2013 June

Restore Yourself with Yoga Nidra

Most of us do too much.  Our lives are so busy with work and family commitments, let alone trying to find much needed time for ourselves. Practicing Yoga Nidra goes a long way in helping to bring the body back into balance and to refresh and restore our depleted reserves.

In both my Stress Relief and Yoga for Fertility classes we spend a good 20 minutes in Yoga Nidra at the end of the practice. ‘Nidra’ in sanskrit means ‘sleep’ – but if you can, you must try and stay awake, easier said than done for some of us!  This special yogic sleep helps the body to deeply relax and your rest and digest response to kick in.  The good news is that 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra can feel as restoring as hours of deep restful sleep.

For those of us not familiar with the practice it comes from the ancient Tantric practice called Nyasa, which means ‘to place’ or ‘to take the mind to that point’.  It was discovered and modernised by Swarmi Satyananda in the 1970′s when he worked out relaxing certain areas in the body (particularly the hands, feet and face) trigger the part of the brain that help you relax. Importantly in Yoga Nidra you are never told to ‘relax’.  The mind is given parts of the body to focus on during a guided body scan. By bringing your awareness to those areas the body relaxes.

The technique follows a specific structure, which is a precise and well researched sequence.  There are many aspects to it, but for me there is a couple which stand out.  One is the visualization.  Students are guided to visualize a specific situation or setting in a detached way – be a witness – like a movie.  They are asked to imagine that the back of their forehead is like a movie screen and they are going to create a movie on the screen. This is a powerful tool, allowing students to imagine calm scenes of beaches, gardens or forests, and in doing so, becoming calm themselves.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the practice is the ‘sanculpa’, or ‘wish’.  Students are asked to think about what would make them happy, they repeat it three times in the present tense as if it already has happened.  This is asked at both the beginning and end of the practice, planting seeds of change in their minds.  The wish that is made at the beginning of the practice is like planting a seed, going back to it at the end is like giving it rain to make it grow.  When practised successfully it can be transformational and restorative, and I thoroughly recommend it.



One simple breathing technique to deal with stress – Extended Exhale Breathing

Breathing techniqueAfter about a year of trying to get pregnant I decided to focus less on my corporate career and more on my yoga.  As many of you know, the pregnancy journey is a hard road to travel with huge highs and lows. I felt as though I was constantly short of breath.  I remember sitting down to read a book, thinking that I was relaxing, and I could feel my heart banging away underneath my chest.  So I started looking into yogic breathing techniques that would calm my nervous system and help me breathe easily again. If that sounds like something you can relate to, try this simple extended exhale breathing practice. It certainly helped me.

First find a comfortable seated position.  You could sit on a chair with your feet on the floor and your spine straight, or on the floor leaning against the wall.  Close your eyes and focus on your breath.  Notice how your breath is moving.  Is it fast or slow?  Is it easier to breathe in or out? There is no judgement. Just notice.  In yoga we breathe in and out through the nose. See if you can make the outside of the nostrils really sensitive so that you can feel cool air coming in through the nose and warmer air leaving.  Place your hands on your belly and as you inhale feel your belly rise, as you exhale feel it gently fall back to the spine.  Try and keep the chest still as you breathe from the belly.

Now start to count your breath. Breathe in for one count and breathe out for two counts, through the nose.  Do this 10 times.  Then if you feel able, start to increase this breath ratio.  Breathe in for two counts and out for four counts. Again do this 10 times.  Don’t rush.  We spend our lives rushing from one thing to the next, take your time. Luxuriate in each breath. Remember, the breath should always be easy and smooth.  If it becomes tight pull back a count or come back to your normal breath.

Extended exhale breathing is like the ultimate self help tool for calming frayed nerves, like when you are waiting for test results or travelling in a taxi on the way to appointments.  I found it powerful and easy to do – and best of all it really works.




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    Tel: (02) 9976 6880
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