If you have experienced Yoga Nidra then I’m sure you remember that feeling.
Creative Yoga Nidra clients frequently use words such as floaty and melting, feeling an overwhelming equanimity afterwards, so calm and balanced.
You see, once physical tension and the mental load are removed you are left with who you truly are, it’s you but without the stress and baggage.
I see it in your faces as well. The tension that we often hold around the brow, the eyes and the jaw disperses. As we come around at the end of the session I notice your pupils enlarge, it literally looks as though you are glowing. I swear people become even more beautiful after the practise.
So what could be the reason for the post Nidra glow?
The good news is that it’s not just our imagination, Danish research from 2002 showed a 65% increase in the release of dopamine during Yoga Nidra. Here is the report if you enjoy reading that kind of thing, or like a bit of science to back up your spiritual (I know I do – sometimes to laugh and say durr the Rishis knew that 5000 years ago!) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11958969/
Aside from the clear evidence that shows that happy hormones are indeed flooding our bodies during a session of Yoga Nidra, I believe there are other factors which make it such a treasured and sought out practice.
Yoga Nidra is well known for being a quick and effective way to reset the nervous system, it swiftly switches us from the ‘stress-pot’ sympathetic to ‘cool as a cucumber’ parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in the parasympathetic state all systems of the body are equally supplied with blood and oxygen which allows the body to do what it wants to do –function well and repair.
It’s not all hormones and healing though. The entire ritual of Yoga Nidra legitimises taking a break.
In Anglo American cultures we are pretty rubbish at rest, no three hour Parisian lunches or Spanish siestas here. In New York or London that would be seen as indulgent, lazy and unproductive.
There is a well-known advert for a cold and flu medicine which promotes this concept Take these tablets so that you can keep working while you feel like death, please your boss and shame your colleagues who took time off work’.
Surely this approach is counterproductive though, as these supposedly stoic workhorses would then bring in their lurgy and infect us all. It's shortsighted and individualistic.
The Eighties embedded these concepts into the workplace "Money never sleeps”, 'Sleep is for the weak', “sleeping's cheating”. We started to hear about Executive Stress and Yuppie Flu as terms to describe burnout, chronic and adrenal fatigue. Sadly it’s still very much alive in our culture today. The television show The Apprentice sees the contestants woken intentionally early for a day of Comedy Capitalism.
To take a break is seen as a sign of weakness we are encouraged to push on through, as we climb the ladder. And this capitalist programming runs deep. As a new mother I found it completely alien to listen to my body after years of corporate martyrdom which saw me ploughing on after no sleep (I had insomnia), straight off a long haul flight to an office for a full day, and always through illness (it was expected).
The idea of taking a nap when my baby slept did not come easily but burn out and Post Natal Depression sadly did. I can honestly say that it wasn’t until Nidra came into my life that this gloom and self-sabotage lifted. I suppose it showed me how to respect myself - I found my mojo!
Rest shouldn't be shameful.
Rest is how we live well.
Rest is how we heal.
It is neither unproductive, lazy or indulgent. Yoga Nidra supports you in this reclaiming of rest. In fact so many words that are prefixed with ‘re’; recover, recuperate, reclaim, rediscover, remind, re-evaluate, remember are relevant to Yoga Nidra. Why is this?
Well, Yoga Nidra provides a pause point a return to a previous state. You stop, you reside in your awareness which sounds very nebulous and ‘out there’ but basically means your body and thoughts are put aside for a moment and your being (that is the consciousness behind the thoughts) comes to the fore. Lying there just as consciousness provides an almighty break for your mind and consequently does wonderfully healing things to your body chemistry and your nervous system.
The consciousness aspect then takes us into another realm beyond what we can see, touch or even feel. In my opinion this is what makes Yoga Nidra so special…alright I'm going to say it MAGICAL. When we are lying as just our consciousness (or insert an alternative that feels right for you - soul, awareness, higher self, inner guide) we have transcended the physical body, we are in Turiya, we’re 5D, in the quantum field.
Here amazing things can happen; we might change our destiny using a Sankalpa, be guided by the visualisation or metaphor. We can rewrite our samskaras (ingrained habits that do us no favours) quashing addiction or negative behaviour patterns.
I remember my teacher Uma Dinsmore Tuli recounting a fellow trainee who came to the Total Yoga Nidra teacher training with HUGE news that she had to buy nail clippers for the first time in her life. The bemused group were told that she had bitten her nails since childhood and now in her forties suddenly had absolutely no desire. Her consistent Nidra practise erased whatever compulsion it was that led this woman to gnaw at her nails. Nidra does this a lot.
As I mentioned before I had insomnia, in fact I’ve had a patchy relationship with sleep my whole life. I wasn't a great sleeper as a baby, I first recall sleeplessness through anxiety at around seven or eight years old, developing a fear of being the last one up. During my early twenties I could be sleep-free for two or three days, the anxiety would creep in around ten o’clock along with a self-sabotaging flood of cortisol and adrenalin which would override my body’s need to rest.
Arrggh if only I knew then what I know now.
If only I'd had Nidra Shakti!
Well I can’t go back in time but I can spread the word about Yoga Nidra.
Human beings have never been so in need of rest, but exhaustion is not purely about physical exertion, we are also mentally drained particularly in 2020 living under constant threat of a virus. I am here to encourage people to listen to their bodies, to point out that you need to take extra rest and pass the Nidra magic for all to experience.