Yoga Nidra - the practice of welcoming
The last few years have been a journey. The road has been long and winding.
The journey has been one of exploration and discovery. Of high highs and low lows. With a lot of emotional ups and downs along the way.
Those who know me (or who follow this blog) will know that one of the key things that has provided me with relief and refuge along the way has been yoga. I tend to share more about my Forrest yoga practice and its impact on my life, so I wanted to dedicate this blog to yoga nidra. An important, yet perhaps lesser known, side of my personal and teaching practice.
Yoga nidra is a meditative practice in which you are guided into a conscious, yet deep, state of relaxation where you are able to access, and learn from, your inner awareness.
For me, one of the most important elements of yoga nidra is the idea of welcoming. Welcoming life in. Welcoming all thoughts, feelings and sensations just as they are.
Yoga nidra has taught me that every feeling we experience has a message. The issue is that we tend to welcome only some of our feelings and reject others. We want the difficult feelings – sadness, fear, judgement, guilt, shame, loneliness – to go away and leave us alone. Yet until we listen to what the feeling is trying to tell us, it will only get stronger.
“When we do not accept ourselves as we are or life as it is, we engage in self-hatred. Non accepting is a form of self-loathing. When we wish our experience to be other than it is, we fight with reality. And reality always wins. The paradox of welcoming is that it leads to spontaneous transformation.” ~ Richard Miller, Founder of iRest Yoga Nidra
We often try to use different ways of pushing our feelings away – food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, even the internet. There are a whole plethora of ways to disconnect from our present moment experience. My preferred way has been finding comfort and refuge in food.
Unfortunately it only provides fleeting and momentary relief. The final result is that we feel even worse. The feelings we were trying to avoid are further compounded by feelings of guilt and shame at our numbing behaviours.
We berate ourselves for indulging (or over-indulging). We re-commit to trying to change or improve ourselves. We promise ourselves we’ll be better next time. We’ll be stronger. We’ll resist temptation. This often means restricting ourselves in different ways (I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have committed to cutting out sugar for the next month after a chocolate binge).
We might change for a while. Or at least until those pesky unwanted feelings show up again and we find ourselves back in the same place. The destructive cycle of restriction, over-indulging and self-flagellation continues. It erodes our self-belief and self-trust.
The underlying message we are reinforcing in our bodies and minds is that “I’m not good enough right now as I am”.
I’ve learnt (and am continuing to discover) that there is another way. Yoga nidra has helped me with this.
It has helped me to see how important it is to stop trying to change my experience or push my feelings away. With every practice, it teaches me more about finding stillness. A stillness that creates space and enables me to welcome in my full experience. Just as it is.
Rather than struggling against feelings of sadness, self-doubt or fear, I have learned to open towards them. In the same way that I open towards feelings of happiness and joy.
What I’ve found is that when I give my feelings space. When I allow them to reach me and share their message, they tend to dissipate. Their grip over me softens. I can see them for what they are and appreciate that most often they are simply trying to protect and care for me, or perhaps warn me against a perceived threat.
This gives me a choice about how best to respond. Rather than suppressing or ignoring the feelings or reacting from a place of fear, I can choose to move forward with clarity and ease. As a result I have been able to move away from using food as a way of controlling and suppressing feelings.
The most amazing part of this is that when I approach my experience with openness, curiosity and compassion, change happens naturally. My practice helps me to experience the truth that “I am good enough right now just as I am”. This is empowering. This is powerful. This creates positive change.
Of course this is not to say that it is easy. Nor that yoga nidra is the magic cure. It is a daily practice. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is a struggle. This is why I choose to practice and teach yoga nidra as regularly as possible.
If you’re interested in learning to hold space for yourself and welcome in all of your thoughts, feelings and sensations, Forrest yoga and yoga nidra can be an extremely beneficial and therapeutic place to start*.
I teach Forrest yoga, yin yoga and yoga nidra classes in Glasgow, and am also available for one-to-one classes. Check out my weekly class schedule or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please note - I also work regularly with a counsellor and believe that the combination of my yoga practice and therapy work has been key in enabling me to unlock and move through issues. If you are experiencing any emotional and mental challenges or trauma, I would highly encourage you to seek the support of a qualified professional therapist in combination with any other mind and body therapy you believe is appropriate for you.