Returning to Peace: Delving into the Deep Rest of Yoga Nidra. ~ Stacy Kamala Waltman

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Depending upon our flexibility, there are many yoga asanas which we may consider to be beyond our capability, such as the sitting position of Full Lotus or the flexibility and strength required for the posture of Pincha Mayurasana—Forward Stand.

Outside of yoga class, if I asked where people experienced their current greatest life challenge, they might respond, “finding time to relax”, “sleeping through the night”, “handling all my responsibilities” or “letting go.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, National Department of Transportation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 million people suffer from insomnia. Many more have lost the art of how to truly rest.

For some people it takes great effort to resist turning on the television. Once it’s on, it can become even harder to turn off. We are often mesmerized and trapped by its constant promises of happiness and freedom while time drains away from other more nourishing pursuits.

In this day and age of over-exertion, over-extension, over-stimulation via caffeine or media sensationalism, excessive noise and shallow breathing, true relaxation has been pushed aside. Replaced by activity and consumed by the effort, we often think ourselves lazy if we aren’t busy.

In a state of busyness the ability to be fully present often becomes lost in forward moving, frenetic activity. Wisdom becomes drowned out by automatic responses that left unchecked encourage a frenzied life.

Yoga Nidra is the perfect antidote to these stresses of the day and the current cultural norm.  Part Shavasana (corpse pose for deep rejuvenation), part Pratyahara (the ability to quiet the mind beyond associations, opinions, habitual ways of processing information and cultural programming), part Pratipaksha Bhavana (intentionally replacing one thought with another), part surrender, part deep breathing, part focusing the mind and part deep relaxation, it is a beautiful synthesis of yogic techniques.

As your mind adjusts to settling into Yoga Nidra, the body is reminded how to lean in and restore while internal organs begin to unwind. Blood pressure regulates, accumulated stress begins to dissipate, adrenal glands are soothed and breathing slows and deepens. Our body’s natural healing powers are given space and allowed to rise while surrendering into deep peace.

Yoga Nidra is the ultimate power nap and deliberate “time-out.” Just 35 minutes of intentional Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to the refreshing rejuvenation found in four hours of deep sleep.

The state of consciousness that is cultivated in Yoga Nidra is called Turiya; ‘sleepless sleep.’ It is often described as hovering between wakefulness and sleep. In Turiya, you are fully conscious, completely still and deeply relaxed.

If you have fallen asleep in Yoga Nidra, as so many people new to this practice do, the subtle and nuanced state of Turiya has shifted and been replaced by a denser form of consciousness called sleep. With practice though, Turiya is blissfully experienced for longer and longer stretches of time.

Students who practice nourishing the state of Turiya in Yoga Nidra begin to relish the cumulative benefits of this restorative experience. As their awareness develops, they notice that their bodies relax and their minds shift into stillness. It becomes calmer and they learn to observe thoughts while understanding the interconnectedness between body, breath and mind.

Other areas of their lives are elevated as well. They discover that their sleep is richer, accessing compassion is easier and their capacity for kindness expands. With deeper awareness, wisdom is now at center stage and they begin to see things more clearly without the veils of clouded thought and habitual patterns of viewing.

Additionally, Yoga Nidra has often been called a “karma buster.” Part of the karmic experience involves how we respond to situations. With a calmer body and mind, we respond to things from a conscious awareness rather than an unconscious ignorance.

In more progressive states of Yoga Nidra, we can learn how to utilize a sankalpa (an intentional thought) to move past destructive behavior into a more inspired and easeful life.

Yoga Nidra is one of the best ways to exert some control in a world where very little is up to us.

Even the word, “control” is used lightly here. For instance, in Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras, the word ‘control’ means not suppressing or forcing but simply ‘managing’ with awareness.

The practice of Yoga Nidra helps remind us that we are, among other things, dynamic beings capable of much more than our limited thoughts teach.

Successfully practiced, Yoga Nidra trains us to calm the mind, teaches us how to let go rather than hold on, calms anxious energy, diminishes depression, increases access to our inner wisdom and aids in our meditation. It is a very subtle and profound practice which yields the abundant fruit of awareness.

“Thoughts can create such a barrier that even if you are standing before a beautiful flower, you will not be able to see it. Your eyes are covered with layers of thought. To experience the beauty of the flower you have to be in a state of meditation, not in a state of ‘mentation’. You have to be silent, utterly silent, not even a flicker of thought—and the beauty expands, reaches to you from all directions. You are drowned in the beauty of a sunrise, of a starry night, of beautiful trees.” —Yogic Wisdom

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

To attend the next Yoga Nidra Weekend Workshop with Stacy Kamala Waltman, please visit Yogaville.

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Stacy Kamala Waltman

Stacy Kamala Waltman is a Certified Life Coach, Certified Meditation Teacher, Certified e-RYT 500 Svaroopa Hatha Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga of Recovery Teacher and Yoga Nidra Master. An Integral Yoga student for over 30+ years, the name Kamala was given to her by Sri Swami Satchidananda at the age of 18.  Kamala ascribes her level of depth and capacity to instruct with his teachings and encouragement. Kamala’s company, Kamala Yoga and Integration Coaching, is known for its Stress Management Systems. Her Sleep Recovery Program was recently featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  She says, “Some people keep others entertained.  I put people to sleep!” Stacy Kamala Waltman has a 5-CD Yoga Nidra program on Amazon.com.  She is a sought-out presenter giving workshops and programs on a variety of subjects in several settings including Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville.

Visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!

 

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anonymous May 17, 2014 4:18pm

I was first introduced to Stacy Kamala Waltman, during a bout of breast cancer. It was a tremendous help at that time, to just get me to relax and be free of the intrusion of crazy thoughts that come with such a diagnoses. The best part is you get the whole series on cd. My series now resides on my ipod. Just listened to one last night, because my muscles were so fatigued and sore, from a long day of hiking, great for that kind of stress too. You will be guided through some techniques to to release tension and stress from the body, no matter where it is coming from. Then there is her voice….omg….it like an angel is talking to you, lol…seriously. Its great!

    anonymous May 19, 2014 8:27am

    Thank you so much dear Julie Sears! I am so very happy that you are now thriving and sharing your inspiring story with so many people. You are a treasure! All health to you, SKW

anonymous May 17, 2014 9:55am

Stacy Kamala Waltman has written an excellent article on the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra and its many benefits to the mind, body, and spirit. As a psychotherapist and Yoga teacher I have been teaching this practice to my clients and students with great results and positive feedback. I, too, practice Yoga Nidra diligently. Regular practitioners of Yoga Nidra report a prolonged sense of calm, peace, and equanimity. If you have never tried Yoga Nidra, I highly recommend it. In fact, later this month, Stacy will be running a workshop/retreat at Yogaville in beautiful Buckingham County, Virginia. Attend this program by yourself or take a family member or a friend with you. Stacy is a gentle and compassionate, bright light with a great deal of knowledge and training in Yoga. In her training you are bound to experience serenity and bliss. Thank you, Kamala, for this wonderful article and for sharing your loving spirit and knowledge with others.

~ Sam Desai
Licensed Professional Counselor
Registered Yoga Teacher
Certified Laughter Leader

anonymous May 16, 2014 8:49am

Really enjoyed your article, Kamala! Yoga Nidra is one of my favorite practices and use it in Laugha Yoga sessions as well and have dubbed it "Laugha Nidra." Thanks for sharing your understanding of it with us. Bharata Wingham

    anonymous May 16, 2014 1:31pm

    Thanks BharataJi!
    Grins and giggles…SKW

anonymous May 15, 2014 3:24pm

Love Yoga Nidra! In Integral Yoga we always end the asana practice with YN, and I've incorporated it into my Big Yoga teaching as well. We all need this kind of deep rest, to heal on all levels of our psyche. Rest on, my friend!–Meera

anonymous May 15, 2014 3:01pm

35 minutes of yoga nidra = 4 hours of regular deep sleep. wow. that's terrific. and I love how you connect it to our idea of 'control' …which needs to be reworked because, as you say, it's really about "[buidling] our capacity for awareness"…helps us manage life with more calm, more intention. I'm so excited about your workshop!

    anonymous May 16, 2014 12:44pm

    Thank you so much Heather! Surrendering into what is "not up to us." Thanks again! SKW

anonymous May 15, 2014 2:12pm

I love yoga nidra. Such a healing practice. And I am going to make one of your workshops one of these days! Thank you for the wonderful article!

    anonymous May 15, 2014 2:43pm

    Can't wait for you to join us dear Tracey!

anonymous May 15, 2014 11:05am

In this busy age that we sort through each day, under stress of just keeping up, it is good to remember how to sleep peacefully, so we can go and run our life and business for the next day. ~ Nancy Kaye

    anonymous May 16, 2014 12:42pm

    Thank you Nancy for contributing to this thread. Yoga Nidra is not sleep though it is deep rest without falling into sleep. You are right though that when successfully practiced it can help regulate your sleep patterns. Thanks again! SKW

anonymous May 15, 2014 10:18am

Beautifully written and informative article. Thank you for the introduction. MORE, please !!!

    anonymous May 16, 2014 10:17am

    Thank you Michael! So happy to hear you've been inspired. Stay tuned…more articles to come.

anonymous May 15, 2014 8:25am

Great article – I went to several Yoga Nidra classes and was completely refreshed afterwards. I've started including it at least once a week in my own personal practice. Thanks for sharing!

    anonymous May 16, 2014 10:15am

    So good to hear Bob. Keep up the good practice! Thank you for adding your message here.

anonymous May 15, 2014 8:24am

I love yoga nidra. Such a healing practice. And I am going to make one of your workshops one of these days! Thank you for the wonderful article!

anonymous May 15, 2014 7:24am

Love this! Thank you!

anonymous May 15, 2014 7:18am

Great article and introduction to Yoga Nidra. I was not familiar with this formal practice and it sounds like a very beneficial one. Current social norms glorify doing at the expense of being, stressed and busy at the expense of being at ease and flowing with what comes. Yoga Nidra sounds like the perfect antidote to these afflictions.

    anonymous May 15, 2014 8:17am

    You are so right dear Rico Soma! Thank you for taking the time to articulate why this is so important in today's culture. Blessings to you! SKW