My yoga practice started in 1999 when I found my guru living directly across the street from me. Joan Ruvinsky introduced me to my first yoga classes, which incorporated everything from inspirational discussions at the start of class to the most illuminating of approaches to the practice, including Body Sensing and Yoga Nidra. What really resounded with me were the Yoga Nidra sessions where we would lie down in Savasana after making ourselves as comfortable as possible with pillows, bolsters and blankets, and then allow our bodies to fall asleep while our minds stayed alert and focused on the teacher’s voice as she guided us through a meditation. Yoga Nidra is often defined as “yogic sleep”, and the whole exercise consists of letting the body relax and let go while conditioning the mind to not do the same. Every Yoga Nidra experience I have ever had has felt like an awakening, a realization of something I had always suspected was true, but had never encountered. Joan first introduced me to the experience, and her classes were beacons of peace for me when things were volatile in my life, and she gave me the yogic platform from which I have bounded off of in search of all things yoga.
That search led me to train in, practice, and teach different, more physical types of yoga, but my roots lie in yoga as less of a physical practice and more of a spiritual and sensory experience. After my yoga retreat in Croatia was over this past September, I came across a session-based Yoga Nidra class led by Montreal-based yoga teacher Kelly McGrath and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Bringing my studies back to where I started felt like a natural progression for me, and once I had registered for the class, I then registered for the Yoga Nidra Level 1 Training at the Kripalu Center so I could learn how to bring that sense of peace and connection that I had felt during classes to others.
At my first class with Kelly, she asked those of us in attendance to take a moment and write down why we were there that evening – what we hoped to gain, what our intention was. That question and the reasons for asking it ended up following me around for the next few weeks. I really became fascinated with the concept of asking myself what my intention was during any given moment during my day…why I felt inclined to speak to certain people, why I wanted to practice yoga, why I was eating whatever I found myself eating. It all came to a head when I got into bed one night early because I was exhausted from the previous few days and subsequently spent the next 30 minutes thinking and analyzing and essentially doing everything except falling sleep. When I realized that I wasn’t getting to sleep any earlier than I had intended to, I stopped the whirling of thoughts in my mind by asking myself, “Why did I got to bed early?” The answer was immediate, “Because I need to rest”…and it served to stop the whirling of mental activity until I was sleeping within minutes.
When we take a moment to examine why we do what we do, the benefits are many: we immediately bring ourselves into the present moment. We break the cycle of spending all our mental time in the past or future, going over what has already happened or trying to foresee what will, and we find ourselves where we are, with full awareness and connection to our immediate environment. We also end up with a measurable goal: if I can find the presence of mind to ask myself why I’m in bed early and I can come up with the answer telling me I need to rest, then I can start moving towards that rest. That goal immediately becomes a priority and everything else, all the mindless chatter, falls into the background. Basically, we start living more consciously and aware when we ask ourselves why.
I urge you to put this to the test: apply the “why” to whatever you’re doing right now. And then bring it to the next thing you end up doing. And keep going. It could potentially change who you are and how you see yourself. Or, at the very least, you may just end up falling asleep earlier this evening. Either way, it’s time well spent.
I’ll continue my studies in Yoga Nidra and continue to report my experiences here. Until then, I urge you to check out the Yoga Nidra Workshop that Kelly is giving this Sunday afternoon, November 25th, from 1pm-4pm at United Yoga Montreal. If you go, let me know how it went – I’ll be missing it unfortunately, but I can guarantee that you’ll be blown away by it 🙂