By Alisa Farr
Yoga nidra is an ancient practice, full of wisdom that applies now to the modern world more than ever. Translated into ‘yogic sleep,’ it is a restorative practice that allows the participant to disengage from the mind’s busyness of thought and come to a place of observation. With ongoing practice, one learns to be the observer of the thoughts as opposed to the believer of the thoughts. Over time, it cultivates a state of equanimity. Sometimes this practice is described as ‘active rest’ or ‘mindful rest,’ as it teaches the participant to be aware while at rest. Yoga nidra is not a religion.
Yoga nidra is a passive practice, beginning and ending in stillness (as in savasana), as the participant is guided into a state of non-doing. The practice leads through very gentle breath work and awareness techniques so, as the participant rests, they cultivate inner awareness without preference and deep relaxation. The body is guided progressively through the biological function of sleep, meaning that each participant is guided through the natural brain wave states to harness the benefits of restoration and release that proper sleep cycles provide. A single yoga nidra session is equated to three hours of deep, restorative sleep.
Yoga nidra, as it facilitates this deep relaxation, allows for the levels of stress hormones to be significantly reduced. It has been proven to increase and balance the good substances like serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, endorphins and GABA, which of course, are in a state of imbalance when the body and mind are in chronic states of stress or looping through the ongoing, stressful state of trauma. Yoga nidra, when practiced regularly, becomes a powerful tool in which the body and mind can return to the balance of homeostasis as well as build resilience to stress.
Whom is yogi nidra for?
Yoga nidra is for everyone: children, adolescents and adults alike.
Yoga nidra is also a powerful tool in facilitating recovery from PTSD and other mental wellness challenges. It is even used by the U.S. military to assist veterans in their through PTSD and for building stress resilience.
These same benefits apply to first responders, such as firefighters, police and ambulance services, doctors, nurses, social workers and support workers, who witness and care for others in highly stressful states.
Yoga nidra can be of assistance for those who experience sleep disruption as well, such as shift workers and international travellers.
Yoga nidra + alchemy sound therapy
We combine our yoga nidra sessions with the additional benefit of alchemy sound therapy, as they are incredibly complementary practices.
Sound therapy itself offers a gentle stimulation of the vagus nerve through the tympanic membrane. This membrane vibrates the fluid within the tympanic cavity and stimulates the bones of the inner ear and then the vestibulocochlear nerve, which connect to the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, of course, is the critical nerve in supplying parasympathetic information to the brain and body.
Sound therapy is also a somatic experience, capable of revealing places within the body where energy is slowly processing. If we correlate the movement of energy to the meridian system of the body (Chinese medicine) or the nadis (yogic tradition), what is being revealed is a location of slower energetic processing or an energetic knot, where the optimal free flow of energy is not currently available. With ‘massage’ through the sound vibration, over time this energy begins to flow freely once again.
Sound therapy also creates the opportunity for internal recalibration of our energy centres. It is possible for the body to experience entrainment, allowing the body to return to resonance with itself and create an overall coherence within the body.
Other benefits of sound therapy include improved listening skills through the use of binaural beats, improved circulation, cellular detoxification, stabilized blood pressure, improved sleeping patterns, boosted immunity and more. The hemispheres of the brain are simultaneously stimulated to bring balance and coherence to the participant, a benefit also found in yoga nidra. Sound also acts as a beautiful anchor to a meditative and mindful practice if the mind becomes ‘busy’ or distracted, giving participants an opportunity to return their focus to the frequencies of the sound.
Together, yoga nidra and alchemy sound therapy offer participants an opportunity to bring balance to their body, mind and spirit. They are complementary to each other, compounding the restorative benefits that they both individually offer and can be a very beneficial adjunct to other mental and physical therapies.
Alisa Farr is co-owner of Kelowna’s Flourish Sound and Wellness
This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays
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