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Yoga Nidra: A Magical Healing Journey

by Lauri Bunting

In the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to explore healing practices while recovering first from a hamstring repair surgery and then bilateral hip replacements.  While there is no single silver bullet when it comes to healing, I consider Yoga Nidra the crown jewel.

Yoga Nidra (the Sanskrit word for sleep) is a guided meditation that systematically leads you into varying depths of consciousness similar to the deepest and most healing states of sleep.  Unlike true sleep, a thread of awareness is maintained in Yoga Nidra.  This allows you to follow the voice of the instructor and embark on a magical journey through the body, heart and mind.

There are four aspects of Yoga Nidra that set it apart from other meditation experiences.

During the early stages of Yoga Nidra and again toward the end of the practice when the mind is calm, clear and receptive, the student sets a “sankalpa,” a resolve that serves as a roadmap for healing.  It is to be stated, visualized and felt as an already manifested truth.  The power of the sankalpa is that the mind cannot discern between that which is experienced and that which is imagined. Thoughts, words and actions begin to align with this “truth” and transformation begins. 
Have you ever noticed that certain thoughts make your body contract? Perhaps it’s a pit in your stomach, a lump in your throat or a pain in your neck. Yoga Nidra utilizes a type of body scan called Rotation of Consciousness. Quite rapidly, the instructor names various parts of the body, usually beginning with the hands or mouth, which have a greater density of neurons and hence a deeper capacity to relax. The student is asked to visualize, feel and silently say the name of each body part while following the cadence of the instructor’s voice from point to point. The mind cannot think and sense simultaneously. With so many sensory channels occupied, the mind is stunned into stillness and the body automatically releases habitual holding patterns.
In the later stages of Yoga Nidra, the student imagines opposing sensations in the body such as heat, cold, density, spaciousness, comfort, and pain.  In a similar manner, the student also might explore opposing emotions such as love, hatred, lacking, abundance, anxiety and calm, and experience where they are felt in the body. Here, the mind expands into a vast field of equanimity out of which sensations and emotions rise and fall but have no pull. The student discovers that pain is merely a point on the pain-pleasure spectrum.  Emotions no longer trigger habitual response, but instead open to the possibility of reacting in a way that aligns with well-intentioned goals.
Most people’s initial experience of Yoga Nidra is that it provided a great nap.  This is not surprising. Sleep deprivation is an epidemic in our society. According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 percent of U.S. adults suffer from some kind of sleep disorder.  Moreover, in a culture that values being in a perpetually “on” state, many people regard sleep as an unfortunate necessity.  Insufficient quantity and quality of sleep affects memory, mood, hormones, cognition, and the ability to focus, engage, remember, and heal. 

The good news for insomniacs is that Yoga Nidra actually helps train the body to fall and stay asleep. In fact, Yoga Nidra provides the ultimate “power nap.” A 20-minute Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to one hour of quality sleep.  In time, the student comes to regard sleep and its close ally, Yoga Nidra, as a sort of healing darkness that awakens a vast potential lying dormant under the wakeful eyes of day–a sacred inner sanctuary reserved solely for rest, repair and healing.

Lauri Bunting
Therapeutic Yoga Instructor + Wellness Coach

Yoga Nidra for Healing and Transformation (Zenergy)

Tuesdays, 5:30-6:45 pm (February 5th – 26th)

Members $60 / Non-members $80

Drop-ins $20 / $25 (non-members)
Register here