NIDRA IN A HAYSTACK

THE KEY TO REAL REST AND RE­LAX­ATION MAY BE FOUND IN YOUR NEXT YOGA SES­SION

Kahala Life - - WELL + GOOD - BY SHERRIE STRAUSFOGE­L

Are you crav­ing calm in an over­stressed world? Do you want to feel more cen­tered or more re­laxed? You might want to give Yoga Nidra a try. Don't be fooled by the name, you won't be do­ing down dog and you don't need a mantra. Yoga Nidra is guided med­i­ta­tion made easy.

While the in­ten­tion of the prac­tice is to stay awake—“Yoga Nidra” means “con­scious sleep.” Cur­rent stud­ies show it can help you re­lax and sleep bet­ter, and it also helps with headaches, chronic pain, anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and even PTSD. The U.S. Army Sur­geon Gen­eral has listed Yoga Nidra (based on re­search with iRest, a va­ri­ety of Yoga Nidra) as “a Tier 1 ap­proach for ad­dress­ing pain man­age­ment in mil­i­tary care.”

Yoga Nidra has roots in an­cient In­dia and the teach­ings of yoga. In the mid-20th cen­tury, Swami Satyananda Saraswati re­vived Yoga Nidra and de­signed a sys­tem­atic, step-by-step re­lax­ation prac­tice based on its teach­ings.

Over 40 years ago, Richard Miller, PhD, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, au­thor, re­searcher, yo­gic scholar and spir­i­tual teacher, in­te­grated the teach­ings of Yoga Nidra with other spir­i­tual philoso­phies, West­ern psy­chol­ogy and neu­ro­science to mod­ern­ize the prac­tice of Yoga Nidra for our time and the West­ern mind. He named his spin-off iRest, short for “In­te­gra­tive Restora­tion.” It is prac­ticed by thou­sands of peo­ple world­wide in yoga stu­dios, health cen­ters, schools, cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties and mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals.

“iRest is trans­for­ma­tive, restora­tive and it's a med­i­ta­tion prac­tice that any­one can do,” says Jill C. Peter­son, Psy.D. clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and se­nior iRest trainer. “Whether you fall asleep or stay awake, you will feel rested, re­laxed and a sense of ease.”

iRest shares many ba­sic prin­ci­ples and tech­niques with other forms of Yoga Nidra, but dif­fers in var­i­ous ways. For ex­am­ple, iRest uses op­po­site emo­tions or be­liefs--such as ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion—to ac­cess the part of the brain re­spon­si­ble for in­sights, cre­ativ­ity and “aha” mo­ments.

“The mind can only process one thought at a time so the process of hold­ing op­po­site thoughts short cir­cuits the brain, mak­ing it easy to con­trol our at­ten­tion and what we fo­cus on,” Peter­son says. “

A typ­i­cal iRest ses­sion or class be­gins with breath­ing ex­er­cises, fol­lowed by gen­tle stretch­ing and then a 35-minute med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. The in­struc­tor may in­cor­po­rate the du­al­ity of op­po­sites in a timely mes­sage or story. You take stock of how you feel as well as your en­ergy level at the start of your med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. You set an in­ten­tion for your prac­tice, some­thing you would like to ac­tu­al­ize in your prac­tice or in your life.

An­other step in the iRest process that might dif­fer from other med­i­ta­tions is you turn your at­ten­tion to your in­ner re­source, a safe

haven within your body where you ex­pe­ri­ence a feel­ing of se­cu­rity, calm and well­be­ing. Or you may imag­ine a place, per­son or ex­pe­ri­ence that helps you feel se­cure and at ease. Iden­ti­fy­ing your in­ner re­source al­lows you to re­turn to this feel­ing at any time dur­ing your prac­tice if your thoughts or emo­tions feel too in­tense, or in your daily life when you feel over­whelmed.

Then you lis­ten. Guided by the in­struc­tor's voice, you re­lease ten­sion through­out your body by ro­tat­ing your at­ten­tion through your fingers, your limbs, your jaw, the crown of your head and so on. As you scan your body, you feel, ob­serve and re­lax your body and mind. As you lis­ten to the in­struc­tor's voice, you will en­gage with what­ever comes up in your med­i­ta­tion and fo­cus on the aware­ness, rather than block­ing it out with a mantra or fo­cus­ing only on your breath like in other va­ri­eties of me­di­a­tion.

A wig­gling of fingers and toes, some gen­tle stretch­ing, and you open your eyes to a fresh per­spec­tive. You then take a mo­ment post-iRest for emo­tional, phys­i­cal and en­ergy level in­ven­tory. The med­i­ta­tion part of this type of Yoga Nidra usu­ally lasts 35 min­utes, but it may seem as if time stood still. An im­por­tant step is to re­flect on your ex­pe­ri­ence so it may im­part some wis­dom for fu­ture use.

Peter­son adds, “iRest is easy. No ex­pe­ri­ence with yoga or med­i­ta­tion is re­quired. Sim­ply show up, lie down and ex­pe­ri­ence the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of the prac­tice im­me­di­ately, as well as into your day, week and the rest of your life. It is an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the well­be­ing and joy that is in all of us but cov­ered up by life,” says Peter­son.

While here in Honolulu, try iRest or Yoga Nidra at Sun Yoga Hawaii (sun­yo­ga­hawaii.com), Open Space Yoga (yo­gaopenspac­e.com) or Aloha Yoga Kula (alo­hayo­gakula.com)

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