What is your relationship with rest?
For most of my life, I had a very strained relationship with rest. Caught up in societal conditioning that prioritises productivity over well-being and outward expansion over inner exploration, I used to push aside my need to rest. And when I found myself so exhausted that I couldn’t get out of bed, I would judge and shame myself for not being strong enough, good enough, resilient enough.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to yoga nidra by Uma Dinsmore Tuli and Nirlipta Tuli with the Yoga Nidra Network, that I started to reawaken to the sacredness of rest. My first experience with yoga nidra was a potent elixir for my body, mind and spirit. Through regular practice of yoga nidra, I now have an embodied understanding of how crucial rest is for healing, regeneration, restoring harmony, igniting creativity and revitalising my inner power.
So, why is it that so many of us – especially women – have such a hard relationship with rest? Well, if you’re anything like me, you were probably exposed to widespread messaging that denigrated rest – messaging that made you feel lazy, weak or inferior if you needed to rest.
The stigma against rest isn’t only a modern-day phenomenon. It's rooted in the transition from matriarchal to patriarchal culture that happened 5000 years ago. Prior to this time, humanity understood and venerated the cyclical nature of Life. Birth, death and rebirth were understood as intrinsically connected and all three phases were equally vital. Times of darkness and rest were valued as important moments of renewal and magic, from which rebirth could emerge. But the rise to power of patriarchal tribes around 2,500 BCE spawned successive generations over many millennia that rejected and demonized the cyclical nature of reality, especially dark cyclical phases. Today, this patriarchal conditioning underpins why we associate darkness, and anything intimately connected to the dark – like rest, with evil and fear. We unconsciously link rest with our fear of death. And we have forgotten the sacred role of death in the cyclical nature of life. Demetra George summarises this transition brilliantly in her book ‘Mysteries of the Dark Moon”.
So, today, when we consciously choose to rest, it’s an act of radical emancipation. Honouring rest allows us to reclaim the power and wisdom of cyclical rhythms that have been repressed for too long. And we can tap into this deep power and wisdom for our own healing, empowerment and rising up.
Welcoming rest into your life might feel uncomfortable at first. Trust me, I know. But, if you hear inner judgement or feel discomfort, please remember that you’re not alone. Awareness of this discomfort or the incongruency of messaging in your body or mind, means that you’re embodying the current groundswell of change that is dismantling 5000 years of patriarchal rule.
I can’t think of a more delectable way to restore balance and harmony in this world than simply choosing to rest!
The power of Nidra Shakti
Yoga nidra – the yoga of psychic sleep - is especially powerful as a form of alchemical rest. It is not so much a practice as a process of entering an effortless state of being. It's the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep, where we sink into the deeper layers of our consciousness with pure awareness.
We enter into the state of yoga nidra through guided meditative techniques.
From a modern scientific perspective, yoga nidra guides you through a progressive journey of different brainwave frequencies. From the Beta brainwaves of our dominant waking, active and thinking mind, we gently move to experience Alpha brainwaves of a meditative mind that is restful, yet awake. We can then move to experience Theta brainwaves, which in a normal process of sleep, is when we lose consciousness and move into the REM dream state of sleep. And finally, we may experience Delta brainwaves, which are generally experienced during the stillness of dreamless sleep. This is the optimal state for restoring and rejuvenating the body and mind. What makes yoga nidra so potent is that we’re not only able to experience each of these brainwave states, but also to witness them.
From a philosophical yogic perspective, yoga nidra follows the map of the maya koshas - the five multi-dimensional sheaths of awareness that make up our experience of the world and Self. Yoga nidra’s sequential process allows us to gradually expand our awareness from the physical sheath of the body to the more subtle energetic sheaths that connect us with Source.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra’s process of exploring and clearing our different layers of consciousness has amazing benefits, which I’ve experienced first-hand through my personal practice, and as a yoga nidra teacher in Senegal. These include:
Stress reduction and calming the nervous system (see study)
Improved sleep, including treating insomnia (see study)
Hormone regulation and reducing menstrual problems (see study)
Improved memory and problem-solving skills
Replenishment of the body, promoting homeostasis in the physical body
Reduction of mild or moderate anxiety and depression (see study)
Pain management (see study)
Healing from trauma, including PTSD and sexual trauma (see study)
Deeply connecting with your inner world, to know thyself.
The beauty of yoga nidra is that it is adaptogenic – nidra shakti (the power of yoga nidra) will meet you where you’re at and will offer you the healing, nourishment and revitalisation that you need in that specific moment.
So how do you practise yoga nidra?
While there are different styles of yoga nidra, they generally all involve lying down or coming to an exquisitely comfortable position, where the body can be effortless. Then, in a restful state, you follow the voice of a yoga nidra facilitator as she/he/they guide you through progressive meditative and breathwork techniques.
What’s wonderful about yoga nidra is how accessible it is! You don't need any previous yoga or meditation experience. You don’t need to have a certain level of fitness. You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t need to exert much effort all. All you need is 15 – 45 minutes of time when you can rest.
Ready to experience radical rest?
I’m passionate about sharing yoga nidra with as many people as possible. That’s why I created this free yoga nidra that you can download and experience in the comfort of your own home.