Yoga Nidra: the power of rest

Yoga Nidra

The power of rest
Ever felt like having a complete break away from it all? We live in a 24/7 culture where being switched on and connected via our phone is king. So addicted, I am like this pretty much day and night! I can email and message clients, text friends,  get online marketing done, take cute photos of my kids, listen to audiobooks, set my alarm all through my phone. This may sound familiar. Stress and overstimulation bring a huge range of symptoms: I have experienced and clients regularly complain of difficulty switching off at night, waking feeling sluggish, swinging between caffeine and sugar highs and lows, recurring pain issues, sore back, frozen shoulder, digestive problems, IBS, anger issues, a packed calendar with no down time and when you do eke out some space, don’t like what you find there underneath all the busyness, so back to the phone and doing….I could go on. Coming to class helps me and my clients a lot. ‘I just feel better’ is a phrase I often hear. But only an hour a week in class, it’s hard to keep that sense of calm and centre.
Nidra connects us with our true nature
We are human beings, not doings and yoga nidra invites us, in a safe and nurturing space, to come back to our true nature. When the busy schedule and stress fall away, there is a deep connection with calm and presence. We can often forget about this deeper calm, or have connecting there trained out of us. Yet this connection is there all the time. Just as the ocean is always still at its depths, so too are we essentially calm and spacious, kind and perfect, just as we are. When we connect with this healing space or aspect, we feel a whole lot better!
So how does yoga nidra do this (it sounds amazing!)? The practice of yoga nidra (yoga means union or joining and nidra mean sleep), offers the chance for complete restorative bodily relaxation. It melts away muscular tension, helps unwind patterns of holding and stress in the body and calms the mind into a tranquil state. There is nothing to do but snuggle down, get comfy and cosy and let yourself be guided. It feels great and can be done very easily, no mat is even needed.
Nidra feeds our brains too
During nightly sleep we experience a range of healing brainwave states that are essential for physical, mental and emotional health and wellness. We all know what it’s like the day after a disturbed sleep! Nidra enables us to experience these states in a short time so we feel restored and revitalised. I have practised yoga nidra very regularly since my first encounter during prenatal yoga in 2011. A 20 minute session does feel like I’ve slept deeply for a good hour! However nidra is not a replacement for sleep as we need to be in deeper states of consciousness for longer for the proper healing and processing to happen. Yet it can top us up especially when we feel depleted or exhausted.
Nidra soothes us
In yoga philosophy, there is this idea of having a number of aspects or layers to ourselves. Physical, energetic through the breath, intellect through our minds, higher connection with that deeply calm space and more. Yoga nidra soothes these aspects very easily and simply, undoing all the tension of stress, and instead, nourishing us, nurturing us in a safe space.
Nidra can heal us

It can help change your life into a more positive one.
The practice has a rich tradition of a number of sources. I first encountered Yoga Nidra adapted by Swami Satyananda Saraswati that he had adapted from a traditional Tantric practice of nyasa. It also draws from modern western practices of self help or improvement. However, across the variety of styles of Nidra, they all focus on settling and soothing the body, creating total muscular relaxation and give the mind over to this process. Whilst the mind is busy relaxing the body or counting the breath, it enables our awareness to deepen and in this state recoup energy, and experience the profound healing that is deep rest.  It can be enough then, to simply rest. (Really? Shouldn’t I have to sit for hours with a calm mind or work at intense yogic postures to attain true enlightenment?) Possibly. However deep rest and the ability to induce it is itself a radical act! It is a huge change from our usual overstimulated and switched on state. When we are deeply resting, drifting between different creative brainwave states, we are enough. There is no need to define ourselves in terms of anything. We are present in varying stages of awareness. As we are in a trancelike state, there is the potential to sow seeds into our unconscious mind for change. Using a personal resolve or San Kalpa, a short positive statement in simple language, or by simply being open to what is, we can help ourselves in areas where we need support, for example, being kinder to ourselves,  knowing and respecting our boundaries, not wasting energy on needless tasks or late night internet surfing; the list could be and is endless. Whatever part of our lives, busy and complicated as they are, a little ‘journeying inwards’ can bring huge benefits and contentment.
Nidra is adaptogenic.
It reduces stress response, restores balance into the body and mind.  Nidra helps where we need it. So if we are tired and need deep rest, we most likely will fall asleep. Often you’ll hear a contented gurgle from the  digestive symptom, as it relaxes into its proper function. When we need to realise something or find the solution to a problem, the answer can magically pop up, during or afterwards in an everyday moment or pause.
Yoga nidra is best experienced live.
In this way, I can hold the space and nourish you, providing a safe and comfortable place in which you thoroughly relax and draw from the well of life. I draw from each season so tufts, threads, twiglets and fragments of my experiences out in nature are woven together with what you need to truly nourish and nurture you. Good times are most definitely ahead.
To find out more about my Yoga nidra teaching and opportunities to experience it in person, click here
To listen to my Yoga Nidra for Springtime, click here
 I am currently continuing my training and knowledge with the Total Yoga Nidra Network, with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Nirlipta Tuli. There are also some excellent free nidras you can access there too.
It is with great excitement that I will be leading deeply restorative Total Yoga Nidra immersion weekends with Nirlipta here in Glasgow starting in 2020. Watch this space!
With sincere gratitude to all my teachers whose guidance brings me along my path with joy x

Self care challenge

Self care as a discipline

Busy? Tick. How are you sleeping? Waking early feeling rested? When was the last time you walked 10,000 steps daily? How’s the practice/detox/willpower building going? Ok, no more inflammatory questions. We have enough on our plates, so any change is going to be small, manageable and inspiring. Inspiring? Yes. Manageable? Yes.

Clear some time and ask yourself about what you value in your life?

What role/s you play? Which is the main role for 2018. What is important to you and what is not important? Do you have any goals you would like to set yourself? Set 3. Keep them positive, realistic and set helpful deadlines to check in with yourself and progress (not beat yourself up). Start to cut the wheat from the chaff of everyday busy life and see the wood for the trees, so to speak.

Write yourself 3 – 5 affirmations, short positive statements in simple language, based on your values and goals. Be creative so they are inspiring to look at, or be practical and just get them done. Post them up where you will see them at least twice a day: the bathroom mirror, by the kettle, on the home screen of your phone. Take a few minutes daily to reflect on each one, bringing them to mind and acknowledge when how they have helped you in your day.

Did you notice the phrase, ‘willpower building’ in the first paragraph? This is an excellent time to help build your self power or will power. We often focus on denying ourselves something rather than giving ourselves something to build willpower. Yet can you think of something that will help you in your 2018 envisioning that is yet to add into your self care regime? Eating more fresh (locally source) vegetables? Getting someone to deliver that to your door when you know you have a super busy week? Check The Yoga Kitchen for that one! Going to bed earlier. Going for a mind relaxing walk under the trees (it’s the time for utterly beautiful tree flowers!)

In the coming weeks we will being to practise uddiyana bandha to help lift energy up to manipura chakra and strengthen our core and resolve after the lovely side stretching and twists of Spring practice – it is best done on an empty(ish) stomach, so eat light before class if you can.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. Treating ourselves as something truly precious enables us to grow with lasting strength and vitality. Feed your spirit in ways that make you bloom and shine.

 

For more information on Lucie’s classes and upcoming workshops click here

Stay healthy this winter

STAY (as ) HEALTHY (as you can)  THIS WINTER: TIP 1

So my youngest, Florence, has a very bad cold. I am amazed because my family never get ill for longer than a few days, and because, of course, I am a yoga teacher so I should never ever be ill and by rights, that extends to all my family. Into our second week of Florence feeling rubbish is new territory.

So far I have managed to avoid getting ill. Hmmm, this may sound familiar: new nursery, lurgies; new school, lurgies; children, lurgies; work, lurgies; daylight saving time, lurgies. I am (fingers crossed and touch wood – touching my head a few times) generally hale and hearty and I put a big part of that hale and heartiness down to the daily flask of fiery vitality that I make myself. We all know about ginger, right? Fresh ginger, lemon, honey, great for colds. Yes. Bring it on! Manuka honey? Yes, great! But my secret ingredient now is garlic. I chop a thumb sized knob of ginger and pop it into my thermos.  If I’m feeling classy, I’ll peel it first. I then slice a (peeled) clove of garlic and pop it in there too, fill up the flask with freshly boiled water. Lid on. Job done. It is here by my side as I type, and the ritual goes like this: unscrew the lid, pour a wee bitty out into a mug, rescrew lid, slurp slurp. Yep, feeling good! Lurgy-free. My flasks are the ones where the lid only partially unscrews or pops up to pour the drink out. So if yours is one where the whole lid comes off, do take care of wayward garlic and ginger slices sailing gaily out into your cup. Plop.

garlic-ginger-tea

Stinky breath? Not noticeably. Hale? Yep, feeling chipper – and as I’ve started doing more cv at the gym, I’m watching that I don’t overdo it there and topple over into illness. In which case, cue even more ginger, garlic, lemon, vitamin C, zinc and echinacea, not to mention Sambucol elderberry extract (no relation to Sambuca, though I am sure a tot of that will kill any bugs right off).

Another way is to pop a sliced or chopped clove of garlic into a mug, pour on boiling water and cover with a saucer. After 20 minutes you can use a wee drop (I pour about a cm) into any drink. Now I’m not saying into tea with milk. That would be odd/crazy! But if you have some lovely herbal tea or indeed are making lemon and honey for the kiddies, then the garlic goes in there too.  I let the garlic ‘tea’ carry on infusing all day, using it as and when.

As for Florence and her bad cold, she is off dairy, she is on lemon, honey and garlic (or ‘melon, mmm, I like it!’, as she calls it), Sambucol, vitamins, lots of warming soups and fresh fruit. Her need for rest is balanced precariously with her passion for being outside and getting unbelievably cold hands (gloves need to be off for playing with puddles, being outside in Glasgow, using hands in any way) so it’s a dance: muddy puddles, being out of the buggy, a lot of walking – she is most definitely an outdoor person who unfortunately has a bad cold. She will live and hopefully thrive. But if you don’t have the luxury of Florence’s daytime nap, then do feel free to warm the cockles with ginger and garlic tea.

 

DSC_0015#1

Find out more about Lucie’s upcoming classes and mini retreats here

Book onto Candlelight Mini Retreat, Sunday 3 December 1.30-4.30pm HERE

 

Black bean, Cacao and Rhubarb Superfood Brownies

KradelRainWeb8961

Here we are on the cusp of Autumn, the last days of Harvest rolling out under warm sun, drizzle and dreich, dark grey and mist and wind, often all in the space of a few hours as the weather flows over our wee island towards Scandinavia. Much like the sap in trees, our energy has begun on its winter retreat, the slow creep back into our core. It is a time when we become naturally more introspective, happy to curl up at home by a cheery glowing fire or stove with a book, Less and less do we yearn for being outdoors, away on a beach, in the park, out late with friends, and I am certainly not finding it easy to rise early before the birds for practice. Now in October, summer seems forgotten. Even when there is heat in the sun, it is autumnal. The nights have drawn in (dark at 7am and 7pm), bike lights are a must. In our street and the local parks, green and copper leaves are changing; yellow, brown, rust red fall into crunchy or soggy rain sodden drifts along curbs and fences. And where our energy goes, so we follow, right? Are you feeling more tired, hungrier, needing more sleep? I am. Yet my habits seem to be continuing as if the nights are light and the days endless. Last night browsing? Check. Am I going to bed earlier and enjoying my new Ali Smith book? Hmmm. Last night I read till past 1am. How’s the early morning practice going, Lucie? Hmmm, not managed this week to beat 6.30am rising Florence (my 19 month old). Am I cutting out sugar and caffeine? Hmmm.

On the sugar front, I have found the answer to eating much much less. Don’t buy it in the first place. That one is simple for a lot of things. However it can also be helpful to use alternatives, especially when there is a coffee morning fundraiser to bake for, ripe fruit waiting from the garden or simply the sheer love of tasty, tasty treats. Harvest time is very much about feeling satisfied and contented. The dips in energy do need something, as Winnie the Pooh happily and often mused, “just in time for a little smackerel of something.” So what to do (and avoid lurking in the sweets and biscuits aisles in the supermarket)? Where needed, such as the occasional treat of breakfast pancakes with lemon and sugar, I have replaced white sugar with Xylitol (extracted from birch and beech trees), brown sugar in crumble toppings with Agave syrup and Coconut sugar. And for the coffee morning bake sale, this is what I made.

brownie-26

Rich in superfood goodness, the recipe is gluten free and sugar free. Rich and very dark, these are very much an adult treat, with the wee pieces of rhubarb adding a freshness and juiciness to lift the intensity.

I adapted the recipe from Whole Hearted Eats. Where possible I used organic / free range foods. A great supplier are Greencity Foods or you can find their products at the lovely Harvest Co-op in Shawlands, A note about the dates, they are Iranian (easily found in small rectangular boxes in our wonderful Asian food shops in and about the southside for a couple of quid – they are already very soft, unctuous and toffee-like (that good) so don’t need soaking. If you use drier/harder dates, soak the chopped dates in a little hot water for 10-15 minutes before using. And the verdict? My lovely neighbour, Bex, an expert baker and gluten free bod, returned my tupperware box back after the bake sale just the other day. “There was one left, but it seems to have disappeared. Not sure where it went”…..Nuff said.

Black Bean, Cacao and Rhubarb Fudge Superfood Brownies
Makes a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) Pan

1 Cup Cooked Black Beans (just under 1/2 a cup when dry)
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/4 -1/2 Cup of Xylitol and Coconut Nectar
1/2 Cup Pitted Dates (I used Iranian dates from the Spice Garden, Albert Drive)
1 Cup Rhubarb (finely diced, from our garden)
1/3 Cup Raw Cacao / good quality cocoa Powder
2 eggs
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
1/2 Cup Chopped Dark Chocolate or Mini Chips (I used Hotel Chocolat 70% dark chocolate drops)

1. Blend the black beans, coconut oil, sea salt, xylitol and coconut nectar, mashed dates, cacao, and eggs in a food mixer. Blend until the mixture looks smooth and you no longer see any bean or date pieces.

3. Empty the contents into a bowl and stir in the diced rhubarb, almond flour and chocolate chips.

4. Spread the mixture into a parchment lined 20 cm (8 inch) square pan and bake at 175 C (350 F) for 40 minutes.

5. Once cool, you can slice and eat the brownies as is or sprinkle with Himalayan/sea salt. Left overs keep well in the fridge or freezer.

brownie-15