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The Power of Yoga Nidra

I was first introduced to yoga nidra in Mumbai, India in my teens. I was a competitive athlete at the time and didn’t know how to stop and rest. Then I took my first Yoga nidra class and it took me to a place of deep inner stillness and peace that I had never experienced. I was hooked from the very first class! My teacher used to say that twenty minutes of yoga nidra was equivalent to four hours of sleep. My own experience with yoga nidra validates this– I used this technique when I was sleep deprived in school, college, graduate school, or as a new mother and I could stay up all night studying or calming a sleepless baby and with twenty minutes of yoga nidra feel completely refreshed.

Later in my life after a bout of serious asthma attacks I walked into my first yoga class in America. I loved everything about the class but when we lay down in savasana nothing happened. Where was the guided relaxation into stillness? I started taking restorative classes that gave me a similar experience and now I was hooked on restorative too. 

Some time later I signed up for teacher training at Be Yoga and took over the kids yoga program. When my daughter had trouble falling asleep we flew around the world on a magic carpet. I now tried this technique with the kids in the program and it quickly became their favorite part of class.  Since children’s minds are uncluttered by the way things should be they step into an imaginary world with ease. The trips we took were magical for them and me and eventually made their way into my adult yoga nidra classes.   

When I started teaching adults I included yoga nidra at the end of every class. Most students didn’t know what it was at the time but they kept coming back for more.  One of my fellow teachers advised me not to include yoga nidra in classes in New York City. They said students would get frustrated and leave because New Yorkers couldn’t slow down, but the opposite happened and people came back for more It’s exactly what we need in NYC but we often don’t know it. 

So, when I started teaching workshops I decided to combine the two disciplines that I love, restorative and yoga nidra to create my Restorative/ Yoga Nidra Workshops which I’ve been teaching for the past twelve years. The two work so well together because restorative helps us deeply relax and yoga nidra take us deeper into the subconscious and unconscious releasing past experiences and inner tension that distort our reality. 

Then, when ISHTA Yoga  first opened its doors to its new home downtown, ISHTA founder Yogiraj Alan Finger and I worked together to bring yoga nidra into the ISHTA trainings. We designed a nine step system of Yoga Nidracalled “ Mona Anand’s ISHTA Yoga Nidra.” I’ve continued to develop this technique and now teach two yoga nidra trainings, Mona Anand’s ISHTA Yoga Nidra and Yoga Nidra and the Chakras. Alan and I are in the process of writing a long awaited book on yoga nidra and the chakras. 

I am so excited about my upcoming yoga nidra training this November, This training is so powerful and transformational because we learn how to teach yoga nidra by directly experiencing and delving deeper into each of the nine steps of yoga nidra and in doing so release layers of inner tension that we’re unaware we’re holding.  It truly is a mini staycation – students walk away experiencing an inner stillness and peace they didn’t know was possible and that experience inspires them, as it has inspired me, to want to share this powerful technique with their friends, family and students.

What exactly is yoga nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a guided auditory meditation technique practiced lying down in savasana. In Sanskrit nidra means sleep. Yoga nidra is often referred to as the sleepless sleep because it induces a state between being awake and being asleep known as the hypnogogic state in which the mind and body deeply relax. This powerful state on the threshold of being asleep and being awake can be used for many purposes that include deep relaxation, releasing memories locked in the sub conscious and unconscious and creating an expanded state of consciousness

Yoga Nidra’s roots lie in an ancient tantric technique called nyasa in which practitioners held their awareness on different parts of the body and through concentration and the chanting of mantas were able to bring more consciousness to different parts of the body. We use a variation of nyasa in yoga nidra to move our awareness through the body in a particular order and create a circuit of energy through the brain that allows us to enter the hypnogogic state.

Yoga nidra is highly adaptable both in length and purpose.  It can range from just a few minutes to an hour long practice depending on the purpose and time available. Most practices are between fifteen minutes and forty minutes. In this training we will experience and learn how to teach all nine steps of yoga nidra and how to adapt the practice for different imbalances such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. We will also learn how to adapt yoga nidra for asana classes, restorative classes and how to create short, mid length and long yoga nidras. We will also look at how yoga nidra can be designed for dosha imbalances. 


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Why I love Restorative

The impact restorative yoga has had in releasing stress and tension for me is very personal. 

About fourteen years ago I had a bout of serious asthma attacks that were life changing. I was continually in and out of the hospital and put on high levels of cortisone for an extended period that created extreme anxiety and panic attacks. 

I started practicing restorative yoga, which was an integral part of my recovery. Restorative calmed my nervous system, relaxed my body and released tension from my breath. The effects of this practice released the fear of future attacks. 

No amount of trying to talk myself out of the situation helped because my whole system was stuck in a heightened state of tension and anxiety. I needed to learn to bypass my mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is exactly what restorative yoga does. 

Why Restorative is so Powerful 

Modern life is fast paced and filled with stressors that contribute to a constant level of low-grade stress that we're often unaware of. 

This continuous state of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) arousal has led to many modern day illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart decease and stress disorders. 

Restorative provides the prefect antidote to stress because it creates “a supported pause.”  By completely supporting the body and being still for extended periods the breath, the mind and the nervous system begin to calm.

Different restorative poses can be used for different purposes though they all help to calm and quiet the nervous system. There are poses that open the breath and lift our spirits when we're feeling depressed, poses that are supportive and nurturing when we're feeling anxious and poses that target specific parts of the body where tension accumulates. 

Restorative releases tensions on physical, mental and emotional levels. Since our bodies store all our past experiences, when we let go of the holding in the physical body we often have strong emotional releases. The suppressed emotions and past experiences locked in the body bubble up to the surface and are then released. 

One of the advantages of a restorative practice is that it can be applied universally to everyone. People who aren't physically able to practice asana, such as the elderly and physically challenged can reap the benefits of deep relaxation and energetic rebalancing. 

 Restorative Training

Four years ago my friend and colleague, Senior ISHTA teacher Gina Menza and I got together to create our own restorative training combining years of restorative experience. We started with a Restorative Level 1 Training and have recently added Module 2 with plans to increase the training to 85 hours, taught in separate modules. 

We each bring a different focus to the training. Gina’s is the science behind restorative with a focus on the physical body. Mine has been on the energetic body, with a focus on the koshas, chakras and ayurveda. I've also integrated yoga nidra into our restorative training, and Gina has integrated essential oils.  

What differentiates our training is the emphasis we place on individualizing the practice for physical, emotional and energetic imbalances, which is a cornerstone of ISHTA Yoga. Not only do we teach students how to sequence and adapt restorative postures for various conditions but we also integrate visualization, kriya, pranayama, mantra, yoga nidra and essential oils into the practice. We teach students to recognize their own imbalances and give them the tools to find balance - to become their own teachers. 

A Subtle Body Approach to Restorative Yoga

As an ISHTA Yogiraj, and Senior ISHTA Trainer, my years of study with Yogiraj Alan Finger have shaped my perspective, and teaching approach. This has brought me to integrate the subtle body into teaching Restorative Yoga. 

Restorative poses, because of the length of time we stay in each posture, are a powerful way to directly tap into the energetic body. Just like we have the nervous system, the subtle body consists of energetic pathways that run through the body and animate it. 

Restorative and the Chakras

There are 72,000 energetic pathways that run through the body that are governed by seven major energetic centers (chakras) that run along the spine and govern different segments of the body. Imbalances in any chakra over an extended period of time can create imbalance in the others and is often responsible for imbalances in our bodies and our lives. 

By combining specific subtle body balancing techniques with specific restorative poses we can target chakra imbalances. I've developed a method of balancing each of these energetic centers by selecting specific restorative poses along with specific pranayama, visualizations, mantras and kriyas.  

Restorative and Ayurveda 

Restorative is an excellent way to correct doshic imbalances. When restorative postures are sequenced and adapted for specific imbalances along with specific yoga nidra practices, visualizations and mantras they are even more powerful. I  currently teach a three part Restorative / Yoga Nidra Ayurveda Series.

Restorative and Yoga Nidra

I was first introduced to yoga nidra as a teenager in Mumbai, India and the stillness it led me into had a profound impact on my practice and my teaching. When I started teaching restorative classes I found that adding a yoga nidra at the end of the practice was very powerful because the  restorative postures led  students into a place of deep stillness which when followed by yoga nidra induced an even deeper state of surrender enabling the release of past experiences locked in the sub conscious and unconscious. 

I started combining these two disciplines to create  my signature Restorative/Yoga Nidra Workshops.  I teach two different Restorative / Yoga Nidra Workshop Series, one is a chakra balancing series consisting of seven workshops each focusing on a different chakra and the other is a three part ayurveda series each focusing on a different dosha. 

 

Q&A from Ishta Blog

Where are you from?
I’m half Indian and half American. I grew up in Mumbai and moved to the US when I was 16

What inspired you to start a yoga practice? 
I first started practicing yoga at school in India. We had a teacher come in and teach us Yoga Nidra. I felt so still and relaxed during and after yoga nidra that I continued to practice this technique through college and graduate school. In fact I would teach my friends in school how to practice yoga nidra when they were really stressed or hadn’t slept during exams -twenty minutes of yoga nidra is often compared to four hours of sleep.

As an adult I started having serious asthma attacks. In India, yoga is used therapeutically to help control asthma symptoms. As a child I went for special breathing classes before school to learn to breath correctly and build my lung capacity. My initial return to yoga as an adult was to control my asthma. I started taking restorative classes, which really helped release the stress locked in my body from the attacks and medications. I ventured into asana classes as well. I was a gymnast growing up and taking asana classes reconnected me to a stillness that I knew and loved when we put our minds into our bodies.

Why ISHTA? 
I love Ishta because the practice is individualized – we recognize that every day what we need to balance ourselves is different. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, is a sister science of yoga, recognizes that each individual has a different body-mind type and therefore what each person needs is different. At ISHTA, we integrate the principles of Ayurveda into the practice. I worked with Alan to develop a method of integrating the principles of Ayurveda into the asana practice. ISHTA gives us the tools to recognize our imbalances and through the practice finding our own inner balance.

What makes teacher training and the practice at ISHTA different than other studios?
We don’t see life in black and white but instead in shades of grey. This translates to different ways to approach the practice for different body mind types. Also, as a tantric school, we believe that we are all perfect as we are and therefore the practice is not about getting from here to there but instead tapping back into our inner perfection that is already within us. This translates into a practice of self-acceptance and letting go of external measurements as a measure of the advancement of the practice. The ISHTA training gives teachers tools to help each individual step back into their essence using a variety of techniques including asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, visualizations or mantras.
Trainers have very different focuses and each teacher is encouraged to delve deeper into the part of the practice that resonates with them. For me it has been yoga nidra. I’ve worked on integrating yoga nidra and restorative yoga. My focus has been on developing yoga nidra practices for each chakra and most recently on designing yoga nidras for doshic imbalances. Alan and I are currently writing a book on yoga nidra and the chakras.

How would you describe your classes in three words?
Balance, breath, philosophy

Share with us your favorite moment or inspirational exchange with Alan Finger.
What inspires me about Alan is his lack of dogma. When you ask him for advice, he’s not wearing his yoga hat. He’s always present for the question and gives you advice that is real rather than fitting into a box of what would be the right yoga answer. It’s what makes his style of yoga so unique – you cannot put it into a box of do’s and don’ts.

Do you have a favorite sutra? 
My favorite concept from the sutras is pratibakshabhavanam. When we’re feeing one way do the opposite to find balance. Often when we’re feeling depressed or anxious we get stuck analyzing what has caused the depression or anxiety. By resting on our worries and what’s wrong, we strengthen these synapses in our brain and it takes less and less to run these circuits. Pratibakshabhavanam encourage us to do the opposite of what we’re feeling to find balance. The more we run circuits of joy, the more we strengthen these circuits and the easier it is to feel happy. The ancient yogis had figure out what neuroscientists can now see through brain scans.


Restorative Yoga Teacher Training

Restorative Training
Four years ago my friend and colleague, Senior ISHTA teacher Gina Menza and I got together to create our own restorative training combining years of restorative experience. We started with a Restorative Level 1 Training and have recently added Module 2 with plans to increase the training to 85 hours, taught in separate modules.

We each bring a different focus to the training. Gina’s is the science behind restorative with a focus on the physical body. Mine has been on the energetic body, with a focus on the koshas, chakras and Ayurveda. I’ve also integrated yoga nidra into our restorative training, and Gina has integrated essential oils.

What differentiates our training is the emphasis we place on individualizing the practice for physical,  emotional and energetic imbalances, which is a cornerstone of ISHTA Yoga. Not only do we teach students how to sequence and adapt restorative postures for various conditions but we also integrate visualization, kriya, pranayama, mantra, yoga nidra and essential oils into the practice. We teach students to recognize their own imbalances and give them the tools to find balance – to become their own teachers.

A Subtle Body Approach to Restorative Yoga
As an ISHTA Yogiraj, and Senior ISHTA Trainer, my years of study with Yogiraj Alan Finger have shaped my perspective, and teaching approach. This has brought me to integrate the subtle body into teaching Restorative Yoga.

Restorative poses, because of the length of time we stay in each posture, are a powerful way to directly tap into the energetic body. Just like we have the nervous system, the subtle body consists of energetic pathways that run through the body and animate it.

Restorative and the Chakras
There are 72,000 energetic pathways that run through the body that are governed by seven major energetic centers (chakras) that run along the spine and govern different segments of the body. Imbalances in any chakra over an extended period of time can create imbalance in the others and is often responsible for imbalances in our bodies and our lives.

By combining specific subtle body balancing techniques with specific restorative poses we can target chakra imbalances. I’ve developing a method of balancing each of these energetic centers by selecting specific restorative poses along with specific pranayama, visualizations, mantras and kriyas to create balance.

Restorative and Ayurveda
Restorative is an excellent way to correct doshic imbalances. When restorative postures are sequenced and adapted for specific imbalances along with specific yoga nidra practices, visualizations and mantras they are even more powerful. I  currently teach a three part Restorative / Yoga Nidra Ayurveda Series.

Restorative and Yoga Nidra
I was first introduced to yoga nidra as a teenager in Mumbai, India and the stillness it led me into had a profound impact on my practice and my teaching. When I started teaching restorative classes I found that adding a yoga nidra at the end of the practice was very powerful because the  restorative postures led  students into a place of deep stillness which when followed by yoga nidra induced an even deeper state of surrender enabling the release of past experiences locked in the sub conscious and unconscious.

I started combining these two disciplines to create  my signature Restorative/Yoga Nidra Workshops.

I teach two different Restorative / Yoga Nidra Workshop Series, one is a chakra balancing series consisting of seven workshops each focusing on a different chakra and the other is a three part ayurveda series each focusing on a different dosha.