Growing up in North Carolina, I have had the privilege to listen to stories of the native Cherokee people.

One such legend is about an elder teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he explained to the young boy. “It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is angry, envious, greedy, arrogant, sorrowful, guilty, malicious, judgmental and full of self-pity. The other wolf is joyful, peaceful, loving, hopeful, kind, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win the fight?”

The wise grandfather responded, “The one you feed.”

This reverent narrative reflects the qualities that we try to grow as massage therapists and as human beings: inner peace, compassion and hope for the world around us.

Yoga nidra is a meditation practice that provides us a method to grow these “loving wolf” qualities.

Understanding Yoga Nidra

Dissecting the words yoga and nidra, we could better comprehend the idea of this nurturing practice.

Yoga means to yolk or join, as in joining your physical outer body with your head and internal experience. Nidra simply signifies sleep in Sanskrit.

Yoga doesn't mean stretching the entire body and holding physical positions to enhance strength, flexibility and balance. This is actually the practice of asana, among those eight threads that weave the tapestry of yoga.

There are just seven other threads which make up yoga: yamas (integrity), niyamas (self-discipline), pranayama (yogic breathing), pratyahara (cultivating the inner observer), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (bliss consciousness).

Putting those meanings together, yoga nidra means to join (the human body and the mind) with sleep.

In my job as a ayurvedic practitioner, sleep has been appreciated as medication. Sleep is a period when the body naturally heals itself from the physical and psychological experiences of the day. Even if we are getting plenty of sleep at nighttime, the result of taking a rest once a week or more for guided, meditative sleep is helpful to the human body and the brain.

My yoga nidra instructor, Melissa Lido, explained an hour of the guided mediation method can feel as the equivalent of a complete night of sleep. As an extra advantage, epiphanies could be realized within the meditative experience. During our ordinary waking state, eyes open and alert, our mind is working in wavelengths of energy patterns known as beta waves.

When we shut our eyes for a few minutes and take deep breaths our brain waves slow into alpha state, where we can easily and quickly transition into beta state.

When we sleep at night, our deepest sleep consists of slow, long brain waves at a delta state.

Somewhere between beta and delta wake and sleep, we could enter a state of brain waves known as theta state. These are quicker than beta brain waves and also are available to us through mediation and yoga nidra.

Profoundly relaxed by the body's release of relaxin hormones, this theta condition is very reviving and nourishing to our being. Gama waves, that can be very fast but also fleeting, are obtained in this theta condition and are experienced in the form of sudden realizations and epiphanies.

This clarifies why sometimes once you come out of yoga nidra, you've solved a problem without considering it or accomplished something that facilitates growth in your life. You should not have an established asana practice, or yoga pants or props to research yoga nidra.

In addition to such advantages, simply lying on your back stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to discharge relaxation hormones, which have been indicated to decrease cortisol levels and reduced blood pressure.

Equipped with almost any surface to lie in a secure setting, the advantages of yoga nidra are readily available to you.

  1. First, determine how long you can devote to the practice. 20 minutes is wonderful. Sixty minutes is better. Set a timer onto your telephone or alarm clock and then sink to this therapeutic practice. This may be practiced in the morning, day or evening, and a few people elect to skip the wake-up timer, utilizing yoga nidra as a way to slip peacefully into sleep in the end of a very long day.
  2. Lie in your spine on a yoga mat or on the floor or bed, with or without assistance beneath the knees. If lying flat is unavailable to you, you may just make a supported reclining seat with legs outstretched and rear leaning in a mountain of cushions. The complete expression of this pose would be to possess the palms facing upward, surrendering all stressors and disorders to the vast Universe.
  3. Once you are in place, pick a guided meditation that is right for you and start your trip into yogic sleep. There will also be several complimentary yoga nidra apps out there. Experiment with different recordings to discover what works best for you personally. If you reside in a town with yoga studios, attend a yoga nidra course or workshop.
  4. Any shape your yoga nidra clinic requires, prepare to move on a journey of the self, through the deepest layers of the self to enter a place of unified consciousness. Essentially, this method feeds the compassionate wolf in one who yearns to surpass judgement and fear.

Bringing light and love into the world, we could flourish and thrive. In total surrender, we could intentionally enter a place of self-healing that permeates all divides.

Source: Massage Magazine