Ask any bleary eyed commuter on a morning train to London, and they will probably agree that not getting enough sleep is like torture. (In fact, witholding sleep is a torture methodology used in war times. It is not a joke!)
We need to sleep for our bodies to rest, digest and recover. We process emotions while we sleep. We process toxins. Our bodies heal and our hormones reset themselves during sleep. So not getting enough can actually make us ill, cause depression and even weight-gain.
But how do we get enough rest when we struggle to sleep at night? A good way to get constructive rest is to practice Yoga nidra.
Yoga nidra or “yogic sleep” is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage. It is practicing to “hover” in that calm and quiet place between sleep and wakefulness, when the body is entirely relaxed but the mind is still slightly alert. So “yoga nidra” refers to the conscious awareness of the deep sleep state, rather than sleep itself.
During yoga nidra, the complete relaxation of the body helps us to become systematically and increasingly aware of our inner world by following a set of spoken instructions. Yoga nidra is effectively a form of guided meditation, although full meditation requires concentration on a single focus. In yoga nidra, we remain in a state of light withdrawal of the senses whilst only the hearing connects to the instructions. The instructions include a wandering excursion through the body in a rotation of consciousness, awareness of the breathing and feelings, and also a set of visualisations.
Yoga nidra, lucid sleep, is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. It’s a bit like being asleep, but not actually sleeping. And it is hugely restorative!
Yoga nidra is not about falling asleep but rather, inducing a state of deep relaxation and inner awareness. It soothes the body and helps to release the mind’s busy-ness with its often confusing and contradictory thoughts.
If done on a regular basis, this restorative practice is known to be beneficial for people who have physical pain and disabilities. The practice of Yoga Nidra relaxes, rejuvenates, and rebalances the mind, body and spirit.
Yoga relaxation has been found to reduce tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain respond well to this calming practice. It has even been used to help soldiers cope with symptoms of PTSD.
In my own case, yoga nidra has helped me to overcome severe insomnia. I sought knowledge about the subject because I was just so tired of never sleeping properly, feeling drained and mentally exhausted through lack of sleep and anxious about wandering through life like a sleep-deprived zombie.
The practise of yoga nidra helped me to find techniques for keeping my mind busy just enough to calm the racing and chattering, allowing me to naturally float into deep and restorative sleep. By teaching yoga nidra, I hope to share these techniques with anyone who wants to find head space, who wants to sleep and escape from insomnia in a safe, welcoming and loving-kindness filled environment. Or simply just those who want to relax and escape from the stresses of everyday life.
In my yoga nidra classes, I encourage the practice of pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses) by turning off the lights, or using eye masks for darkness. We reduce touch and feeling by making the body as comfortable as possible using bolsters, pillows and blankets, and thencreating a totally safe, quiet and still space for them to rest. The only disctraction during this time is my voice, gently anchoring the awareness and guiding students through the practice. I gently talk students into the practice, and then gently bring them back to full consciousness at the end, leaving a lot of time to find full wakefulness after the deep relaxation.
If you want to know more about the restorative benefits of Yoga Nidra, please email me here.
The next sleep event takes place on 8th December, with information and booking details behind this link.