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Stress always has a way of manifesting itself into the body, especially when we try to ignore it. A staggering 77 percent of Americans report they've experienced physical symptoms brought on by stress, and nearly all of them regularly experience psychological disorders like anxiety. With money and career factoring in as the leading causes of stress, it is crucial in today's world to learn how to effectively manage it. A calming, relaxation practice like yoga nidra, also known as “yogic sleep,” is highly effective—activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your nervous system that controls rest and digestion) to enter a state of ultimate relaxation. Through yoga nidra, you can access a realm of consciousness that exists between waking and sleeping, combining an alert awareness of the mind with total relaxation of the body. It is a practice where science and spirit meet—working together to relieve the tension and stress that can keep us up at night, while often improving the quality of your sleep.
Here, Julie Lusk, an expert in stress relief through yoga, meditation, relaxation, and guided visualization techniques, shares a yoga nidra practice from her new book, Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation & Stress Relief that you can do easily, right at home. Take your time, pausing often to feel the benefits of the practice.
The Yoga Nidra Practice to Rest Well and Beat Anxiety
If possible, kick your shoes off, put your feet up, and uncross your legs and arms. Let yourself sink comfortably into your chair (or the floor).
Begin using your breathing to create a relaxing experience… Slowly, breathe all the way in… and all the way out… Each time you breathe out, begin releasing any tightness or tenseness you may have. Tightness may be in the form of physical tension, mental confusion, or emotional distress… Just let it all clear away, each time you exhale… like clouds disappearing.
Now, take your attention to your feet… Take a nice, big breath in and feel them softening and relaxing each time you breathe out… slowly and easily.
The next time you breathe in, let your awareness fill your legs… and when slowly breathing out, allow your calves, your knees, and your thighs to continue releasing and relaxing, letting go, more and more, each time you breathe out.
Wrap your awareness around your hips, breathe in deeply … and feel them soften as you breathe out … sinking and settling down, slowly and easily.
Float your attention to your back… Breathe in and as you breathe out, feel the tension in your back dissolve, letting go more and more, each time you breathe out.
Surround your shoulders with your awareness, like a comforting cloak… Breathe in and feel them softening as you breathe out… releasing the tightness and the soreness… soothing your shoulders with your slow and easy breathing.
Let this relaxed feeling begin flowing down around your shoulders, soothing your arms and hands with peace and quiet.
Become aware of the mouth… Breathe in and unclench the teeth… Let the lips part slightly. As you continue breathing gently and softly, let the nose and cheeks smooth out … allowing the eyes and forehead to soften.
Imagine letting your pores open up and breathe, feeling yourself releasing and expanding.
As you relax deeper and deeper, the peacefulness reminds you of a quiet, personal sanctuary… an extremely comfortable and safe place where you feel surrounded with exactly what you need. Bring it alive by using all your senses.
This is a special place to feel protected and safe and understood… where you can spend some time getting to know the real you… the person you were meant to be… and feeling safe to be who you really are… and fully capable of finding answers to your questions…. Treat yourself to some time to explore this special feeling and space.
After a while, allow your attention to come back to your breath… feeling more wholesome and real, and feeling your energy improving with each breath.
And, whenever you're ready, begin to stretch your body, wiggle your fingers and toes … and open your eyes… feeling refreshed and renewed.
Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2015 Julie Lusk
Julie Lusk, MEd, E500-RYT, specializes in balancing and strengthening the body-mind-spirit connection through yoga, meditation, therapeutic relaxation, and guided imagery. With more than thirty years of experience, she is an internationally published author whose books include Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief (New Harbinger, 2015) and Yoga Meditations(Whole Person Associates, 2005). Lusk is president of Wholesome Resources, which provides workshops, retreats, engaging articles, and resource materials on stress management, wellness promotion, yoga, and mind-body for personal and professional growth to thrive in today’s world.