A huge thank you to those of you who joined me yesterday for the February Mindful Yoga and Yoga Nidra workshop. It was a very special afternoon.
The extended yoga nidra was not surprisingly a talking point over tea with lots of interest in learning more about the practice.
The first 90 minutes of the workshop was designed to prepare body and mind for yoga nidra. We worked towards it using somatic yoga (gentle physical practices/mindful movement), pranayama (use of the breath), mindfulness and yogic meditation. The practices were sequenced to release tension from the body, to let go and to incrementally take the focus away from the head, given that we spend much of our lives in our heads. Bringing the attention down into the body can be effective in helping us to put all the stories we constantly tell ourselves to one side; in my experience this becomes easier with regular practice over time.
The form of yoga nidra practiced yesterday involved placing light or presence around the body in the initial stage to draw the focus to the inner experience.
The practice is thought to take us through four states of consciousness; waking consciousness, dreaming sleep, deep sleep (beyond dreaming) and a state of non-dreaming awareness. It can help us to gain clarity by stripping back what is referred to in yoga as the ‘veil of illusion’. It helps us move beyond our beliefs and conditioning towards the essence of ourselves, something that will hopefully make sense for those of you who have experienced the practice.
There has been some interesting research. In the 1980s, EEG readings of brain activity were studied at the University Clinic in Cologne. The results showed that yoga nidra was a more effective form of deep relaxation than other suggestion-based and hypnosis-based practices.
Danish researchers found that the areas of the brain involved in executive functioning remain quiet and that dopamine is released. In brief, dopamine is a feel good hormone that is involved in many important systems and functions including sleep, movement, memory and learning. Low levels of dopamine have been associated with a range of difficulties including poor sleep, lack of motivation and interest in life, weight gain, fatigue and mood swings.
I do think it is one of those practices that needs to be experienced to really get a sense of it. I’m looking at dates for further workshops which will also include a one hour yoga nidra. Dates will be announced as soon as I’ve confirmed them. In the meantime, if you would like to experience yoga nidra, Mindful Yoga on Wednesday mornings ends each week with a 25 minute yoga nidra following 50 minutes of gentle yoga to calm the nervous system. It is suitable for most people and particularly good if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, want to make space for yourself or enjoy a really calming, relaxing yoga practice. It can be a good complement to a regular dynamic, energetic practice too.
With thanks to @scetwee for the photograph of what happened to her heart rate during the yoga nidra part of the workshop.