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The Art of Un-Doing

By Dr. Alma Duran

TUE DEC 15, 2020

We live in an action-oriented culture that conditions us to be always busy: to run around all day, not to have time, to praise multitasking and hypertasking. Even during this pandemic, we don’t seem to be able to stop. A dear yogini, reflecting upon this, said: “It is amazing how much there is to do while in lockdown. Activities seem to multiply.” It is possible to understand why we feel depleted if we consider that besides being always on the move, our minds are over stimulated by our daily contacts, the media and fear. The result is that we feel drained, cannot concentrate, loose our temper easily, sleep poorly, forget things, stop really listening to others and to ourselves… all of these maladies are result of a low polyvagal tone. This hectic approach to life also influences our physiology, affecting negatively our immune system among other bodily functions. But: How to get off the hamster wheel?

You have probably heard, or read, that yoga can help us to counteract some of the above mentioned modern maladies. However: not all yogas were created equal! Many methodologies depart from the idea that over-efforting, or going to your limits and beyond are the goals of practice. However, if you are already tired or your mind is overactive such practices will exhaust you instead of nourish you. This is where mindfulness-fostering practices, such as gentle yoga, restorative yoga and yoga nidra, can be so healing for the body-mind. When combined skillfully, they un-do stress, re-energize and help us to find balance and joy.

I personally came to restorative yoga in the 1990s. I had at that time a very ambitious, outward-driven and physical yoga practice, which I definitely wanted to balance: I longed to remember how to relax and to let go of doing. If I began practicing restorative yoga occasionally, the busier and hectic my life became as an international film and television producer, the more this practice spur on into my life, becoming a balsam to my tired body and overly strained mind. A few years later, yoga nidra came to me as I studied in the Sivananda tradition. The effects of this guided meditative practice were so revitalizing that I incorporated it into my regular schedule. I got certified to teach both disciplines, and about a decade ago I began experimenting in how best to bring both techniques together. Since 2018 I have been offering these practices live in Merida, and now as livestream in zoom, at least once monthly under the title of restorative+nidra Yoga con Alma. I cannot be more pleased with what participants say about the practice: the find it useful, smoothening and invigorating. After the session they report feeling refreshed, more awareness of the body-mind connections, enjoy a serene energy, and a sense of wellbeing.

Gentler on the joints and fascia than yin yoga, restorative is a profoundly soothing experience that restores the body and mind to its equilibrium through a process of deeply relaxing postures. In all positions the body is fully supported by props, which facilitates muscle relaxation, a deep easing, an ability to trust that we are fully held, as well as changes in the brainwaves and hormonal balance. On its part, yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a simple, body-centered meditative technique that promotes health, healing, and well-being. Research has shown that it effectively reduces post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety and chemical dependency. Together, restorative and nidra are a powerful mind-clearing practice.

By engaging in these two types you yoga frequently you can experience the following benefits:

· Brings deep relaxation to body and mind

· Reduces aches and pains

· Diminishes stress and stress related ailments

· Enhances the immune system

· Aids healing processes

· Helps you to loose weight by effectively trimming subcutaneous fat

· Improves digestion and elimination

· Healthier vagal tone

· Reduces feelings of anxiety and stress

· Calms the nervous system

· Lowers blood pressure

· Balances more active styles of yoga

· Improves sleep

· Lowers “bad” cholesterol

· Helps us to discover a sense of inner balance

· Promotes mindfulness

· Increases flexibility without damaging the joints or the fascia

· Encourages a healthier lifestyle

Emphasizing body-mind awareness while being fully supported in the yoga poses helps us not only to receive the benefits of the postures without wasting vital energy, but also to become more competent at alternating between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, which means that it leads us to cultivate a healthier vagal tone. This is something that more active and physical types of “exercise” yoga simply cannot accomplish.

Who would have thought that the way off the hamster well is actually so easy and enjoyable? It’s about incorporating regularly in our schedule the art of un-doing, that is: relaxing deeply. The regular practice of restorative+nidra yoga brings many benefits to our health at all levels which are certainly deeper and more lasting than a visit to the spa.

Sources:

Caffrey, Mary K. “Restorative yoga better than stretching for trimming subcutaneous fat in overweight women,” AJMC, (2013), Volume 19, Issue SP7.

Danhauer, S., et. al., Restorative yoga for women with ovarian or breast cancer: findings from a pilot study, J Soc Integr Oncology, Spring 2008;6(2):47-58.

Datta, K., Tripathi, M. & Mallick, H. N. “Yoga Nidra: An innovative approach for management of chronic insomnia- A case report,” Sleep Science Practice (2017) 1, 7.

Kanaya, M. A., et. al., “Restorative yoga and metabolic risk factors: the practicing restorative yoga vs. stretching for the metabolic syndrome (PRYSMS) randomized trial,”

Journal of Diabetes Complications, May-Jun 28(3):406-1, 2014.

Kain, Kathy L. et. al., Nurturing Resilience. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2018.

Kjaer W.et al “Increases dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness”, Cognitive Brain Research 13, 255-259, 2002.

Lasater, Judith Hanson: Restore and balance. Yoga for deep relaxation. Shambala, 2017.

Lee, Cyndi: Yoga Body, Buddha Mind. New York: Riverhead, 2004.

Ohio University: Department of Experimental Health Psychology, “The Effect of Meditation on Cortisol: A Comparison of Meditation Techniques to a Control Group”.

McDermott, K., et. al., A yoga intervention for type 2 diabetes risk reduction: a pilot randomized controlled trial, BMC Complement Altern Med., (2014); 14: 212.

Miyoshi, Y. “Restorative yoga for occupational stress among Japanese female nurses working night shift: Randomized crossover trial,” J Occup Health, (2019), Nov;61(6):508-516.

Neuber, Lorna: Restorative Yoga: Ruhe und Kraft durch Entspannung. München, Südwest, 2019.

Ramm-Bonnwitt: Yoga Nidra- Der Schlaf der Yogis. Darmstadt: Schirner Verlag, 2007

Swami Satyananda Saraswati: Yoga Nidra. Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga, 1976.