Yoga nidra, otherwise known as yoga sleep, is a practice that moves you into a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping or what teacher Karen Nourizadeh from Pure Yoga East calls “yoga naptime.”
Setting up for this Friday mid-day yoga nidra class looks a bit different than the usual flow class. We all found a comfortable position, eyes closed, lying on our backs, covered by an unfolded blanket for extra comfort and warmth. “30 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to 3 hours of sleep,” explained Karen, as we settled into stillness for the next 30(ish) minutes.
Karen brought our attention to our breath and asked us to visualize our body in the room, rested and relaxed. Her voice was direct, yet soft and soothing, like a familiar melody returning me to consciousness. “Feel your body melt into relaxation using my voice as a rope of awareness,” she whispered.
We began with a gratitude practice thinking of everything we are grateful for in our lives right now. With some space for silence, I began to make a mental list all of the things I’m grateful for, expanding my heart open as I relaxed deeper into gratitude.
A stream of storylines carried me away as I began investigating each thing I was thankful for and why, until the rope of Karen’s voice carried me back to consciousness as she asked us to come up with a present tense mantra for the weekend ahead. “For example, ‘I am healthy” or ‘I am content,’” she shared. I quickly racked my mind for a comforting phrase and the three words that floated to the surface were, “I am abundant.”
From here, Karen led us into a body scan keeping the body still, only the mind moving over the body. With each part of the body, she directed us to repeat it silently. Starting with the left thumb, we moved down the left side of the body and then to the right. The back body and front body followed, ending with the face. I became so relaxed that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and the floor began.
For the next visualization, Karen had us think of a happy memory, recently or from the past, leaving some silent space for us to reflect. I found myself traveling back in time through my mind to a pleasant event that left me feeling joyful and free. This place of ease drew me deeper into relaxation as the sound of her voice began to fade and I found myself somewhere between waking and sleeping. “Very good,” she said, roping me back to consciousness.
I found myself fading in and out of the next few breathing exercises as we counted back from 10 silently and imagined a healing object scanning the body, mentally repeating our present tense phrase three times.
I became aware again as she fired off random objects including a wet umbrella and giraffe’s eyelashes. My mind jumped from each object to the next without getting caught up in the storylines — a major improvement from the start of the practice.
As Karen brought our awareness back to our breath and bodies in the room, we slowly found our way to a comfortable seat. We reflected over which visualizations we remembered, and those we were not present for — all part of the practice.
As I walked away from my mat, I felt a sense of floating through a deep mid-day state of relaxation. “The effects of yoga nidra can seem quite subtle, but can be very powerful,” Karen admitted. What was only a 30-minute practice felt like an extended period of deep sleep, or relaxed wakefulness, or perhaps some magical state in between.
—Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
One-time drop-in classes are $21 without membership. Towels and mats provided.