Here it is! This little recording is my gift to you. It is a Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is an ancient, deep relaxation technique that means Divine Sleep. The good news is you don’t even need a yoga mat, or a change of clothes. You just need a cozy place to lay on your back with no interruptions, for 30 minutes. Yes, that means silencing your phone. In fact, I invite you to put your phone in another room. Let your family members know you are unavailable. If you have pre-teens or teens you can invite them to practice with you.
This practice is the uncontested FAVORITE activity in my middle and high school classes. This recording was made during one of my high school classes. Thanks guys!
If you want to get extra luxurious about it (which I hope you do) grab a blanket, some cozy socks and/or an eye pillow. The practice is designed to help you feel rested, whole, present and more aware of your interconnections. If you have the time, and your body needs to move a bit, do a few sun salutations or a full practice first.
Ready to go? Skip to the bottom and enjoy! Want to geek out a bit? Keep reading.
In yoga we see that all things have a rhythm, a pulsation. Everything that is alive, has a cycle of activity and rest. As modern day humans we are doing everything we can to step out of that rhythm. Our world is organized in opposition to our ability to follow our bodies natural need to rest. It is increasingly hard in today’s world to actually tune in and line up to the slower rhythm of nature. And our body, as part of the earth, craves that slower rhythm. So as a society, we are in a huge deficit of sleep and restful activities. And our need for rest – because of the sheer pace and stress of our lives is at an all time high.
We value sleep, play and restfulness so little, that these things seem like the perfect sctivities to cut out of our busy lives. And we are suffering for it. Brené Brown in “The Gifts of Imperfection” states that “According to the Centers for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, heat disease, obesity and depression.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make time for some delicious rest, than make time for doctors appointments and the suffering created by these illnesses! While I encourage you to actually sleep sleep. This practice of Divine Sleep can also be a huge support in finding deep rest.
It’s been a rough week, and a rough few years in the news. Especially when we are grieving, angry, scared or frustrated, it’s vital to take a break. This practice, with it’s guided imagery, is intended to give you a “thought vacation” so you can come back to your life with freshness, support, and new found creativity and clarity.
This quote has been rolling around in my mind and heart this month. No one knows exactly who said it first, maybe Plato. I’m willing to bet that if it was Plato, he was probably quoting someone else – maybe his mother. It seems that, as long as there have been sensitive people and pain, this idea has been guiding us to be kinder to each other. (If you want to geek out on the mysterious origins of the quote, check out this blog post here.
The quote has been in my mind, because it has been a season of hard battles in my family’s life. We say in tantric yoga that everything can be used to help us awaken. If you’ve been through some major heartbreak you’ll know that in the midst of that pain, there is an opening to understand that everyone is carrying their own pains. Everyone is indeed fighting their own battles. Though I don’t wish that pain on anyone, including myself, in the depth of struggle is a perfect, potent place to grow our ability to love.
Ahimsa, often translated to non-harming, is one of the fundamental practices outlined in the yoga sutras. I appreciate the more modern translation of Ahimsa – practicing loving kindness. We can go beyond just being neutral and not harming! Let’s add some TLC to the planet! On the mat we work to line up physically, so we don’t harm ourselves. Coming to the mat, and doing so in a mindful and refined way, is also an act of profound kindness for ourselves. In the inner practices, we grow our hearts and our capacity to be kind.
Practicing ahimsa in family life is of utmost importance. We have to support our ability to be kind with the ones who love us most – our children. They are so tender, and our ability to treat them with kindness is fertilizer for their optimal growth. Being kind to them, of course is important. But also, being kind to ourselves in front of them is vital. The way you talk about yourself and to yourself directly impacts your child’s ability to be kind to themselves. So the work is watching our inner monologue, and shifting it to be a kinder kind of self-talk. Then, and this will seem strange at first, but especially if you have younger kids, actually saying that positive self-talk out loud when they are around. Saying things like, “Oh man, I wish I hadn’t dropped that. But we all make mistakes!” Or, “I carried this all the way up stairs, I am a strong mama!” I expect you’ll hear your kids talking to themselves in the same tone you are using to speak to yourself. Powerful work!
All this practice takes some very serious self care. So be kind to yourself, take the time you need to fuel up in order to be at your best and able to be kind to others!
My valentine’s month invitation to you is to do something kind for yourself, and something kind for someone else each week. Make time for your “kindness practice”. Seriously, put it on the to-do list. For yourself: go for a long walk, make your favorite food, take a long bath – whatever you love. For others, maybe donate to an awesome organization like book harvest, or Porch. Anonymously put treats on your co-worker’s desks when they aren’t looking. Offer to take care of a friend’s kiddos so she can go to a yoga class. So many options! Please have fun with this, and please comment here or send me an email to let me know what you did!!!
If we could have a word of the month this month it would be balance. When you sit down and look at it, balance is a part of everything we do on (and hopefully off) the mat. As we strive to cultivate health and happiness balance is a guiding concept. In physical terms we hope to create balance between our left and our right, our upper and lower bodies, our ability to have stability and flexibility. In each pose we are working for balanced action between all the parts involved in that pose. In yoga our philosophy is that nothing by itself is better than it’s opposite. The golden goodness is in balancing the parts. Flexibility is great, but without steady action to balance it we get injured. A lot. Strength is great, without flexibility we also get injured. I could spend a lifetime seeking balance just in the physical realm.
And, of course, you know by now that the yoga we do together is far more than just the physical work. What else needs to be brought into balance? Here is a hint: what is out of balance will not feel good. Feeling stuck? How can you balance the steadiness of your routine with some freedom and play? Feeling over taxed? How can you balance what takes energy with what gives you energy? Feeling disconnected? How can you balance your healthy solitude with fostering connection with others?
As we move through this month, I encourage you to look at everything that “doesn’t feel good” through this lens of balance.
As my daughter said yesterday, “Autumn is coming”. It’s the season of bright leaves, cooler breezes, and for many of us a sweet turning inward. As the plants draw their energy down into their root systems we’ll be using our time on the mat to draw into a nourishing and grounding study of our own. This fall we will delve into the yogic study of deeply knowing ourselves. It’s one of the deepest things we can do on the mat: discover more about who we are, and who we aren’t. In my Sunday classes we will look at the ancient teachings on this, and read quotes from amazing thinkers and mystics on the subject. But most importantly we will find ways of accepting the yogic invitation to look deeply at the question “Who am I?” for ourselves.
Here is a quote from John O’Donohue that I find myself coming back to again and again. It, for me, summarizes this journey and study of self-discovery.
“Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is a seamlessness in you. There is a confidence and a tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer, spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.” Jon O’Donohue. (From interview on Speaking with Faith)
That interview is here, I highly recommend it!
We will be playing with arm balances to keep in light, and integrating plenty of hip openers and even a few restoratives into our Autumn practices to keep us grounded in this Vata season.
Now more than ever, it is essential that we make time to breathe, move and connect with each other. In times of great stress and uncertainty it can be very easy to allow our bodies stress response to overwhelm us.
It takes considerable, conscious effort to do what needs to be done to counter all the effects of accumulated and acute stress. But here is the thing – if we don’t manage our stress it will effect our health, our ability to think clearly and even our ability to invent creative, positive solutions to the problems we are facing. The effect of stress on our health is clear, but did you know that when our body is in a strong stress response it is also very difficult to access the part of the brain that allows us to have creative problem solving, compassion and connection?
If we don’t have our health, clarity, sense of connection and compassion intact, it will be very hard to be the beacons of light that are needed in our world. Tomorrow marks the celebrations of Imbolc, a day that celebrates the Goddess Brigid, and the Feast day for St. Brigit (her Christian counterpart). This fiery being is a fierce peace keeper.
Today is a potent time to investigate what you are doing to bring more harmony. peace and love to the planet. This may be raising your children with mindfulness, it many be calling your representatives every day, it many be in your work life – maybe all three! Whatever you are doing, please add a strong commitment to carve time out to release your own stress. So you can stay healthy and fully resourced for all that you do.
Three very powerful ways of managing stress are: deep breathing, whole body movement, and mindfulness. Sound familiar? Your time on the mat is training you to stand strong in these times. To be a fiery peace maker in your way. So, now more than ever, take a little time to breathe deep, move and connect in the present.
Blessings for all you do,