This week I had a bit of an epiphany while cooking dinner, as you do. I don’t know whether I can really call it that, but it was definitely a moment of clarity. Before I get to the epiphany, I will back track a little.
After I finished university, I went backpacking to Australia to make full use of my opportunity of a one year working/holiday visa. While there, as fate would have it, I rented a room from Julie Gargano, who is the founder of the most beautiful yoga studio in Melbourne, Prana House. At the time that I lived with Julie, she was setting up Prana House, so I had the privilege of an insider’s view of part of the process she went through to open it. Little did I know at the time that these few months of living with her would have such an impact on inspiring the direction I would later take in life.
After leaving Melbourne and heading north along the coast, I went to the Satyananda yoga ashram just outside of Sydney for two weeks. I wasn’t familiar with the style of yoga, I was simply seeking a place to retreat and immerse myself in the world of yoga. The bit that stayed with me from that ashram experience was the time in the middle of the day to stop and practice yoga nidra.
Regardless of what activity we had been occupied with, whether it was cleaning toilets or preparing vegetables as part of our karma yoga, we all lay down our tools and headed to the sadhana hall to lie down for half an hour of Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is a sleep based meditation technique that works to relax the body on all levels. It is comprised of a series of body, breath and awareness techniques which are designed to help you drop from the thinking mind, via the feeling body, to feel the energy in the body and to use that feeling in the body to slide into the state of being. It happens effortlessly. It is true relaxation. Lying with a book or watching television may feel relaxing, but it is not a complete mental, physical and emotional switch off and tune inwards.
At the end of my stay at the ashram I bought the Yoga Nidra book and later that year traveled to India to do my yoga teacher training. I didn’t teach much after qualifying and instead focused on deepening my own practice and knowledge of yoga. I also explored/studied the world of psychology, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programing and energy healing. I never did get around to reading the Yoga Nidra book properly until I moved to Turks & Caicos last year, nor did I attend any other Yoga Nidra sessions. Yet despite all of this, I kept hearing about it and knew that it was something that I wanted to teach and explore.
So coming back to the epiphany…
I started teaching Yoga Nidra last month at Retreat Yoga & Wellness Centre and the response from people has been quite incredible (you can even read one of my student’s experiences here). For some it has been the first time they’ve been able to reach that space of ‘nothing’. All in just one session. I visually see the difference on people’s faces when they rush through the door just after noon and then half an hour later when they float out the door approaching the rest of their day with a lot more ease and gentleness. Sometimes there is the gentle sound of snoring and always the magical stillness of peace.
For me it has been hugely insightful hearing people’s feedback. I remember what it felt like when I first started exploring meditation. I know how hard it was – to sit still, to get comfortable, etc. I remember being guided to close my eyes and go within and become aware of what I started to see and feel. Well all that I could see was darkness, the backs of my eyelids of course! It took me ages to find a way to tune out the outside world and the internal mental dialogue and slip into that little inner space, which then became a big expansive place that I love to hang out. A place full of colour and tingling sensations in my body.
So the epiphany I suppose has been recognising the power of Yoga Nidra and my ability to interpret what I know and have experienced to help people find that quiet space within. I didn’t know that my voice could have such an effect on people. I feel so blessed to have found a way to guide people to find their own centre. That place of quiet where clarity comes. The practice of Yoga Nidra is a real gift and being at the start of my journey exploring it is a very exciting time.
Wherever you are in the world, I really encourage you to Google your nearest Yoga Nidra class and give the practice a go. It has had amazing results when used in prisons, in schools, for people dealing with post traumatic stress as well as anxiety and tension.
We can work with individual symptoms of too much stress in the body at one time, or we can go to the single root that’s the cause of all these issues. That cause is more tension than the body can balance. By working with the root of these issues, we can immediately begin to dissolve the effect of all of these things on us simultaneously. That is what Yoga Nidra is designed to do. Work at the root and change the whole plant rather than change each leaf individually.