By David Ramoy The Pineapple Contributing Writer There is a level of consciousness that is somewhere between lying awake and being asleep. A deep relaxation that goes well beyond taking a good nap or catching up on your z’s. Yoga Nidra, a form of meditation and breathing exercises, allows the practitioner to go into a trancelike state and connect with the subconscious on much a deeper level then your typical nights sleep. My personal experience with this form of yoga happened at a workshop given by Yoga Nidra Instructor Julie Murphy. I am not sure if it was her soothing South African accent, soft music in the background or the words she spoke; but Yoga Nidra took me to another plane. So much so, that I was inspired to interview Julie and learn a bit more about her, as well as this ancient practice. Please enjoy this months Tales From the Mat: Yoga Nidra – Julie Murphy. Hi Julie, tell us about yourself I’m one of those yoginis who came to yoga as a way of reducing stress during my demanding, high-tech career. It wasn’t long before I experienced how yoga was much more than just exercise, and it became my blueprint for how to live a healthier, happier life. Many Oms later, I now teach yoga full-time and lead yoga retreats to wonderful destinations like Guatemala and Costa Rica. Every time I come to the yoga mat, I am constantly humbled at how powerful this ancient practice is. The yoga experience to last me a lifetime, was undoubtedly the unexpected blessing of meeting His Holiness, the Dalai Lama last year, in India. Please tell us about Yoga Nidra Yoga Nidra is a form of guided relaxation, experiencing deep rest in the body, while the mind remains alert and calm. It is a powerful form of self-discovery that can have a permanent, positive impact on your life. The ancient practice of Yoga Nidra is for everyone; no special skills required. You need nothing more than the desire to create a sense of peace and wellbeing. What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra A major benefit is the almost instant calm we bring to the body, the subconscious mind and the sympathetic nervous system. An hour of Yoga Nidra is believed to be the equivalent of four hours of typical sleep! Possibly the most powerful benefit of Yoga Nidra is the introduction of a positive intention (called a sankalpa in Sanskrit). During the sequence, you state your wish for what you would like to be, or have, in your life — such as good health, calm mind, confidence, success, or a change in your relationships. Think of this affirmation as a vow between you and the Universe, and the gateway to personal transformation. Other benefits include: • Increased vitality • Reduced stress • Lower blood pressure • Clearing negative thoughts and beliefs • Changing destructive habits • Emotional and physical healing • Encouraging love and compassion for self and for others What is the biggest compliment you receive from your students who attend the workshop Is it a compliment if one of the attendees was so relaxed afterwards that he walked off to his car without realizing he wasn’t wearing his shoes? Perhaps! 🙂 The most constant feedback I get is how calm and yet refreshed everybody feels, including newbies who came because their friend/wife/brother urged them to try it. It’s a compliment and an honor that people choose to spend Yoga Nidra time with me every month as they focus on their heartfelt intention and open the door to personal transformation. When I see their faces afterwards — bright-eyed and smiling, I feel humbled to be facilitating this practice. What advice would you give to someone who wants to try Yoga Nidra but is new to yoga and meditation? Meditation can be challenging, as it is often done seated in silence, concentrating on one focus. Yoga Nidra is a good introduction to meditation techniques because the quieting of the mind is “being done for you”, as you lie on your back, following the verbal cues. Try Yoga Nidra as an end-of-day treat, when you have nothing to rush to afterwards. Wear relaxed clothing, and make sure you are totally comfortable and then simply close your eyes and listen to the guided relaxation, without worrying about whether you’re “doing it right”. Also, try it more than once. It can be as long as an hour of blissful relaxation or even just ten minutes a day, the key is to do it regularly for maximum benefit, as the results are cumulative. You can do Yoga Nidra in a group setting — don’t worry, it’s not a “show and tell”, it’s your private practice and yet you are also benefiting from a group energy of positive intention. You can also do this guided relaxation at home – you may like the Yoga Nidra album I recorded this year, accompanied by the peaceful music of Richard Brookens http://www.facebook.com/richard.brookens Listen to samples of the CD and download here http:/www.yogaressa.com How can your Yoga Nidra workshop help someone begin a new year on a positive note? Just as we watch people on our yoga retreats return home with new and positive habits, so is the start of a New Year the perfect time to break negative behavior patterns and start afresh.