I remember during the first weekend of my yoga teacher training in February 2015, I took my first yoga nidra “class.” For 30 minutes, my peers and I laid on bolsters propped up by blocks, blanketed, in a reclined cobbler’s pose. While we laid there in stillness, our teacher would read to us a guided meditation and visualization script.
I remember creating a sankalpha, or intention; becoming aware of different parts of my body from head to toe; counting backwards; and visualizing images and scenarios all in one session. It was mind blowing – and it was my first introduction to yoga nidra.
Yoga nidra is known as the sleep of yoga.
I can't imagine anything more blissful than giving both your body and mind a rest. To lie silent, to listen to a guided meditation, to visualize… To me, that’s the very antidote to a stressed out, modern lifestyle.
One very useful form of yoga nidra is called iRest. It was developed by Dr. Richard Miller to aid Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggling with PTSD. I took my first iRest class in early 2016 with Sarah Maynard-Murray, iRest® Yoga Nidra Teacher in Training Level 2. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the practice and how it intersects with the eight limbs of yoga.
I investigate some aspects of iRest below by interviewing Sarah – who is also a veteran and owner of a float tank business, Uncharted Waters Float Center.
IREST: THE YOGA IN YOGA NIDRA
Describe yoga nidra in less than 10 words.
The most mind blowing nap of your life!
Yoga nidra is the sleep of yoga. But it is known to benefit your waking life. What has yoga nidra/iRest done for your life or the lives of others you know of?
iRest has completely transformed my life. By faithfully practicing this meditation I have been able to manage my PTSD and anxiety to the point where I no longer need to use medication. As a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault, I spent my entire 20’s trying not to feel anything. iRest gave me back the ability to feel love and to give love. There are absolutely days were I still struggle but iRest allows me to find the place of resiliency, ground, and well-being that is always within my innate being. In short, iRest has helped me become a better wife, mother and, frankly, human.
I know that iRest has three important components. [Intention, heart desire, inner resource] Can you talk about those and maybe elaborate on why it is a part of the iRest format? Should we be thinking about those three components in regular life too?
By focusing on the 3 foundations (intention, heartfelt desire and inner resource) we begin the formation of tools that you can access for life. Becoming aware for your intention for practice, your heartfelt mission for living life, and your inner resource (a sense of ground, security, well-being and ease), you become able to tap into your inner resiliency, which is key in healing from emotional and physical trauma. These foundations reside within you so you can access them when and wherever you like. That is the beauty and magic of iRest. You can be in traffic, the line at the grocery store, cooking dinner, or running after kids and you can still conjure up its tools and principles anytime.
Can you practice yoga nidra or iRest alone, without guidance?
When you first begin iRest I recommend you use some guidance either with a recording or with the help of an iRest facilitator. This helps create solid layer of understanding of how to use the ten-step protocol. Over time and with consistent practice, it is natural that you would move to a more independent practice.
What’s the difference between meditation and yoga nidra? I’ve always thought of yoga nidra as a type of meditation and whenever I go to your iRest class, I tell people I’m going to a “meditation class.”
They are both one in the same! iRest uses the terms “yoga nidra” and “mindfulness meditation” interchangeably. Sometimes one term resonates with a particular group of people where the other reaches a different audience. iRest really is for everyone so by using both terms you have much better chance of reaching a larger population with the hopes that everyone will give iRest a try.
Besides seeing you at Samdhana Karana Yoga or Uncharted Waters Float, where else can someone find resources to experience iRest?
People can find more information on iRest at www.irest.us. There is a list of upcoming trainings as well as a search function to find qualified instructors in your area.
Where does yoga nidra/iRest fit in the 8 limbs of yoga?
I feel that iRest could fall into Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Again it’s about your intention for your practice and how long you have been practicing. With iRest you can practice just one or all ten steps of the protocol, each step could fit into a different limb. Practicing a little and often can have astounding affects on your day to day life no matter which limb you choose to work in
Where do you see the future of yoga nidra/iRest within the yoga industry? I only found out through the Three Trees’ yoga teacher training.
I hope iRest will continue to gain in popularity.
This program has been used in VA hospitals and on military installations since 2006.
Currently, I facilitate iRest at Yellow Ribbon Pre and Post Deployment Events for the Washington Air National Guard as well as work with private clients at Uncharted Waters Float Center.
Over the next few months we will be starting “iRest Floats for clients who have a float session in our Sensory Deprivation Cabins.
I will guide them through a iRest meditation while they are in there float session.
This is very exciting because to my knowledge it has never been done before in the field of iRest or floating.
In the summer of 2017 Integrative Restoration Institute is rolling out an iRest program for children.
With continued exposure to people of all different backgrounds, my dream is for iRest to become a common solution that is referred by the medical community to help battle the symptoms of trauma, chronic pain, insomnia, chemical dependency, depression and anxiety.
What do you want people to know about this practice that you’ve become so passionate about?
iRest has been the single most potent experience I have ever encountered on my path of healing.
Never in my life have I felt more grounded, connected and at ease.
iRest is so accessible but yields so much positivity that it is almost too good to believe at first.
If you are on the fence about trying a session just know you will at least walk away having had the best nap ever! [End of interview.]
Sarah's iRest offerings
Samdhana Karana Yoga (monthly drop-in)
Uncharted Waters Float Center (drop-in, private sessions, and series)
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