17: Yoga Nidra

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Yoga Nidra is also known as Yogic Sleep, Psychic Sleep and Lucid Sleeping, is an altered state of consciousness. It is the state of deep sleep where the mind remains conscious and aware. The practice, as it is known today, was developed by Swami Satyananda during the 1980s. He talks about yoga nidra as the deepest state of relaxation where the body goes into sleep mode but the mind remains aware and takes a conscious journey to the inner being. It is considered an initial stage for Samadhi or Moksha. Yes! Yoga nidra is known to lead to enlightenment. In fact, a single hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to many hours of quality sleep and is much more restorative and rejuvenating.

Benefits

  1. It helps in relieving muscular, emotional, and mental tension.
  2. Yoga nidra relaxes the mind by relieving stress and anxiety. It heals depression and nervous imbalances.
  3. It treats insomnia, psychological disorders, and psychosomatic diseases. It is known to be used in the treatment of trauma and shock.
  4. It trains the mind and helps in enhancing memory and increasing learning capacity.
  5. Yogic sleep also results in increased energy levels.
  6. It heals endocrine imbalances and ensures optimal functioning of the endocrine system.
  7. Yoga nidra not only detoxifies the body, but also clears up the subconscious. It helps in releasing the ‘repressed matter’ from the subconscious.
  8. It improves creativity.
  9. It also leads to improved senses and more cultivated body awareness.
  10. Yoga nidra restores the mind and body and leads to restructuring of the whole personality from within.

 

8 Stages of Yoga Nidra

  1. Preparation
  2. Sankalpa
  3. Body Rotation
  4. Breath Awareness
  5. Sense Perception (Duality)
  6. Visualisation
  7. Repeat Sankalpa
  8. Awareness

1. Preparation

Lie down on the mat, feet hips width apart, palms away from the hips and naturally curled. Let your body sink into the floor. Get comfortable. Shift and move a little to let your body settle deeper into the ground. Be comforted that at this time, everything is ok. You may make adjustments now to be completely comfortable.

Do not worry or become agitated if you do not hear everything I say. It is natural to flow in and out of conscious hearing. The deepest part of you, your core self, is always listening.

Come into stillness now and remain still, for deep rest, deep nourishment. Feel your natural breath. Breath flowing through.


2. Sankalpa

Go deep inside now. Deep inside to notice your heart’s deepest longing. What does your heart desire?

Create a sankalpa, an intention affirmation based on your hearts longing. A positive statement in the present tense, as though it’s already happening.  State it three times as though it is already happening.

 

3. Body Awareness Rotation

Allow your awareness to travel through your body now on a journey of sensation. Simply feel each part as it is mentioned, and without moving, remain still. Welcome all sensation, just as it is.

Right side. Visualize the right hand thumb… index finger…middle finger… ring finger… little finger… feel the tips of the fingers… Be aware of your right palm… wrist… forearm… the right elbow… upper arm… the shoulder… the right chest… right side of the stomach…right waist… right hips… the thigh of the right leg… its knee…the calf muscles… the ankle… the heel… the sole… the right big toe… the second toe…the third toe… the fourth toe… the fifth toe… the whole right foot.

Left side. Now take your consciousness to the left side. Repeat as you did above with the right side.

Back.  Your body is touching the floor… be aware of the points of contact between the body and the floor… Relax your heels… calf muscles… back of the knee… thighs… hips… lower back… upper back… right shoulder… left shoulder… shoulder blades… back of palms… back of the arms… the neck… and the back of the head…

Face.  Be aware of the top of the head…   the forehead…   both sides of the forehead…   the right eyebrow…   the left eyebrow… the space between the eyebrows…  the right eyelid…   the left eyelid…   right eyeball… left eyeball… right ear… left ear… right cheek… left cheek…the nose… upper lip… lower lip… and the chin…

Now move your awareness to your major body parts:

Bring your awareness on the main parts of the body… full right foot… left foot… feel both feet together… the right leg… the left leg… both legs together… full right hand… full left hand… feel both hands together… the right arm… the left arm… both arms together… your full back and spine…complete abdomen… chest… and the whole face… the face is totally relaxed and peaceful… now feel your whole head and body together.

Visualize your body lying down on the floor completely relaxed.

 

4. Breath Awareness

Now become aware of your natural and normal breath.   The breath is coming in and going out freely… you move with the breath fully consciously.

With each inhalation, it is expanding…with each exhalation, it is sucking in… Now, as you are aware of your breath, start counting backwards with each in breath and each out breath, as follows:

“I am breathing in 27 (or 10); I am breathing out 27 (or 10); I am breathing in 26 (or 9); I am breathing out 26 (or 9); and so on, from 27 (or 10) to 1.

Say the words and numbers mentally as you count your breaths.  After completing the counts, pause for about 5 minutes if you started counting from 27 and for about three minutes if counting started from 10.

 

5. Sense Perception

Be aware of your body and of your sensations.  Feel, with each inhalation, that cool air is entering your nose, and the body is becoming more energetic.

You are getting strength, power, courage, good health, and happiness.

Feel as with each exhalation, warm air is coming out of your nose, and you are releasing all the toxins, stress, ill health, all the weakness from your body.  The body is becoming relaxed, and you feel as if you are sinking into the floor.

6. Visualisation

Mentally select a place of natural beauty, which you have ever visited and liked, such as a park, a garden, a lawn, or a riverside.  Feel as if you are mentally present at that place.  Take your mind to that place, and feel as if you lying at that place and are breathing the air of that environment.  Keeping the mind involved with the same environment, feel as you are experiencing and enjoying the same happiness again.

7. Repeat Sankalpa

Now remember your heart’s longing statement. Repeat it again three times as the present truth, three times to yourself. It is the truth.

 

8. Return back to awareness

Notice your back body side of the body facing the earth. Notice all of the space surrounding you. Let your body expand wider into the space that surrounds you. Notice your breath. Feel its rhythm and pace. We are now completing relaxation practice. Before moving, sense your fingers and just imagine them moving. Now begin to wiggle your fingers, feeling every sensation as you do. Notice your toes. Begin to wiggle your toes.

Draw a deeper breath into your belly, into your chest. Rock slowly over to your right side in fetal position. Imagine that you are water, and pressing your left palm into the floor, flow, like a river up to a comfortable seated position.

 

-J

16: prana kosha

While i was trying to teach my sequence, i started to have a minor panic attack when i gave too much thought into what i was supposed to say. Especially in between transitions of the warrior poses where we have to get the legs positions right.

I guess the problem was trying to figure out what to say too much.

When I’m nervous, right becomes left. front becomes back. and worse… elbows becomes knees.  :/

It is, kind of embarrassing.

I’m starting to think, maybe i shouldn’t have gone through the sequence so much because it made me nervous trying to think that my sequence have to be perfect. While practicing at home, somehow when my mind was not thinking of the sequence, trying to figure out what to say comes more naturally and easier.

It then got me thinking about how i ace my everyday pitches at work. I don’t even sweat it anymore. Looking at the slides becomes a breeze because i created the deck and presenting it is just trying to sell what i have in my head all the while.

I guess the logic is the same.

Since i built the sequence, i just have to go through the sequence without trying too hard to make sure i said all the right things.

Instead, i should instruct on how i would normally do the pose like how i would in all my practices. That way, perhaps i won’t be as nervous and forget what i was supposed to say in the first place… well because it was not programmed :D and i can say whatever that fits the class plan or situation :D

It is actually towards the end of teaching that i started to become more relax because i realise trying to remember everything is sort of too much in the head. I just started to teach base on what i know and words just started to flow naturally.

On another note, here’s a nice info graphic i found on prana kosha.  The human body consists of 5 sheats namely; annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha,  manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha.

 

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-J

 

 

15 : Sequencing

Before TTC, i always wonder how do instructors plan out their class and how they manage to keep it fresh and not boring every time.

The yoga classes i have attended so far are always different in it’s flow, poses as well as speed. No two classes are the same. Hence, the topic of sequencing intrigues me alot as it shows the creativity of the instructor to bring a fun, challenging and non routine base class to his or her students. Are there any secret to sequencing? Are there do’s and don’ts?

Over the years of attending classes, i have somehow actually narrowed down certain things that i like and don’t like from the classes i have attended. Some of the most major ones include sequence that can flow. It is important to move from one pose to the other gracefully and not have abrupt changes from pose to pose. I am also not fond of sequence that do not emphasise on warming up the body at the beginning of the class as to me, a proper warmed up body will help subsequent poses to be easier and deepen the asanas. I also like sequence that are not predictable as predictability can reduce student’s alertness to the instructor.

How to build a sequence?

1. Prepare a theme, set a mood. eg : Strong Arms, Flexible Back, etc
2. Pick a peak pose. The pose done when the body is most warmed up.
3. A 60 min class should have at least minimum 8 poses.
4. Start the class with relaxation. Moving on to warming up poses, poses, and then ending with breathing and relaxation/shavasana.
5. It is best to have all group of asanas within the sequence. ie:- backbend, fwdbend, spinal twist, inversion, standing and arm balancing.
6. Ensure proper counter poses are introduced within the sequence.
7. Make sure each poses flow from one to the other.
8. Remember to make room for breathing :)

-J

14 : Chakra

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I guess chakras will be my favourite part of yogic studies. I have always been intrigued by the nature of chakras and the energy it possesses, maybe due to longevitology studies i have attended when i was young. Since then, i am always curious of the chakras within the human body and the energy it manifests.

Chakras are part of the subtle body, not the physical body, and as such are the meeting points of the subtle non-physical energy channels called nadi. There are many chakras in the subtle human body according to the tantric texts, but there are 7 chakras that are considered to be the most important ones.

1. Mooladhara/Root Chakra - Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.

  • Location: Base of spine in tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money, and food.

2. Swadhisthana/Sacral Chakra - Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.

  • Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel and 2 inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure, sexuality.

3. Manipura/Solar Plexus Chakra - Our ability to be confident and in-control of our lives.

  • Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.
  • Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem.

4. Anahata/Heart Chakra - Our ability to love.

  • Location: Center of chest just above heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy, inner peace.

5.  Vishuddhi/Throat Chakra - Our ability to communicate.

  • Location: Throat.
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings, the truth.

6.  Ajna/Third Eye Chakra - Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.

  • Location: Forehead between the eyes. (Also called the Brow Chakra)
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom, ability to think and make decisions.

7.  Sahasrara/Crown Chakra - The highest Chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.

  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality, pure bliss.

-J

13 : Jala Neti

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Neti is an important part of Shatkarma, the yogic system of cleansing techniques. It is intended to clean the air passageways in the head. The two main variants are jala neti (using water) and the more advanced sutra neti (using string).

Jala Neti ‘removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages and sinuses, allowing air to flow without obstruction.  It helps prevent and manage respiratory tract diseases such as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis‘

- from Swami Satyananda Saraswati – Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Rinsing the nasal passages with sterile saline solution helps to flush out irritants like dust and it is very healing to the delicate nasal membranes. For this technique, lukewarm salt water/saline solution is poured into one nostril using a neti pot (neti lota), so that it leaves through the other. The procedure is then repeated on the other side, and the nose is dried by bending forward and by rapid breathing without force. Throughout the process, we breathe through our mouth. After the process, rest in child’s pose for a few minutes with a towel. You may find some water is still flowing out from the nasal passage.

After nasal cleansing with the neti pot, you may find the air passageway is slightly very cooling and fresh. Needless to say, the nostrils are clean and breathing becomes slightly easier. :)

This is my first time doing Jala Neti and it is indeed a very refreshing experience. Performing pranayama after jala neti brings practices to a whole new level :)

-J