March is National Sleep Awareness month, which is why we’re delighted to be releasing your course on Wanderlust TV, Deep Rest for Stress. What compelled you toward the Yoga Nidra world as you were training to become a yoga teacher?
I was introduced to the modality of Yoga Nidra through my first meditation training a few years after I got my RYT certification. I thought it was the neatest thing to feel like I am asleep, but hearing every word of the facilitator and somehow woke up at the end with everyone else. “How does this magic work?” I thought. I quickly learned my difficulty in the practice, though. I had such a lack of trust, that I couldn’t fully let go in to the practice. Realizing this, I was attracted to diving in deeper to witness and understand my process of learning to trust. My responses to experiences in life became softer and my sleep became more regulated. I was sold!
Why is rest important?
Rest is so incredibly important because it is the time that we humans are supposed to restore and refuel the energy used during the day, so that we can do it all over again tomorrow. When we are truly resting, we are replenishing hormones that clean our system out from stress accumulation and regenerate our immune system, strength, and memory just to name a few. We usually go to bed with our stresses and invasive thoughts. We don’t set ourselves up for true rest. Yoga Nidra sets the conditions for restorative rest.
In what way(s) would you recommend someone prioritize their rest, sleep, or time to unwind during this unusual at-home, constantly-connected yet socially-distanced time? Do you have any specific techniques or hacks to put boundaries around this personal time?
I am an early bird, always have been. By default, I am also a ‘yesman.’ Even before covid, I would lose so much sleep so that I didn’t have to say, ‘no,’ whether is was to hang out with friends or take on more work. Yoga Nidra helped me regulate my sleep a little more. But even moreso, the practice has opened an attitude for myself of what I like to call ‘the gentle approach’. I didn’t even realize it until I was cornered in a moment in life where I had to juggle college, this career of teaching/coaching and taking over full-time for six weeks in my family business because someone became ill. I thought, “How am I going to get it all done?” How many of us recognize that thought?
So, I put up boundaries—that only with practice did I realize I deserve to have—which may sound ridiculous and not understood by others, but made sense to me. I had to become okay with not pleasing others. I went to bed at 8p and woke up at 4a every day. One might ask, “But how?” There are so many distractions. iPhone has technology where you can set your bedtime. It takes a few extra clicks to turn your phone on if it is past your bedtime. That really helps me. You can also turn your phone on to grayscale. Grayscale doesn’t speak to the reward part of our brain as much and therefore the phone isn’t as irresistible. I also always have my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ If you do have to be on your screen pretty late in to the evening, I highly suggest eye glasses for your screen.
In what way has the pandemic bring classic yogic teachings into sharp, palpable focus for you, if at all?
The classic yoga teachings, or more so Buddhist teachings that really became clear to me are the meaning we put on things and equanimity. In the beginning of the pandemic, things became uncertain. Uncertainty is where fear is rooted in. I didn’t know what was going to happen with my job, my family’s jobs, and my mom was in the hospital with a broken hip and then recovering in a nursing home (“scary place”). If I wanted to mentally survive this, I had to step into feeling what it feels like to not like this while not arguing with reality that it is undoubtedly here—fear/uncertainty and not liking. It doesn’t go without saying that I have a spiritual community to be witnessed in, as well as a therapist that facilitates this deep work with me. I say this because sometimes we need the attunement of another skilled person to navigate through difficulty with so that we don’t slip in towards overwhelm or retraumatization.
Shortly into the pandemic, I opened my calendar book as I did every Friday, to map out my next two weeks. I thought, “I don’t even know what to write. I don’t know what next week will bring or take away.” I closed the book with nervous laughter. I had this belief that I had to work in a certain way, plan, create, work hard, keep going, etc. In that moment, I heard that belief as a belief and asked myself, “Who says?” This has become my mantra. Now, when I find myself in moments of questioning what is real, what is true right now, I remember this mantra, “Who says?” Whose messaging is your belief? What meaning/narrative are you putting on this belief? Is it true?
Which teachers / traditions have had the biggest influence on you?
For Yoga Nidra it has been my good friend, Hilary Jackendoff and Richard Miller, PhD.
For Mindfulness/Buddhism and Buddhist Psychology I am inspired by Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach and Trudy Goodman.
Rick Hanson, Stephen Porges, Richard Schwartz and Peter Levine to just name a few are some of my biggest inspirations in trauma-informed facilitation of mindful modalities like Internal Family Systems and Somatic Experiencing.
What is your single favorite yogic teaching that you keep coming back to?
“So the mind, so the person.” I used to have a more rigid way of looking at this Yogic Sutra. It is the person’s responsibility/fault for how the mind is. My mind was in a place of: you make your own bed, now sleep in it.
That evolved in to another rigid attitude of, “You have the power to change your mind, so that you can change the person you are.” Think happy and you’ll be happy. Except, it’s not that easy for most.
Finally, with more time I can see what this thread more truly means to me. It is an understanding that there are multiple ideas and histories of people. Even though I may not agree with you, I can make an effort to understand where you are coming from. And, if I don’t, I can accept there are multiple ideas, meanings, and truths for people.
It has created curiosity and interest for me. Instead of calling anyone out for thinking differently, I want to be called in so that I can learn and connect with that person. Healing can only begin when one feels seen and heard.