March 14, 2019

How to Release Trauma by doing Nothing: the Science & Magic of Yoga Nidra.


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Did you know that it’s possible to start unraveling trauma patterns by doing nothing?

Well, it’s actually more like moving from a state of doing, of trying, of holding it all together—into a state of pure being. A state where it feels natural to let go of our hold on the past and return to a feeling of inner wholeness, connection, and peace.

This is the science and magic of yoga nidra meditation.

Yoga nidra is a guided practice that comes from the tantric yogic tradition, and it’s essentially an ancient and specific form of hypnosis. The word nidra in Sanskrit means “sleep,” and this meditation works with the body and mind’s natural process of disassociating from thoughts, releasing tension, and relaxing deeply in order to sleep.

The process of yoga nidra brings homeostasis, restoration, and peace to an over-stressed system.

Anyone who deals with anxiety knows that it can feel impossible to “just relax,” as some well-intentioned yet ill-informed people might advise.

This is why traditional forms of meditation might feel impossible if you have had trauma. You may also struggle with falling asleep at night if your body and mind are used to being in hyper-arousal. (Did you know that we can be addicted to negative emotion states, like stress?) These are things we can’t necessarily just “turn off” with our intention, prayers, or even talk therapy.

When trauma (which can be defined as any instance in which you had to go into protection mode) happens, it is stored in multiple levels of your being: mental, emotional, physical, energetic, and also on the soul level.

In order to reclaim your freedom and power, you must reclaim the energy that has been locked in the form of tension build up in all of these layers.

This is why yoga nidra is such a powerful tool for supporting rebalance, release, reclamation, and restoration. This guided meditation is a specific and systematic way to release tension through the multiple layers of our being. In yoga philosophy we call these layers “koshas,” and they include your body, your thoughts, your energy system, your higher consciousness, and your spirit.

Throughout the course of life, you accumulate tension in all of these layers, and unless released, this tension is a persistent and subconscious experience you will carry into every aspect of life. It’s so deep and ever-present that it can confuse you into thinking that the negative situations you are experiencing, like anxiety and depression, are who you actually are.

In order to shift the experience of anxiety, depression, and PTSD and return to our natural state of wholeness and peace, we must support the nervous system in returning to a parasympathetic state, learn to disassociate from limiting thoughts and addictive emotions, and release residual tension.

To understand the cause of pain is not enough; this understanding must be integrated into the whole of our being and become a lived experience.

So where does the “doing nothing” part of healing come into the picture?

In yoga nidra, we are not asked to do anything or be anything different than who we naturally are. A lot of our suffering comes from resistance of what is. Pain plus resistance equals suffering.

When we feel uncomfortable sensations, the act of trying to resist them actually makes them last longer. If you have had scary things happen to you, it makes sense that you are on alert and in resistance mode, yet staying this way will only perpetuate the pain you feel.

What’s so powerful about yoga nidra is that it guides your awareness in such a way that you feel completely safe in being able to relax, and in that relaxation, you can finally let go of the resistance and the struggle.

In yoga nidra, you lie down, close your eyes, and simply follow gentle guidance of awareness. As you practice, you are able to more easily dis-identify with the sensations, thoughts, and emotions you are feeling and understand that they are just passing symptoms and not the truth of who you are.

By letting go and doing nothing, by surrendering all the old programming, you get to experience first-hand the truth of who you are—a relaxed awareness of universal love and wisdom. You come out of the meditation relaxed, refreshed, and often feeling like a weight has been lifted, with your true essence able to shine through once again.

And the best part is that all of this is accomplished while lying down and allowing yourself to stop doing. You get to move from a state of doing to a state of pure being, and it’s oh so sweet.



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