Apr 17, 2016

Yoga Nidra...Yogic "Sleep"

YOGA NIDRA… Yogic “Sleep”

As I set off on my journey of yoga in 1996 with the obvious physical predicament of severe scoliosis, having worn a back brace throughout my teens, my yoga practice gave me the first realization that I do not have to be a victim to my circumstances and my emotions if I so choose.

In high school I had an epic and progressive nurse that led me once per week through guided visualizations to heal my scoliosis. Right away I was enchanted by this concept. Right away I also realized my lack of patience, focus or belief that I could be healed at all, let alone do it myself. I saw that I was quite provoked by the drama of my unusual physical limitations then and whirling of teenage emotions.  

As a yogini, having been solid in the practices of yoga directly for exactly 20 years now (it’s my 20 year yoga anniversary this July!), I find I am not so likely to give permission to the suppression of feelings or to overlook my inner dramas or discomforts. I honestly don’t want anything to "have” me at all.

My journey in yoga began at the Sivananda Ashram in the Catskills of NY. We use to practice something called “Yoga Nidra” once per week with a lovely Indian women that would come to visit the ashram. Her guided visualizations brought me back to my “nurse” in high school. We went through very similar withdrawal of the senses inwardly as to strengthen my inner body and redirect the flow of Prana. 

I didn’t know it then but through getting reacquainted with the power of my own mind and in a better inner personal relationship with my mental and emotional habituations, I have been able to release a great deal of the cause of what my scoliosis or the suffering that was formed in the mental roots. I went from avoiding it to enjoying stillness, self examination and the chance to strengthen my mind because I was feeling the happiest I had ever felt in my life.

In the practice of YOGA NIDRA, we first make a conscious decision to withdraw all of our organs of action and commit to comfortably take our “seat” of stillness, overcoming the stresses and strains that actions often bring and safely lie down as to “wake up”. In Nidra, similar to the practice of “pratyahara”, which means to withdraw the senses, we solidly vow to stop working, moving, exercising, talking, texting, socializing, attending to others, worrying, planning, stressing or “doing” any one thing in particular.

In this way, Yoga Nidra becomes a “de-focusing” practice of outer stimuli as to go on a retreat, drawing back. Translated as “union to sleep”, Yoga Nidra is not really about sleeping, but activating the waking state. Deep sleep insinuates repression, separation from our true nature and forgetfulness of our innate joy.  Yoga Nidra is quite the opposite. It means that you are solidly established in the self, that you know yourself and that you can control your dreams.

Yoga Nidra is also not really about “relaxation” quite literally. It could take on the shape of "lying down", but it is much more than that. In Nidra you are not napping or checking out but instead checking in, enjoying inner stilliness. Any drama that we have attached ourselves to creates an inner instability as it draws us further away from our nature. Separation is unsettling. Our Divine Self senses this and it is disturbing. 

In Nidra, the intention, or “sankalpa” is “direct” perception. We focus on true self confidence, a strong present mind, healing ourselves and knowing ourselves. This puts us at ease. This of course can in turn assist the health and homeostasis of our body, relieve stress and maybe even help us to sleep better at night but it is not for just those 8 hours alone. It really unifies us to everything that we do in creation.

In Yoga Nidra you realize you can control the dream to the extent that nature will provide for you in this lifetime with all that you have access to now. It releases victimization and mental toxicity, which affects the overall health of your being. This level of suffering comes from separation where Nidra clears the subtle body, drawing us closer to holding more love and light in our field. 

I have appreciated Nidra on my healing journey as it is very self empowering. If I feel like a victim, I am disempowered and then I become inwardly afraid. This triggers my flight or fright mechanism and shuts down my chakra system. Fear and anything that seems out of our range of ability is debilitating and lowers our frequencies, creating discord, where we are weak. This will disturb and distort all of our organs, tissues and cells, not to mention obscure our lens and affect every experience and relationship in our lives.

In Yoga Nidra, we hold a safe conscious space to remove deep, unattended to blocks that we have taken on as being real even if they are distortions to our health or wellbeing. In this practice, available to anyone that can lie down and apply focus, a stable and nourishing space is held to invite blockages to resurface and allow for anything unresolved to come up. Again, anything unresolved blocks the flow of prana. When unstable memories resurface we are given a self empowering chance to digest and eliminate them, clearing the experiences of resent or fear. This leaves emptiness and the room for the creative potential of new patterns. This places creativity back into your hands. What a dream!

All of us can relate to not wanting to be disturbed or allow certain agitations to trigger us.  All of us can relate to when the body does not feel healthy, injured, under stress, fatigue or the immune system feeling compromised. In these states we will always feel vulnerable as it blocks the flow of prana (life force) and our channel to inner wisdom, beyond these whirlings.  In Nidra, we lie down in our seat of trusted union.  Union creates a state of calm where the mind is lucid and clear. Everything else is a blockage of love and light. 

As yogis and simply as human beings, we can create a state that is extra-ordinary in the “ordinary,” where we transcend time and space, where you are very much awake and aware.  Resting in awareness is the most authentic state.  Resting in awareness does not have veils, discomforts and confusion. Your senses become heightened and liberated no matter what your external circumstance may be. In Nidra, you may choose to “rest” from worry instead of create further suffering.

 This practice activates the power of the inner teacher, called “Guru” in the yoga tradition quite affectively, as no one is "doing" anything for you.  Rest well in your inner teacher.  A “guru” is unprovoked by dramas. One calm within their nature carries a bliss in and beyond their body that is unshakable and not reliant on things on the outside. Even if the body goes through it’s natural process, of which it will, these teachings leave the union to You untouched. Rest in it. It is within you.

Yoga Nidra is a mystical practice that is very much grounded in a healthy, practical lifestyle that is accessible to most humans, even if they are not interested in “yoga”. It is not a forced practice and is practices in many traditions and cultures.  I hope you choose to participate in your self healing process as to witness everything that lies in creation and within you. 

Yoga Nidra will be offered once per month on Tuesday evenings from 7:30-8:45pm with Michelle Baker at Swan River Yoga beginning in May. 

Check listings for this practice that invites living in a body that is conscious & unsuppressed.

This will include a small lecture on the philosophies, history and origin of Yoga Nidra, 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra Practice and space held after for any questions, council, comments, spaciousness or silence.

Although we have all of the props and tools that you might need, feel free to bring your favorite items that help you to feel cozy, such as personal blankets, pillows or prayer shawls.

An Introduction to Yoga Nidra is April 17th at 4pm-6pm.