Though I know that this spring has been less than ideal in many places in our world, here, in the mid Atlantic, it has been unusually pleasant. I know that hot, humid summer days are on their way, especially with atmospheric carbon dioxide at over 400 ppm. Fortunately, June so far hasn’t been too bad, locally. When it gets hotter, I will be limiting my outdoor experiences to either the early morning, or after sun down. My feelings about summer in the mid Atlantic echo many who dread winter! I am one of those who provide the balance that legitimizes winter haters… It takes all kinds to run a world, after all….
Well, you don’t want to read about my personal issues, so here is something else to think about. Yoga, a many faceted practice, has been linked to improved health: physical, emotional and mental. Emphasis on the breath, through exercises called pranayama in Sanscrit, increases oxygen intake, and ultimately, expands lung capacity, possibly increasing an individual’s ability to focus in each moment, providing calm and, often, feelings of well being. Executing the various poses, called asanas, in proper alignment, and with attention to muscular engagement in opposing pairs, lends to increased muscle tone, better balance, and possibly, gentle progress to increased physical ease as skeletal muscles develop and pull misaligned bones into proper positions. Proper alignment in asanas can also lead to better proprioception, the sense of where one’s body is in space, which in turn can lead to better balance. All this activity, and yoga’s work is not done! It has even been found that parts of the prefrontal cortex thicken with asana practice and with meditation! Best of all, everyone, no matter what shape they are in, can find some kind of yoga practice in which to participate, even if it to sit calmly paying attention to the breath. There is even sleep yoga, called Yoga Nidra, and laughter yoga!
Sleep yoga, or Yoga Nidra, is basically a guided practice in which the practitioner tries to stay awake while a facilitator speaks a set of scripted exercises, in a 20 to 40 minute session. These verbal exercises are designed to relax the practitioner, or practitioners, and then take their minds through levels of consciousness, through to alpha and theta brainwave states, simulating deep, restful, healing sleep. It is said that 30 minutes of a Yoga Nidra session are equivalent to 3 HOURS of deep, restful sleep. Not too shabby for a 30 minute investment, I’d say! Not to mention that the hardest part of participating an a Yoga Nidra session is in staying awake. You can’t get hurt, or “do it wrong”, or mess up with Yoga Nidra!
There is a growing body of research into the effects of Yoga Nidra, and the list of observable benefits is impressive: increased GABA, Human Growth Hormone, Seritonin and Oxytocin production, and reduced Cortisol and Epinephrine/Norepinephrine. That means Yoga Nidra is useful in helping with a host of issues that plague mankind. Yoga Nidra can help with stress reduction, with lowering blood pressure, with increasing feelings of well being, and with increased relaxation, for example. These features of Yoga Nidra number among some of the many benefits that can be derived from successive sessions. Researchers have found that participants’ prefrontal cortexes start to measurably thicken after as few as 11 consecutive Yoga Nidra sessions, which means cognition losses can be reversed, at least in part, after all!
I learned about all the above mentioned benefits of Yoga Nidra, in addition to quite a few other useful facts, and applications for Yoga Nidra during the Yoga Nidra certification program I pursued this winter. The program of study which I pursued was through the Amrit Yoga Institute, under Kamini Desai’s superb tutelage. I am convinced Yoga Nidra is an extremely valuable service which I can offer to others.
Now that I have successfully completed the program, I am happy to say that I can facilitate Yoga Nidra sessions, using the Amrit Method of Yoga Nidra, on a private, or on a semi-private, basis. As time goes on, I will be offering audio files and You Tube videos, for interested participants, as well as in the form of CDs, for those of you who are interested in Yoga Nidra sessions, but who do not live close to me. I will also include custom Yoga Nidra recordings for those whom I provide live Yoga Nidra sessions, so they can continue to participate in specific techniques tailored to their specific needs, between sessions with me. I will let you know more as this set of ideas develops and takes more concrete form.