When leading Yoga Nidra workshops, I often begin by asking the students: “Is there anyone who doesn’t feel stressed?” Interestingly, nobody ever responds to this question other than by laughing. It's a question that doesn’t need to be answered.
It was my own stress that led me to explore the practice of Yoga Nidra in depth. At the time when I was facing a huge decision to leave my graphic design profession for health reasons, I was also in the middle of applying for a mortgage, and considering a major move— all three transitions simultaneously. I was so stimulated by all that was happening in my life that I could no longer include any vigorous techniques in my daily yoga practice. Especially in my pranayama (yogic breathing) practice, I had to scale back to include only calming techniques.
But my most profound discovery came last year when, after a brain injury, I started to practice Yoga Nidra more consistently. Because of concussion symptoms such as erratic heart beat and unusual blood flow in the brain that reduces the production of important hormones and neurotransmitters, my sleep became very elusive. With Yoga Nidra I was able to train my nervous system to respond quickly to attain a state of relaxation much needed for healing.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation, guided imagery, and meditative inquiry that focuses on systematic relaxation of the body It allows the mind to enter a state of deep, meditative awareness that approximates sleep in which dream-like thoughts and images spontaneously appear. But unlike sleep, in which the mind identifies with mental activity, during Yoga Nidra we become impartial observers, bearing witness to the these mental dream-like fragments. In this state, thinking dissolves, and the mind becomes very malleable. The practitioner has more ability to shape the power of the mind field according to their intention. This is valuable in processes of learning and self-healing.
This meditative state induces changes in brainwaves, shifting from the awake Beta states to the Alpha states associated with deep physical relaxation, and Theta states, which are associated with concentration and meditation. With repeated practice, the Theta waves are followed by Delta waves where practitioners experience deep non-REM sleep but remain aware of their surroundings. In this state of awareness, intuition and creativity naturally arise. In Yoga Nidra you activate and maintain the dreamy terrain at the edge of sleep where you have access to deep seated memories, intuition, as well as your creative mind. Because you gain access to your brain’s creative potential, it’s not unusual to come out of the practice with answers to questions, or solutions to previously held problems.
Why practice Yoga Nidra and what are the benefits?
We live in a world full of stimulation, and chronic stress is epidemic. Yoga Nidra activates the relaxation response, therefore it is an excellent technique for stress management and prevention of burnout. It reduces chronic tension, strengthens the immune system, builds resilience, and stimulates the body’s natural healing response. It may be used to reduce blood pressure or deal with migraine headaches, among others. People using this practice report decreased stress and anxiety, increased energy levels, focus and concentration, improved sleep, and greater sense of well-being.
Yoga Nidra special offering - Thursday, March 7, 6-7:15pm, Om Namo Center, Cambridge
Expect to be led through a unique sequence of gentle yet effective stretches, and explore the lesser-known gem of yoga—breathwork—which plays an essential role in grounding the body and quieting the busy mind. Then, as you lie down in a restful position, you will be guided through different stages of relaxation, including body scan, breath awareness and visualization. With consistent practice, you will develop the ability to release blocked energy and focus your mind. When you step off of your yoga mat, you can more skillfully take on whatever life brings.
Suitable for beginning and experienced students, this class is highly inclusive and open to anyone. No previous yoga or meditation experience necessary. Advanced registration recommended.