NOTE: On December 30, from 4-6 p.m., Yoga/Ayurveda therapist Sandra Nicht and I will be co-presenting a workshop on Yoga Nidra and Reiki at the Catonsville Counseling and Wellness Center, Learn more about the event here – hope to see you there!
What Is Yoga Nidra?
(A guest post by Sandra Nicht, M.S. in Yoga Therapy)
Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep” in the Sanskrit language, the original language of yoga. This isn’t the same thing as “shavasana”, the resting pose done at the end of most yoga classes but Yoga Nidra is often practiced in that pose. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation practice often attributed to the Tantric tradition in India (Tantra being a philosophical tradition that emerged from the older Samkhya system that counts Ayurveda and Yoga as branches) and developed in modern times by the Bihar School of Yoga in India and refined and secularized by Richard Miller, PhD as the iRest (Integrative Restoration) method that has been scientifically studied for its effects on the recovering military population at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda MD.
Participants may practice lying down (with props for comfort if necessary and available) or sitting and are given time to settle into position and steady the breath before being directed to focus the mind on various things such as a specific part of the body (left big toe, right thumb, etc) or on principles of opposites (happiness, sadness; hot, cold).
Some methods ask that focus be switched rapidly from one thing to the next, others allow for time to notice sensations as they arise while directly the observer to remain the observer and avoid attaching the mind to the sensations. The iRest method in particular delineates ten stages of practice from setting an intention to creating an inner resource or safe space within to draw on when or if difficulty arises with a particular direction, all the way to learning how to see and accept life as it is without judgement, a very powerful tool for reducing the effects of stressful situations.
You are not supposed to fall asleep during Yoga Nidra but sometimes it happens due to excessive fatigue; not to worry, though the conscious mind may clock out for a time the subconscious mind still receives the vibrations of the directions spoken and the body still gains the benefits! This make it a wonderful addition to any exercise program; rest days are needed to recover from work or intense exercise routines and adding a directed healing meditation to a rest day supercharges the body’s ability to recover and rejuvenate itself.
Even if you feel no bodily fatigue or stress, Yoga Nidra is beneficial for sharpening the mind’s ability to focus and concentrate. There are no complicated skills to master, no strength or flexibility required to participate,
ANYONE in ANY CONDITION fit or frail can benefit from Yoga Nidra!