As many of you reading this will know, yoga nidra has been my go-to practice for some time now.
My relationship with meditation* began many moons ago, but "yogic sleep" (essentially where the body settles and the mind is free to play) spoke more loudly to me during my first teacher training experience with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli - a radical and visionary yoga therapist who is playing a vital role in shaping the future of this tradition. Immersed in the world of Total Yoga Nidra - an awareness-expanding practice that she has co-pioneered - I unearthed creative, vast, healing spaces within myself that I'd never before encountered.
My stars had truly aligned. This increased exposure to the dream dimension coincided with a weird, scary and life-affirming time. One balmy summer's night there was a fire at my flat in Bristol, and I (again, thank you stars) woke up in time to get out.
Fast-forward a few months, and not only did the trauma live on, it thrived.
I was on high-alert, ready to run from all potential threats (and doing a hell of a lot more hip/glute focused asana as a consequence...). This is, of course, not an uncommon response. When met with unusual events the processing of the experience can take much, much longer. But as is so often the case, on the surface we are functioning; I was teaching full-time, doing arts consultancy on the side (saving pennies after most of my belongings had to be chucked - get home insurance, guys), and equipping myself with the tools to guide yoga for mamas-to-be. I think the distraction technique may have been my treatment of choice...
In truth, I wasn't sure how to peel back the layers without the whole of me crumbling.
What my body desperately craved was rest, and although I carried guilt about stopping - something which our culture views as indulgent - there were glimpses of feeling safe in my own body again. I'd lie on the ground (my preferred posture for nidra, but there are many options), cloak myself in a blanket of comfort, and listen - sometimes back-to-back - to meditation recordings from the likes of Uma, Dr. Richard Miller and Mel Skinner. Live nidra, especially when experienced in a circle of sleeping bodies and roaming minds, is a whole other level. During the fortnight I spent in London for my pre-natal course, we would take this practice several times a day and as the other teachers I met will attest to, it was like a homecoming, a warm welcome to a place of heartfelt connection.
The ability to rest is valuable, and like anything else you want to master and access readily, it takes learning (or arguably, an un-learning of our obsession with productivity). Busyness is addictive - in the West we've built culture on the foundations of meritocracy: be better, get healthier, adjust quicker, act faster, and the winner takes it all. But success and contentedness are two different things. More than once, after a traumatic event I have been more fussed about achieving than I have about giving my body permission to rest and restore, and space to set my mind free from chains of fear that had tightened due to life dealing a difficult card.
Nidra - and forgive me if this sounds grandiose and ridiculous - made me feel full, in the best kind of way. It is a practice which is gently energising, can be applied therapeutically and - depending on your facilitator - operates beyond the realms of dogma. There is no right or wrong, since your experience is as unique as you are. Consider each meditation your intellectual dream-state property.
If this has spiked your interest...
Here is a restorative yoga practice
And here is something to soothe your nervous system before bed (because that's when all kinds of mental clutter can appear)
*There are many forms of meditation: if sitting in lotus pose attempting to "clear your mind of thoughts" (as if that's a thing!) hasn't worked for you then know that there are many approaches that may be more up your street.
Get in touch to explore the best way in for you - whether it's with myself or another certified, knowledgable guide, it can be life-changing to tap into your resources of power, well-being and insight.
IMAGES - from a visit to The Sky Den, Northumberland / video content "Do Less For Longer"