What is Yoga Nidra?
Most of us have trouble staying positive, maintaining calm, and making the good, healthy choices and decisions that get us through the bustle of the holidays when we are tired, overstimulated or anxious. Are you read to start your day from a place of calm and deeply connected to your best self? Try Yoga Nidra.
Who is Yoga Nidra for?
Are you run-down? Feeling pulled in too many directions? Need to recharge your batteries before the holiday season kicks off?… You are not alone!
Most of us feel some big feelings starting the end of October and carrying through the start of the new year. Already missing the light and heat? Loving the heightened activity? Feeling scattered by the wind energy and exposed as a bare tree? Anxious about the many looming obligations? Over-joyed (and maybe overstimulated) by the visitors, family, and friends? Sitting with loneliness, loss, grief, or depression? Wherever you are, and whatever it looks like, this time of year can be draining.
Yoga Nidra is for you if...
So, why practice Yoga Nidra? As opposed to another flow class, a meditation session, or a good hard workout, all of which I do use and encourage for managing the stress of winter. Nidra is especially useful for people who want...
Better sleep. Better sleep is one of the most common immediate and noticeable affects of Nidra.
Another tool for managing stress. Nidra works well in addition to other forms of stress management, like exercise, massage, yoga asana practice, mantra, meditation, UV lamps, prescriptions, therapy, or other means you may be using to manage your stress, fear, or anxiety.
Practitioners of Nidra are all led through the same script, but since it is an exploration of your inner landscape, everyone will have a different experience. So, whether you are addressing specific concerns (Hello, family dynamics at the holidays!) or wanting general relaxation and relief from the daily grind, Nidra will help.
Nidra is translated from Sanskrit as, "Yogic Sleep," and it is usually performed in Savanna, or a lying down position with eyes closed, so it might look like sleep. Practitioners do go into a very relaxed and meditative state somewhere between awake and asleep. However, it is NOT sleep. BUT if you are feeling over-stimulated, tired, and in need of a reset, Nidra is a great choice of practice.
If you are new to meditation, or find it especially difficult to calm your mind and quiet that inner dialogue, Nidra is a good option. The leader is speaking and giving you verbal cues, visualizations, and specific thoughts on which to concentrate, so you are not left alone with your monkey mind.
Where did Yoga Nidra come from?
I am no expert on Yoga history, and like most of yoga, one can go down a series of rabbit holes looking for the roots of Yoga Nidra, but from what I understand, Nidra is an ancient concept and practice, mentioned in the Upanishads, but the specific protocol and scripts most often used in the US today were written some time in the 1960's or '70's right at the intersection of American physical culture, counter-culture, and Indian re-patriotism. This shiny spot on Yoga's timeline gave rise to many "new" old practices and schools of thought. Like so much of modern, American yoga practice, Nidra seems to be a fairly recent pool, springing from an old, deep well.
What will you do in a Yoga Nidra?
Every guide leads Yoga Nidra a bit differently, depending on the needs and background of the practitioners, the setting, the theme, etc. I like to do the following:
A short asana flow that builds heat, gets the jitters out, and sheds off any previously built up negative energy or associations.
Settle into a restorative pose or a very supported savanna.
I lead a pretty standard script whose model is taken from Yoga Nidra, by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, but is always tailored to the group, occasion, or my own whims for the day.
I always include intention setting, body scan, breath meditation, visualizations of opposites, visualizations for a higher purpose, revisiting intention and relocating into the physical body. We move through the Five Koshas - you can read more about that aspect of Yoga Nidra in a future article.
Ready to try Yoga Nidra?!
The best way to learn about Yoga Nidra is obviously to try it out! There are many resources online. You only need the audio, since your eyes are closed, but there are video versions, too. I, of course, believe the best way is in the presence of a guide with whom you can share your concerns, issues, or just be in shared energetic space. I am leading a Thanksgiving Day Flow and Nidra in 2022. If you are close, come and see me!