I had a really stressful day at work. If truth be told, it’s been a stressful week. I’m tired. I want some comfort food. I don’t want to work out. I want to curl up with my kitties, eat some roasted cauliflower with olive oil, baked sweet potatoes and the rest of the bread pudding. And, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It’s dark outside rainy, and I have a big weekend planned. I need the downtime really bad. My friend Billy invited me out to Superior Grill, but I know that I have to take care of my needs, or I’ll be dead in the water on Saturday, and I plan on having a fun, full day on Saturday.
I wrote last night about resisting yoga, but there’s one kind of yoga that I never having any trouble resisting. The word yoga means “to yoke”, and I’ve heard that it means to yoke the body, mind and spirit in order to root the practitioner into the present. I’ve also heard it called a moving meditation. But, the truth is that the poses that we Westerners think is yoga is really only one of the limbs of yoga. There is the yoga of pranayama which harnesses and controls the breath to calm the body and center the mind. There is also a yoga of service which has nothing to do with poses or the breath at all. It’s about creating mindfulness by doing acts of service. Asana is the limb of yoga that is physical with the postures that we recognize. These postures were originally used to prepare the body to sit in meditation. And, if you go back and look at the yoga in the east, it is nowhere as sexy and stylized as today’s current yoga. I won’t go into all the limbs of yoga, but the kind of yoga that I never resist … the kind I love and long for … is a practice called yoga nidra.
Often, I like yoga because of its physical benefits, but my primary love for yoga comes from it’s spiritual component. The spirituality for me is not about religion; it’s about getting in touch with my spirit – my soul – the core of who I am. And, in order to do that, I have to let go of all that I think I am in this world. Yoga Nidra gets me there. Yoga nidra means yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. The first time I practiced yoga nidra was in my yoga teacher training class. They wanted us to experience all of the different practices of yoga that we could, and there was a teacher in Northwest Indiana who practiced with yoga nidra. It is a 45 minute lying meditation designed to bring you into – as he described it – bliss. We were told that if we were really tired we might fall asleep, but in time we could practice yoga nidra with full awareness in the mind, but the body would be sleeping. This first teacher talked us through yoga nidra by helping us to let go of several sheaths of the body. The first was the physical sheath, then the breath, then the mind, and finally the emotions. We spent most of the time in physical sheath because we, as humans, are VERY connected to our physical bodies. If we can’t let those go, we can’t let go of anything else, and the point of this practice is to completely let go.
I won’t describe the entire practice, but one of the more interesting elements of it is when the teacher urges the student to feel the emotions of anger and love, joy and hate… he had us actually feel emotions and then go back and forth, alternating between the polar opposites. It was very impactful for me to realize that I could CREATE emotion in my body just as if it was really happening. I never before really believed that emotion is really a function of the brain and our belief systems. But, when I was able to do it and feel it – it was very real – and then turn it off, on command, I realized the power of my brain over my emotional state.
About 30 minutes into the yoga nidra, I did fall asleep. I was so mad when I woke up that I missed bliss. But, I bought a cd of the practice and was finally able to stay aware enough to sit in a state of bliss. It was pretty darn amazing. Truly, at the core of who we are, when we let go of our bodies and our minds, our spirits are nothing but bliss. It’s just getting to that point that is the issue. But, yoga nidra can take you there. That’s why I love this practice. Anytime I get in a period of anxiety or start having insomnia, all I have to do is practice yoga nidra with my CD a couple of nights in a row, and it totally shifts me out of it. In fact, when I’ve been depressed, I can do yoga nidra, and, at a certain point, I can feel my depression lift. It works like clockwork for me. I just have to make the 45 minutes to do it.
I looked for yoga studios here in Baton Rouge, and there’s actually a studio in walking distance from me that specializes in yoga nidra. They have professional trainings for teachers on how to conduct it, and they practice it almost every day for students. I’m definitely going to go to one of their workshops in the near future. I’ve practiced it with other teachers, and each teacher has their own methodology, but they are all good. They all get me to the point of letting go. They get me to the state of bliss. I think I need some bliss tonight.
If you are interested in yoga nidra, you can google it and find different practices and versions. There are shorter versions, but, if you can make the time, the longer version is divine. I recommend Amy Weintraub’s Yoga Nidra, and I recommend Mike Zolfo’s version from the Yoga Room in Indiana. I have both of those CDs. Mike’s practice is the one that I experienced first. I didn’t see it listed for sale on his website, but it might be available for purchase if you call him. If not, send me a message. I’ll see what I can do about getting you a copy. Incidentally, Amy Weintraub teaches Lifeforce Yoga which is for depression, and she has an excellent book on how to cure depression with yoga. I’ve been to her workshops, and it works – but you have to practice it regularly. I took her book to a printer and got it spiral-bound, and I’ve marked it up like crazy. It was a life saver for me when I was struggling with depression.
I know this. I will feel different when I’m done tonight with my yoga nidra practice. My animals love it. They can sense my relaxation, and they gather round and lay on top of me and beside me. I think we all benefit from the state of bliss. I can’t wait! Namaste, Y’all!