How else can you explain a process that involves nothing more than lying down, closing your eyes and remaining still for 20-40 minutes and coming out the other side a completely changed person? Someone is talking to you and saying nice things, like relax this part of the body or that part, maybe taking you on a pleasant journey or maybe just giving you that tiny bit of silence you need. Then after it all, when they let you know you can begin to move a little, when it feels like it’s been 5 minutes? You somehow come out of it still, relaxed and energized all at once. There’s a sense of clarity and calmness. There’s no urgency to get back to anything. You feel grounded yet connected to something so much bigger than yourself, you know stuff now. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
I came to Yoga Nidra through the practice of yoga. After taking my first official yoga class at Omega in New York, I was hooked. We stretched and rolled around and did a few postures, but the icing on the cake? Savasana. What was that? And why did lying still for a few minutes then seem so profoundly different than say, a little cat nap on the couch?
Fast forward a few years and I’m in Yoga Teacher Training. The instructor is calling that time spent in savasana, yoga nidra. It has an official name, so naturally it’s important. She didn’t explain much about it, but now that I knew the name I could investigate on my own.
Then a few months after I graduated, as a newly minted teacher, I was talking to a student about my affection for yoga nidra. She said, “There’s a guy in the Ocala National Forest – kind of a big deal – that does Yoga Nidra weekends.” Who? What’s the name of the place? Where in the forest? There’s a whole weekend dedicated to yoga nidra?
All praise to Google search. Yoga Nidra + Ocala National Forest netted me the result I wanted on the first page. There was a 10-day immersion and certification coming up in just about a month. I signed up. Sometimes that happens, it’s as if it can be no other way, you just know it’s the right time to do it.
In those 10 days I spent in the presence of Yogi Amrit Desai at the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida I morphed from someone who needed answers to someone who found them all inside once I stopped looking. Crazy, right?
Turns out I was asking all the wrong questions.
Throughout this 10-day transformation we were given no less than two yoga nidras per day. About 30 minutes of guided meditation. There is an energetic elegance that begins to unravel fear and doubt with each nidra. Without even knowing or realizing what is happening, old beliefs and patterns that were unproductive and unnecessary simply went away.
After 10 days in the magical forest I drove myself home – I am still unsure how. I remember chanting with the radio off and scanning the forest for critters. I got home picked up my doggies and took the most productive nap of my lifetime. Later at the studio more than two people told me I looked younger and clearer. I had NO stress. If someone needed something I took care of it while they waited. The old me would have internally seized up as I added it to an ever growing to do list. I was scrubbed clean.
In the years since this thorough washing I have let go of the practice from time to time. Life and all that. But it always comes back, because the slipping away of peace is tangible to me now. I feel all the stuff begin to stick to me again. The to-dos and urgency and old habit patterns sneaking back in. I see it. Then I reconnect to my practice and I feel lighter.
How does this happen? The relaxation is so profound that the body begins to right itself, energetically and often physically coming back into alignment. With stress released, the brain is no longer in fight or flight, tension drops and calmness takes over. There’s so much more. And it’s all fascinating, but the bottom line is, it is a non-doing practice. It couldn’t be more simple to release stress. Never in my life have I accomplished so much by doing nothing.
Yoga Nidra is the magic, but somewhere deep inside of you is the magician.
Allison Andersen is one of three owners of Red Sun Yoga. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for over seven years and credits yoga nidra as a game changer. You can read more of her work at AllisonsWanderland.com and Elephant Journal.