After years of searching for happiness, Adrienne Jamiel, 65, doesn’t follow gurus or important teachers. Instead, Jamiel explores her deepest knowing through iRest, a modern adaptation of yoga nidra. Developed by Richard Miller, iRest delivers relaxation to many different populations, including veterans, and has been tested in a clinical research study on adults with chemical dependency issues.
Since May, Jamiel has been one of several iRest instructors teaching at St. Bartholomew’s Church. YogaCity NYC’s Ann Votaw chatted with Jamiel, under St. Bart’s glorious dome. Warm and animated, Jamiel explained her healing journey from a troubled childhood to feelings of untapped joy.
Ann Votaw: When did you start doing iRest Yoga Nidra?
Adrienne Jamiel: I met Richard Miller at a conference at Kripalu, in 1999. During it, he led one Yoga Nidra session. In that session, after years of doing meditation and yoga, I tasted non-doing. I ordered the six-tape audio series Richard had at the time and never looked back. I practiced every day for five years.
AV: At some places you use scripts, but not at St. Bart's. Why?
AJ: In 2008 I was the iRest Yoga Nidra instructor for a study researching the effects of meditation on relapse in chemically dependent adults. For scientific evaluation and consistency, it was important to use scripts. The study involved residents of a locked-down rehabilitation facility that prefers not to be identified. I wrote and used 10 different scripts for the 10-week study.
AV: You mentioned having some childhood trauma of your own.
AJ: Yes. In iRest, we talk about developing an “inner resource,” a place where you feel safe and at ease. As a child, I never had a safe haven and coped by becoming hypervigilant. Today, the practice of welcoming whatever arises is my safe haven.
AV: How has iRest helped you?
AJ: When I studied in India, a teacher told me I had a lot of Śraddhā, which is often translated as faith. For me, Śraddhā is the divine madness that drives a monarch butterfly, even when she is battered and bruised, to continue to fly until she reaches home. I’ve spent a lot of time and disposable income trying to find home. iRest taught me that there’s nowhere to go because I am already home.
One day, uncaused joy arose on its own. Uncaused joy is an experience of pleasure without an external cause that is the natural human state and available when we are aware of the present moment.
When I first started practicing yoga nidra, I felt no one could really see me. As I continued my practice, I cultivated the skill of being able to tolerate seeing myself. When that happened, joy arose spontaneously. I think one reason why I identify with people who suffer from chemical dependence is that they know there’s something better than the pain they are feeling, they know there’s some way to feel better. Unfortunately there’s a misunderstanding that what they want is found in chemicals. My hope is that they can find that place within before they are harmed by addiction. My hope for all of us is that we experience joy.
AV: What does your current iRest practice look like?
AJ: I practice each morning for 30 minutes, and then I lead sessions during the day with clients. I also practice welcoming [letting the feelings just come without trying to dismiss them] while waiting in line at the bank.
AV: Your husband, Sundar Das, sometimes plays bansuri flute at your iRest sessions. How did you meet, and how can I meet someone like him?
AJ: I met my husband when his guru, Swami Chidvilasananda, hired me to lead a movement training program for senior devotees. I had been married and divorced. Dating was not working out. I vowed that my next relationship would be in a committed marriage or I was perfectly content to remain unwed. At the time I met him, I was practicing brahmacharya (celibacy). My advice is to know the type of relationship you want to co-create with someone and then learn to be happy without it.
AV: What was it about iRest that most attracted you?
AJ: It’s an embodied practice that teaches the body and thinking mind how to remain calm and to welcome whatever is arising in the present moment. The fruit of trauma can be bitterness. I learned how to welcome the bitterness of a particular thought and to sit with it’s taste in my mouth until it eventually dissolved. You may not like the taste, but if you can learn to welcome any pain and bitterness, sadness and shame that arises, joy arises as well.
Jamiel teaches yoga, iRest meditation, and anatomy.
Monday iRest sessions are 5:45pm, at St. Bart's (325 Park Ave.)