Last month we discussed compassion fatigue. We discussed what it is, who has it, and what we can do to get compassion and empathy back in our lives. We know the Vagus Nerve is an important pathway to keeping us resilient at stress by allowing relaxation via the Parasympathetic System. This deescalating system allows us to heal, digest, rest and recover. Doing self work like meditation, Yoga nidra, Coregous ball work, Acupuncture and mindful techniques are all important and necessary to keeping you healthy for the long haul. When we don't "reset" by tapping into the parasympethic system we remain in that state of hyper vigilance. For the long haul, hyper vigilance isn't healthy.
This month I would like to discuss a different type of yoga that you should try. Its called Yoga Nidra, and anyone can do it!
"Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. While the practitioner rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation takes you through the pancha maya kosha (five layers of self), leaving you with a sense of wholeness."(Jeraci, 2018)
As firefighters I think we like to see the EVIDENCE... Where's the proof that this will be worth my time? Well, give me a second. Heres how Yoga Nidra works, and it involves brain waves...
"Described as “dynamic sleep,” the Yoga Nidra practice allows the body to deeply relax while the mind stays inwardly alert. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who pioneered the practice in the early 1950s from ancient Tantric texts, calls it “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” Western medicine would call it the confluence of alpha and delta brainwaves." (Hill, 2017)
"Here’s what’s happening: Over the course of falling asleep, brain waves move from the active, thoughtful beta waves (14-40 Hz), then pass through the relaxed, thoughtless state of alpha waves (9-13 Hz), and enter the slowest frequency of deep sleep, delta waves (1-3 Hz). Yoga Nidra guides practitioners into the “hypnagogic state”—the threshold between alpha and theta waves—the knife’s edge where the body “sleeps” while the mind is lucid. Swami Karma Karuna describes it as a point “beyond the personality, where the logical, analytical aspect of the mind is suspended.” This passive/active state allows access to subconscious memory and repressed experiences—unlike hypnosis where the person is totally inert." (Hill, 2017)
"Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. You are guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state, where brain rhythms drop into the silent space within. Once your body is relaxed and your mind is calm, all energies are focused on the Third Eye.."(Floresta, 2015)
"Researchers concede that the sample sizes are small and more longitudinal studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful. In two separate papers published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. All of this comes on the back of numerous studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation, no matter the method, on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression." (Hill, 2017)
Who's using it?
"Yoga Nidra’s psychological benefits have opened a discussion with wide implications in the study of PTSD. Dr. Amanda Hull, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is working to integrate Yoga Nidra, acupuncture, and qigong into the VA hospital structure. Alongside Dr. Hull, compelling research is happening at John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. They reported “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity” after eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practice. Similarly, at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, CA, researchers administered Yoga Nidra twice a week for 10 weeks to women who were victims of rape and military sexual trauma. Their 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy “showed significant decreases in negative thoughts of self-blame and depression.”"(Hill, 2017)
"Consenting voices are ringing as far as Silicon Valley. CEO Charlie Kim, CEO of e-commerce company Next Jump, says investment in sleep “is a company problem.” Kim instituted Yoga Nidra company-wide, including offices in London and New York, offering it as “sleep class” every afternoon. Next Jump’s Head of Wellness, Peter Chica, says, “Companies invest in exercise and nutrition programs; it just makes sense to invest in sleep as well.” So, did it work? Sleep class was adopted immediately, Chica reported. “Everyone does it and even friends and family ask to come.” Next Jump employees reported better productivity, focus, and emotional balance. “The early adopters were the program’s best salespeople,” Chica says." (Hill, 2017)
"Stress is the biggest problem of modern life. We carry tensions both within the physical body and on even deeper levels in the subtle bodies which we are not even aware of. While physical tension can be eased by stretching, exercise or massage, subtle tensions are difficult to recognize and even harder to release. Yoga Nidra is a unique method that goes below surface tensions to release and transform stress at its deepest level." (Floresta, 2015)
If you are interested please look into your local yoga studios. If you are local to Marysville, Wa please message me I can get you in touch with our Nidra specialist, Wendy Soper. She has been advocating for Nidra programs in our area and is coordinating with Spark Hot Yoga. www.sparkhotyogastudio.com
Floresta, P. 2015. "Brain Waves and Yoga Nidra". https://paolodafloresta.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/brain-waves-yoga-nidra/
Hill, E. 2017 "How Yoga Nidra works". https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-yoga-nidra-works_us_58efcea5e4b048372700d692
Jeraci, A. 2018, "5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra", Yogainternational.com, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-benefits-of-yoga-nidra
Beyond the Gear is a informational place where firefighters and their families can read and take steps at living a healthier life. Healthy body starts with a healthy mind. I hope you enjoy.