Depending upon one’s dexterity, there are many Yoga asanas which are considered to be beyond our capacity such as the sitting position of Full Lotus or the flexibility and strength required in the yogic posture of Pincha Mayurasana – Forward Stand.
Outside of Yoga class if I asked you where you experienced your current greatest life challenge you might respond, “Finding time to relax,” Sleeping through the night”, Handling all of my various responsibilities” or “Letting go.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, the National
Department of Transportation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 million people suffer from insomnia and many more have lost the art of how to truly rest.
For some people it takes great effort to resist turning on the television, and, once it’s spiraling on, it can become even harder to turn off. We are often mesmerized and trapped by its constant promises of happiness and freedom while time drains away from other more nourishing pursuits.
In this day and age of over-exertion, over-extension, overstimulation via caffeine or media sensationalism, excessive noise and shallow breathing, true relaxation has been pushed aside. Replaced by activity and consumed by the effort, we often think ourselves lazy if we aren’t busy. And, in a state of busyness, the ability to be fully present often becomes lost in forward moving, frenetic activity. Wisdom becomes drowned out by automatic responses that left unchecked encourage a frenzied life.
Yoga Nidra is the perfect antidote to these stresses of the day and the current cultural norm. Part Shavasana (corpse pose for deep rejuvenation), part Pratyahara (the ability to quiet the mind beyond associations, opinions, habitual ways of processing information and cultural programming), part Pratipaksha Bhavana (intentionally replacing one thought with another), part surrender, part deep breathing, part focusing the mind and part deep relaxation; it is a beautiful synthesis of yogic techniques.
As your mind adjusts to settling into Yoga Nidra the body is reminded how to lean into itself while your internal organs begin to unwind. Blood pressure regulates, accumulated stress begins to dissipate, adrenal glands are soothed and breathing slows and deepens. Your body’s natural healing powers are given space and allowed to rise while surrendering into deep peace.
The state of consciousness that is cultivated in Yoga Nidra is called Turiya; ‘sleepless sleep.’ It is often described as hovering between wakefulness and sleep. In Turiya, you are fully conscious, completely still and deeply relaxed. If you have fallen asleep in Yoga Nidra, as so many people new to this practice do, the subtle and nuanced state of Turiya has shifted and been replaced by a denser form of consciousness called sleep. With practice though, Turiya is blissfully experienced for longer and longer stretches of time.
Students who practice nourishing the state of Turiya in Yoga Nidra begin to relish the cumulative benefits of this restorative experience. As your awareness develops you notice that your body relaxes and your mind shifts into stillness. It becomes calmer and you learn to observe thoughts while understanding the interconnectedness between body, breath and mind. Other areas of your life are elevated as well. You discover that your sleep is richer, accessing compassion is easier and your capacity for kindness expands. With deeper awareness, wisdom is now at center stage and you begin to see things more clearly without the veils of clouded thought and habitual patterns of viewing.
Additionally, Yoga Nidra has often been called a “karma buster.” Part of the karmic experience involves how you respond to situations and with a calmer body and mind you respond to things from a conscious awareness rather than an unconscious ignorance.
“Thoughts can create such a barrier that even if you are standing before a beautiful flower, you will not be able to see it. Your eyes are covered with layers of thought. To experience the beauty of the flower you have to be in a state of meditation, not in a state of ‘mentation.’ You have to be silent, utterly silent, not even a flicker of thought – and the beauty expands, reaches to you from all directions. You are drowned in the beauty of a sunrise, of a starry night, of beautiful trees.”—Yogic Wisdom
In more progressive states of Yoga Nidra you can learn how to utilize a sankalpa (an intentional thought) to move past destructive behavior into a more inspired and easeful life. Yoga Nidra is one of the best ways to exert some control in a world where very little is up to you. Even the word, “control” is used lightly here. For instance, in Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras the word ‘control’ means not suppressing or forcing but simply ‘managing’ with awareness.
The practice of Yoga Nidra helps remind us that we are, among other things, dynamic beings capable of much more than our limited thoughts teach.
Successfully practiced, Yoga Nidra trains you to calm the mind, teaches you how to let go rather than hold on, calms anxious energy, diminishes depression, increases access to your inner wisdom and aids in your meditation. It is a very subtle and profound practice which yields the abundant fruit of awareness.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Stacy Kamala Waltman is a Certified Life Coach, Certified Meditation Teacher, Certified E-RYT 500 Svaroopa Hatha Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga of Recovery Teacher and Yoga Nidra Master. An Integral Yoga student for over 30+ years, the name Kamala was given to her by Sri Swami Satchidananda at the age of 18 years old. Kamala ascribes her level of depth and capacity to instruct to his teachings and encouragement.
Kamala’s company, Kamala Yoga and Integration Coaching, is known for its Stress Management Systems. Her Sleep Recovery Program was recently featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She says, “Some people keep others entertained. I put people to sleep!” Kamala has a five CD Yoga Nidra program on Amazon.com and is a sought-out presenter giving workshops and programs on a variety of subsubjects in several settings
including Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville.
(By Kamala Waltman, from the May, 2014 IYTA Newsletter)