What the Heck is Yoga Nidra?

As I mentioned in the last article, it seems that everyone I talk to wants to find an effective way to control and reduce their stress, anxiety, physical pain, exhaustion, or depression. By now, most people have heard that meditation or mindfulness practices can help, but many are worried that it will be too hard and that they don’t have the time or discipline.  Or they worry that they will be required to adopt some sort of religious or “woo-woo” practices that are at odds with their values.  I am pleased to say that there is a solution for modern busy people, and that iRest®Yoga Nidra meditation -- a proven, effective mindfulness practice -- will soon be available at my offices, in both group and individual settings.  

iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation

Integrative Restoration, or iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation, is a modern-day secular adaptation of the ancient meditative practice of Yoga Nidra. It is a form of self-inquiry that research shows effectively reduces PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and chemical dependency; while increasing health, resiliency, and wellbeing. –Richard C. Miller, PhD, Founder of iRest Yoga Nidra  

Deep meditation equips us with skills that allow us to observe, understand and control ourselves in whatever circumstances arise. We learn to access our own deepest resources. Through iRestYoga Nidra meditation you learn, among many other things, to manage disturbing moods and memories, which then enables you to respond to intense emotional experiences through conscious choices rather than unconscious reactions. It empowers you to integrate challenging memories, emotions and beliefs and to return to your grounded wholeness of being.


The Benefits of iRestYoga Nidra go Far Beyond Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Yoga Nidra practices in general are starting to gain popularity as mindfulness and meditation practices are becoming recognized for their positive benefits in today’s world.  Many people just delving into meditation practice may not realize that the benefits go far beyond a “good way to relax and reduce stress” (although it works very well for that!).  When he was developing and adapting yoga nidra for rehabilitating soldiers in pain, Richard Miller worked with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the United States Department of Defense studying the efficacy of the approach. According to Yoga Journal, "Miller is responsible for bringing the practice to a remarkable variety of nontraditional settings" which includes "military bases and in veterans' clinics, homeless shelters, Montessori schools, Head Start programs, hospitals, hospices, chemical dependency centers, and jails." The iRest protocol was used with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Based on this work, the Surgeon General of the United States Army endorsed Yoga Nidra as a complementary alternative medicine (CAM) for chronic pain in 2010.  

What to Expect in a Yoga Nidra Class

The Sanskrit word Nidra means Sleep, but Yoga Nidra practice is a far more than a nice nap.  iRest is simple to learn and easy to practice. It is suitable for anyone, regardless of physical ability or experience with meditation. Just wear comfortable clothing that you can relax in (as if you ARE going to have a nice nap). You can choose to lay down or sit during the guided meditations.  Most people choose to lay on a mat, supported by bolsters and blankets, in a that way helps them feel comfortable and safe. You will be guided to relax, get comfortable, and prepare your body and mind for practice.  You are then guided into sensing your body, breath, energy, thoughts, emotions, and other activities of the mind, learning to greet even troubling experiences as messengers who have something important to tell us.  In this safe and non-reactive meditative state, you learn to welcome, but not identify with, emotions or beliefs. This is where you build new neuropathways to deal with strong emotions and beliefs in a different way. When a certain emotion or feeling gets overwhelming, you learn to fall back on your resources.  During the session, people may experience a profound stillness – as if you are in deep sleep but there is some part of you that is still awake, aware, and in touch with your deepest resources.  As you are guided back to fully awake state of consciousness, you begin to integrate your experience into your mind and body. When practiced regularly, iRest becomes a set of tools for life. If you are interested in engaging this simple, effective, proven practice, group classes and individual sessions will be available in my offices beginning in mid-November (registration information coming soon). In addition, patients who are currently seeing a therapist may be eligible for special group therapy sessions that are covered by health insurance.