Healing Meditations – The power to calm & comfort
By Maria McDonald
I received the news that my mother’s cancer diagnosis was terminal from my father, via text. He texted the message on a crisp fall day while I was surrounded by my coworkers at a company wiffleball tournament. As the devastating news begin to settle, I remember the whole world suddenly sounding so…quiet.
The next nine months were a blur of painful conversations, tidal waves of emotions I had never experienced, and heart-wrenching goodbyes as every time I’d leave my mother’s side it was unclear as to if I’d ever feel her hug me or hear her voice again. After her passing, I spent the first two years of grief in a fog. My heart was shattered, my family was crumbling, and any foundation I thought I had for my 34 years of life was no longer solid enough to stand upon. To add more pain to the coping process, my body wouldn’t let me sleep. After nine months of waiting for my mother to pass, my nervous system had no idea how to self-regulate and I’d lost all ability to self-soothe or find respite within myself.
To say I “tried everything,” would be a drastic understatement. I tried EVERYTHING. While each tool, technique, drug, herb, position, or product would bring some small degree of support, it wasn’t until I found the practice of Yoga Nidra during my yoga teacher training that I began to finally experience relief from the crushing weight of endless sleepless nights.
Yoga Nidra is, in its simplest explanation, a guided meditation. The person practicing yoga Nidra lays down and gets comfortable. Really, really comfortable. Then the Yoga Nidra teacher, often called a guide, shares a meditation ranging anywhere from 15-75 minutes. While you could spend hours of time diving into details and geeking out about the gentle power of this practice and how and why it works, at its core, this practice soothes & calms your nervous system.
Your ANS (autonomic nervous system) is comprised of three branches, two of which are relevant here, the parasympathetic and sympathetic. Sympathetic is fight or flight (think S=stress) and your Parasympathetic is rest and digest (think P=peaceful). Your body is designed to stay primarily in your PNS and move into your SNS in times of stress to keep you safe from danger. However, the stress of our modern lives, which is often exacerbated by trauma, grief, and other forms of pain or suffering, lead us to reside in our SNS (fight or flight) more than is healthy for a functioning system. When we are living in our SNS our bodies can’t breathe deep and full. We are unable to heal physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
People are typically aware that the practice of yoga is to help practitioners develop a relationship with their body and breath, I posit that the practice of Yoga Nidra helps people develop a relationship with their nervous system. The practice of yoga nidra (and Restorative yoga, which we can cover in another post) helps you tune into this beautiful system in your body and build a relationship with your nervous system that is imperative to your long-term health and well-being.
So, try something new? It’s easy, gentle and accessible. There are thousands of recordings you can listen to for free from the comfort of your own home. The practices can be found on youtube, soundcloud, and apps like Insight Timer. Find a quiet place to lay yourself down, get comfy with blankets and pillows, and follow along to Nidra meditation. Another option is to check your local yoga studio to see if they have Nidra classes on their schedule.
It took me nearly two years to heal the damage done to my nervous system, but I sleep now, so peacefully. My body has energy, my mind is rested, and an incredible amount of healing has taken place. I’m grateful for all I have learned along my journey as my self-care toolkit is fully stocked. How’s your self-care toolkit? Stocked? In need of extra support? There are many tools available for holistic healing so don’t be discouraged, no matter how challenging the chapter you’re currently in. Try adding yoga Nidra into your toolkit and allow it to work its magic. Enjoy the exploration and send me an email if you have any questions.
To your health & happiness,