22 March 2020

Deep relaxation and yoga nidra

In 2005 I had pneumonia, and spent the next five years having about five chest infections each year.  Some days I would have to come home from work and have to just lie down for half an hour in order to continue with my day.  Sometimes, that half an hour lying down would allow me to feel deeply relaxed. I can't definitively prove this, but I think this experience of deep relaxation is part of what helped me gradually strengthen my immune system and escape from the cycle of chest infections.

I also noticed that when I couldn't sleep at night, gently focusing on my body and slowing my breathing would also put me in a state of deep relaxation.  I wasn't able to will myself to sleep, but I was able to gradually put myself in a relaxed state where sleep might become possible.

A couple of years ago, I had the same experience of entering a deeply relaxed state (in a busy youth hostel unable to sleep).  I did some research and discovered the yoga nidra technique, which I've been using since as a reliable way to enter a relaxed state.

The relaxed state provided by yoga nidra is an interesting one, because you can retain awareness.  Indeed, the clarity of thought is often quite revelatory and it feels helpful spiritually (for want of a better word) as well as in terms of general health.

I'm writing this partly with the current covid-19 crisis in mind.  I'm thinking that, if I get the virus, the technique of yoga nidra and the ability to enter a state of deep relaxation might help a little bit, both during and after the infection, and that if I think it will help me, it might be useful to share the technqiue with others in case they find it helpful too.  Clearly, it's not sufficient in itself - but it may help a little alongside other actions of personal prevention and the robust systemic responses we are only just beginning to see in the UK.

The yoga nidra meditation I use most at the moment, and which I'd recommend as a starting point, is on the Insight Timer app (which is excellent).  You can find it at https://insighttimer.com/jenniferpiercy/guided-meditations/yoga-nidra-for-sleep

I hope it's of some help.