Circling back to Yoga Nidra

Long ago I wrote about a year of yoga nidra practice and my ongoing love of it.  At the time I began, the lingering effects of chronic fatigue still left me exhausted a good deal of the time and the “sleep” impact intrigued me.

The practice indeed helped remarkably with the constant fatigue and after the year I moved to spending more time on energy-building practices like Flying Crane Chi-Gung, the Eight Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites.  I still slipped yoga nidra in here and there but it became ever more sporadic.

As I struggle with the big shifts I’ve been trying to make, added to years of sleep deprivation due to my muscles, fatigue is more of a problem again and it finally occurred to me to circle back to yoga nidra.  In the time since I first began I’ve fallen in love with the short version on my preferred recording, Swami Janakananda’s Experience Yoga Nidra[On other recordings I’ve tried the long version isn’t as complete as this one and the short version is completely different]

I’ve hit the point in the shift where I’m finally getting up close to the time I’m aiming for, but then wandering around in a fog for hours as I’ve never had enough sleep (and I gather my internal clock hasn’t adjusted…).  So later in the morning I’ve been frequently doing one of the two versions of yoga nidra and it’s definitely helping by restoring some rest as advertised.

Yoga nidra is a deep relaxation practice and the claims regarding sleep equivalence vary widely.  Initially I was told that the long, 45 minute version equaled 6 hours of sleep, or 2 hours per 15 minutes.  Since then I’ve seen it estimated at more like 1 hour per 15 minutes and I’d say that corresponds more to my experience.  And there are other claimed variations from less to more.  At this point I usually say the long one equals 3 hours and the short, 20 minute, version nets around an hour.

I also love the practice (1) because there are a LOT of fast-moving instructions and if you want to experience all of it you really have to stay mindfully with it.  I’d say the year I spent practicing daily did more to help my mindfulness capacity than any mindfulness meditation I ever did and (2) because as your energy follows the flow you experience your whole body, shifting emotional states, chakras, connecting with nature and more, I feel a greater sense of detachment from my ordinary self than anything else has provided me.

I also like it because my low back has issues with sitting meditation practices and for yoga nidra you’re SUPPOSED to be lying down.  Yea!

In 30+ years of learning, doing and often discarding practices, I’d say this one ranks as one of my total faves.  There are some others I cycle in and out of, like the energy practices named above.  And yoga, of course, has remained a constant since I took my first class starting in July, 1986.

If you have any issues with being sleep deprived and/or fatigued, I highly recommend this.  Or if you need help with relaxation.  Or mindfulness.  What can I say, it’s an amazing practice! And I’m so happy to have cycled back to it.

My heart’s glowing

As always I enjoyed chanting lovingkindness for the earth this evening.  I can feel my heart fill with energy and then soften my whole being.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a regular meditation practice — it had become more like sparsely sporadic.  From the first week, the chant reminded me of the sweetness of that space.

Rather than chanting more often for some reason it drew me back to yoga nidra practice.  Ever since Collective Prayer Sundays began I’ve been back to practicing yoga nidra 3-5 times a week.  My whole being is feeling the impact of this return to holding space for stillness.  I hope that those of you who are praying and chanting along with me are finding your lives enriched by it too.

Healing journey Monday: the restful effect of yoga nidra

I’m a little tired of writing about my head (so I can only imagine how tired everyone else is…) so, in vacation mode, I’m going to go in a different direction. I’ve mentioned yoga nidra in another post, but for me there is a healing connection as well as the spiritual.

When I first encountered yoga nidra and saw it billed as “sleep” yoga with the claim that 15 minutes of yoga nidra equals two hours of sleep*, I was really more intrigued with the possibility that I could improve my situation with chronic fatigue than I was with the spiritual benefits that I quickly recognized (see other post). So many years, so much exhaustion… If a 45 minute yoga tape could give me the equivalent of six more hours of sleep I figured that could only be a good thing.

I could never really decide whether I thought it replaced that much sleep, but boy I sure felt better. And after a while the daily practice left me feeling so much better than I had to quit doing it after 5 pm because then I’d be so full of energy and so wide awake that I couldn’t get to sleep.

By the time the year was up my overall energy level was much improved. I eventually shifted the yoga nidra time to practicing the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung (see previous post for discussion) and they kept that energy level up. When I come out here to California and see old friends I get comments like, “you’ve never had so much chi since I’ve known you,” and “you’re really well now, aren’t you?”  I can’t claim that it only came from yoga nidra but when I really decided to take healing into my own hands that practice had a big impact.

There are a lot of things you can do to build energy but if you have any issues of exhaustion, whether from an illness like chronic fatigue or just from not enough sleep, I highly recommend yoga nidra. There are lots of variations and many tapes don’t have the complete yoga nidra. I have a few of those but I don’t find that they’re as effective. The one I use is Swami Janakananda’s recording. There’s a 45 minute version –which I think takes you much deeper and gives your body more rest– and a 20 minute version that is a nice break if you have a short amount of time. Give yourself a little rest.

*There seem to be many variations — another says 30 minutes equals 3 hours and there are more.

My year with yoga nidra

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I’d already quit studying metaphysics very much (see last post) when I was introduced to yoga nidra so I chose not to read about it. When a friend forwarded an e-mail about an evening yoga nidra session I felt instantly drawn to it. The e-mail told me that it was a meditation and that it relaxes you so deeply it gives your body the rest equivalent of 6-8 hours of sleep but not much else. The studio that held the event apparently assumed everyone already knew all about it so they gave no explanation and seemed nonplussed by any questions that indicated I didn’t already know all about it.

I loved the meditation experience—though needless to say I had no interest in going back to that studio—so I looked on line and chose a CD that I really love, Experience Yoga Nidra  by Swami Janakananda.  At the time there weren’t nearly as many choices as there are now.  My one caution is that not very many have the whole yoga nidra, even if it says “long version”.*

I committed myself to it and nearly every day for over a year (yes, I missed a day sometimes) I practiced yoga nidra, usually the long version, but also the short. The restful impact quickly took effect so that I had to make sure to do it early enough that it didn’t interfere with sleep. I also found it a great exercise in mindfulness as the practice is long and moves quickly from one point of attention to the next.  If your mind is wandering or tuning out you can’t stay with it so you have to stay focused with a quiet mind if you want to complete the entire practice.

Energy flows where attention goes. Yoga nidra directs your attention to various points on your body, different feeling states, up and down your chakras, through different times of day, connection with nature, out into the universe and to the divine essence within.  Since it follows attention, your energy goes through your body, your senses, your chakras, the outer world, the universe and your god self during the course of the practice.  By the end I feel that my energy has expanded out to the edges of the universe and is one with everything. More than any other practice it leaves me detached from my ordinary sense of self.

There are other, more subtle, effects, but the great detachment is the most profound for me and I think it’s the source of the deep rest you receive. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who’ve read every book and can explain it up one side and down the other but I’m happy with what I felt from my deep personal experience in practicing for that year.  It’s not a daily practice for me any more but every time I do it I love it all over again.  

*And since the parts are called by different names it’s hard to tell if it’s all there.

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