So last weekend I spent 3 virtual days in Yoga Nidra training. I knew very little about it, until my curiosity got the better of me after a friend told me about her experience. I researched a bit, looked it up and saw that there was a training course, online, coming up in October. I got in touch with the teachers and booked it. As part of my preparation, I had to experience different styles of Yoga Nidra - really?! Are there many styles? I had no idea. It turned out that there are. Some are very structured, very directional and prescriptive; some focus more on the breath.
Which did I like and why? 'Hard' prep work (not) having to take a pillow (because you need to be as comfortable as possible), a blanket (you need to feel neither cold nor hot), lie on mat or bed (part of the comfy bit!), close the eyes (to take the attention inwards) and listen to 20-30 minutes Yoga Nidra 2 or 3 times per week and write down the experience....It was very hard😄....
The day before the start of the course we got the manual - over 100 pages! Impressive and now I was starting to get worried. Did I make the right choice?
As the course started I realise that there were teachers from all over the UK online and some were from Sweden. There were practices, very restful, well spaced throughout the course and then there was teaching. We covered the history of Yoga Nidra, the philosophy, functions of the brain, brain waves, sleep, the relationship between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve, teaching points and tips for practices. Each day, we then had to teach one another on zoom, in small groups of 2-3 people. Plenty of cups of tea, breaks, impeccably organised and run.
So what is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is sometime referred to as 'yogic sleep', a state of awareness and deep relaxation, between sleep and awake.
Why do Yoga Nidra? What are the benefits?
I have dipped in and out of Matthew Walker book on 'Why we sleep'; I also undertook a short course on the 'Effect of sleep on health'. So if we are talking about Yoga Nidra as 'yogic sleep' here, I had an inkling.
Yoga Nidra can provide a deep state of relaxation and therefore help to relieve or reduce stress, soothe the nervous system as it switches on the parasympathetic nervous system and rejuvenates the body, recharging the batteries and boosting energy levels.
Sometimes, or often, we may find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sometimes it depends on what is going on in our life. What is clear to me from Matthew Walker's book, is that we all need roughly 8 hours sleep - 10pm to 6am recommended. I was at a talk of one of the Ayurveda teachers a few weeks ago and interestingly, she suggested the same pattern for a good night sleep. And I thought that I had a good night sleep if I could sleep 5 to 6 hours! Having read a bit more about the likely consequences of lack of sleep on health (in particular, dementia and cardiovascular diseases), I was already making conscious efforts to rest and lengthen my sleeping period. And then Yoga Nidra came along - Wow! With those practices, I fell asleep quickly and seem to be able to stay asleep for longer.
When we sleep well, the body and brain do the filing properly! What?! Yes, when we sleep well, we allow the brain to file the short term memories stored in one part of the brain, to a more permanent part of the brain; so we make room to learn more new things and our memory improves. Interestingly, Matthew Walker did some research on students; he allowed one group to take a short nap after learning something and another group had no rest at all. The research showed that those who took a nap recalled better what they had learnt. Likewise, Yoga Nidra - by allowing better sleep - improves the chances of consolidating learning and memory.
In a dreaming state, through Yoga Nidra we may be able to bi-pass our logical part of the brain and tap into creativity. Apparently, creative ideas came from dreams of Mary Shelley, Paul McCartney and some ideas were revolutionary like Elias Howe's needle for the sewing machine or the model of the atom by Niels Bohr, or Einstein's theory of relativity.
Want to check this out by yourself?
Absolutely! You should experience Yoga Nidra and see if it is for you - do not take my word for it. Oh, I forgot to mention that during the course we did a bit of Bollywood dancing too - I never realised how discombobulated I am.... So, no, I shall not be doing that in my classes 😂
Join me for Yoga Nidra sessions in November - Grab your pillow, bolster, cushions, blanket, eye pillow for a Yoga Nidra practice - keep an eye on the timetable!
If you want to reserve your place, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org