It all started when I was in a yoga class and we were all in the last and final pose called savasana. It's that pose where you just lay there and do nothing. Tick tock - the time was passing. I could feel the anxiety in my body thinking to myself when is this going to end? Doesn't the teacher know we have to go? Our to-do's lists await? The room was silent and still but my mind was chattering and racing. So much energy was exerted below the surface of my supine position. I was annoying myself with so much inner turbulence. I decided to just focus on my breath and one breath after another the voices in my head grew silent, my body surrendered into the floor, my pulse gradually became slower. I found myself in that still space between consciousness and unconsciousness. It felt like I was floating. I was in this state of consciousness that felt familiar but it had been a long time since I visited. So vast, immense, connected, and EUPHORIC!
I could sense the room stirring, people moving around but the pull to stay where I was seemed stronger. When I heard the final OM I opened my eyes and slowly came out of it. I heard myself say "that's what relaxation feels like." I didn't know it then but years later I'd find out that what I had experienced is called Yoga Nidra.
I started practicing yoga nidra because it helped me with stress. Stress is a major contributor to disease and illness because it taxes our adrenals and immune system. When we experience stress think of how easy it is to be triggered into fight or flight, overwhelmed by anger or worry, or have a panic attack. Stress disconnects from our body, our breath, and dwelling in the present moment. As a result to stress we experience pain both emotional and physical.
Yoga nidra has been a profound practice because it relieves stress, connects me to my body, and keeps me calm and centered even in the chaos of daily living. It is a combination therapy that combines a supine yoga posture called corpse pose (savasana) with relaxation exercises that stimulate different brain waves, using breathing techniques, meditation, guided imagery, and affirmations. The combination method provides deep healing and rest. I have learned it is more than a quick fix. Practicing yoga nidra, I return to my true Self, that is peaceful, loving, and wise.
Yoga nidra trains us to remain connected, both mind and body, even when stress arises. It helps me stay centered and not be swept away by the turbulence and chaos of stress. I learn to identify stress instead of identifying with stress, resulting in being less reactionary and attached and more observant and transparent. Many studies on deep relaxation have resulted in boosting immunity and soothing the nervous system, alleviating discomfort associated to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, relieving and reducing headaches, reducing depression, regulating blood pressure, improving memory, increasing concentration, and supporting recovery from illness. It is apparent to me how engaging in a deep relaxation exercises like, yoga nidra, increases our vitality and supports well-being.
Yoga philosophy teaches we are multidimensional beings and provides multidimensional approaches to healing and connecting to the deepest layers of our consciousness. Ancient yogis called these multi-dimensions koshas or "bodies". These different koshas from superficial to deep represent our physical body, energetic body, mental and emotional body, intuitive body, joyful body and infinite Self. During a yoga nidra practice, we journey through the bodies as if we are walking a labyrinth to arrive at the center, fully relaxed and connected to all these aspects of Self. During a yoga nidra practice you might notice a decrease in tension, peace and clarity of mind, enhanced intuitive awareness, and the feeling of bliss. The more you experience yoga nidra the more you will see its benefits carry over into day-to-day living. It's like what Sue Flamm, founder of Puja Yoga, said in her book Restorative Yoga with Assists, "Learning the art of relaxation is like working a muscle. We can relax more easily when we have paved the way for the relaxation to enter" (23). Yoga nidra is a practice and it is how I have been learning to relieve stress, build a positive relationship with myself and remain connected both mind and body.
Want to experience yoga nidra?
Julie Lusk, Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief