WHEN I started practicing yoga, the idea of final rest at the end of practice was my main motivation. I loved lying on my mat when a long day and challenging practice were done. I dreaded the moment the teacher told us to roll to one side and sit up.
Yoga Nidra takes final rest, known in Sanskrit as savasana, to the next level. It is essentially yogic sleep and creates a deep, meditative state. A teacher guides you through the yogic sleep by speaking to different parts of the body for about 30 minutes. It sounded dreamy.
Yoga Nidra has become popular the past few years, cropping up at yoga studios around the region as a way for people to add rest and rejuvenation into their day.
I headed to YogaBliss on Mercer Island on a Friday evening to take a Nidra class with teacher Amy Swanson. The room was dimly lit, with candles set up in the room, and people were grabbing every prop imaginable — bolsters, blankets, straps, blocks. Yes, I thought triumphantly.
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Swanson explained we would do a 45-minute practice, then a 30-minute Nidra practice.
The class started slowly enough. We laid back on bolsters, closed our eyes and listened to our breath. I was thrilled to relax after a long week, and I would have been happy to stay in that position for the entire hour-and-15-minute class.
Alas, Swanson had us get up. We dived into a fairly vigorous practice, starting with core work. Since when does Yoga Nidra include core? I thought grumpily. Clearly, I needed an attitude adjustment.
Swanson moved us into a practice that was fairly active, with some vinyasa flow that worked on strengthening the upper body and legs. As soon as I stopped being cranky about moving, I relaxed into the practice. We did some standing poses, gentle twists and balancing poses, and I built up some heat. I might also have cast a couple of longing glances at my bolster.
I was saved by the clock. Our 45 minutes were up, and Swanson sent us to our mats to lie down.
Once we were all on our backs, she told us to relax, then started talking us through different parts of the body. At least, that’s what she told me she did. I didn’t hear much. Within moments, I was asleep.
In my haze, I occasionally heard references to body parts, including shoulders and legs. She mentioned that she would gently move a foot if we started to snore.
I’m sure she talked through the whole 30 minutes, but I missed most of it.
Swanson told me a lot of people feel energized after Nidra. I sometimes feel sleepy after a deep final rest. After Nidra, I was out of it at first, but soon felt surprisingly rested. An hour later, I was surprised again to feel alert and energetic.
If you’re looking to take a hectic schedule down a notch, Yoga Nidra is an ideal way to rejuvenate. The yoga practice was a great way to get moving, and the Nidra is, well, restful. Take it once a week to build restoration into your routine and you might emerge both peppy and cheerful.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.