- Donna Sherman
My Love Affair...
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
I need some way of grabbing your attention., hence the title to this post.Stay with me here and give me 4 minutes of your time.
So, what’s all this talk about the power of this thing called “Yoga Nidra”? Is it hype or is it something real? Is it even a “thing”?
Yes, it is a real and powerful thing and I have had an almost two decade love affair with it.
My love affair with Yoga Nidra began when, on a rainy Monday, my beloved yoga teacher, Parvathi Nath Saraswati, handed me a CD and said: "Try this.”
Later that day when my work was done, and my then- young daughter was tucked in bed for the night, I set myself up, hit play and moved into a realm of relaxation the likes of which I had never come close to experiencing. I vividly recall sitting up and saying out loud: “What was that?” I felt like my nervous system and my ridiculously over active mind had been cleaned out, ironed out, soothed and polished.
I began a yoga nidra practice 4-5 times per week and started to weave elements of Yoga Nidra into my clinical work when appropriate. The anecdotal reports from my therapy clients were remarkable, so much so, that some of my clients began the study of yoga with zero prompting from me.
Yoga Nidra is a guided practice that leads you into a deep resting/restore state that might be similar to our natural slow wave slow wave sleep state that is known via science to be when our bodies and brains gain restoration. (If you want more information about our natural cycles I highly suggest reading The Power of the Downstate by Sara Mednick, PhD. Sara is a cognitive neuroscientist and sleep researcher at the University Of California, Irvine.)
In a proper Yoga Nidra practice you are guided into a very still and settled somatic state; the gross body, muscles, organs, bones are all ushered into a level of settled, relaxation. Yoga Nidra always penetrates into what yogis refer to as the subtle body. This practice can't be led in a haphazard way, it works best if done in a systematic way that speaks directly to embodied experience and not to the conceptual mind.
Cancer & Yoga Nidra
It’s 2010 I am in a huge grocery store looking at ketchup and wondering if buying organic ketchup is an indulgence or worth the extra money. I decide that regular ketchup will do when my phone rings. It’s a medical professional and as soon as I hear his voice I know it’s about my recent biopsy.
A few second later I hear the dreaded words: “ Yes, it is cancer. We are 100% sure.”
The cancer that was in my body was a type of thyroid cancer that needed treatment, the sooner the better. At that moment I did what any good therapist and yoga practitioner does: I freaked out!
So the medical odyssey began. You can probably imagine the moments, days, weeks and months that followed; those days were filled with dread, anxiety, vulnerability, surgery, radiation therapy, massive discomfort, and numerous visits to the hospital.
Throughout the cancer chapter I deployed all of my practices with the aim of keeping myself as grounded, healthy and present as possible. I was lucky to have a great medical team but despite their excellent care, I was a hot mess with a confused, errant endocrine system. My circadian rhythms were missing in action, my nervous system was pumped up from suppression therapy and I lived in a liminal space in which I experienced simultaneous exhaustion and hyper- kinetic states due to the treatment I was getting. Sleep was a precious commodity that walked right by me, night after night after night.
I deployed the hell out of all my therapeutic, mediation and yoga tools and the the tool that never failed me was Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra allowed me to get some deep rest when my energy was missing in action.
Yoga Nidra allowed me to reset myself from trauma and not let my anxiety carry me away.
Yoga Nidra allowed me to reset my fogged out, tired brain and continue with my work and activities that light up my soul.
Yoga Nidra allowed me to experience decent appetite again.
Yoga Nidra allowed me to soften into the whole experience and not indulge self talk like:
“Why me?” I never said that nor felt that. Cancer happens. A particular cancer grew in my body at a particular time and needed to be dealt with.
Yoga Nidra helped me align my mind and actions with my deepest, heartfelt desires about what I wanted to do with this precious life energy.
Yoga Nidra, after all my dear loved ones, became an even bigger love in of my life.
Six years post cancer treatment I created a Guided Yoga Nidra recording. I wanted to create a recording that was languaged in a way that was clear, unencumbered and accessible to anyone and everyone . In early spring of 2016 YOGA NIDRA: TOTAL RELAXATION PRACTICES FOR ADULTS AND TEENS was birthed. Now it is out and about in the world and hopefully working its healing powers on whoever listens.
If you are interested, links for digital recordings are in "Guided Relaxation Recording" page.
Next public Yoga Nidra events will take place at the John R. Kirk Planetarium on the SUNY New Paltz Campus. Dates and information are on the "classes and services" page of this website.