This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Julie Miller. Julie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you may imagine, in a meditation class conducted in a comfortable, dark room, with soft music playing and a gentle voice guiding practitioners through visualizations that are often quite peaceful, it can be a challenge to stay awake. Still when a student recently asked me why I phrase my request that students “do not fall asleep” in the negative instead of saying simply “you will stay awake”, it caused me to reflect on the purpose behind that particular statement.
The ideal nidra state is neither awake nor asleep. The unconscious mind is tapped in to through what might best be described as a lucid dreaming type of other state. Through a series of guided meditations designed to peel back the onion of self-awareness, a practice typically explores sensations of the physical body and then down through the more subtle layers of breath, emotions, and energy to reach the ego-less self. This path of exploration can allow one to become aware of conditioned responses and provides the opportunity to break patterns that no longer serve, or were perhaps never beneficial. These habits or patterns are referred to as Samskaras, and it is thought that we must break through or purify these in order to open the door to our true nature. To use that controversial label, yoga nidra is a form of tantric yoga. As defined by well-known yoga teacher Rod Stryker, tantra means to weave, and yoga nidra allows us to weave and reweave the fabric of our consciousness so that we can begin “to see the seer”.
That is all very abstract and no doubt a bit heavy sounding, but the class itself is very relaxing. We begin with breath awareness exercises, a guided body scan, and then move into mental exercises that ask the yogi to engage all of their senses such as imagining fully being in a physical location and all of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes associated with that place. An exploration of each person’s unique association with symbolism and imagery is usually included as well as mental exercises guiding the yogi through emotions and qualities of being (e.g. compassion, gratitude, joy). These lead to more complex exercises asking the practitioner to attempt to hold conflicting thoughts or sensations simultaneously, thus finding release from conditioned thinking.
The medical benefits of yoga nidra can be found in studies in peer reviewed journals showing its ability to aid with depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and PMS, and new studies state it may be helpful for regulating blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. If that isn’t enough to convince you to give it a try, I have often heard students say that they feel more creative after a nidra practice, sometimes experiencing a burst of inspiration during the session, others report having more vivid dreams, and many find they are more in touch with their intuition and subtle sensations of energy in the world around them.
Join Julie’s Yoga Nidra class at Whole Life Yoga and experience the peace, creativity, and relaxation that is part of this deep, wakeful sleep.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series, MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and book sellers everywhere!