9 Differences Between iRest & Yoga Nidra

You might like to read this blog post for A Brief Introduction to iRest and Yoga Nidra.

  1. Differences in Culture Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra (TYN) is a meditative practice which stems from ancient Indian culture whose original works were written in the Sanskrit language. In part, TYN directs the student to use images such as a crocodile in the pelvis (which is associated with the sacral chakra), a ram in the solar plexus (manipura chakra) or an antelope in the heart (anahatta chakra), etc.

iRest has been secularized by removing references to cultural images and language in order to make it more accessible to Westerners.

2. Differences in Purpose Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra was developed as a method to attain enlightenment or Self-Realization, not as a treatment for trauma or psycho-emotional distress. Classical Yoga Nidra “imposes” imagery (as above) and makes other suggestions which have the potential to cause psycho-emotional flooding or overwhelm to those with traumatic PTSD or other combat stress conditions.

iRest is designed to support a person’s healthy defences and conditioning and to allow practitioners to uncover and integrate challenging material and experiences at their own pace and in their own time.

3. Differences in Use of an Inner Resource Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra does not include the use of a  an inner resource or safe, happy place.

iRest practices always begin and end with time to develop, rest in and absorb the felt safety and security of an inner safe haven. The student is assisted by the teacher in developing and enriching their own unique inner refuge especially to give them the resilience to meet challenging emotional arisings both during the practice and also during life.

4. Differences in Responding to Emotional Releases Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

While emotional catharsis is rare in practice it does occur. This is a good thing and does not necessarily mean the tears or crying are being experienced negatively by the person. In many instances it is a welcome cathartic release after which the person feels better and lighter. Like all things, these are passing experiences that are welcomed fully within the safety of the teacher and the group. They may occur during a Yoga Nidra practice just as they might in a regular yoga class.

Traditional Yoga Nidra

iRest teachers receive instruction during their training on how to meet, greet, and welcome the person and their emotions in a supportive but non-invasive way that supports healing without repressing or re-triggering the trauma.

5. Differences in Method Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra instructors guide all participants in a class through a standard process that is the same for everyone. Choices  are not provided.

iRest offers each and every participant the choice in how and when they want to participate. Each person is given the option to follow as much or as little of the teacher’s guidance as they wish, and are encouraged to follow their own personal inner process over the teachers guidance. Also, each participant has their own unique Inner Resource, and may choose the sensation, emotions, thoughts, memories, beliefs and images, s/he wants to work with during the practice.

6. Differences in Guidance Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra is more directive, “feel this,” “feel that,” “relax” and imagine X.

iRest helps people learn to radically accept themselves and their life just as it is in this moment without judgment or refusal. It doesn’t encourage avoidance or denial of challenges but rather offers the opposite, a radical meeting, greeting, welcoming and engaging so that their meaning, value and purpose can be discerned and integrated leading to living a wise and compassionate, vital life.

7. Differences in Use by Military Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra has not been used to treat trauma, PTSD or other combat related injuries.

iRest has been in use in military settings since 2006 following a successful pilot program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which showed its effectiveness in treating combat related PTSD in veterans. The Army Surgeon General has approved iRest as a Tier II treatment for PTSD in the DOD. Following the pilot study in 2007 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6 more studies have been done with the military. There are now approximately 20 VA and active duty U.S. military programs utilizing iRest. These programs have not been adopted by the Canadian Military to my knowledge.

8. Differences in Research Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Rest is formulated as a 10-step flexible process that is suitable for research. Between 2007 and 2015, 22 iRest research studies were published and all of the research on Yoga Nidra in military settings has been done using the iRest protocol.

9. Differences in the Yogic Sheath Model (Koshas) Between iRest and Traditional Yoga Nidra

Traditional Yoga Nidra is based on, and works with, the 5 traditional koshas; the Annamaya kosha (body), the Pranamaya kosha (breath), the Manomaya kosha (sensation and emotion), the Vijñ?namaya kosha (cognitions) and the Anandamaya kosha (bliss). These are elements with which we wrongly identify ourselves. We see ourselves as, or identify with, being a body, having a breath, experiencing sensations and emotions, and having personal thoughts, beliefs, memories and images. We can even identify with bliss when we think, “I am happy.”

iRest also uses the traditional 5 sheath model but adds a 6th kosha, the Asmitamaya kosha. Admit is a sense of “I-ness” or being a separate self. It can be that even when experiencing happiness or bliss the ego-I comes in and appropriates the experience by saying, “I am happy/blissful.” As part of this non-dual inquiry, iRest asks, What is this I-ness that is happy? What is the felt-sense of this I-ness?”

Eventually this sense of being a separate “I” is seen as just another thought that is impermanent. It can now be sees that the sense of separation is just another movement in consciousness, and in doing so realize ourselves as the container for that I-thought. We can then redirect our attention back into that Unchanging Presence that is Aware before, during and after all change, including happiness.

Knowing your True nature is of profound benefit to yourself, friends, co-workers and society at large. Taking right action and making ethical decisions is crucial to healing violence and the degradation of Earth’s environment. When we see others as ourselves then it makes no sense to go to war or to steal. Then health, harmony and peace are possible.

NB: Many thanks to Karen Soltes and Robin Carnes at IRI for their work on defining these differences. This posts has a special emphasis on trauma, such as PTSD.

Next Week: The 1 Big Hurdle to a Successful Meditation Practice & 19 Solutions

PNB HeadShot Preferred rnd cornersPhilip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with people who want to reconnect with themselves and their passion. Free discovery sessions are available in person, by Skype or FaceTime. You can email Philip here or  book Philip here for your complementary first session.

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