Calmness, peacefulness, relaxation. “I could do with that!”, people tell me, when I say I am a yoga teacher or talk about my practise. I also sometimes get the response “Oh but I am not flexible enough to do yoga.”. Posture practise, which has commonly become known as ‘yoga’, is only one part of it.. In my humble opinion, yoga, (union of body and mind) is possibly more difficult to work towards through postures, to those of us who are flexible than it is to those of us who aren’t, unless you are hung up on what the person next to you is doing.
Sometimes, even the thought of yoga posture practise can seem so daunting to people that they just don’t even attempt it. And that’s a shame, because it’s fun! And you feel amazing afterwards! But, luckily, there are many different types of yoga to explore, all which make you feel good. Chanting is a form of yoga. I love it… singing along to words I only somewhat understand… it opens the heart and makes you feel alive. (if you followed the link, listen all the way through.. after 5 mins it gets really interesting.) You can dance and sway however you want, no restrictions.. or just sing along/ repeat the chants… but it’s hard to sit still though, when the beat gets faster… Breath work, also part of yoga, is called pranayama . Very calming and focussing, it can be practised alone or in conjunction with posture practise and meditation, which is focussing on the breath/ a candle/ the heart-space/ an image to try to still the mind, and observing the thoughts coming and going, trying not to get hung up as the mind wanders. This can be daunting if you have a lot on your mind and sometimes you just CAN’T SIT STILL! (Helpful to do posture practice first so your body can let go a bit..). and so on…
And then there is Yoga Nidra… or Yoga sleep.
What? Yoga sleep? So, you just sleep?
Um, technically the aim is to stay awake, actually, but let’s not get hung up on that. Granted, if you’re tired, and listening to my voice, you are probably gonna drift off somewhere. And if you do, that’s fine.. it will sink in on some level anyway, you don’t have to do anything!
Are there no postures?
Yes! Just one though… the one you’re most comfortable in 🙂 you choose. Savasana, or corpse pose, is the traditional one, but I like to give my students a choice. Get comfy. That’s all. We are here for half an hour so we need to be supported.
And then what happens?
So, once you’re comfy, I ask you to focus on any sounds you can hear, allowing your mind to follow sounds for a few seconds and gradually bring the attention to closer sounds, in the building, in the room. You gradually bring your awareness to the room you’re in and your body lying on the floor. Then I ask you to repeat your San Kalpa, mentally, three times.
Your what whata?
It’s an affirmation of sorts. Stated in the present tense, of something you want to achieve. A short, positive statement. Think of it as sowing a seed, like “I have everything I need to be successful” or “Doors are opening for me right now” or “I release all doubts and fears”. Mentally, you repeat this to yourself, three times, emphasising it and feeling it as deeply as possible.
Just one sentence?
Yes, one simple sentence. And we don’t tell anyone. It’s our power thought, our secret, we know it is true. And when it shows itself to be true, you can change your san kalpa to another one.
After that I instruct you on a rotation of consciousness around your body, starting with your right hand thumb and naming all the parts, second finger, third finger fourth finger, fifth finger, palm, back of the hand etc… on the right side all the way to the little toe, then the left side. The the back of the body, and finally the front of the body. I say the words slowly, and you mentally repeat each part after me, and take your attention there at the same time. SO now you are focussed entirely on your body and you are very relaxed.
What if I lose track?
That’s fine.. you will come back to it as you hear my voice. When we finished the rotation we do other different practises, such as alternating heavy and light or focussing on breathing through alternate nostrils. I might take you on a journey through nature, or into caves, or over land and sea. We might count the breaths backwards or visualise different scenes in rapid succession. There is time in between for your own interpretation. Then we come back to the San Kalpa which you stated before, and repeat it three times, using the same words, feeling and emphasis.
What happens if I fall asleep?
It happens. What can you do? Nothing. It is said that you will hear the practise on some deep level anyway. It’s absolutely ok and still a very effective practise whether you are asleep or completely alert. Sometimes you will just come back to the practise as you hear me start to speak again. Sometimes you will not wake up until I chime the cymbals at the very end. You will still benefit.
What if I snore?
You will not be the only one! If you are very worried about this we can position you on your side or reclined on a bean bag. But people still snore on their sides so… you obviously needed to sleep.
What happens afterwards?
After the cymbals, we slowly gently come to sitting. Then you can slowly roll your mat and get ready to leave. Class is finished.
What will I feel like?
Deeply relaxed, refreshed, soothed. Always, my students leave looking peaceful and serene. After the posture practise they sometimes, jokingly, say that yoga nidra is the only bit they came for 😉
I teach Yoga Nidra after each yoga posture practise class. It’s a half hour practise and you should wear layered clothes to class so you can add warmth at the end for this practise if you like. Bring cosy socks, and even your onesie! It’s not easy to relax if you are cold. We do have some mats, blankets and cushions but feel free to bring your own. It is said that half an hour of yoga nidra is like a 2 hour nap. Blissfully nourishing…