Close your eyes. Release any tension you may be feeling in your body while keeping your mind alert and engaged. Imagine that you are heavy. You feel so heavy that you sink into your chair. Now, imagine that you are completely weightless, floating into the clearest cerulean sky. The wind cradles you, carrying you to the top of the most beautiful mountain. The air around you is crisp and refreshing. Your thoughts and concerns take flight and perch on the passing clouds, drifting away into the distance. Your breath is calm and steady.
This is yoga nidra or yogic sleep, and I've come to rely on it to reduce stress, find my center, and gain the energy I need to get through my day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our lives and introduced new stressors and anxieties we've never experienced before. My partner and I, like so many others around the world, now both work from home. We're fortunate to be able to do that, but our daily lives have nevertheless become a balancing act. Despite the phased reopening happening around the country, it may be a while yet before we get back to what used to be normal. My partner and I have decided that the healthiest and safest way for our family to move forward is to embrace working from home, remote learning, and socially distanced outdoor family gatherings.
On a typical morning (can it really be classified as typical now?), I get up with my two sons, make breakfast, and get the boys cleaned up and dressed. I then spend the remainder of the morning juggling homeschool lessons for my older son, playtime and feedings for my infant, and my own writing sessions. All the while, I have the new job of home office security guard, which mainly entails keeping my older son from interrupting my partner's company meetings and client calls. By lunchtime, I feel frazzled, irritated, and frustrated with myself for becoming frazzled and irritated. Embracing self-acceptance and rejecting self-judgment are challenging, to say the least, but yoga nidra has helped me to go easier on myself and focus less on my stress.
I discovered the practice of yoga nidra over the holidays, and it quickly became my go-to for midday stress relief. As soon as my boys eat and start their midday nap, my lunchtime yoga nidra session begins. In only 15 minutes, I'm able to unwind, find calm, and relieve tension and stress.
In only 15 minutes, I'm able to unwind, find calm, and relieve tension and stress.
Yoga nidra is a type of guided meditation in which you aim to achieve a state of relaxation between sleep and wakefulness. The body is at rest, and the mind stays engaged as you listen to the teacher's voice. Yoga nidra is sometimes accompanied by binaural beats and peaceful music, but once you learn the basic components of the meditation, you can practice however you like. Typically practiced lying down, yoga nidra can be less daunting than seated meditation. You also don't have to worry about complex postures or getting too sweaty on your lunch break, and that's always a plus!
The practice of yoga nidra has several components that nurture your sense of well-being and encourage self-care when practiced regularly. A session usually begins with finding your most comfortable savasana (or corpse pose), releasing tension, then setting a sankalpa, or an intention for your current stage of life. The teacher then guides you through the rotation of consciousness, an exercise much like a body scan where you bring your awareness to different parts of the body, noting sensations and moving on. This is followed by a series of opposing sensations, such as heat and cold and heaviness and weightlessness. Finally, the practice ends with visualizations, repetition of your sankalpa, and a return to complete wakefulness.
Yoga nidra allows you to lie down, relax, and let go of stress — and with apps and YouTube videos, it's accessible from anywhere. Practicing for 15 minutes is like hitting the reset button for the afternoon. I sometimes don't know how I would get through my day without it.