A guest blog by dietetic intern, Blair Silverman MS, RYT
Eating disorders create a significant stress mentally, physically and emotionally. The systematic methodology of Yoga Nidra was created to induce complete relaxation on all of these three levels. Have you ever gotten a full nights sleep, but you wake up a little tired, tense, and worrisome? That’s because for complete relaxation to take place, the person needs to also be aware. In Yoga Nidra, you are neither asleep nor awake. You are brought into a hypnagogic state or as the creator, Swami Satyananda, calls it a “hypnayogic” state. This is the state just prior to falling asleep. It is in this state, that one can tap into their subconscious as well as the intuitive nature of the unconscious mind.
Yoga Nidra, often referred to as yogic sleep, is an accessible tool to gain deeper states of relaxation. There is simplicity to this powerful practice as you are in a comfortable position, usually lying down, and just listening. Nothing more, nothing less. Through the state of relaxation that it brings, it can help to alter and change behaviors and beliefs that no longer serve you. With practice, it can be a vehicle to train the mind to break free from the eating disorder self.
Traditionally, there are seven components to a complete Yoga Nidra practice: (1) preparation (2) resolve (3) rotation of consciousness (4) awareness of breath (5) feelings and sensations (6) visualizations and (7) ending the practice. One of my favorite aspects of Yoga Nidra is the Sankalpa. It appears in both the beginning of the practice ,during the resolve, as well as at the end of the practice. In Sanskrit, it means resolve or resolution. Though, a New Year’s Eve resolution it is not! What it is, is a short positive statement phrased in the present tense. I like to think of it as a seed that you plant into your subconscious mind and allow to grow during the practice of Yoga Nidra. As Swami Satyananda says, its purpose is to assist you to become something or to do something in your life. Some examples are:
- “I am healthy and balanced.”
- “I treat myself with love and compassion.”
- “I help others and I help myself.”
The sankalpa is a way to connect with your authentic self and make that connection stronger so that you can break away from the constraints of the eating disorder self. In traditional Yoga Nidra, the sankalpa is not a phrase specifically to stop certain behaviors. For example, rather than saying, “I will not binge”, you might say, “With love, I fuel my body based on its needs.” By focusing on who and how you want to be and phrasing it in a positive way, it is meant to create strength in the mind. With this approach, you arrive at a place where those behaviors inevitably stop, as they cease to serve you in the way they once did.
While the intention is to not fall asleep, it should be noted that it is not uncommon to fall asleep during Yoga Nidra. This is especially true when you are first starting the practice and when you are depleted. Practicing in an elevated position can help to prevent one from falling asleep. Don’t worry if you do, because you will still reap the benefits of the practice and it usually means that you needed the rest.. If you do fall asleep, use it as a practice to not beat yourself up, but appreciate the rest and try again. This is why it is called a practice.
There are some fantastic free resources for Yoga Nidra online and listed below. I recommend that you start off with a short 15-20 minute to get a sense of it and work your way up to longer sessions. It can be practiced at any time of the day or night. If you have difficulty sleeping, try it in bed in preparation for sleep. Rather than hit snooze, do it first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Feeling that afternoon slump? Try some Nidra! Your body, mind and authentic self will thank you.
Three great resources to get started include:
- Insight Timer app
Remember that every teacher has his or her own style and technique; so be sure to try different recordings and classes if you’re just “not feeling it” at first.
Saraswati, Swami Satyananda, Yoga Nidra, Bihar School of Yoga, 1976