Hilary Jackendoff: What Yoga Nidra Means to Me

“I finally understood what it felt like to let go—to release all tension. To experience a quiet mind. To move beyond the mind. It was a full on spiritual experience. And I wanted more.”

Practice with Hilary on Wanderlust TV: her new collection, Reclaim Your Right to Rest, is a 4-part yoga nidra series that will support healthy sleep habits and allow deep healing. Access this collection, along with thousands of yoga, meditation and movement classes on WLTV with a free 14-day WLTV trial.

I’ve been talking about the life-changing benefits of rest and yoga nidra for nearly 15 years, and I’ve never wavered in my evangelizing because I know just how powerful this practice really is.

Let’s travel back to the day it all began for me: February 9, 2008. I hate to be dramatic, but that really was ‘the day my life changed forever.’

I was living in New Zealand and needed a ‘break’ from my boyfriend at the time, so I went on retreat to a traditional yoga ashram. I was lying on the heated floor of a yurt, overlooking Golden Bay, being guided into my first yoga nidra by an extremely tall, extremely blonde German sannyasin (yogic monk) named Swami Marutdeva.

hilary jackendoff yoga nidraI had been struggling through my adolescence and early 20s with insomnia and anxiety (and this was before smartphones). I had been practicing meditation in a Buddhist tradition for a while by this point, but the techniques I’d practiced at my local Kadampa center in Philadelphia never landed. I never felt peaceful. I always just felt like I was sitting in a pool of my own mental filth for an excruciating 45 minutes at a time.

Yoga nidra was different, though. That very practice delivered all the good stuff. I felt like I melted effortlessly into a state of what I can only describe as bliss. In an instant, I finally understood what was possible through meditation. I finally understood what it felt like to let go—to release all tension. To experience a quiet mind. To move beyond the mind. It was a full on spiritual experience. And I wanted more.

I became a yoga nidra junkie. It’s all I talked about. I arranged my life to make sure I got my fix everyday. I practiced so much that in just a few months, I had memorized three 45 minute recordings, syllable by syllable. It completely shifted my relationship to sleep, and provided major relief for my insomnia and anxiety.

I had to go even deeper. That October, I went on retreat to spend some time at the yoga lineages’ ashram in India. After a powerful spiritual experience in India, I knew I had to be in the lineage. So in I went. Over the span of 8 years, I took 2 Tantric initiations into the lineage, and spent 2 years living and studying at an ashram as a sannyasin.

During a period at home in New Jersey, between ashram years, I experienced a horrible trauma. I lost my childhood best friend and next door neighbor to a heroin overdose. (I deeply wish he could have known peace and obliteration of the ego through yoga nidra. It might have helped him get off heroin.)

I was with Rocky the day before he died, and my last words to him were, “I love you Rock. Don’t you go dying on me.” The next morning, on December 30, 2012, I watched him being carried out by the paramedics from my childhood bedroom window.

Hilary Jackendoff I returned to the ashram a week after his funeral to complete my 2nd year of study. Deep in grief and suffering from trauma, I experienced a brutal bout of insomnia that lasted 3 months. Yoga nidra was my safe space. It was the only way I could get rest. It was the only time I felt peaceful. It was the only thing that kept me sane, given that I was in such a state of severe sleep deprivation and emotional pain. It also helped me integrate the emotions and gradually release the feeling of responsibility I had been holding onto since his death.

I have personally experienced every single one of yoga nidra’s transformative benefits: relief of stress and anxiety. Restoring my sleep and rest. Emotional healing of trauma. Transformation. Letting go. Spiritual oneness. Yoga nidra has helped me make sense of life. In fact, it’s provided me with my life’s path.

The photo above was taken shortly after I received my spiritual name from Swami Satsangi Saraswati. Your spiritual name represents your potential, and serves as a mantra to remind you of your highest self each time it’s spoken.

It’s no coincidence that my spiritual name is Om. The mantra of yoga nidra. The symbol of Om 🕉  represents the four states of consciousness—waking, dreaming, sleeping and the fourth—pure awareness in deep sleep—the state of yoga nidra.

So, I’m going to try to live up to my name. I’m going to keep on keeping on, guiding folks into relationship with yoga nidra—the practice and the state—with the hope that it will transform their lives as it did mine.

Hilary Jackendoff -

Hilary Jackendoff is a Yoga Nidra and meditation teacher, as well as a Teacher Trainer and Human Design coach. In 2008, she began studying Tantric Yoga, then spent two years formally training while living at an ashram in Australia. In 2019, she discovered Human Design and has been creating containers and coaching offerings for de-conditioning, integrated with Yogic practices. Hilary’s work is dedicated to sharing accessible tools and grounded spiritual teachings to encourage self-inquiry so you can release stress and self-judgment and awaken self-love, inner ease, and joy.

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