Self-care has been an increasingly popular topic of conversation in our modern world and the prevalence of discussion around it has only grown since we’ve begun facing new, global challenges. To some, self-care may refer to tending to one’s body through diet and exercise or slowing down to create space for meditation or a mental reset, and to others, it may seem like a luxury that is only enjoyed in rare moments of “free time.” In truth, it’s more essential than regular maintenance of our cars, homes or computers. At the heart of each of my experiences is me, and the state that I am in will necessarily determine the quality of each and every experience that I have.
Our minds and bodies are like lenses and filters that perceive and interpret the world around us. If the lenses and filters are disturbed, compromised, or dysfunctional then our view of and relationship to the world reflects that dysfunction. For many of us, our minds and bodies are shaped solely by current events as we live in almost constant reaction to our circumstances. This is not the only option, however. The more we care for and tend to our minds and bodies, the stronger, healthier, and more autonomous their functioning becomes.
While self-care of the body is essential, mental health is arguably more important, since the mind is the “driver” of the body and the critical player when it comes to informing or contextualizing our moment-to-moment experience. We commonly hear that one of the best ways to tend to the mind is through meditation. For many that have attempted meditation, the nature of trying to still or contain an almost constantly wandering mind presents a stark challenge. Focus, peace, and good quality sleep are desirable and worthwhile benefits of meditation, but “achieving” enough mental quiet to unlock these benefits may be another story. Yogis realized, a long time ago, that there are a plethora of practices available to access one’s inner potential for deep healing, restoration, and transformation. One, that is becoming increasingly popular, in large part due to its accessibility, is yoga Nidra.
Sometimes defined as “sleep with a trace of awareness” or “a sleep-based meditation technique,” yoga Nidra is a practice that seizes the body’s natural pattern of rest as a doorway into deep states of rejuvenation and inner peace. As a horizontal form of meditation, it is practiced lying down and utilizes a variety of techniques that aim to facilitate total relaxation at the physical, mental and emotional levels. As one’s attention is directed away from the world, through what’s called pratyahara, it is then directed to increasingly subtle levels of information within. Unlike seated meditation, where one is often efforting to steer the mind into a single point of concentration, in yoga Nidra we let the mind naturally withdraw from its perpetual activities as the lure into slower brainwave states and upper levels of sleep emerge. It is here that the true, effortless “work” of yoga Nidra unfolds.
As the body becomes still and the mind increasingly quiet, they become more receptive and malleable. This enables the tools of practice to dismantle the patterns of dysfunction at multiple levels, from the outermost manifestation of physical tension in the body to the anxiety coloring one’s mental landscape, and even the core thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs that are the causes of these disturbances. The efficacy of yoga Nidra is so far-reaching that it is being used to treat a wide range of conditions from trauma and PTSD to anxiety, depression, addiction, and insomnia. Perhaps what’s most intriguing is that all of this happens while the practitioner remains in a state of effortless awareness. By maintaining neutral attention to all contents of experience, inner and outer, one is able to clear chronic patterns in the mind and body as one’s innate healing capacity is activated. At the culmination of practice, one experiences a dimension of themselves that is not only beyond the patterns of disturbance, but one that has ever remained untouched by them. Self-care unfolds as the recognition that peace is not an external circumstance, but one’s essential nature, at the very heart of experience itself.
Find a Yoga Nidra class with Kindness Online.
Jeremy Wolf sees yoga as a powerful and comprehensive system of techniques designed to reestablish the total health and the well-being of the individual and a means for Self-discovery that enables one to live from a place of purpose and in harmony with life itself. To learn more about him and his offering visit his website or check out his free mediation on the Kindness Collective podcast.