This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Sara Ivahoe’s Yoga Nidra workshop at the Southeast Yoga Conference. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, as I had not experienced a yoga nidra practice, but when it comes to yoga, I’ll try just about anything. So what exactly is yoga nidra? Think restorative yoga, pratyahara (withdrawing the senses) and meditation all wrapped up in a cocoon of bliss.
First, I have to say that I was ecstatic just to meet Sara, even before I was a teacher, her videos were always a comfort to me as a practicing yogi. I remember coming home after a long day, popping in her DVD and practicing along side Sara on the beach at sunset. It was like a cup of tea for the soul. So, when I had the chance to practice with her in person, I was geeked.
Before I describe the practice, I do want to define (if one can wrap words around it) what yoga nidra means. Most yogis teach that yoga means to ‘yoke’ or ‘union’. However, I think it’s important to note that ‘union’ with consciousness, with the divine, is only possible through liberation of attachment — attachment to desire, materialism, and most importantly attachment to thought. Nidra, means to slumber. So, yoga-nidra is a deep yogic slumber in which consciousness and deep rest are joined.
The practice began with some gentle stretching and restorative poses, then we all laid back as if in savasana, and listened to the sound of Sara’s voice as she took us through a progressive relaxation. She took us into a deeply relaxed state, to the edge of sleep and beyond, and yet I remained consciously aware of her voice and spaciousness.
At one point, I almost fell asleep, but I didn’t. I was extremely relaxed, but awake. My body temperature dropped like it does when I’m sleeping, and yet I did not dip below consciousness. There was no dreaming, I just was. Her voice continued to soothe and keep me from sleeping as I faded from one being among many, to pure spaciousness. I’ve talked in previous posts about how Transcendental meditation is like alka-seltzer, and this was very similar. The edges that separated me from the space around me started to dissolve like that alka-seltzer.
Deeply relaxed, she talked us back to awareness of the room. As I arose from my waking slumber, my body temperature began to rise and I felt tranquil, soft, and grateful.
It’s one thing to ‘get a good night’s sleep’ that may or may not be truly restful, but it’s quite another to allow the body the rest it needs, while providing the mind the opportunity to experience waking stillness. If you haven’t tried yoga nidra, run to the nearest studio and give yourself the gift of peace if only for an hour.
Thank you to Sara for a lovely experience, and thanks to all of the beautiful yogis in my life for just being.
– Your Charmed Yogi
Related post: Drain the dirty bathwater with meditation
Photo: Spirit Yoga Online