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Sleepytime Yoga

The first time I was exposed to yoga nidra—“yogic sleep”—I missed it entirely. I had heard wonderful things about this practice, so when I saw that it was offered at a yoga retreat I was attending with friends, I was eager to try it out. We lay down and got cozy and then the instructor began directing us to pay attention to different parts of our body: our feet, our legs, our hips…and then it was over. It was nice, but I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about. Then one of my friends said, “It was really cool when she asked to imagine that our right hand was really hot.” Hold up, that didn’t happen. My other friend replied, “I liked it when she said to make our bodies really heavy.” Hmmm, also didn’t happen. What was going on here? A look at the clock made me realize that I had fallen asleep a few minutes into the practice and had missed 25 minutes of it. I guess I needed the sleep. However, I was sad not to have experienced the actual practice.

Natalia Flynn and I took our restorative yoga teacher training together, so I know she is a caring person with a calming presence. When she offered to run her Sleep Better Yoga Workshop through Here & Now, I was pleased to offer it, and I was lucky enough to try out one of her sessions last evening. Gotta admit I didn’t start out in a calm place. It was snowing heavily, and try as I may, I am not a winter person. I also had some tech issues that resulted in me pestering poor Natalia just before class, which she handled with grace. Because I had trouble connecting, I didn’t have my space set up the way I wanted. In my mind, my space was going to be full of candles, and I was going to float onto my cushion like a cloud, dammit! In reality, I managed to get two candles lit and hurriedly parked myself on my cushion, slightly short of breath.

However, as the class began, I felt my breath, heartbeat and mind slow down. Natalia led us through a lovely restorative yoga practice. In restorative yoga, the aim is to encourage the body to switch from the sympathetic nervous system (associated with activity) to the parasympathetic nervous system (associated with rest and digestion) through poses that allow the body to stretch and open passively, often using props. As we did the practice, I felt the sore muscles I had developed through cleaning out the garage that day begin to melt.

By the time we got to the guided meditation, I felt like my body might actually merge with the floor. Natalia led us through a series of visualizations. In one part we were asked to imagine being on a hot and sunny beach, which was lovely. However, I was a bit irked when she then asked us to imagine standing outside in shorts and bare feet in the snow. Why would she make me do such a thing? The snow was pelting against my windows, and it was all too easy to imagine how cold it would be out there. I actually started shivering. However, when Natalia asked us to imagine the sense of cold leaving our body, I felt heat seep back into my body and felt grateful for the warmth and coziness of my home. At the end of the practice, I was feeling totally relaxed and extremely grateful that my bed was a short crawl away.

I hope that many of you will join Natalia’s workshop, starting on Wednesday, November 25. It will run for four Wednesdays from 7:45 to 9:00 p.m. You can register by clicking here. I will certainly be there…maybe in pajamas.

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