'predator' that plagues our everyday lives, and that is stress. We carry stress both within the physical body and on even deeper levels in the subtle bodies, which we are not even aware of. Translated as ‘yogic sleep’, Nidra is a state of conscious awareness that goes below surface tensions to release and transform stress at its deepest level, bringing about an immense depth of relaxation, a sense of wholeness, and even the feeling of having returned home to your true self.
While you rest comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation, involving conscious rotation of the physical body, enables Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), and takes you through the pancha maya kosha (the five layers of self), offering you non-judgmental and secure backdrop from which to observe yourself and your deepest emotions. As the meditation progresses, your brainwaves alter, and your brain enters the alpha state and eventually the even deeper theta wave state. Here, without effort or strain, you are able to tap into your own source of intuition, creativity, health, and abundance.
We are all burdened by negative and sometimes debilitating mental narratives, or samskara, which are formed by a repetitive thought or habit that is deepened in the mind and body over time. We easily forget that we are the controllers of our reality, and that our reality is not made up of outside influences, but that it actually consists of our thoughts, beliefs and overall mindset. We also forget that it is within our power to alter our mindset.
Through setting Sankalpa - an intention or notion of what you desire to manifest most for yourself, the practice of Yoga Nidra encourages the body’s innate ability to heal itself - to change the tape as it were - and find freedom from these self-limiting beliefs. Yoga Nidra can also be used to help heal from more physical ailments, and is especially helpful for chronic pain, anxiety and depression, insomnia, menstrual issues, healing after surgery, from cancer and can offer relief from a number of other conditions such as diabetes.
I am a firm believer in the power of this practice, and urge everyone to make it part of their regular yoga practice, just like any other class. It’s something, along with Restorative Yoga, that I say I would prescribe students, if yoga were something to be prescribed (which of course I believe it should!). There are no negative side effects, it’s inexpensive and you get told to lay down for an hour - who wouldn’t enjoy that?!?!
So convinced am I of its benefits, that I hereby offer you a money back guarantee if you don’t feel better, lighter, brighter, more grounded, centered, less agitated, more yourself after attending a class. Take me up on it; you’ll see….