yoga nidra: the mind is always listening

yoga nidra - savasana

Coworker and yoga teacher, Jen, had me at Savasana. With a pillow and blanket in tow, I headed to the studio to attend my first Yoga Nidra class. Not really sure what to expect, I knew that at the very least I wasn’t about to turn down an extra hour of sleep early on a Friday morning.

what is yoga nidra?

Yoga Nidra means "sleep with a trace of awareness." Through the practice, deeply rooted issues, fears and stresses have the opportunity to be resolved. Regular practice aims to decrease anxiety, depression and stress levels (couldn’t we all benefit from that?). Yoga Nidra is supposed to be a restorative practice where an hour on your mat is the equivalent to three hours of conventional sleep. Sleep patterns can be restored and students report feeling more balanced mentally and physically.

what to expect

Don’t expect to break a sweat - in fact, you might even doze off. The practice is certainly more meditative than it is physically exhausting. After we laid down our mats, Jen had us get comfortable in Savasana – really comfortable. We were going to hold this posture for the remainder of the hour so I wiggled and squirmed until I found my sweet spot. Jen even encouraged us to use pillows and blankets since the body tends to cool during meditative practice.

sleep is not failure

The goal of Yoga Nidra is to allow the body to rest while the mind remains awake. Jen assures us that sleep is not failure. As a pretty active, hyper and busy person, getting horizontal usually only means one thing for me - time to catch some Z’s. As I melted into my mat, it took a bit of time to put my inner voice to rest. “Am I awake or asleep right now, am I dreaming or present?” Eventually Jen’s calming voice washed away my ego and I found the fine line between aware and asleep.

the mind is always listening

At the end of the class the awareness is shifted to external sensations and sounds. Even those snoring during class hear the instruction to gently roll onto their side. Interestingly enough, Jen says she’s never had to wake someone from a nap because the mind is always listening.

As with everything, it takes time and practice to be able to reap all the benefits of Yoga Nidra. With my busy life going full speed ahead, mediation is harder for me to achieve than holding a handstand. Do you find you get more out of a yoga class that focuses on meditation or are you after getting a good sweat?

want more:

  • live in Vancouver? Give Yoga Nidra a try
  • a well cushioned mat is key for spending time on your back
  • find meditation in the modern world

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Interesting! A yoga class that embraces sleep. As someone with Narcolepsy, I fall asleep if I am not physically engaged. Because I am missing a neurotransmitter in my hypothalamus, my excitory/inhibitory system is out of whack. I stopped going to Bikram classes because I would fall asleep during the meditation at the end of the class and wake up in a dark empty cold room. My adrenalin would be raised during the class and I would be concentrating on my poses and the contrast of the non movement would literally make me fall asleep. I have often been told by I structors that my falling asleep meant that I wasn’t engaging in mindful meditation.

Comment by Lindy-Lou — September 23, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

That’s what bugs me about Bikram, classes. The instructors just put the students in Savasana & leave them there. In a proper yoga class, a teacher must bring a student back to the present and awareness…it’s called sealing the practice. Om shanti.

Comment by Ally-lu — September 24, 2011 @ 6:03 am

Interesting post indeed! I practice Bikram, mind you the instructors at our studio always guide us through our savasana to keep us present and still focussed. As much as you do work up a sweat, I feel my strongest classes are when I am able to achieve the “moving mediation” where you stop thinking and class sort of becomes a game of Simon Says. I find this is where I am able to gain the mental benefits of the practice. Definitely want to try a Yoga Nidra class!

Comment by Anil N. Singh — September 26, 2011 @ 5:26 am

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