iRest® Yoga Nidra and Me

For those of you who have practiced yoga, regardless of the modality, ie: Hatha, restorative, Ashtanga etc, you may be familiar with the fabulous yogic meditative sleep that is usually included at the end of the session. Depending on the teacher, it may be as short as 10 minutes, or slightly longer. I was first introduced to this wonderful accompaniment to my yoga practice at my first ever Buddhist retreat in 2006. At that time I had no awareness that yoga nidra could in fact be offered in its own right as a one hour ( or longer) practice. Little did I know where my foray into yoga and the asanas would lead me!

I am a naturally curious person and a keen and committed student. My studies previously included a Bachelor of Business Studies from a University in Germany , and the study of 4 foreign languages, including English. I have an innate desire to explore and know more about the world in which I live. The direction of my learning took a different path after I began attending yoga classes in 2006. Now my learning challenged both my left and right side brain to be open to the many new experiences that were presenting for me.

In 2008 I was attending an ‘Open your Creativity’ course at the Relaxation Centre of Qld, where I was exposed to a Yoga Nidra CD by Dianne Hogg. It was transformative. I listened to it every night when I returned home from the course, initially to de-stress and to aid in a better quality of sleep. Imagine my surprise when each time I listened to it, I heard something new! How could this be I wondered? I came to appreciate that the body and the psyche (mind) are limitless in the messages they send to us for our attention. Mostly, however, we are unaware! For months I struggled to stay awake when listening to the CD, I constantly found myself dozing off, relaxed, not stressed. Whilst that was a great outcome, I began to understand the power of yoga nidra when I could just allow myself to “be” in the between place of alertness and sleep and just listen.

Yoga, the asanas and being exposed to a yoga nidra, set me on a profound journey of learning and discovery. I completed my yoga teacher training in 2011 and in 2012 began an in-depth exploration of the koshas, or our ” subtle bodies”, where we sense into our breath, emotions and our cognitions.

“The koshas are like the layers of an onion or the Russian dolls, where one is nested within the other….We must connect first to our physical body e.g. legs, spine etc and breath in order to develop the sensitivity to move inwards.” B.K.S. Iyengar

I began an exhaustive exploration of non yoga related modalities that included Qi Gong, Somatic Bodywork, Thai massage in Chiang Mai, Reiki, and NLP ( Neuro Linguistic Programming). This was all complimentary to the yoga explorations. One of my most memorable learnings, which was yoga & meditation related, was the Origins of Alignment” Yoga Teacher Intensive , with the internationally renowned Donna Farhi, “Functional Anatomy for yoga teachers’ led by Ellen Heed . Inspired, I have also completed two 10 day silent Vipassana retreats in Thailand, a 60 day ‘Buddhist meditation retreat’ in the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, a week-long meditation course with his Holiness the Dalai Lama in Sydney, to name a few.

A yearning had awakened in me to know more, and to apply that knowledge to both my personal and professional life. I thought I had a complete ” toolbox” but as always, there was more to unfold.

In keeping with listening to and acting upon the signs and messages we receive daily from our body and mind, my friend Bev, suggested that we attend a course offered by the US-based Integrative Restoration Institute on the Gold Coast, called iRest® Yoga Nidra. After reading the course information I knew that this was the expanded version of yoga nidra that I loved, but that it also added a new dimension to that practice. I began my Level 1 training with Bev in iRest® Yoga Nidra early 2014, completed Level 2 late 2014 and am currently in my final stages of completing and attaining final certification in Level 3.

It has been difficult. I have needed to suspend my academic brain from wanting to just LEARN the technique. It is learning from an experiential perspective, somatic , felt sense. I cannot fast track my studies or look for shortcuts. The work is to be embraced and embodied. “Meditation is more a ‘ feeling’ than a ‘thinking’ inquiry” says PhD. Richard Miller.

I found that Yoga Nidra varies from iRest® Yoga Nidra in a variety of ways.

Yoga nidra is a meditative practice whose roots grow from a 4000 year old Indian culture and the language of Sanskrit, and was not developed as a complimentary treatment for trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression etc, but for the purpose of Self-Realisation. It is more directive and instructive, with the teacher guiding and asking you to feel this or that.

Yoga Nidra does not include Inner Resource which is a core feature of iRest® Yoga Nidra.

iRest® Yoga Nidra conversely, was developed Richard Miller PhD. in the US. His modification of yoga nidra was designed to support clients overcome trauma, deal with anxiety, depression, panic disorders etc. One of the fundamental anchors of safety for the practitioner is beginning and ending the practice of an Inner Resource or “safe haven” for the client. A place for them to return to in their body during the session if they feel the need. This way the client is always in control. They are encouraged to choose what particular sensation, feeling, emotion or image they want to work with. This allows the participant to feel free to explore their own sensations at their own pace.

Perhaps the most significant difference however, is the addition of the 6th kosha to the 5 offered in the traditional yoga nidra literature. The 6th called the Asmitamaya kosha is about the Sheath of I-ness, the feeling of separateness versus connectedness, which yet again, cannot be logically understood but need to be experienced.

I feel so passionately about the benefits of iRest® Yoga Nidra that I will be offering this year two eight week courses with the first 8 week course commencing on 10th April and second 11th of September. It will be a wonderful introduction to this life changing practice and is suitable for everyone. In my opinion iRest® is a fantastic entry point for anyone wanting to start meditation, sometimes transitioning from being active and busy to ‘sit still’ and be silent, is often too much of a jump! As an alternative, iRest® as a guided meditation , is still engaging the mind and yet giving the students glimpses of how it would look and feel to be in the body and out of the head. iRest® is great for beginners as well as advanced students. It is also highly recommended for all yoga students to gain a deeper understanding of yogic koshas which play a vital role in understanding yogasana more deeply.

The benefits of stilling the mind and understanding my stress levels as a teenager, student at school, University and indeed Life! would have been a wonderful skill to have known about at an earlier age. Thankfully its NEVER too late to learn new and transformative skills. The 8 week course will open you to the sensations in your body, how to work through your emotions and to empower yourself by choosing thoughts and beliefs that serve you more positively. Imagine feeling the connection to innate joy, for no outside reason! Just you sitting with you in comfortable bliss! In that way iRest® can be taken off the mat and become a kind of mindfulness training.

It is worth noting that iRest® Yoga Nidra is not therapy! It may evoke feelings and sensations or images that you may wish to explore further, privately, with a professional. You can find details of Cherrie Adams, a counsellor, on my website.