“Nidra” means sleep, but is distinguishable from the “sleep” we are familiar with in the West.
Practitioners of yoga nidra generally come to relax, to find a break from the constant activity of their lives. During a recent yoga nidra class in Manhattan, my instructor, Yogi Charu, asked the class, “How do you relax?”
Answers included: read a book, take a nap, drink an alcoholic beverage, take a pill, play a video game, smoke a cigarette or a ‘spliff’, or have sex. My response, said with a tinge of embarrassment was, “Watch reality T.V.” However, most of us in the room, admitted that true relaxation without an external source prodding us into slower brain waves, has been one of the biggest challenges of our adult stress-filled lives. And what’s more is that most of the “relaxing” activities that our society engages in, don’t actually relax our mind and bodies, but merely stimulate the senses, which counters the intention to relax.
In a society where most individuals become victims or slaves to the demands of technology and the “instant-gratification” nation, stress-induced disorders have become epidemic or are on the rise, affecting the health of our people.
Enter center-stage, yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is also referred to in the West as “the art of conscious relaxation.” What exactly does that mean? It is a state between wakefulness and dreams. It means that I, you or anyone else can self-induce our minds and bodies to receive relaxation beyond the active beta wavelengths that most of our brains are drowning in during waking hours. It means that not only can you slow the activity of your brain (inducing alpha,theta or delta wave-states) and mind through relaxing the body, but one can also actually heal present and past emotional, physical or psychological pain trapped in the subconscious and unconscious minds, thought to be more powerful than the conscious mind. It also means that diseases can be cured, the nature of the mind-personality can be re-structured and creative genius restored.
As the physical mediator of consciousness, the brain has a profound effect on one’s body as it links body, mind and emotion into one unit.
In a balanced person, the brain induces a harmonious unification between body, mind and emotion. But in a person who is hyper-active, stimulated or even traumatized, there is no balance between activity and receptivity, leaving an energetic residue or toxins in the body. Yoga nidra affects the brain and its chemical output while calming the nervous system through heightened awareness of the body. Specifically, the progressive movement of awareness of individual body parts, in a systematic manner, not only induces physical relaxation but can also clear all the nerve pathways to the brain. And for many of us, our mind’s manner of thinking and being is a result of childhood and adult conditioning, which tends to emphasize materialism and pleasuring the senses, while negatively impacting our health.
Karen Nourizadeh, a “recovering attorney,” is now a yoga instructor with Pure Yoga and New York Sports Clubs as well as a writer and media contributor. Karen freed herself from law and the corporate world to help people heal themselves, mentally and physically, through yoga. Karen is completing her first work, a memoir, detailing her struggle to get out of law, find herself and fulfill her destiny. On a spiritual quest, Karen encounters a mysterious 10-year-old Indian boy, who introduced himself as “Goldie Hawn’s son.” The boy teaches Karen lessons of the heart through his pure, honest, uncalculated actions. He affirms to her what is already in her heart, and helps to free her from her worst enemy, her mind. Follow Karen on Facebook and Twitter.
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Ed: Wendy Keslick & Brianna Bemel