Waking in the middle of the night to cough profusely has, unfortunately, become part of the routine of late. Yes, I have caught the Springtime cold that seems to be going around. While I’ve mostly returned to my usual activities, everything feels just a little more challenging, requires a little more effort. Overall, I am feeling drained and desirous of sleep.
Which is why I chose Yogic sleep, or Yoga Nidra, as my at home self-care practice for this week.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a practice of deep relaxation and rejuvenation through systematically withdrawing from the senses, or pratyahara. Through the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin), our bodies are constantly taking in information from all around us and passing it on to our brain to sort out. The information our brains have to process is so abundant that, after a while, deep subconscious patterns of reactivity can develop, affecting both our mental and physical well-being.
Why practice Yoga Nidra?
Withdrawing from the stimuli of the outer world gives us a chance to experience the richness and peace of our inner selves – the true selves connected to a larger vision and a larger knowledge – the ones who don’t care that the toast is burnt or someone cut them off in traffic.
Letting go of the outside world entirely allows entire relaxation, for body, brain and nervous system. And, by establishing a sankalpa, or intention, for the practice, we can create a shift in all those subconscious patterns or reactivity and begin to let them go.
How is Yoga Nidra practiced?
To practice Yoga Nidra, you really just need 20-45 minutes, some floor or bed space and a recorded practice to follow. You will begin lying on your back in savasana, or corpse pose. Getting comfortable before you begin is important, because you will lie completely still for the duration of the practice. The practice begins by shifting your attention inward and setting your sankalpa. Frequently, you will be led through a body scan, beginning with the right thumb. After you are sufficiently relaxed, there is often some guided imagery, like picturing a white lotus or an elephant walking. The idea is not to fall asleep, but to remain aware while extremely relaxed. But, you might doze off, which is okay.
Highlight for me
While I love the guided imagery and the power of setting an intention, the body awareness was very powerful for me. As I moved from body part to body part with my awareness, I experienced the sensation of a soft, warm spotlight illuminating the area of my focus. And when I expanded my focus to become aware of my entire body, whole and together, everything felt a little brighter.
There are many, many CDs and recordings online with Yoga Nidra practices, including several on YouTube. If you’re in the Seattle area, there’s a weekly class on Tuesdays at 10 AM at Yoga Tree and Tuesdays at 7:30 PM at Seattle Yoga Arts.