Richard Miller: Integrative Restoration, Yoga Nidra – The Pilot Light

 play-iconRichard Miller: Integrative Restoration, Yoga Nidra

“What is the singular thread that runs through every spiritual tradition? Yoga nidra (nidra means “sleep” in Yoga) gives us a framework off of which to hang so many teachings. Yoga nidra is like a tree with many branches that many spiritual teachings can hang off of, and the main trunk is the singularity. Yoga nidra offers many branches to hang Eastern teachings off of, and one can also hang many Western teachings off of it too. We can see every western psychological approach and every eastern approach reflect one another, but we can also see the singularity within them that they all share in common, and so East and West fall away into one singularity of understanding. We can learn how to welcome the fact that all that we are is an expression that comes out of this deep mystery that has given birth to the entire cosmos. Everything, everything is part of that mystery. Every thought, every emotion, every body sensation, every person, every tree, every rock is that mystery incarnate. So, you have to think, ‘What am I trying to get rid of? What am I trying to change?’”

Richard Miller, PhD, spiritual teacher, yogic scholar, and clinical psychologist, has devoted 46 years to integrating Western psychology and neuroscience with the Eastern nondual wisdom teachings of yoga, Taoism, Buddhism, and the Judeo-Christian traditions. Developer of the research-based Integrative Restoration iRest Meditation program, Richard is founding president of the Integrative Restoration Institute, co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, past founding president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology, and author of iRest Meditation, The iRest Program for Healing PTSD, and Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga. Richard leads retreats and trainings internationally, emphasizing enlightened living in daily life.

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Mindful U host David DeVine with Richard Miller, PhD.

Full transcript

Richard Miller
“Integrative Restoration, Yoga Nidra” [MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And itÕs a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC] [00:00:44.11] DAVID:
Hello, today I’d like to welcome a very special guest to the podcast and the Naropa community, Richard Miller. Richard is a clinical psychologist, a yoga scholar, an author and a spiritual teacher. He is also the founder of multiple organizations. And itÕs a pleasure to be speaking with you today so thank you for coming. [00:01:02.00] RICHARD MILLER:
Thank you for having me. ItÕs a pleasure to be here. [00:01:04.11] DAVID:
Yeah, and you’re just fresh off of a workshop that you just did here at Naropa. So, itÕs just really fun to kind of catch you at the end of it. Your kind of new experiences we can just talk about. ItÕs really fun to have you. [00:01:15.23] RICHARD MILLER:
Absolutely. I’m ready to dive in. [00:01:19.02] DAVID:
Awesome. So, I’m kind of curious who are you? How did you come to where you are? What inspired you to do the work you’re doing — say for instance, there is a listener out there that doesnÕt necessarily know who you are. How did you get to where you are now? [00:01:33.13] RICHARD MILLER:
I love to tell this interesting story. I grew up on the east coast. In Princeton, New Jersey. And, came out to California where I now reside back in 1967 for the first time and loved it so much, when I graduated from college in 1970, I just packed up my car and drove right to San Francisco and when I got to the city, I didn’t know anyone. And somehow, 1970 I decided to take a yoga class at the Integral Yoga Institute run by Swami Satchidananda. And little did I know that the class was going to be taught in silence for 12 weeks.

So, over the course of 12 weeks we came into the building in silence. We did the practices in silence except for the teacher and we left in silence, so I never met a soul. But I like to say at the end of the first class — when the teacher taught a rudimentary – what I now know as yoga nidra meditation I had a life transformative moment.

Where I left the building feeling deeply connected both to myself and a sense of my place in the universe — this sense of unitiveness. And as I was walking home that evening — this kind spontaneous vow rose up to one — what just happened? And what was this practice that we just did? And how can I learn more? Now, back then I was a — graduated as a BS in psychology. And, I was exploring San Francisco in ways that I might learn the art of psychotherapy. And I was volunteering at suicide prevention as — on the phones.

And, I started volunteering at this interesting clinic where I met a woman Laura Cummings who was willing to take me on as a student to learn psychotherapy. She herself had grown up in the far east. She had learned yoga from her mother who was half Chinese and she grow up in a Buddhist community. She had been trained personally by Erich Fromm and an associate of RD Lang.

So, when she took me on and I started mentoring with her she actually would invite into every session she gave and then we’d talk afterwards and debrief what had happened, but then right from the beginning she was helping me understand the integration of yoga, Buddhism, psychotherapy, existential phenomenological from the perspective of Robert Halsh who she had studied with — with RD Lang and humanistic psychology.

So, looking back now — it was a complete integration. I never saw psychology in spirituality as separate. They all felt very unified. Now, also in those days I decided to sit as well as doing yoga — Zen. So, I was sitting Zen and sitting in Mahayana Buddhism because Laura was Mahayana Buddhist. So, all these practices were coming into my life. I met a wonderful remarkable teacher who had come from China. His great grandfather had been the physician to the emperor of China. And I started studying Chinese medicine with him — Daoist yoga. Started practicing acupuncture. And, opened a yoga studio. So, I have got all these balls in the air in learning psychotherapy. I am learning Chinese medicine. I am studying yoga. I am studying Buddhism and they are all coming together in an area what I now see was a unique way.

[00:05:43.08] DAVID:
Wow, everything you’ve just said sounds extremely unique and just extremely enriching of so much spirit and thought and body practice and just mindfulness in general. ItÕs very interesting to kind of hear that story — it almost seems like you didn’t have a direction. And the direction chose you almost? [00:06:02.18] RICHARD MILLER:
You know itÕs true because in those days I was trying to feel in what’s my dharma. What’s my work in the world? And going between psychology and yoga and Buddhism there came a moment where I started a clinic — a psychology clinic where I started a clinic — a psychology clinic with Laura and another of her students. But after a couple of years of doing it and I was only in my early 20s — I realized I felt — I didn’t have the maturity to really sit with people in the way that I was being asked to sit with people’s very intimate issues.

So, I decided to leave the field of psychology and dive headlong into the field of yoga and Chinese medicine and so for a number of years — I really just dove deeply into the teachings of yoga and Chinese medicine and all the literature in terms of Buddhism and the different teachings. Also found my way to India with a teacher in India – TKV Desikachar studying yoga therapy. When I came back from India that was 1980, I continued my studies with Chinese medicine having actually taken my needles to India and I worked in a free clinic for three months there but when I came back, I realized I was kind of complete with Chinese medicine and it was really the yoga and the psychology which were now driving me.

And, I soon met who would become ultimately wife Ann. And I remember taking a long walk in the hills contemplating what am I doing and what’s my work in the world and I’m a yogi living out of my studio with basically my loin cloth and a….and I remember taking this walk in the hills of Fairfax and this voice came out of nowhere and it said — it was like God speaking to me, Richard — psychotherapy.

And a week later, I had an office. I had clients. And I still had my yoga studio and I took off in the domain of really integrating now and feeling now I was in my early 30s feeling much more mature and ready to sit with clients.

[00:08:23.00] DAVID:
There is so many lenses in which you are able to look through and you’ve studied a lot of different modalities of thought, spirit, healing, energetic liveliness and just learning how to thrive pretty much. And it just seems a very unique perspective in which you hold only or maybe other’s hold too but like you have such a unique approach to this thing that you’re creating ultimately. And itÕs just really cool to like witness and hear this story. [00:08:54.03] RICHARD MILLER:
Yeah, for me looking back at times I would feel disoriented or not knowing but it always felt I was looking for what felt right. I wasn’t so much interested in the path say that my parents might have wanted me to be in because I was kind of a black sheep in the family — I used to send them books that I was reading and write them long letters and they send me back the books and they would say Richard you don’t understand we’re dogs, you’re cats and dogs don’t really understand cats. And we would actually joke about it. And actually my — I wrote a letter to my dad one time talking all about what I was doing, and he wrote me back. He said — and I still have the letter. That was the most beautiful letter I think I’ve ever received in my life — I didn’t understand a word you said, but just that you took time to write.

So, for me it was always trying to feel what felt right. And, that really develops within me I would say the inner compass that has through the years has really helped me stay on course.

[00:10:03.06] DAVID:
I am starting to realize that everyone has the same mechanisms in which we all have so we are able to understand each other but there might be some layovers and or different ways of looking at it from the natural go to ways. Maybe changing the mind — the neuroplasticity of thought or changing the energetic plasticity of your heart. Or something like that. We all have the same apparatuses, so we can understand each other. The understanding languages. [00:10:32.23] RICHARD MILLER:
I think of them as familial overlays, cultural overlays, overlays from our personal experience, which can obstruct of sensing what’s the right direction and I kept really exploring those kind of cultural morays I grew up in. And the family morays and really trying to discern what was my path and then drawing on the strengths because I grew up in a very loving family — so I drew upon the strengths of those, but I had to in a way set aside a number of the morays that I grew up and I — I did feel at times terror, fear. Because I felt like I was in unknown territory constantly. I didn’t have anything to hold onto that I knew. And yet, I felt the strength of the teachings and the modalities I was immersing myself in — and it felt like they were my safe haven showing me the way.

So, for me it feels like itÕs been life showing me what to do and I’ve been getting better and better at following marching orders that I am constantly being given in my life.

[00:11:47.01] DAVID:
Well, it seems like you are doing a great job. [00:11:48.07] RICHARD MILLER:
Well, we’re trying the best we know how. [00:11:51.17] DAVID:
Awesome. So, from what I am hearing is there such an inspiration from the eastern way of living and also the western way of living and what I really appreciate about you and your work is you’re doing this bridging kind of effort between both — you’re respecting both, you’re understanding, you’re learning and then you are bringing them together. And my question for you is how does that show up in the way you teach, why bring them together — clinical psychology and yoga. How much more powerful is that to you than just showing as a clinical psychologist? [00:12:27.17] RICHARD MILLER:
I have to give credit and gratitude to that first mentor Laura who helped me make that integration and really inquiry into myself as what’s my path. The eastern teachings for some reason — itÕs a mystery kept drawing me to them, but I was well read in eastern and western psychology and the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir nondualism. So, I felt this kind of early on a split and which would take me and slowly they integrated more and more so they felt like an integrated path.

Now, my dad was a medical doctor. I grew up reading his textbooks at night when he would go to bed. I would sneak down and read all these weird books that he had in his library about surgery. He was a surgeon. And, when I got into psychology of course we were reading deeply into research and how the mind works and all of that. As I got involved in yoga, it occurred to me in my early teachers when I would ask them why are you asking me to do this — they basically say well trust me.

And I had a very untrusting mind. I wanted to know why this was working. So, I started combing the literature for research and there was research coming out of India in those days and some early research out of the Menninger Foundation here in the states. So, I started reading and diving into all the literature and research both on the western side and the eastern side.

Years later in the mid 80s a friend of mine Larry Payne and I decided to come together and form and found the IAYT — the International Association for Yoga Therapy. And, what I realize was on the yoga side — or Buddhist side — people didn’t really have access to the research. I had all this access to the research. So, I thought why not create journal where I could make this research available to people and teachers, students of yoga who otherwise might not know that it exists. [00:14:48.10] So, very early on I started bringing it out in writings to help both myself because it was my interests, but then the people I was working with and of course the journal for the International Yoga Association.

[00:15:01.22] DAVID:
Interesting. I just randomly thought of this. Do you feel like the western mind is the — why? Has the like — it doesn’t have the like trust you know and then the eastern mind might be like oh I trust my teacher. I am just going to do what they say and then uncover the teachings in which they are ultimately teaching me? [00:15:20.14] RICHARD MILLER:
No, I reflect what you are saying. I think so. There is — in India you trust the guru. You trust the lineage. You trust everything. In the West, we really have an inquisitive mind. We’re trying to understand the why’s or the how’s. Now, I was fortunate when I went to India and studied with TKV Desikachar. In even our first lesson, he said look I am an eastern practitioner. I grew up in India. You’re a westerner. I don’t want you to take the eastern teachings and impose it onto the western mind. Can we work together to help you understand how to take these teachings from the east into the western world — in the wester mind. So, to make that integration and I took that very much to heart. So, I was fortunate with Laura who came from the Far East. She was very much in the mind of what is your experience? So, both trusting your heart but understanding in a way the why’s and the how’s then Desikachar opened me to that and then later on I met another spiritual teacher Juan Kline and it was fun when I used to study with him, I’d be taking notes about what he was saying. And he’d wander around the room at times and he’d come over and he’d look at my notes and he’d look at me. And then he’d look at my notes and then he’d look at me and then he’d say point to me and he’d said make it your own.

So, I feel fortunate that the teachers I found my way to were helping me from the inside out understand these teachings. They were all supportive of me diving in the research and making this integration of how do we take these precious eastern teachings into a western mind we might say. And use them more as points of self inquiry rather than just digesting a whole new philosophy.

What I came to understand is all the teachings are built on self inquiries that are really designed to help us come upon our own understanding. And so, that’s the way that I’ve integrated, and I try to bring it out when I am teaching.

[00:17:48.15] DAVID:
It seems as though through the self-inquiry is where the real teaching — the healing, the developing the energy within the thriving is actually where that happens, and the teachers are there to be a reflection and or someone to provide information. [00:18:05.15] RICHARD MILLER:
Yeah, I think of teachers as sacred mirrors. They’re helping us reflect back to our self and really dive deeply into our self and bring that understanding that is already in there that is innate and bring it out so that we can recognize it and then apply it in action. [00:18:24.20] DAVID:
They make it seem not as scary because if you do it on your own there is some — you’re like oh I don’t know about that. [00:18:31.08] RICHARD MILLER:
Right, or we get lost in different avenues and the teacher if itÕs a really good teacher can help us stay more on track. There is another point here, which you’re making me think of which is when I first learned some of these practices and I was invited to teach in the early 70s I was taking the teachings from India and bringing it to my students.

But I began to wonder. I was asking to see certain images, colors, forms that I had learned — certain sounds. I began to be curious what are their images, their colors, their forms, their sounds. So, I started letting go of the eastern teachings, but using the inquiries that I was learning from these east. So, I started asking people when you feel into your body — where is the sensation that’s drawing your attention and when you go here in your body can you describe it and are there any particular images, colors, forms that are coming out of your psyche that are particular to your culture, family, history whatever?

What I found was the practices actually became more powerful. Because people were really excited in their awakening from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

[00:19:58.16] DAVID:
I like that idea too because then you are inviting them to feel what they’re authentically having show up instead of inserting this maybe you should see it this way. I was actually sitting in on the last hour of your teaching that you just finished your workshop with and you were like does anyone else have any like colors or ideas and I wrote mine down. And I think of it as an ingredients because we are all mentally cooking something, and you talked about like steeping in the stew and all that and so I think of things that we work with they’re just cooking ingredients. And itÕs how we cook it, how we prep it, what ingredients we use that gives us our energetic nutrients and how we move forward and — how we grow our gardens. [00:20:41.07] RICHARD MILLER:
Yeah, you were suggesting earlier which I — I agree with which is all the ingredients are already here inside of this and we’re learning to recognize them, bringing them forward and as you say in your metaphor put them in the stew pot and then they start to cook and we get a really good flavor going and then I think is one of Rumi’s poems he talks about the chickpeas are constantly trying to leap out of the pot before they are cooked and on a good teaching and teacher keeps us in a way stewing until we’re fully cooked. [00:21:13.19] DAVID:
Ok, yeah, I really like that. LAUGHS. Awesome. So, you are a PhD in clinical psychology and you’re also a yoga practitioner, scholar, how does psychology and yoga show up for you together? How do you teach them together and how does that relationship between the two empower your teachings more? [00:21:36.10] RICHARD MILLER:
This practice that I was introduced to in my first yoga session, which I now know was a rudimentary yoga nidra. I really started looking into the Upanishads, the sacred literature, and trying to understand what is this practice?

So, yoga, what I’ve come to understand and really feel is — the embodied feeling of our interconnectedness with our self and our place in the universe. So, we feel at one with everything.

Nidra while it means sleep in yoga, I came to understand is a changing state of consciousness. So, yoga nidra was a form where we were coming to know our interconnected wholeness both as a separate human being but also as a unique expression and at one with the universe. No matter the state of consciousness. So, we come upon this really delicious inner somatic felt sense — itÕs a unitive consciousness and we’re able to feel it whether we’re happy, sad, irritated, whatever is going on. Then I started looking at the different elements that made up the practice. And along the way I was picking up the teachings of Samkhya, Patanjali, Advaita Vedanta and the Saivism unqualified nondualism.

But as I said I was also studying into Daoist yoga. I was studying Mahayana Buddhism and Zen. And along the way delving into Zazen and Mahamudra. I began to wonder what’s the singular thread through all these different teachings? I also at one time considered becoming a minister and was headed for the ministry and ultimately came back to the yoga because I realized if I went to the ministry, I’d still be back here doing what I am doing.

I was always interested in what’s the singular thread that runs through every spiritual tradition? And the yoga nidra gave me a framework with which I could began to hang off every teaching I had ever been exposed to. The yoga nidra for me is like a tree with all these branches that the teachings I can hang off of — but the main trunk is that kind of singularity that they all have in common.

So, as I began to either both practice and then teach it — and get reflections from my — while I was teaching and then working within psychology, I began to see both yoga nidra was an ability for me to hang all the eastern teachings off of. But also, then I realized I could hang all the western teachings on it too. And all of the sudden the clarity became so amazing where I could see every western psychological approach, every eastern approach reflecting one another, but the singularity within them that they all shared in common and so east and west for me fell away into this singularity of understanding.

[00:24:55.06] DAVID:
They are so compatible with each other. You have such an interdisciplinary way of looking at everything. Before I was 14 years old, I almost became like 6 different religions and then I was 21 I found Buddhism and what I realized with Buddhism is spirit is within. You don’t have to have a community, but it always helps to have a community. And I realized — the thing I was searching for was like already inside of me. And it sounds like uh when you’re searching for the thing to hang it on — the trunk what you’re actually going for is the authenticity based in truth and love. And, all those things are trying to teach you how to be authentic, but they just have the different modality of getting you there. You know itÕs like you’re choosing a different route, but you have the same destination in which you’re going to and itÕs just all based on finding yourself, finding your higher path and I just love how you’re — you just took them all together and you made your stew. You know itÕs like the — the trunk was the pot in which you put all the ingredients in. [00:26:00.19] RICHARD MILLER:
And as you’re saying it, it reflects back to me what I discovered that there are kind of 4 movements in our development. The first really for us — as human beings I think is to become a good integrated individuated human being. Friendly terms with our emotions, our thoughts, our body sensation. So that we can responsible to all of our emotions in every situation that comes. [00:26:29.08] I think there is in where the strength of the western psychology lives.

It really has the tools and offers us the tools of how to be a good integrated healthy ego that feels our self as separate. Then the eastern teachings come in and they really help us how to wake up out of that census separation. Find our place in the universe where we feel a unity with everything. And no sense of separation. And then how do we bring that back down, reembody it in ourselves with our emotions, our thoughts and then take that into our relationships, into our work, our life and all the aspects. Along the way I found at points like I had two teachers in Advaita and at times they both independently because they didn’t know each other told me if you really want to realize these sacred Indian teachings and really become enlightened you’re going to have to leave your family, leave your job, check into a monastery and we’d support you in doing that.

And I thought to myself, I am a westerner. I’ve got children. I’ve got a wife who I love. I’ve got a job that I really enjoy. If I can’t realize these teachings within a western lifestyle their really not going to work for anybody. So, it became my challenge I would say to make this integration of how do I take these very precious eastern teachings, the precious western teachings that I absorbed — bring them together and use them to awaken as a westerner in the midst of circumstances, job, children, family.

And what I came to discover is really nothing needs to get in the way. Everything is in a way manure and fertilizer for our awakening.

[00:28:37.03] DAVID:
How else we’re you going to grow that flower? You know what I mean? To get that essence of the pure beauty through the compost. [00:28:43.21] RICHARD MILLER:
Well, that’s my sense that really to become an awake human being operating on all 12 cylinders — we have to be on friendly terms with our body, our mind. We have to learn how to welcome all that we are — and one of the insights I’ve had personally is for me everything I look at — is an expression that comes out of this deep mystery that has given birth to the entire cosmos.

And so, when I look around at everything, I realize everything — is part of that mystery. Everything thought, every emotion, everybody sensation, every person, every tree, every rock is the mystery incarnate. So, what am I trying to get rid of? What am I trying to change? So, my practice has really been of one of welcoming everything as expressions of that underlying mystery that I am. That you are. And, embodying that in every moment — and what I found is that awakens tremendous compassion, love, really grounded sense of deep safety within ourselves and when we see everything as our self actually it brings an end to conflict and war.

Because we become intimately interested in everything.

[00:30:16.17] DAVID:
And, it almost seems as though through the relationship building of becoming friends with one self like the heart and the mind channel ways. Once they stop arguing then the ickiness kind of just dissolves. Or realizing it never was there is kind of self-inflicted or just made up. [00:30:37.08] RICHARD MILLER:
Learned habits I would say. And — [00:30:40.00] DAVID:
You just — we need to clear our perspectives. [00:30:42.18] RICHARD MILLER:
Yeah, and I like that image everything loses its stickiness and it just becomes very delicious and even the difficult challenging moments — I mean still as a human being have my preferences. I’d like to feel good. And I’d like everything to run smoothly, but when things don’t — I am able to welcome them in and I use everything as a messenger. So, an emotion, a thought, a difficult circumstance — I’m trying to look at — how can this teach me so that I can feel I am responding in this moment and in harmony with the universe rather than just a separate ego trying to make my way in the world. [00:31:25.15] DAVID:
Yeah, what is the medicine in this moment? [00:31:27.21] RICHARD MILLER:
Nice. [00:31:28.21] DAVID:
And how do we use that? Yeah, one thing that I am realizing in my life is there seems as though there has been a lot of like things I don’t agree with happening in my life, but what I’ve realized is if you show up in truth and love and you make your decisions rooted in that there might be some momentary pain but you ultimately are tending to the garden of your energy and it will only serve you. It will only help you out if you step forward in that in every moment. Which isn’t easy — sometimes, but the more you do it the more you just kind of default to just being really good hearted. [00:32:04.15] RICHARD MILLER:
Life is challenging, and I think these tools that we’re talking about from the east and the west — there the ownerÕs manual we may not have gotten when we were a kid — and they’re giving us the tools with which to be and grow that garden. And grow that capacity to feel tremendous love and self-kindness and compassion both for our self and the people we are in relationship with. [00:32:30.14] DAVID:
And its ok to update your operating system. [00:32:33.00] RICHARD MILLER:
All the time. [00:32:35.22] DAVID:
Awesome. So, I want to speak a little bit about iRest. Naropa invited you for the weekend workshop for the Breeze of Simplicity and you had like a packed house of people just laying down and through guided meditation and conversation — can you tell us what iRest is. It was — its an organization you started or is it a process or — can you just tell me what that is? [00:32:56.22] RICHARD MILLER:
Well, right now itÕs a little bit of both. Originally, I learned it as yoga nidra. A form of meditation coming out of the yoga tradition. And I taught it as yoga nidra for many years. In 2004, I was invited by Walter Reed Army Medical Center to do a study using the program with wounded warriors coming back from war with post-traumatic stress syndrome. When I started to engage the research — they came to me and they said you know — we’re army. We’re marines. We’re Navy. We don’t do yoga. Yoga is for sissies. Call it something else. [00:33:37.22] DAVID:
You’ll be surprised. [00:33:39.02] RICHARD MILLER:
Well, I thought about it and I thought ok let’s call it integrative restoration. So integrative because I think these practices integrate our psyche and help us become a — a potentially aided fully individuated awake human being. And restorative because they restore this innate sense of wholeness and unity consciousness to the forefront of our awareness. And back in 2004, everything was iPad and iPhone so why not iRest. I for integrative and a small “I” which for me means the ego is helping find its proper functioning which is not the driver. [00:34:20.02] DAVID:
I see what you did there. [00:34:21.00] RICHARD MILLER:
ItÕs just a passenger. And then restoration. So, the — the military came back to me and said we can do integrative restoration. So, we entered into the research and it was so successful to this date any wounded warrior going through their healing process at Walter Reed Army Medical Center can take our program as part of their healing regimen. A couple of years later I got a call from the head psychiatrist and he said you know we love your program. ItÕs been highly successful. We’ve decided you can call it anything you want.

So, we call it — integrative restoration iRest yoga nidra meditation.

[00:35:03.00] DAVID:
Whoa. [00:35:03.16] RICHARD MILLER:
And the reason I do that is I go into a lot of homeless shelters, clinics, a chemical dependency units, hospitals, all over the world, VA, DOD sites. I teach then — iRest. So, when I say to someone when they ask me what do you do and I say well, I teach iRest. They are very curious. They go well what’s that? I have an open door now to talk about anything. When I go to a yoga center, I teach yoga nidra. Because that’s the words that they are familiar with. When I go to a Buddhist meditation center, I teach meditation. But itÕs all the same. So, the words I think give us access because long ago when I’d be on a plane and somebody said what do you do? And I’d say well I teach yoga. And they’d immediately say oh I need to exercise more.

So, I decided to say I teach meditation and then they would say oh — I need to relax more. And I realized if I said I teach yoga or mediation I was immediately put in a box.

[00:36:13.17] DAVID:
Assumptions show up. [00:36:15.11] RICHARD MILLER:
But if somebody says well what do you teach, and I say oh I teach iRest and they go well what’s that? And now I have the freedom to talk about anything. [00:36:22.22] DAVID:
Interesting because then they — they show up with a question. They rebuttal. They are like well tell me more. And I’d love to/ [00:36:29.11] RICHARD MILLER:
Exactly. And the other thing is when I go into an organization like a homeless shelter or the military. I want to teach it in a very secular manner. So, that they realize I am not trying to impose anything. There is no philosophy I am pushing. I am actually teaching them a series of inquiries — 10 steps within a 38 larger map. That are helping them come to health, healing and for those awakening.

But itÕs a very secular program. Now, when I am here at Naropa there are no holds barred so I can talk —

[00:37:08.19] DAVID:
Give it to us, you know. [00:37:09.08] RICHARD MILLER:
…everything. So, I can talk about yoga and nidra and the teachings out of which it comes, but I am also trying to showcase it also as how is it also a secular program so that anybody can utilize it? And, years ago I realized what I would like to have as a teacher is when I am standing at the door after having taught a class. Everybody who is filing out is whispering in my ear — thank you for making the practice just for me today.

Now, one of those is a Buddhist, one is a yogi, one is a Christian, one is a Jew, one is a Muslim, one is a Rosicrucian, one is an atheist — in other words I’ve got one of everybody filing by me and saying the exact thing — thank you for making the practice just for me today.

So, I think we as teachers need to teach in a way that each person in the room is feeling this is the practice, they are making just for me. That’s a skill that I think comes with time, but when we’re speaking to a group where there are all these different people in the room from people with different backgrounds, different cultures — there might be somebody from China. Somebody from India. Someone from Japan and America, Australia. I want to be teaching to them in such a way that they really feel I am teaching particularly to them. So, I think that’s where to make these teachings in a way secular to take a lot of the eastern and western psychological jargon out of it and really use simple straightforward language — but use language in such a way they go that’s interesting — can you say more about that?

So, it really piques people curiosity.

[00:39:04.05] DAVID:
Interesting, yeah that there is a lot of power in that. There is a lot of relatability and there is a lot of diversity and it sounds like you’ve done your homework of multiple different perspectives. And so, you’re able to say different words in moments and to feel it out too. So, thank you for sharing all that. [00:39:24.10] RICHARD MILLER:
Yeah, and there is a piece that I will often do when I went to the military I realized if I walked in starting — spouting all sorts of spiritual language they kicked me right out of the room. So, what I started to do and now this is what I do with my students — I ask them to come into their body, have their experience and then describe it to me. So, if someone say I ask them to come to rest back in a moment of just being quiet. And to feel into themselves and come into kind of a relaxed state of being and have them describe it — whether I am in a homeless shelter, a military center, a hospital with oriented or non-oriented people I find they’re telling me the same things like I feel this sense of presence.

Or this sense of peace or equanimity or openness. Now, I love it. They just gave me the words that now I can speak back to them and because they gave me the words — they’ll accept the words from me but if I had come in and said I want you to rest back and feel this sense of equanimity and peace and presence they would have said huh?

[00:40:39.06] DAVID:
Yeah, what’s that? [00:40:39.18] RICHARD MILLER:
Toss me out of the room. [00:40:42.06] DAVID:
Interesting they’re internally mapping the landscape for you and then you’re just like ok I am going to read that map. [00:40:49.17] RICHARD MILLER:
And what I come to appreciate of whether I’ve been in China, whether I’ve been in Australia, England — wherever I go and whomever I am with — when I actually have them go into their own experience — they all give me the same words. ItÕs like cross cultural that is coming out of the depths of our experience as a human being. [00:41:12.22] DAVID:
There is something there. ‘ [00:41:14.10] RICHARD MILLER:
There is something there that we all share in common. [00:41:18.03] DAVID:
We’re quickly running out of time. This so much fun you know and so easy I feel like we can just keep talking forever. But, Naropa University is in the process of developing a yoga therapy program. And I’m curious how does therapy and yoga show up for you like why is that a good combination? [00:41:36.10] RICHARD MILLER:
When Larry Payne and I decided to co-found this organization — we actually had an arm wrestling match — do we call it the International Association of Yoga Therapy or the International Association of Yoga Educators?

And back in 1980 when we were having this conversation therapy was gaining momentum. And so much to my dismay we ended up calling the International Association of Yoga Therapy.

But I think really yoga therapy is educational. We’re helping people dive into themselves. Come to their realizations and what we find is healing takes place. And so, we might say then its therapeutic because often times I’m having people rest back really inquire into their body, welcoming sensation, emotions. They will come off the floor and they — what just happened because I’ve had chronic pain for 12 years and its gone!

Or I’ve had this depression and I can’t find it anymore — itÕs like gone. And so, we know that the — the tools of yoga are very therapeutic but we’re not using them prescriptively. We’re using them or the way that I think of yoga therapy is we’re creating portals of self-inquiry. Now, there are tools in our — our arsenal of yoga like postures and pranayama where we can give people interventions.

But when I do — I give it to them as a way of them exploring themself and I’ve come to appreciate when we do that — working together because I think the yoga therapist and the student or client, we’re co-creating the healing. And, itÕs based on the relationship that I am engineering a safe environment of trust where they can begin to explore themselves and I know in any relationship there will be mistakes that be made and itÕs the trust that’s engendered that help us look at what was that mistake?

For instance, when I first Desikachar I had serious neck injury. So, he gave me a series of poses to do and breathings. I came back several days later — I said you know what you gave me is making me feel worse.

And he said isn’t that fantastic. Now, we know what doesn’t work. And I trusted him and slowly we developed together a plan that worked. But I was drawing on his experience, but I was the practitioner who was trying it out. So, yoga therapy for me is educational. We’re giving people interventions, but itÕs also looking at I wonder if this will work?

Now, I’ve been practicing for some 48 years. So, I have I think some very good tools that I can use as a starting point and I’m pretty sure these are going to have a benefit.

But I’m always holding in my mind they may not, and can we have a trusting relationship, so you can come back to me and they say you know what you gave me didn’t work. Now, I can say like Desikachar said to me — fantastic how we know what doesn’t work. And we start to proceed.

[00:45:01.03] DAVID:
And that’s kind of a trip to hear. You’re just like all of the sudden what do you mean fantastic — like it didn’t work and you’re like no, no, no. Now, let’s try something that might. You know let’s move on. [00:45:11.13] RICHARD MILLER:
It is a process of elimination. And you know as experienced practitioners we get better and better at guessing at what’s going to work, but we’ve got to still hope and have that openness for exploration and not get held hostage by the things we’ve learned. ItÕs that openness and curiosity that I think is the driving force behind yoga therapy. [00:45:33.05] DAVID:
So, I have one more question for you. And, uh I am also going to just add a little something on the back end of that. So, I am curious — it seems like you — you work on a lot of different things and you’re just kind of always moving. You got a lot of energy and this is beautiful. What’s coming up for you that you’re working on that you’re really excited about and you’d like to say or anything you’d like to share about the work you’ve been discovering? And also, can you just uh let the listeners know how to reach you, how to find you, maybe uh some informational books that you have written. [00:46:04.00] RICHARD MILLER:
I have been doing this work for 49 — almost 50 years. And what’s exciting me now is at a stage of my life of passing on the knowledge that I’ve gained, the experience I’ve gained to my students and the people I am working with. And, I’m engaged with different processes for uh filming what I am doing so we can put it into legacies. But really, itÕs about passing on what I got from all of my teachers and keep that learning going. So, that’s really my passion is, and I’ve got a number of books that I am writing trying to organize the teachings in such a way that they can be passed on easily.

So, over the years uh I had originally a nonprofit called The Center of Timeless Being when iRest really caught hold we changed the name to the Integrative Restoration Institute and we just changed it to the iRest Institute to make it really simple. But on our — on our website at www.irest.org we actually are having two portals. One that go into the secular teachings for healing and well-being and one that go deeply into the nondual exploration of meditation, so people can find access to the teachings that are — are resonating with them.

So, I published a number of books which Sounds True and New Harbinger. I’ve got actually five books that I am trying to write right now.

[00:47:38.02] DAVID:
Look at you. Geez. [00:47:39.20] RICHARD MILLER:
And, I am — you know I am excited because I am being invited to places like China and Japan and just feeling the wave of yoga nidra that’s — that’s starting to really grow and crest. So, itÕs a wonderful period in my life to see these teachings of yoga really have taken hold, blossoming and like when I show up here at Naropa and we’ve got 90 people in the room who are just on fire. That — is great. [00:48:14.04] DAVID:
Energetically on fire. Yeah, the — when I walked in the energy was really high and really good, but at the same time it was — it was really low and felt — it felt like a cloud. Like just a really energetic cloud and all — it just held you really nicely because the iRest is very chill. Very relaxing. ItÕs very informative. There is a lot of inquiry in the body and in the mind. And there is a lot of space to do some homework. [00:48:43.22] RICHARD MILLER:
You know I will add one more thing, I think the teachings that I have been given — and helped uncover and this singularity of the thread that I think runs through all teachings — what I find when people come, and this is really exciting to me — from other traditions. They are coming from the Sufi tradition or a Buddhist tradition or a Zen — or a no tradition at all. They are getting excited because they’re seeing teachings that are informing their practice — and helping them understand their own practices in a much more — deeper and authentic way. And, while I am — you might say pushing yoga nidra and yoga teachings in general — I’m really excited how they are innovating other forms of teachings and then people are integrating these teachings into their forms of Buddhism or Christianity. Years ago, I was teaching, and a woman came up to me afterwards and said I’m a fundamental Christian. I can’t find anything to object in your teachings. And I thought to myself — I just got the seal of Good Housekeeping. So, I love that we can move these teachings into any community — no matter their philosophical or religious spiritual background and they go away feeling more informed, more on fire in their own tradition. [00:50:05.14] DAVID:
Very inviting. And you can’t find anything wrong if you’re always stepping forward in truth. [00:50:12.22] RICHARD MILLER:
Yes. [00:50:13.07] DAVID:
Truth is never wrong. So — [00:50:15.08] RICHARD MILLER:
You can’t fight with reality. ItÕs always going to win. [00:50:19.17] DAVID:
ItÕs going to win. Nature just wants to encourage you. That’s all its really trying to do. Well, I really appreciate you speaking with me. I feel — I feel really good. This was a great conversation. You just have so much energy and so much excitement. You’ve been doing this work a long time and you have so much knowledge, but you come at it from a point of view of as a student and a teacher and a knowledgeable person who has done their homework and itÕs just really refreshing and just exciting to witness. [00:50:47.17] RICHARD MILLER:
I want to go to my death bed learning. Every day. Curious and open to what’s new and what’s in this moment that I am opening to. Absolutely. [00:50:59.09] DAVID:
That might be the biggest lesson you have. [00:51:01.12] RICHARD MILLER:
Yes. [00:51:02.00] DAVID:
Wow. So, thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate it. [00:51:04.01] RICHARD MILLER:
Thank you. This has been fun. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. So, I appreciate you bringing me on. [00:51:09.23] DAVID:
So, that was Richard Miller here on the podcast and with the Naropa community he is a clinical psychologist, a yoga scholar, an author, a spiritual teacher and he has founded many multiple organizations. And so, I’d just like to say thank you again. [MUSIC]

On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

[MUSIC]

Finding a Deeper Understanding of Yoga Nidra

Answering Frequently Asked Questions With World-Renowned Yoga Teacher, Indu Arora

What exactly is Yoga Nidra? Nidra is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning sleep or slumber. It is a meditative and relaxing practice intended to bring the body into complete physical, mental and emotional rest. This deep dive into conscious relaxation promotes a restorative state for the mind and soul to decompress.

However, there are still many misconceptions regarding this particular practice of yoga due to its “sleepy” and meditative state. How can you determine if what you hear and read is true or false?

We asked Indu Arora, world-renowned yoga teacher and Yoga Nidra expert, to share her passion and extensive knowledge with us. Here are her responses to some frequently asked questions.

What’s the difference between Yoga Nidra and guided meditation?

I’ll start by saying that we are only capable of guiding someone towards concentration and focus. Meditation happens if there is an emotional, mental and physical readiness. That being said, there is a huge difference between meditation and Yoga Nidra for multiple reasons:

  • In meditation, you are trying to lift dormant energies up towards higher energy centers by gathering scattered pieces of the mind. However, in Yoga Nidra, there is a total dissolution of all possible energies and states of mind.
  • It is a common misconception to classify Yoga Nidra as a type of meditation. For meditation, it is really important for the spine to be upright and to lift up the body’s energy. In contrast, the common posture of Yoga Nidra is supine and relaxed.
  • Meditation begins with concentration, and Yoga Nidra begins with relaxation.
  • Meditation is practiced in order to master the mind. Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, is practiced to unveil the state of consciousness which controls the mind itself.

Is there a “best time” to practice nidra?

In the beginning stages, it’s great if you can practice whenever you feel the most inspired or when you can find time out of your day for it. However, if you would like to benefit from the cyclical rhythms of the body, it’s best to practice upon waking up or just before going to bed. These are both optimal times to tap into the unconscious through subconscious realms.

It is very important not to practice nidra when you are feeling tired. If you end up practicing tired, it’s likely that you’ll fall asleep, and that is not the goal. Nidra is not a practice that’s meant to release tiredness. If you are working on fatigue or insomnia, it is much better to practice relaxation or savasana.

Do you have to practice asana before nidra?

This really depends. If one can maintain alertness without experiencing roughness, tightness, restlessness, pain, discomfort, shakiness, sleepiness, dullness, absence of mind, etc., then there is absolutely no need for asana pre-practice.

I place a lot of importance on pre-practices, as well as post-practices, in the case of Yoga Nidra. It really demands steady preparation, because we are not naturally born ready for such deep practices. We must build a certain physical, mental, emotional and energetic appetite for them.

What’s the true origin of Yoga Nidra?

In all fairness, it’s difficult to say what the true origin is. As a start, I can point to the most ancient text called Rig Veda. It talks about the Glory of Night in Ratri Suktam. In this text, Yoga Nidra is revered as a goddess.

What do you feel is most important about a Yoga Nidra practice?

It is important to understand what it is that you are doing before you start doing it. One misconception can easily lead to another. Moreover, it is very difficult to unlearn what you have already learned.

It’s important to pay attention to the source you are studying from, whether it’s a person, text, video, audio or an app. The best way to go about a practice is to study in person from someone who has practiced Yoga Nidra. Don’t put all your focus on just learning technique. After all, knowledge is the most subtle type of food. If you are careful of what you eat, you must also be careful of what and from whom you study.

A Yoga Nidra practice is an incredible tool to become at one with your mind and your body. Take the time needed to digest what you learn and continue to study with the truest and sincerest desire to grow.

If you’re interested in learning more about Yoga Nidra with Indu Arora, you can register for her 5- Day Yoga Nidra Intensive workshop February 25 – March 1.

Learn about the history of Nidra, its origin, benefits and more during this informative and unique opportunity!

If you are unable to make it to Indu’s workshop, come by the Studio for a Yoga Nidra class offered on Thursdays at 7:15 pm.

The post Finding a Deeper Understanding of Yoga Nidra appeared first on Asheville Yoga Center.

What I Learned From Yoga Nidra, A Movement-Free Practice of Entering a Restful Trance

When I first started practicing yoga nidra, my friends thought I had joined a cult.

It wasn’t an absurd leap. Yoga nidra requires lying on your mat with your eyes closed while an instructor recites a script that’s meant to induce a deep, almost trancelike relaxation. It comprises several stages, including a body scan and visualization.

A pilot class was offered at my college, and since it was the first class the instructor had taught, it was a closed course offered by invite only. We were told each stage would be introduced over several weeks, but we weren’t told what those stages would be. The unspecified “final stage” was what seemed so cultlike, and while it turned out not to be anything sinister, it was slightly bizarre, involving visualizing objects from nature like trees and puppies.

Basically a highly structured guided meditation, yoga nidra is meant to bring you into a state of consciousness that’s similar to how you feel when you’re falling asleep. There are all kinds of unqualified claims about the benefits of practicing yoga nidra, such as a reduced need for sleep and enhanced creativity. At the beginning and end of class, you mentally repeat something called a sankalpa, which is a goal that you state as if you’d already achieved it. In his 1976 book on the subject, guru Satyananda Saraswati outlined yoga nidra as it’s practiced today, with a list of sankalpas that read like something out of The Secret: “I am successful in all that I undertake” and “I achieve total health.”

 

(Grant Kratzer)

 

I practice mediation just to get out of my own head, not really for spiritual reasons, so it all sounded a little esoteric. But it’s hard to deny that yoga nidra feels much deeper than sitting meditation. After class, I’d walk back to my dorm feeling like I had just woken up from the best nap of my life, with relaxed, focused energy and no grogginess.

There’s a limited but growing body of research about yoga nidra’s benefits for soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Partly inspired by Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution, which extols the benefits of sleep for productivity, yoga nidra has become a fad in Silicon Valley.

In Portland, there are no standing yoga nidra classes, but workshops pop up around the city with enough regularity that there’s usually at least a few per month. North Portland Yoga and Mandala Yoga periodically host drop-in yoga nidra classes. Unfold on Southeast Division Street hosted a yoga nidra class on New Year’s Day, and the People’s Yoga on North Killingsworth Street is midway through a series that will continue into February. Last month, a Lake Oswego studio hosted a yoga nidra class that featured a live harpist.

Yoga nidra has yet to experience the same widespread popularity as asana-based yoga or mindfulness-based stress reduction, perhaps out of a reluctance to commodify a practice many teachers and students view as deeply spiritual. But Portland yoga nidra instructor Kyla Ferguson says there’s another reason the practice is only beginning to catch on.

“There’s a lot of value on really hard, sweaty vinyasa practice because it feels like you’re doing something for yourself and you’re sweating and maybe you’re burning calories,” says Ferguson, who teaches at Mandala Yoga on Southeast Belmont Street and recorded a short yoga nidra session for YouTube. “But there’s not as much of a cultural importance to accessing this kind of deep rest.”

Ferguson learned about yoga nidra when she was training to become a yoga teacher. At the time, she had also been dealing with burnout from her job as a social worker. Yoga nidra didn’t erase all her job stress, but it helped enough that when she decided to get her master’s in social work at Smith College, she conducted a study on the practice for her thesis.

“Yoga can make the stressful things in my life more sustainable,” she says. “I found that yoga nidra is a really incredible tool, so I wanted to study it in a scientific way.”

For the study, 11 employees of a mental health clinic in Seattle participated in a 20-minute yoga nidra class in the middle of their workday, led by Ferguson in an office conference room. She held one class a week for six weeks, recording the perceived stress level of each participant (as determined by a standard clinical questionnaire) before and after class. Though it was a small study, the results were clear. At the end of the course, the average reported stress level had decreased by more than 50 percent, and participants reported a decrease in work-induced fatigue.

“It definitely accesses a piece of rest that I think most of us in our daily lives and in our sleep cycles don’t access, even if we get a lot of sleep,” Ferguson says.

Sleep doesn’t exactly feel restful if you’re plagued by stress dreams or wake up in the middle of the night with your thoughts racing. In yoga nidra, you’re just conscious enough to let go of your thoughts. And since it’s so structured and rhythmic, it’s harder for thoughts to come up in the first place.

Ferguson emphasizes that yoga nidra isn’t a magic cure for stress, or a replacement for actual sleep. “We inevitably live in a fast-paced, taxing kind of culture,” she says, “so finding ways to continually come back and rest are really important, and it’s not always that easy. Sometimes there are just a lot of demands. It ebbs and flows in terms of how I’m able to use it and whether or not I feel like I need it.”

Still, Ferguson expresses a kind of unease about evaluating her practice in purely pragmatic, results-based terms.

“Dreaming is important, and sleeping is important,” she says, “but the yogis would just say there’s more. There are deeper places to go with our consciousness.”

 

 

 

Yoga nidra : the flowering within

Yoga Nidra, the concept, is adopted from the ancient science of Tantra. It is a powerful practice for achieving deep relaxation while being conscious and aware. Nidra as a word stands for sleep, but the application here is totally different from what we generally understand sleep as. To understand this we need to log onto some basic insight into the different states of consciousness as explained in the yogic system.

There are three states in which our consciousness keep oscillating at regular intervals, through the agency of mind. These intervals are predetermined most of the times which is referred as the Bio Rhythms.

  1. Jaagrut awastha or normal wakeful state (conscious): This is outer most dimension in which consciousness is in contact with the external material dimension through the agency of sensory organs. We have five sensory organs viz. sight, smell, audition, taste and touch. This is where most of worldly communications takes place. Consciousness exists in an extroverted state relying on sensory organs to relay the information from surroundings.
  2. Swapna awastha or dream state (sub conscious): This is a totally different dimension where consciousness experiences a reality in forms of dreams.
  3. Sushupti awashta or deep sleep (unconscious): State of deep sleep when even dreams don’t appear to the consciousness and an absolute state is experienced which is mostly untraceable by common mind.

While we enter into ordinary sleep, the consciousness drifts from conscious plane to other two without an awareness of this transition. In yoga nidra, we train our mind to retain the awareness not just of this transition but of the actual experience it receives while being in each state.

During the practice, consciousness moves to a threshold state between sleep and wakefulness, thereby connecting with the sub conscious and unconscious dimensions.

This awareness is the actual scientific definition of relaxation which is in contrast to popular beliefs. As we generally observe by relaxation we often mean lying on a couch, having a cup of coffee or a drink or reading our favorite author or genre. All these are simply sensory diversions that change the direction in which our sense organs are engaged. They have very less to do with actual relaxation that occurs only when we are aware and unattached; in this reference it’s better to say un-indulged.

The matrix of Tension

Action, in general, leads to tension. This is natural physics. Two forces operating simultaneously at the same time will create tension. As we go through doing small and big things in life with body, mind or heart, we produce tension. And that tension operates on us. Whatever we do as part of routine, from eating to sleeping, to walking to running to catching a train to managing projects at work, each activity results in tension. These tensions are stored at several planes of our personality.

yoga-nidraThese accumulated tensions manifest in several form via our psyche. Imbalances, disorders and conflicts within an individual or societies or nations.

Yoga straightforwardly identifies these tensions at the source of suffering.  We are not aware of them directly and only see their symptoms. This condition is known as Klesha in Yoga and they are the root of all human problems. Avidya or ignorance is where they all are rooted. This ignorance is the realm of our personalities about which we are not really aware of.

We can categorize three basic types of tension:

  1. Muscular
  2. Emotional
  3. Mental

Yoga Nidra is an effective method of achieving physical, emotional and mental rest and release. It’s a systematic tool of transiting between different states of consciousness. This has got powerful and profound impacts on the overall personality. We are able to let go of stored tensions, burn sanskaras or to say break older habitual conditioning in order to have a fresh and conscious experience overall. It also increases the receptivity of mind and thus enhances learning and gaining knowledge.

Creativity and Sankalp

Also it allows for a creative expression of our mind as it get free from fears, phobias and several neurosis. This helps in concentrating the energy of mind and giving it a channeled expression. Opting for a resolution or Sankalp, during the practise provides for that channeling of the energy. This Sankalp is a very positive and virtuous idea that you might be aspired towards having as a part of you. It is chosen and repeated constantly each time you practise until it is realized.

Psychological Correlates

Our brain emits different types of wave patterns while we drift from one state of mind to the other. Mapping these waves through specific instruments has been a milestone in the studies conducted in several places. This has made more and more scientific brains interested and attracted towards exploring and researching the probable implications of Yoga Nidra as a tool to overcome several issues that modern civilization is struggling with.

The table below shows a scientific explanatory values for the states of consciousness and the values for brain waves emitted in each of these states. Also mentioned is the correlated field of experiencing with each state.

No. State of consciousness Psychological name Brainwave pattern Experience
1 Awake Conscious mind Beta Sensory awareness, external knowledge
2 Yoga Nidra Border line between awake and sleep Alpha Deep relaxation, conscious dreaming
3 Dreaming sleeping Subconscious mind Theta Release of emotions, fears and desires
4 Deep sleep Unconscious mind Delta Awakening of instincts and primitive drives

The popular format of Yoga Nidra was designed by Shri Swami Satyananda Saraswti, the founder of one of the most authentic and popular institution of yoga study in our times called Bihar School of Yoga. He was a realized yogi who reformed many concepts and principles of yoga so as to be understood by the modern mind easily.

For more information on the technique and practise of yoga nidra, we will soon publish another post with further details.

Kind regards
Acharya vinay

The Sleep of the Gods: Better Sleep, Better Life with Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a practice that brings an individual into a state of deep relaxation while maintaining a sense of alertness.

Often, this is described as that stage between waking and sleep, where we are still conscious of the world around us and what is happening in our minds, but have—to a large degree—let go of our active control of both. It is in this state that we are able to connect wholly with Divinity.

Yoga Nidra: A brief history

“Yoga Nidra is the yoga of aware sleep. In this lies the secret of self-healing. Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is relaxed.” ~ Swami Satyananda Saraswati

While the more formalized practice of yoga nidra is a fairly modern innovation, the concept of yoga nidra can be found in many ancient Sanskrit texts. In particular, the origin of yoga nidra comes from one of the Hindu creation myths.

In this story, Vishnu, the Supreme Being, lies on the ocean of consciousness in a deep sleep, in Yog nidra. Brahma grows from his navel in the form of a lotus flower, and when Brahma awakens, a universe is manifested.

Using the teachings he received from these scriptures, Satyananda created a method to access this particular stage between waking and sleep. He used this technique on the younger aspirants in the ashram where he lived, and it is said that he taught them several languages while they rested in yoga nidra.

What does Yoga Nidra practice look like?

“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” ~ Earl Nightingale

A typical yoga nidra session can last from anywhere between 20 minutes to about an hour. The practitioner spends the entire practice lying in savasana, with their eyes closed. Ideally, a teacher is present. However, there are lots of high-quality recordings that can be used in the comfort of your own home, which are also hugely beneficial.

The practice of yoga nidra will take you through several stages. First, is preparing the body for the practice through relaxation, and awareness of mind, body, and breath. After this, you’ll repeat a Sankalpa, or resolve; this is a very short, present tense, positive statement of something you wish to bring into your life. It can also be thought of as developing a clear intention, for example, “I am happy,” or “I am healthy.”

Then, the teacher will guide you through manifesting opposite sensations in the body (such as cold and hot, heavy and light). This, too, increases bodily awareness and also develops your ability to induce relaxation in a variety of circumstances.

After moving through 3-4 sets of opposite sensations, you will go through a series of easy visualizations. For example, envisioning a snowy mountain, a single candle, a deserted beach. Finally, we move back to the Sankalpa in order to more firmly place that positive intention into the conscious and subconscious.

At this point, you will be led gradually back into a fully waking state of consciousness. This element of the practice is taken slowly because after being immersed in yoga nidra, quickly hopping back into daily life could be very disorienting.

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

“Most people sleep without resolving their tensions. This is termed Nidra. Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why, but yoga Nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens. It is of a blissful, higher quality altogether.” ~ Swami Satyananda

While you may not be able to pick up Spanish after a session of yoga nidra, there are numerous reasons to build a regular practice into your life. First and foremost, yoga nidra is a relaxation process. It’s no secret that stress is a major contributor to illness — both physical and emotional — and that we live in a pretty stressful world.

Many of us are in a state of constant sympathetic response. That is, our bodies are stuck in fight, flight, or freeze, pumping cortisol into our systems just as a matter of course. Yoga nidra activates the parasympathetic nervous system and begins to bring the body back into a state of equilibrium.

yoga nidra

This is good not just for sleep, but for waking life, as well. By releasing those tensions, we can interact with ourselves, others, and our work with more clarity and ease.

Another benefit of releasing those tensions is an increase in creativity. Imagine you are holding your hand under a stream of rice. By closing your hands, you grasp some of the grains tightly, but new rice — new ideas and perspectives — can’t get into your palm.

When your hand is open, however, those old grains can move on, making room for new grains. The same is true with your mind. Holding tight to negative patterns of thought means there isn’t room for newness and goodness to flow through.

Building a Yoga Nidra practice

“The very heart of yoga practice is abhyasa—steady effort in the direction you want to go.” ~ Sally Kempton

In a perfectly ideal situation, yoga nidra will be practiced daily. This would allow for regular, deep relaxation, and would give your Sankalpa more opportunity to root deeply so it can manifest in your life. However, an hour a day isn’t something many of us can commit to, and finding a teacher who offers yoga nidra can be challenging.

Instead, start with a shorter, less frequent practice at home. Carve out twenty minutes, two or three times a week, when you can have uninterrupted time to yourself. Spotify and Insight Timer both have dozens of yoga nidra recordings available for free. You’ll want to explore a little to find a teacher whose voice and style resonate with you.

For starters, though, here are a few of my favorites.

⁃ On Spotify: Anything by Robin Carnes. Her voice is soothing, and her directions are clear and well-timed.

⁃ On Spotify: Yoga Nidra for Sleep from Tripura Yoga. This is specifically designed to help you get to sleep and does not include a process to wake up. Great for insomnia.

⁃ On Insight Timer: Yoga Nidra Chakra from Rachelle Tersigni. Not a fully traditional yoga Nidra, but beneficial for helping clear the chakras.

⁃ On Insight Timer: Yoga Nidra from Joanne Jackett. Thorough, and beautiful, with lots of description so you can really grasp the practice. Great for beginners.

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Is Yoga Nidra Your Meditation Secret Weapon?

There is a brief time as we drift from consciousness into sleep where we start to let go. Our thoughts become untethered, reality warps and we might have strange little dreams. We usually pass through this in-between state on our journey to deep sleep within minutes and rarely give it much thought.

But artists like Salvador Dali and inventors like Thomas Edison recognized this borderland as a font of creativity and an aid for problem solving. Both men worked to induce the state by napping with an object — keys, marbles or ball bearings — in their hands. Before they could slip into full, deep sleep, the object would clatter to the ground, waking them. Scientists call this state of lucid dreaming the hypnagogic state. Yogis call it yoga nidra.

WHAT IS YOGIC SLEEP?

Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a powerful meditation technique that prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert. Yoga nidra works by guiding you through the four main stages of consciousness or the four main stages of brain activity — beta, alpha, theta and delta.

The practice triggers the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” state, which allows the body to relax, repair and heal. Beyond that, yogis believe this paradoxical state between consciousness and sleep fosters self-exploration and healing.

Researchers acknowledge greater studies are needed to fully understand the benefits of yoga nidra, but initial studies show improvement in PMS symptoms, diminished stress and anxiety and stabilized blood glucose levels in diabetics. And, the many studies supporting the benefits of meditation also apply to yoga nidra because it is a form of meditation.

HOW TO PRACTICE YOGA NIDRA

Yoga nidra is typically guided, but if you don’t have access to a class or don’t want to practice in a studio there are several guided online sessionsonline podcasts and videos that work well.

To practice, you’ll begin by lying on the floor or your bed in shavasana pose. You may want a blanket over you to keep warm or a bolster under your knees for support. You want to be as comfortable as possible so you can stay in this position for 30 minutes. The practice can be as short as five minutes and as long as an hour, but a half hour is ideal.

In a traditional yoga class the instructor cues poses and body alignment, in a yoga nidra session the teacher guides you through the stages of consciousness.

Perhaps the best part of the practice is it’s completely accessible. Intense vinyasa flows are not for everyone. Many struggle with meditation. But with yoga nidra, all you have to do is lie down and follow the voice guiding you.

8 Limbs Yoga | Yoga Nidra, Yoga Bliss

The monthly Yoga Nidra, Yoga Bliss workshop is a potently relaxing combination of self-massage followed by Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep). Self-massage is an empowering and effective method for decreasing chronic patterns of tension-holding in the body. Less tension = improved circulation, less pain, more oxygen, increased freedom of movement (including the life-giving movement of the breath) and a greater sense of wellbeing.

Yoga Nidra is a systematic process of deepening relaxation– an internal, meditative yoga that happens while your body is completely supported and still. It is said that one hour of Yoga Nidra is more restful than four hours of normal sleep! When we remove stressors, the body relaxes and the immune system can function more efficiently. Vitality and vibrant health are supported. We have more energy to do the things we want to do! Another key element of this practice is the combination of relaxation with Sankalpa. A Sankalpa is a positive statement or intention that invites us to transform our lives, our very beings, as we look inside and ask ourselves the question “what does my heart desire?” This is such an important question to ask, and to ask often. When coupled with relaxation, an intention can sink deep into our subconscious, where the secret to lasting sustainable change resides. 

Please join us for this monthly celebration of self-care rituals. Bring a friend. No previous experience necessary. Wear comfortable clothes (think pajamas) and leave the belts and uncomfortable bras behind. We have a limited amount of blankets, mats, and eye pillows available at the studio, if you have your own, bring them.

Yoga Nidra, Yoga Bliss takes place on the 2nd Sunday of the month. Save the date for these upcoming workshops: April 14, and May 12, (no March workshop).

Sunday, February 24, 12:15 – 2:00PM

What Is Yoga Nidra & Why Is It An Effective Way To Relax?

Why Is Yoga Nidra A Powerful Way To Relax

Yoga Nidra is one of the deepest states of relaxation your body can be in while maintaining full consciousness. You remain in a state of lucid dreaming, are cognizant of your dream environment, but have little or no awareness of your actual environment.

This process conserves and consolidates your energy for yoga practices. It also relaxes the system and prepares it for meditation and Pranayama. It is essential you make time for Yoga Nidra amidst your other workout practices.

Everything You Need To Know About Yoga Nidra

Getting Ready For Yoga Nidra

When you are in this deep state of restoration and relaxation, you direct your attention to the different parts of your body, and this activates the nerves in those areas. It also helps your body accept and integrate the benefits of the Yoga asanas that you just practiced. It lasts for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes.

You usually do the Yoga Nidra post your yoga workout, and it is best to cover yourself or keep your body warm while doing this. The body temperature drops in the process, and you might end up feeling cold. So keep a blanket handy.

It can be practiced on its own too, but it is not advisable to do it after lunch because you might end up taking a nap.

Make sure you practice the relaxing yoga in a peaceful place where there is no clutter or disturbance.

 

How To Do The Yoga Nidra

 

  1. Close your eyes. Place your legs such that they are comfortably apart. Make sure your legs relax completely, and your toes face sidewards. Your arms must be placed along your body, but slightly apart, leaving your palms open and facing upwards.
  1. Make sure that you breathe slowly, yet deeply. This will impart complete relaxation. As you breathe in, your body will be energized, and as you breathe out, your body will calm down. Focus on yourself and your body, forgetting all your other tasks. Let go and surrender!
  1. In case you feel uncomfortable or find pain or discomfort in your lower back, just use a pillow to elevate your legs. This will give you more comfort.
  1. Once you are perfectly comfortable, start from the bottom. Drive your attention towards your right foot. Relax your foot completely and let your attention revolve around your foot for a few seconds. Then, move to your right knee, your right thigh, and the whole right leg. Do the same thing for the left leg.

 

  1. Let your attention be drawn to your entire body, your genitals, your stomach, your navel, the chest, the shoulders, arms, throat, face, and the crown.
  1. Breathe deeply and slowly and observe all the sensations in the body. Relax completely. Stay in this state of relaxation for a few minutes.
  1. Once your body is fully relaxed, become aware of your surroundings. Then, slowly turn to your right with your eyes closed. Lie down on your right for a couple of minutes.
  1. When you are comfortable, sit up slowly, and gently open your eyes.

 

Benefits Of Yoga Nidra

The Yoga Nidra has many benefits. But these are its main advantages.

  1. It cools down the body after an intense Yoga workout and restores the normal temperature of the body.
  1. It ensures activation of the nervous system and helps the body to absorb the benefits of the asanas.
  1. It flushes out the toxins from the body.
  1. It helps rest and relax during pregnancy.

Yoga Nidra Vs. Meditation

Yoga Nidra is not really the same thing as the meditation. While you do the Nidra, you lie down and go into a semi-hypnotic state, a state between being awake and asleep.

However, when you are meditating, you sit with your spine erect and are more alert and aware than when you are in the Yoga Relax Nidra.

This is almost like preparation for meditation. It is the practice of the sense of withdrawal that actually prepares you to go into the state of meditation. Your attention is drawn inwards, and your mind and body are calmed down, so much so that you reach the mental state of meditation.

For most people today, it is extremely hard to meditate, simply because we are so busy and restless that it is difficult to sit still and silent for long periods. When you master the Yoga Nidra, it will automatically help you take on the challenges of meditating, and soon, you will be able to meditate with ease.

General Tips To Do The Yoga Nidra

  1. It is only natural to have random thoughts and be distracted by them while you are in the Nidra. Do not curb them. Also, do not feel guilty if you fall asleep during the practice.
  1. Play some gentle music – either soft chants or instrumental music – before you start the Yoga Relax Nidra. It will help you relax. But this is not a must because you will eventually relax to your own internal rhythm.
  1. Don’t miss the step of turning over on your right and sitting up after a few minutes. When you are on the right side, it helps your breath flow through the left nostril, and therefore, your body cools down.

Now that you know how to do Yoga Nidra, what are you waiting for? The Yoga Nidra is just as refreshing as a good nap. It refreshes and rejuvenates you like no amount of caffeine can. Indulge and enjoy!

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Brain waves & Yoga nidra – Paolo da Floresta

Brain waves

&

Yoga Nidra



It’s important to understand how your brain contributes to the state of your mind. While most of us focus on looking at our emotions in an attempt to become happier, more spiritual beings, our brains waves and our subconscious mind also play a key part in our quest for fulfillment.

We easily forget that we are the controllers of our reality – and that “our reality” is not made up of outside influences, but that it actually consists of our thoughts, beliefs and mindset.

Therefore, by learning about the deeper states of consciousness, you can open your subconscious mind and create your reality at will, and with precision. To do this, the first step is understanding your different brain frequencies. Did you know that we all have five (Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma), and each frequency is measured in cycles per second (Hz) and has its own set of characteristics representing a specific level of brain activity and a unique state of consciousness?


One particular brain wave will be dominant depending on the state of consciousness that you are in.

For example, if you are awake, but have really bad ADHD, you may have more slow wave (alpha and/or theta) activity than beta waves. During sleep usually there are combinations of the slower frequencies, but even gamma has been found to be involved in rapid-eye movement (REM).


Gamma waves

These are involved in higher processing tasks as well as cognitive functioning. Gamma waves are important for learning, memory and information processing. It is thought that the 40 Hz gamma wave is important for the binding of our senses in regards to perception and are involved in learning new material. It has been found that individuals who are mentally challenged and have learning disabilities tend to have lower gamma activity than average.

  • Frequency range: 40 Hz to 100 Hz (Highest)
  • Too much: Anxiety, high arousal, stress
  • Too little: ADHD, depression, learning disabilities
  • Optimal: Binding senses, cognition, information processing, learning, perception, REM sleep
  • Increase gamma waves: Meditation

This range is the most recently discovered and is the fastest frequency at above 40Hz. While little is known about this state of mind, initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing.


Beta waves

These are known as high frequency low amplitude brain waves that are commonly observed while we are awake. They are involved in conscious thought, logical thinking, and tend to have a stimulating affect. Having the right amount of beta waves allows us to focus and complete school or work-based tasks easily. Having too much beta may lead to us experiencing excessive stress and/or anxiety. The higher beta frequencies are associated with high levels of arousal. When you drink caffeine or have another stimulant, your beta activity will naturally increase. Think of these as being very fast brain waves that most people exhibit throughout the day in order to complete conscious tasks such as: critical thinking, writing, reading, and socialization.

  • Frequency range: 12 Hz to 40 Hz (High)
  • Too much: Adrenaline, anxiety, high arousal, inability to relax, stress
  • Too little: ADHD, daydreaming, depression, poor cognition
  • Optimal: Conscious focus, memory, problem solving
  • Increase beta waves: Coffee, energy drinks, various stimulants

While Beta brain waves are important for effective functioning throughout the day, they also can translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness.

The voice of Beta can be described as being that nagging little inner critic that gets louder the higher you go into range. Therefore, with a majority of adults operate at Beta; it’s little surprise that stress is today’s most common health problem.


Alpha waves

This frequency range bridges the gap between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. In other words, alpha is the frequency range between beta and theta. It helps us calm down when necessary and promotes feelings of deep relaxation. If we become stressed, a phenomenon called “alpha blocking” may occur which involves excessive beta activity and very little alpha. Essentially the beta waves “block” out the production of alpha because we become too aroused.

  • Frequency range: 8 Hz to 12 Hz (Moderate)
  • Too much: Daydreaming, inability to focus, too relaxed
  • Too little: Anxiety, high stress, insomnia, OCD
  • Optimal: Relaxation
  • Increase alpha waves: Alcohol, marijuana, relaxants, some antidepressants

Alpha brain waves are present in deep relaxation and usually when the eyes are closed, when you’re slipping into a lovely daydream or during light meditation. It is an optimal time to program the mind for success and it also heightens your imagination, visualization, memory, learning and concentration.

It is the gateway to your subconscious mind and lies at the base of your conscious awareness. The voice of Alpha is your intuition, which becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to 7.5Hz.


Theta waves

This particular frequency range is involved in daydreaming and sleep. Theta waves are connected to us experiencing and feeling deep and raw emotions. Too much theta activity may make people prone to bouts of depression and may make them “highly suggestible” based on the fact that they are in a deeply relaxed, semi-hypnotic state. Theta has its benefits of helping improve our intuition, creativity, and makes us feel more natural. It is also involved in restorative sleep. As long as theta isn’t produced in excess during our waking hours, it is a very helpful brain wave range.

  • Frequency range: 4 Hz to 8 Hz (Slow)
  • Too much: ADHD, depression, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness
  • Too little: Anxiety, poor emotional awareness, stress
  • Optimal: Creativity, emotional connection, intuition, relaxation
  • Increase theta waves: Depressants

It is said that a sense of deep spiritual connection and unity with the universe can be experienced at Theta. Your mind’s most deep-seated programs are at Theta and it is where you experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight. Unlike your other brain waves, the elusive voice of Theta is a silent voice.

It is at the Alpha-Theta border, from 7Hz to 8Hz, where the optimal range for visualization, mind programming and using the creative power of your mind begins. It’s the mental state which you consciously create your reality. At this frequency, you are conscious of your surroundings however your body is in deep relaxation.


Delta waves

These are the slowest recorded brain waves in human beings. They are found most often in infants as well as young children. As we age, we tend to produce less delta even during deep sleep. They are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative, healing sleep. They have also been found to be involved in unconscious bodily functions such as regulating heart beat and digestion. Adequate production of delta waves helps us feel completely rejuvenated after we wake up from a good night’s sleep. If there is abnormal delta activity, an individual may experience learning disabilities or have difficulties maintaining conscious awareness (such as in cases of brain injuries).

  • Frequency range: 0 Hz to 4 Hz (Slowest)
  • Too much: Brain injuries, learning problems, inability to think, severe ADHD
  • Too little: Inability to rejuvenate body, inability to revitalize the brain, poor sleep
  • Optimal: Immune system, natural healing, restorative / deep sleep
  • Increase delta waves: Depressants, sleep

Delta is the realm of your unconscious mind, and the gateway to the universal mind and the collective unconscious, where information received is otherwise unavailable at the conscious level.

Among many things, deep sleep is important for the healing process – as it’s linked with deep healing and regeneration. Hence, not having enough deep sleep is detrimental to your health in more ways than one.


Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a unique marriage of science and spirit, combining alert awareness and deepest relaxation. It takes your brain to the alpha state and eventually the even deeper theta wave state. Here, without effort or strain, you are able to tap into your own source of intuition, creativity, health and abundance.

Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. You are guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state, where brain rhythms drop into the silent space within. Once your body is relaxed and your mind is calm, all energies are focused on the Third Eye, the inner sanctuary located between the eyebrows. Here you are simultaneously able to access both the logical left brain and the intuitive, insightful right brain. This naturally and effortlessly brings you into integration, where you experience deep relaxation yet remain aware and conscious.

Modern science now confirms what yogis discovered thousands of years ago: that focusing on the Third Eye reactivates hormones located in the pineal gland in center of the brain. Studies confirm that the pineal gland hormone, melatonin, is a powerful agent in helping prevent illness, retard premature aging, reduce stress, induce more restful sleep, boost the immune system, and promote healing. Research has proven the benefits of this technique on lowering stress and promoting overall health.


Stress is the biggest problem of modern life. We carry tensions both within the physical body and on even deeper levels in the subtle bodies which we are not even aware of. While physical tension can be eased by stretching, exercise or massage, subtle tensions are difficult to recognize and even harder to release. Yoga Nidra is a unique method that goes below surface tensions to release and transform stress at its deepest level.

Normal waking brain activity produces the faster, fragmented beta waves. The waking state also engages the sympathetic nervous system which reacts to stimulus and the secretion of adrenaline. Chronic engagement of this state forcing the right brain and parasympathetic nervous system to progressively become more dormant.

Yoga Nidra allows you to drop into a sleep-like state with relaxed brainwave activity. Slow alpha waves, and even slower theta waves, produce deep relaxation and are the entry points to the subconscious. In this state, you can make a conscious crossover from the logical left brain to the intuitive right brain, connected to the field of conscious pranic intelligence, where intention is carried out spontaneously and effortlessly.

One purpose of yoga and Yoga Nidra is to initiate the integrative process that balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and the left and right brain.


Yoga Nidra is also a wonderful remedy for anxiety and insomnia, when practiced just before sleep at night.


Guided Yoga Nidra for sleep     http://www.doyogawithme.com/content/yoga-nidra-sleep

Jennifer Piercy takes you through a beautifully designed Yoga Nidra for Sleep meditation. Her deeply calming voice penetrates into your very soul, instilling a sense of internal peace and leaving you feeling incredibly relaxed, present and rejuvenated.

Yoga Nidra for a good nights sleep    http://www.yoganidranetwork.org/mp3/yoga-nidra-good-night-sleep

Specially designed not to wake you up at the end, so you can continue to sleep after the practice. Has been developed through Nirlipta’s personal journey with insomnia.


 

Your Brain on Yoga Nidra

Learn what’s going on with your brain waves when you sink into a yoga nidra practice and why it leaves you feeling so refreshed.

Each time you practice yoga nidra meditation, you’re stilling the waves of the mind through conscious entry into the sleep state. How?

Yoga Nidra and Your Brain Waves

You start with sensing the body and breathing in specific ways in order to trigger the relaxation response. The relaxation response balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and balances the left and right brain. In the process, your brain shifts from beta, an awakened state with lots of brain activity, to alpha, a more relaxed state. In alpha, the mood-regulating hormone serotonin gets released, and this calms you down. People who spend little time in an alpha brain-wave state have more than those who spend more time in alpha. Think of a car: if you want to stop and turn off the engine, you first need to downshift. Shifting your brain into an alpha state starts its process of “powering down,” or coming into a rest state with slower, restorative brain-wave activity.

From alpha, you go into a deep alpha and high theta brain-wave state, the dream state, REM sleep. In theta, your thoughts slow down to 4 to 8 thoughts per second. This is where super learning happens. Kids and artists experience a lot more theta activity in their brains. Emotional integration and release also happen here, and structures in the brain change. It’s here that some people sometimes have random thoughts or see images. A person in theta may see colors or visions or hear the voice of a person talking yet at the same time not hear this voice. It’s where you being to enter the gap of nothingness.

After theta, you are guided to delta, where your thoughts are only 1 to 3.9 thoughts per second. This is the most state, in which your organs regenerate and the stress hormone cortisol is removed from your system.

When you’re put under anesthesia, you’re put into a delta brain-wave state. People in comas are also in a delta brain-wave state, which gives their bodies a chance to restore their systems. In our culture, very few people are going into the deep states of sleep like theta and delta on a regular basis, and as a consequence, our bodies are not powering down and getting the chance to restore themselves. Depressed people go to beta and alpha states, but rarely go to theta and delta.

See also Elena Brower’s 10-Minute Yoga Nidra to Alleviate Stress

The Fourth State of Consciousness You Can Access Through Yoga Nidra 

From delta, the guided yoga nidra experience takes you down into an even deeper brain-wave state—one that can’t be reached through conventional sleep. In this fourth state of consciousness, below delta, your brain is thoughtless. This state is sort of like a complete loss of consciousness, but you are awake. This state is one of such a deep surrender, where your consciousness is so far away from the physical body, that living here every day would be difficult. Not everyone who practices yoga nidra touches this state, but the more you practice, the more you’ll receive glimpses of it.

After you touch into the fourth state of consciousness, you are guided back to a waking state. Again, you couldn’t live in this fourth state, but as a result of touching into it, you bring a little of its peace back with you to your waking, everyday brain state. You also are able to rewire your thoughts and emotions because your subconscious mind in this fourth state is fertile, more open to intentions and affirmations, than it is when you are in your waking state. As a consequence, in your everyday life, you begin to rest more and more in the space between emotions and thoughts, and this resting in this space gives rise to a sense of freedom, where you are not triggered so much by the stuff in your life.

Plus, in yoga nidra meditation, you are often asked to bring your attention to the space between your eyebrows—a spot known as the third eye. Behind this spot lies the pineal gland, and this gland is stimulated when you bring your attention there. Studies confirm that the pineal-gland hormone, melatonin, is a powerful agent for reducing stress, inducing more restful sleep, and boosting the immune system, which helps prevent illness, promote healing, and slow premature aging.

See also Meditation Made Easier: Try Guided Yoga Nidra

The Benefits of Yoga Nidra

While yoga nidra is not a substitute for sleep, the number one reason most women I know say yes to yoga nidra is that it’s widely touted that 45 minutes of yogic sleep feels like 3 hours of regular sleep. There’s some debate over the science that backs this up, but it is likely this effect is due to the series of brain-wave changes experienced during yoga nidra. In my work, I hear women tell me all the time that they wake up deeply refreshed after practicing yoga nidra and that yoga nidra helps them fall asleep and get back to sleep at night. Who can say no to sleep?

As you can imagine, feeling well rested is life changing, but yoga nidra also improves your overall health. A 2013 study showed that practicing yoga nidra improved anxiety, depression, and overall well-being for women experiencing menstrual irregularities and psychological problems. I’ve worked with many women who have had tremendous success using yoga nidra to help them manage pre- and post-surgical operations and decrease pain. And even more science points to how yoga nidra can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve blood glucose fluctuations and symptoms associated with diabetes.

The explosion of studies supporting the benefits of meditation also apply to yoga nidra, because yoga nidra is a form of meditation. Both meditation and yoga nidra help activate the relaxation response and improve the functioning of your nervous system and endocrine system, which affects your hormones. Both meditation and yoga nidra help cells regenerate and repair, and both help decrease anxiety and improve your mood.

Women tell me all the time how practicing yoga nidra meditation has positively impacted their family life. One mother who was checked out of her life due to exhaustion now practices yoga nidra and says that she is using more loving speech to herself, her children and her spouse, and parenting from a more peaceful place. In general, another woman who felt imprisoned by her anxiety tells me she is now able to lead a full life with her family from a calm place. It’s clear to me that women get their family and freedom back when they practice yoga nidra regularly.

See also Discover the Peaceful Practice of Yoga Nidra

Excerpted from DARING TO REST: Reclaim Your Power with Yoga Nidra Rest Meditation by Karen Brody. Sounds True, November 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author
Karen Brody is a speaker and the founder of Daringtorest.com, a company offering yoga nidra meditation for the modern women via downloadable products and trainings. Karen had a long personal history of severe panic attacks until she found yoga nidra meditation over a decade ago. At that time, she was a sleep-deprived mother of two small children on anti-anxiety medication. She signed up for a yoga nidra meditation class simply looking to lie down for a nap. What she got was “the best nap of her life.” As she continued to practice yoga nidra regularly, her deep fatigue lifted; she wrote a critically acclaimed play, got off anti-anxiety pills, and started to teach this yoga nidra “power nap” to every exhausted mother she knew.