Explore deep relaxation and understanding through iRest® Yoga Nidra

iRest® Yoga Nidra is a form of meditative self enquiry that stems from the ancient teachings of yoga. Within each practice we learn to pay attention to the various feelings, sensations, emotions and thoughts that are constantly changing within our body and mind. This is a mindfulness practice which has a calming affect on the nervous system helping to release physical tension and quiet a busy mind. We learn too, that the sensations we experience are messengers providing us with information; when we listen, we may come to a deeper understanding about ourselves.

yoga-nidra

We learn through iRest to meet, greet and welcome all that arises in our awareness. As we practice acceptance, we learn to meet challenging feelings, emotions, thoughts and memories with a more relaxed response. As we practice acceptance, we don’t “get stuck” or fuse with our experience and therefore move beyond it. We learn to respond, rather than react to life.

iRest offers deep relaxation and can be helpful in managing stress, fear, depression, pain, insomnia and trauma. It is practiced in a comfortable position (usually lying down) and no previous yoga experience is required.

I have included a short iRest practice below. Allow 20 minutes where you will not be disturbed, find a comfortable seated or lying position using cushions and blankets as needed.

If you are interested in exploring iRest further, I run a regular 6 week online course.

Enjoy!

Experience Change through Awareness,Acceptance and Action

It can be really useful through the day to find time to pause. To notice when you feel a sense of busyness, rushing, doubting – and to notice how this feels: how it feels in your body and where you experience these feelings and sensations. Often we experience this as constriction or tightness in the belly, chest, perhaps in the hands or around the eyes.

The first step in creating change is to notice, to become aware. Then to simply take one mindful breath, and in that breath we can feel a shift from contraction to expansion. One breath will open the space within and that space will continue to grow and expand . Within this moment of presence there is an acceptance of what is. Acceptance creates a sense of expansion and freedom within. From here we open ourselves for more creativity and confidence to flow. We are not looking to change or fix but to shift the feeling from contraction to expansion and our awareness from wishing things were different to presence and acceptance.

Here is a short practice that can help you become aware of holding, constriction and tension in the body and how to change that experience through awareness, acceptance and action. The more we practice these skills, the easier and more effective they become and over time they become another tool you can draw upon whenever and wherever needed.

Sensory awareness

Through our five senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell, we interact and interpret the world around us. All this information is received through our somatic nervous system and relayed to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) for an appropriate response. This response is controlled by the hypothalamus (about the size of a pearl) which is involved in many functions of the body including:

  • Autonomic Function Control (sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous system)
  • Endocrine Function Control
  • Homeostasis (body constantly trying to find/maintain normal levels in water, sodium, blood sugar, O2, CO2, temperature, ph and blood pressure)
  • Motor Function Control
  • Food and Water Intake Regulation
  • Sleep-Wake Cycle Regulation
  • Limbic brain (emotions)

Relaxation Response

If we perceive though our senses, a stimulus to be stressful, the nervous system responds by inducing the sympathetic response called the fight, flight or freeze response. Under these conditions the body switches to high alert. When the nervous system perceives a calming response in the environment, it induces a parasympathetic response, or the relaxation response. In yoga we want to induce the parasympathetic response which allows for recovery, healing and digestion to take place.

 

Putting this into practice

In this recording, we internalise the experience of the 5 senses, withdrawing to our inner experience with heightened awareness. This focussed practice cultivates awareness and mindfulness, the key ingredients to finding inner quiet, peace and clarity.

Enjoy!

But when one lives amidst the world of senses, free from attachment and aversion alike, such a person attains serenity. And from serenity results cessation of all his sufferings. For in a person with a serene mind, wisdom soon becomes firmly set.   

The Bhagavad Gita (11.64-5)

More than a physical practice

When people think of yoga, it is often the postures that comes to mind – the physical practice (or Hatha yoga).  For me, yes of course the physical work is important, it helps us feel strong and supple, vibrant and at ease with our bodies.

Yoga, too is a practice of awareness. It is this mindfulness that transcends the physical into a spiritual practice. A teacher of mine often referred to yoga as “Your Own Growing Awareness”. I like that. The wonderful thing is that the discipline we learn on the mat begins to permeate all aspects of our life. We “tune’ into our bodies and mind with a heightened sense of observation and from here anything is possible.

When we navigate the waves of our emotions and the chatter of the mind with increased awareness, we sail an ocean of grace as master of our own ship.

A beautiful poem by Roger Keyes titled ‘Hokusai Says’

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive – shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.