“Yoga Nidra is the yoga of aware sleep. In this lies the secret of self healing. Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is relaxed.” ~Satyananda Saraswati
Umm, yeah. That *IS* what Nidra is. But, what is it? You know, from a normal, non-yoga perspective?
I thought, a year ago (when I went to my first Nidra class), it was a type of yoga like Bikram or Hatha and that, like the other yoga styles with which I was familiar, we would move a little and stretch some. Nope, not it!
At my first Nidra class, we did a little movement. By little, I mean, just enough to warm us up so getting down and back up off the mat was not going to render us immobile. I am not trying to be cutesy, I am being honest. I think we did a couple of Warrior poses, some Mountain pose, and if I remember correctly, we did a kriya (although I cannot recall which). I think it took us maybe 20 minutes, then, we went down.
Exactly what does, “Down,” mean? It means a lot!
After we are finished with the business of poses (asanas) and kriya (yoga prescriptions of movement, poses, and sounds), we gather a little bit of equipment to maximize our comfort. We settle in on yoga mats with a bolster (or two) under our knees to elevate them. We place a blanket under our necks/heads with a slight roll to elevate our foreheads (in comparison to our chins) and provide a little support. And, slight is the very best way to describe the roll, because if you roll it too much, it is super uncomfortable. If you are lucky, Ginger will roll your blanket. I say that because the woman rolls a mean blanket. I have tried to emulate her skill many times and failed. Then, we place another folded blanket over our mid-sections or we use a belly bag (a special kind of sandbag) to encourage deep belly breathing. We cover up with still another blanket and prepare to enter the meditation of Nidra. Some people like to use an eye pillow placed gently on the eyes (I do, they are one of my favorite things about Nidra); they are filled with flax seed and also contain just enough lavender to encourage relaxation and breathing. We also have a few chaise lounge chairs for people with specific physical needs and some travel neck pillows.
Once we are tucked in, or once Ginger, the original Mama Bear, tucks us in, she begins the guided meditation of Nidra. There are literally TONS of scripts she uses, each with different phrases, to take us through the process. During a Nidra guided by Ginger, she wanders the room. The lights are off, but she uses a small head lamp to both read the script and ensure everyone is comfortable and having a good experience. Some scripts seem longer than others, but I cannot be sure. Remember, I am experiencing the meditation, too, as a participant.
So, what happens while we are tucked in? I think everyone has a unique experience, and for many of us, each class is unique not only to the individual, but also often to the particular class. As Ginger guides us through the script, it is common to feel many sensations, and all of them are of value. They are what the student is *supposed* to experience. I could list off some of my own encounters during Nidra, but I think that might cloud some into thinking their own meditation is somehow not quite right if they do not experience the same things, and I want to avoid that. Your meditation is wholly, fully, and completely yours and all of it is completely okay.
Chances are, you may fall asleep during class. Many people do, and some even snore (you cannot see me raising my hand right now) a little. Even those sounds are important to your experience. Some people do not sleep, but rather enter such a relaxed state that they have little or no recollection of the phrases used during the script reading, Ginger’s walking, another student’s snores, sirens passing by the building, or anything else. Then, there are the people who remember everything (I am not one of them!).88
As the script nears its end, somehow, like magic, we all wake up. I say that because I cannot stand waking up at any hour and I struggle with getting up, no matter how many alarms I set or what my day holds. But, there I am at Nidra, popping right up at the end of the script like a new person! Seriously, magic.
Finally, what does Nidra do? Again, it is subjective to each student. Personally, I awaken. I feel very aware emotionally and very mentally capable and clear. I ALWAYS feel hyper-rested, but not wired or very awake, if that makes sense. It is a bit of a selah for me. When I get home and when I finally do get to lay down for the night, I conk right out and I sleep like a boss!
Nidra provides, for me, a pause button. Ginger does teach us techniques to use to experience our own Nidra sessions, which I have tried from time to time and from which I do benefit, but I am prone to forgetting to practice. That Tuesday night pause button works wonders for me! I find myself feeling more balanced, more conscious, more engaged, and more like me when I regularly practice Nidra.
I cannot encourage you enough to come to the Big Red Barn some Tuesday night for Nidra. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how you feel and by your experience.
**I wear a FitBit2 all the time and I geek out over my dashboard data. I have personally awakened myself during Nidra with a little snore here or there, but I can tell you I am not really asleep. I believe my brain is still engaged but my body succumbs to complete relaxation. There have been many occasions when my FitBit has recorded sleep stages when I have been awake watching TV or reading, but it has NEVER recorded any phase of sleep during Nidra classes. That tells me whatever work is being done on my noggin while I am experiencing Nidra is of immeasurable value to my overall wellness. It may not be MIT level research, but it is my experience.
*Stacie is a student at Begin Within Yoga and Wellness. She is a wife, mom, cancer survivor, small business owner, and dog lover. She loves sports, talk radio, and cookies.