When it comes to inability to rest while being wired and exhausted at the same time, there are few practices that can be as effective as Yoga Nidra. This form of meditation guides you into a state of complete relaxation – a state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, that can aid hugely for those of you with chronic and adrenal fatigue struggling with insomnia and disturbed sleeping pattern.
Cat Boal, a wonderful yoga teacher based in the South of Spain, who recorded this Yoga Nidra meditation specially for Back to the Body project, talks about her understanding of this practice and its benefits for people struggling with fatigue.
You can find the audio recording of Yoga Nidra at the end of this post.
Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,
This is termed nidra.
Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,
But Yoga Nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens,
It is of a blissful, higher quality altogether.
When awareness is separate and distinct from the thought waves,
When waking, dream and deep sleep pass like clouds,
Yet awareness of one’s true self remains
This is the experience of total relaxation.
Relaxation does not mean sleep.
Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,
It has no end.
I call bliss absolute relaxation;
Sleep is a different matter.
Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.
Bliss relaxes the inner self;
That is why, in tantra,
Yoga Nidra is the doorway to Samadhi*.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
* samadhi – The highest stage in meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe.
An interview with Cat Boal
What is Yoga Nidra for you, how would you define it?
Yoga Nidra is a Sanskrit term for ‘yogic sleep’. For me Yoga Nidra is like a kind of conscious sleeping. It is like a really long Savasana (resting pose), where we are able to become more sensitive to our inner world and this sensitivity can be a gateway to meditation. Describing Yoga Nidra is like trying to describe the most delicious food, it is hard to put into words, it has a feeling that you have to experience yourself.
How is it different from an ordinary guided meditation?
Usually we have a focus in a guided meditation whereas in Yoga Nidra we are more passive participators. We do set a Sankalpa (intention) at the beginning of a Yoga Nidra but generally throughout the practice you can come in and out, you don’t need to take everything in as the voice will guide you through your physical, energetic and emotional bodies.
Are there any do’s and don’ts when listening to a Yoga Nidra meditation?
No. that is the beauty of it, you cannot practice Yoga Nidra wrong. You just need to have a place where you can lie down, it’s truly accessible to everyone.
What is your personal experience of practicing or teaching it?
I was introduced to Yoga Nidra a couple of years ago whilst living in Vietnam. I was living in a bustling city at the time and Yoga Nidra was the perfect cure after running around from a to b all day. I then went on to learn more during my training in Northern India in 2018. I often think it is an undervalued side of the yogic practice. With our society’s obsession with advanced yoga asana, people are often more likely to see a perfectly posed photo of a handstand and relate that to yoga then a person lying on their back in Yoga Nidra. I love to share this side of the practice because it is accessible to everyone from all walks of life. Yoga is not what you do or can do, but how you do something. Anything you do with awareness can be yoga. Yoga Nidra is a practice that teaches us to become more aware, ultimately helping us to see our truth and potential as we connect to ourselves.
How do you think it could be useful for people who struggle with fatigue or insomnia?
Yoga Nidra is like a remedy to our busy fast-paced modern lives. It is no wonder that more people struggle from fatigue and insomnia in these times…. We are always connected to something else and not usually ourselves. Our nervous systems are constantly in flight or fight mode and we struggle to shut off and relax. Yoga Nidra aids us in entering the parasympathetic state where our bodies fall into softness and relaxation. This parasympathetic state is often difficult for people to fall into if they are struggling with sleep so beginning a practice of Yoga Nidra a couple of times a week can serve you in being able to surrender to this rest and digest place. Yoga Nidra guides you deep inside, to your true nature, a peacefulness that I believe is in all of us.
Listen to a Yoga Nidra meditation recorded by Cat
Cat Boal first connected with yoga through the form of bhakti (Kirtan) in India in 2013. It wasn’t for a few years later that she discovered an asana and meditation practice and has been on her journey ever since. Yin yoga and a heartfelt approach to hatha is what she is truly immersed in sharing as a yoga teacher. Through the practice of yoga, she hopes to help people to slow down and learn to notice the heart space and what is arising there. Holding space to give more time to inquire, a space for people to just be, just as they are in their wholeness. Awakening to their own true essence – love.
Cat currently lives and teaches yoga in Granada, Spain. Here you can check her Facebook page.