Friday, December 30, 2011

What is Yoga Nidra?

"...and they all settled in for a long winter's nap".

Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep.  This is one of my favorite meditations to lead (and participate in!).  My favorite reference book for yoga nidra is the adaptation by Swami Satyananda Saraswati .  In my own words, yoga nidra is a guided meditation that leads a person into a state of deep relaxation, where there exists a state of receptivity that cannot normally be accessed.  From this place comes clarity of intention.

The new year is a wonderful time for yoga nidra.  It involves formulating a resolve (or intention), something you'd like to manifest in your life in the coming weeks and months.  Then comes the guided meditation, where you are led through a tour of your body - the big toe, second toe, third, etc..  This may seem boring and monotonous, but what unfolds is a deeper state of consciousness.  The mind turns inward.  Outer distractions fall away.

Toward the end of the meditation, you are asked to silently state your resolve.  This allows it to embed itself into your consciousness.  Not a lot of work required here.  The results can be quite profound. 

Many yoga studios are offering yoga nidra meditations these days. If you are unable to attend a session, a cd is the next best thing.  Here are a couple that I recommend:  Relax into Greatness with Rod Stryker, and Drops of Nectar with Shiva Rea.

Wishing you a blissful, winter's sleep.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is vinyasa?

The word "vinyasa" means "to place in a special way".  In vinyasa yoga, the asanas (poses) are sequenced in such a way to produce a desired effect within the body and the mind.  For example, the class may have a theme of opening the heart, or creating movement in the hips.  Another way to explain vinyasa yoga is to say that it is a form of yoga where the breath moves in alignment with the body.

Shiva assisting a student in Standing Anahatasana.

Prana Flow Yoga is a style of vinyasa yoga created by Shiva Rea. Shiva Rea's web-site defines it as an "energetic, creative, full-spectrum approach to embodying the flow of yoga". More on Shiva's definition of Prana Flow can be found here.

I would describe this style of yoga as creating a shift in consciousness within the body. In our modern world, it becomes a habit to dis-associate the mind from the body, creating a myriad of problems from insomnia to heart disease, among others. When we become fully engaged with the innate intelligence that our body possesses through this flowing movement, the distractions of the mind become less and less. It's as if the body is teaching the mind how to be at peace. Borrowing another quote from Shiva, Prana Flow is "a way to ride the waves of breath, change and life rhythms, living, loving, serving life in all forms".

I teach this type of class every Monday at 9am at Excite in Highland Village. Other yoga classes there include Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga. Find out more about the yoga schedule at Excite here..