A Simple Way to De-Stress the Holidays
During my yoga training to become a certified yoga instructor I came across a meditation technique called Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce several psychosomatic diseases such as: hypertension, stress, diabetes, migraine, asthma, ulcers, digestive disorders, and skin diseases that are caused by the tensions in the body and mind.
Yoga Nidra, when translated, means “yogic sleep,” but this not about falling asleep after your yoga asana practice has ended or during a special Yoga Nidra class. It’s about remaining in a state of relaxed awareness so that you may release deeply-held tensions that reside in your muscles, emotions, and your mind. This particular meditation is very similar to resting while listening to a teacher’s voice lead you through a Guided Imagery exercise, but Yoga Nidra brings you through several layers of your Self as well as experiencing the five senses. These sensations that our teacher brings us through also keeps the mind focused and in the present moment, so our thoughts don’t run away on us too much. Yoga Nidra meditation is geared toward bringing you through your physical self, your energy self, your emotional self, your wisdom self, and finally to your blissful/loving self.
How to Prepare for Yoga Nidra
To gain the full benefit of Yoga Nidra, you should set aside a certain amount of uninterrupted time. It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on what fits your need at the moment.
First, you will take ten minutes of basic stretching to warm up and lengthen the muscles while you lie in relaxation.
Then, prepare your yoga mat with a blanket to lie on, bolsters to place under your knees, a blanket over your body to keep you warm, and an eye pillow to place over your eyes. When you are comfortable, find someone with a soothing voice that you trust to read the Yoga Nidra to you while your eyes are closed.
Or, there are several CDs on iTunes you can get to help lead you through the process. Once prepared, let yourself go and follow the journey of your teacher’s voice to delve into the layers of your consciousness. The first few times you may fall asleep, but the more you practice the more you’ll find yourself participating in the journey. Here’s a sample Yoga Nidra that I wrote. Please feel free to use this meditation to create deep relaxation:
Begin by having your body sink into the floor. Move around a bit to get fully comfortable and letting your body become heavy. Clear your mind of thoughts and know that everything is okay. You are okay. You are stillness. You are safe…
Now, go deep into your heart. Settle there for a moment. What is it saying to you? What does it desire? Create a Sankalpa, your heart’s intention, to liberate yourself from any limitations; a positive statement in the present tense, as though it’s already happening.
“I am at Peace.”
Now come up with your own intention/Sankalpa and repeat your sankalpa three times to yourself silently; remembering to gently and deeply breathe in and out of your nose, filling and emptying your lungs completely.
Lying in Savasana with your eyes closed and palms face up, shift your body so that it lies comfortably on the floor, gently aligning your head, neck, back, and legs and your arms and feet are at a comfortable distance to your sides. You may want to place a blanket over your body at this time so you do not become cold. Now, feel your body being supported by the floor. Your entire self becomes heavy and sinks farther and further into it. Each part of your body has become so heavy that you cannot lift any of your limbs. Stay with the heaviness for a bit.
Now, begin by checking in with your physical self, your annamaya kosha. Scan your body to see if there is any tension or worries that you may be holding on to and then release it.
Beginning with the top of your head, focus on how it feels. Is it heavy or light? Anxious or relaxed? Then focus on your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, cheekbones, and nostrils–feeling the air inhale and exhale through your nostrils–then, traveling to your mouth and chin.
Scan your neck, throat, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, and fingertips. Imagine a warm energy as you breathe traveling from the tips of your fingers up to your shoulders, and then back down through your fingertips. Do this a few times.
Breathe the warm energy now into your chest and upper back. Feel how the chest and back rise and fall with each inhale and exhale you take. Stay here for a few moments.
Now, be aware of the stomach, abdomen, lower back, hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet, and toes. Imagine a warm energy as you breathe traveling from the tips of your toes up to the top of your head, and then back down through your toes. Do this a few times, feeling your whole body engulfed in the warmth of the inhale and the exhale. As you exhale, draw out all of the tension, worries, and anxieties. As you inhale, imagine peace and relaxation. Do this several times and guide your breath to become calm, steady, and deep.
Next, as we enter into our Yoga Nidra, imagine a warm, yellow light engulfing each part of your body:
Right shoulder, right elbow, right wrist, tip of right thumb, tip of right index finger, tip of right middle finger, tip of right ring finger, tip of right little finger, right hand, right wrist, right elbow, right shoulder, armpit, engulfed in a warm, yellow light
The entire right hand and arm radiant in a warm, yellow light.
Right hip, right knee, right ankle, tip of the right big toe, tip of the right second toe, tip of the right middle toe, tip of the right fourth toe, tip of the right little toe, right foot, right ankle, right knee, right hip, lower abdomen
The entire right foot and leg radiant in a warm, yellow light
Left shoulder, left elbow, left wrist, tip of left thumb, tip of left index finger, tip of left middle finger, tip of left ring finger, tip of left little finger, left hand, left wrist, left elbow, left shoulder, armpit, engulfed in a warm, yellow light
The entire left hand and arm radiant in a warm, yellow light
Left hip, left knee, left ankle, tip of the left big toe, tip of the left second toe, tip of the left middle toe, tip of the left fourth toe, tip of the left little toe, left foot, left ankle, left knee, left hip engulfed in a warm, yellow light
The entire left foot and leg radiant in a warm, yellow light
Shifting your awareness to your back lying on the floor imagine your right shoulder, right shoulder blade, right ribcage, right buttock, left shoulder, left shoulder blade, left ribcage, left buttock, the spine engulfed in a warm, yellow light
Bringing your awareness to the front of your torso imagine the right breast, space between the breasts, left breast, navel, lower abdomen all engulfed in a warm, yellow light
Allow the yellow light to engulf your neck, throat, mouth, your right nostril, left nostril, right cheek, left cheek, right nostril, left nostril, right eye, left eye, both eyes radiant with yellow light. Your right eyebrow, your left eyebrow illuminating the center of your eyebrows with warm, yellow light, your right ear, left ear, your entire head filled with warm, yellow light. Your entire torso filled with warm, yellow light. Your arms and legs radiant with warm, yellow light. Your entire being submerged and electric in the warm, yellow light.
As your entire being is glowing in the warm, yellow light, begin to imagine or visualize these feelings or experiences:
- the sour taste of a lemon/the sweet taste of an apple
- running your hands over bumpy tree bark/gliding your hands across the soft fur of a pet
- the warmth of a fire in your home/the winter breeze on your face
- the heaviness you feel on a rainy day/ the joy you feel on a sunny day
- the loud boom of fireworks/the trickle of a stream
- the darkness of the sky/ the brightness of flowers in a field
Now, imagine the following to strengthen your sense of being:
- the feeling of moist soil under your feet
- the taste of something sweet
- the smell of a baby
- hearing a bird singing
- the image of clouds in the sky
Feel the breath gliding in and out of your nostrils, gently and evenly. Feel the breath travel like a stream from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, flowing and continuous. Exhaling and inhaling as many times as you need, exhaling down and inhaling up. Never stopping. Cool and refreshed. Breathing in and out, washing away residue and energizing. A stream of energy washing through you.
Continue to breathe deeply and as you breathe, repeat your Sankalpa three times with absolution and integrity.
Allow your awareness to come back to your breath.
Honoring Mother Earth, let your body become heavy and weighted, being aware of the earth beneath you. Being aware of the support the earth gives you. Feeling the support on your feet, the backs of your calves, your thighs, your buttocks, your back, your hands, the backs of your arms, your shoulders, and your head. Feeling grounded at all points and rooted to energy.
Feeling Water liquefy your being, feeling still and content, flowing through and pure. Exhaling and inhaling.
Feeling Air lift you up and filling your lungs with every exhale and inhale, feeling the silkiness of the breathing flowing to and from your nostrils.
Feel the element of Fire coursing through your body. Imagine the energy of fire as it ignites your heart, radiating creativity from the center and through all parts of the body, the self. Feeling the burning of desire through each exhale and inhale.
Taking the time to follow your exhale and inhale. Grounding, liquid, silky, radiating. Following the breath filling up your abdomen and releasing it through your throat and nose and again from your nose, to your throat and filling the abdomen envisioning your intention and giving it life.
Continue to breathe deeply and as you breathe, repeat your Sankalpa three times with absolution, integrity, and truth.
Begin to bring yourself back to awareness. Begin to feel the floor supporting you, begin to feel your toes and fingers. Take a moment to sense your body, then move into a seated position when you are ready. Gently feeling the present all around you. Feeling peaceful, feeling love. Opening up to you. Opening up to the Universe.
Suggested Reading, CD’s, etc.
Miller, Richard. Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing. Sounds True, Inc., 2010, 2005.
Stryker, Rod. Relax into Greatness. 2003.