Hello to all Reston Yogis, this is Lizzie writing from South America, where yoga at 12,000 feet is taxing to the body, so we have to take it very slowly and become mindful even more of the breath.
The last few weeks of power outages, floods and overwhelming heat in Virginia have helped to focus me more upon Yoga Nidra and Pranayama than too much strenuous asana practice. So I would like to talk a little about Yoga Nidra today and its value as part of a regular practice.
One of the most little-known facts about the breath is that it rids the body of 70 percent of its toxins (give a percent or two!) and this in itself is a valuable and worthwhile practice. Correct use of the breath will also alter the frequency of our brainwaves and cool down the Limbic System and instigate the Parasympathetic nervous system or PNS.
When we combine this with a focused intent of yoga nidra it becomes a powerful tool for healing and ultimately transformation. Whenever we have a goal or an Outention, it is manifested by the Intention behind it. The goal for someone practising Yoga Nidra may be to learn to relax, improve sleep and possibly heal the Self on a spiritual, mental or emotional level. The breath then becomes the vehicle for this healing, which is felt eventually at a physical level.
Yoga Nidra is sometimes referred to as the "meditative heart of yoga", and it is often the choice for people who are too busy to meditate, or find it difficult to quiet the mind. It is a cumulative practice and no-one will find a vast improvement after just one session, although there will be a greater feeling of relaxation and calmness that will pervade. Yoga Nidra is not just relaxation it is much much more than that.
Let me go back a moment and refer to the Outention and Intention. We all have goals and we all have desires and this is perfectly natural, whether it is to have better health, a new home, job or vacation, it doesnt matter. What matters is that we are able to bring those desires to light and begin to focus more upon how to acheive them. The desire that we set ourselves in Yoga Nidra is called a Sankapla and it is a desire set so firmly by Intention that it will manifest. The Intention (Sankalpa) is so powerful that it will manifest, but not neccessarily in the way we think.
An example I always give my students is this: two years and 40 pounds ago, I was invited to a spectacular event in Paris. I needed to drop the pounds and quick! As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I knew in my heart that dieting would not work as i had a history of eating disorders and on-off dieting.
During this time, I met my teacher, Richard Miller, and was on the road to learning about Yoga Nidra. I went to the gym, practiced yoga, swam biked and ran and yet still the excess poundage was hard to shift. I set myself an Outention (Goal) as it was my Desire to be a size eight and so I focused my Sankalpa on this. That I would be a healthy size and weight by June 2011 and fit into the particular dress wanted to wear. It happened!
I consistently practiced yoga and yoga nidra and kept the same Intention for 9 months. Little by little I noticed a difference in myself. I did not diet, but I did reach for different foods.
I found myself choosing an apple instead of a cookie. I began to eat different foods and eat at earlier times. As my sleep patterns improved I retired earlier and awakened earlier, my mood lifted and as I felt happier and more relaxed, I no longer reached for simple carbohydrates to give me a quick fix. Most importantly, for me, I did not diet. I just began almost unconsciously reaching for different foods. I remember one day smiling as I filled my juicer with greens and it was then I realized that all of this was almost happening unconsciously. This was 8 months into a daily practice and I was shedding the excess pounds I had been carrying around for seven years.
To be brief in this blog, the practice consists of either lying down or sitting and focusing the mind on various parts of the body as the body continues to breathe. At a given point, there is a focus on the Sankalpa which is repeated silently by the practitioner three time. Sleep does not occur, although there may be a feeling of drifting in and out of consciousness as the brain waves shift from Beta, to Alpha and eventually to Theta.
After a considerable practice it may even be possible to go down into Delta. This occurs as a natural progression and even in the initial stages, some feelings of peace and calm are witnessed. The time spent in this state can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon the needs of the individual and the expertise of the practitioner (if being guided through this). It is all good.
I went to the event in Paris and wore my size 10 dress, some people there who had not seen me for some time could not believe that I had not dieted, but I had not. The practice of yoga nidra gave me better results than 30 years of dieting had, because this change was permanent.
There are dozens of cds around and many different formats, just as there are different yoga styles and practices, but I must stress that it is consistency that will yield the results. If all you need is to improve sleep, yoga nidra will work, if all you need is to feel more relaxed, yoga nidra will work even after a few sessions. But if you want to transform an area of your life, or something about yourself, or even reach for the goal, then a consistent practice is required. And you know what? It is worth it.
I have to go and practice yoga nidra now as the altitude has given me a headache and nose bleed, some calm breathing and focused sankalpa will help alleviate this and tomorrow I will be more relaxed for my slow yoga practice up at 12,000 ft in La Paz, Bolivia.
If you would like to know more then please contact me at Thelittleyogaroomofreston@gmail.com for details of the next workshop.
Ciao for now from Lizzie in La Paz, Bolivia