Updated: Apr 21, 2021
The modern worlds culture has put aside the importance of finding ways to relax and enjoy life.
With such a high importance on achievement - timelines - multi tasking - and keeping up with what's out there, the average person's life is constantly filled up with tasks, decisions, wants and needs, and this creates overload, which leads to stress & that can negatively affect our mental, physical and emotional health. The tension, feelings of overload and internal conflict of stress can then become overwhelming.
Growing up in the 60's and 70's (goodness that sounds like forever ago!) We didn't have phones and tablets, PC's, fancy shopping malls to distract us. We had oceans, parks and community activities which gave a sense of enjoyment and purpose, relaxation, oh and fun.
Yogic Relaxation Techniques:-
Its a good thing then that we have yogic relaxation and other guided relaxation practices that help to re- direct our modern day addictions of doing into being, it's a way of re-wiring your brain into a healthy life/ balance .
Practising Yoga now for 28 years I can say that all of Yoga helps in some way with our health and quality of life, however my first experience of a Guided Yoga Nidra with a creative visualisation was the key that turned the lock and opened the door to the deeply fulfilling experience of relaxation and time defeating moments along with an entry to heal my own personal past trauma.
This is why I am an Advocate and devotee to its power and potential for change.
Therapeutic Relaxation techniques have been used for hundreds of years, derived from ancient, Yogic and Buddhist traditions known as Yoga Nidra.
" Yoganidrā is a term that has a diverse and ancient history in Sanskrit literature. It has been used with various meanings and can be found in Epic and Purāṇic literature, Śaiva and Buddhist Tantras, medieval Haṭha and Rājayoga texts (including the widely known Haṭhapradīpikā) and it even became the name of a yoga posture (āsana) in the 17th century. " (from Yoga Nidra - An understanding of the history and context by Jason Birch & Jacqueline Hargreaves)
Then there's the modern day Mindfulness Model, used to treat a variety of life's concerns, a definition of mindfulness, outlined by John Kabat-Zinn, is the awareness that comes from ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non- judgmentally’.
Mindfulness practitioners often distinguish between relaxation from mindfulness, describing relaxation as a potential ‘side-effect’ of mindfulness, but not an aim in and of itself. The intention is not to try to achieve any particular state, but in part to be open & be with whatever thoughts and feelings pass through the mind and body, moment by moment whilst using guided practices, various visualisation techniques.
The ancient Yogi's all say that it isn't a prerequisite to be mindful as the sub-conscious layer of mind will absorb the process from your guide and the results will still offer up a unique, often undetected change . Which supports the process that Yoga Nidra still offers some healing potential absent of the Mindfulness model.
Purposefully directing your attention in a mindful, systematic guided way is powerfully healing - life changing and that any intended process of relaxation requires one to be Mindful and pay attention, however it also asks that you use some level of mind with breath (prana) to work through it. Perhaps its safe to say to reach a pure uninterrupted state of relaxation, Yoga Nidra's potential is to show one, perhaps a deeper more insightful experience.
The practice of Yoga Nidra meditation varies, there are traditional scripts and guided practices , and more modern day approaches. Either way the results lead to stilling the constant waves of the mind through a conscious , specific process while being openly awake with a deep sense of awareness to that process . How?
It begins with body positioning and preparation for maximum comfort, for some siting in a chair or traditionally lying down on your back then sensing the body and breath in specific ways in order to entice the relaxation response.
The positioning in Savasana is very important, having the neck supported and forehead raised so the neck is entirely free forehead raised just higher that their chin, this has several effects, one is it releases tension in the occiput (vagus nerve enters from the Medulla Oblongata) thus effecting the parasympathetic systems response, your body responds and begins to relax. (see my blog on Interoception)
The relaxation response balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems & the left and right brain. In the process, your brain shifts from beta, an awakened state with lots of brain activity, to alpha, a relaxed state. In alpha, the mood-regulating hormone serotonin gets released, and this acts to calm you down, .
'From an alpha brain state, you go into high theta brain-wave state, the dream state, . In theta, your thoughts slow down to 4 to 8 thoughts per second. Emotional integration and release happen here, and particular areas in the brain are susceptible to change. It’s here that some people sometimes have insights or see images, colours and patterns. It’s here you come to understand your "wholeness, your innate being as spacious, without boundary or form".
Eventually you reach the state of delta, where your thoughts are only 1 to 3.9 thoughts per second. This is known as the most restorative state, here the bodies natural healing of homeostasis is said to embody and regenerate your organs as the hormone cortisol is diminished via the sweet nectar of Hormones from the master gland, the Pituitary.
Upon this a change occurs within your body - brain - mind network and a rewiring occurs as the subconscious mind in this fourth state is fertile. As a consequence in your everyday life you begin to rest, more and more in the space between emotions and thoughts, and this resting gives rise to a sense of freedom, where you are not triggered so much by the stuff in your life or past.
Not everyone who practices Yoga Nidra Meditation reaches these deeper states,
but as a result of touching into it, you bring a little of its peace back with you to your waking, everyday life, and we all need a touch of peace in our world.
Benefits of Relaxation & Yoga Nidra:-
1. Yoga Nidra counteracts stress and is prescribed by many health professionals to assist with various health conditions. 2. Provides effective relief for depression and long standing anxiety. 3. Supports a restful sleep. 4. Clears the mind and balances brain centres to sustain learning. 5. Propels the body into the Relaxation Response and turns off the stress response. 6. Relaxes the mind - body, improves breathing. 7. Used to increase mental performance for athletes.
8. It opens a pathway towards our Spiritual Nature and Essence of Being
The more you practice Yoga Nidra, the better it gets.
Yoga Nidra is like a ‘super nap’ that recharges your mind - body - brain . It is a complete rejuvenation package – a must to pacify ourselves of daily stresses in today’s busy world.
You can find a number of Guided scripts on line. The best is to join in a Class with an experienced teacher who can offer you an organic, undiminished healing experience.
Cathie McGill Runs Training and classes In Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga In Adelaide and other Cities in Australia. She has studied both through the Sivananda methods, Irest and with Dr. Ian Gawler, along with her how practice since she met with it in 1992.
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