Yoga Nidra Is A Lifesaver

Yoga Nidra helped yoga teacher, Alison Mactaggart (Mantradharma) cope with chronic insomnia during menopause and now she is teaching others how to experience the benefits of this ancient practice

 Alison or Mantradharma (as she is known by her Sanskrit name), discovered yoga more than 20 years ago while living in London. She says: ‘I started with Iyengar and continued when I moved to Australia.” But it was when she attended a friend’s Satyananda Yoga teaching class that she experienced deeper benefits.

 She says: “I felt so balanced and calm afterwards and I realised that that’s how you are supposed to feel after yoga – not activated as I had been after other styles of yoga and unable to get to sleep when I got home.”

And so Alison enrolled in the Academy of Yoga Science at Mangrove and completed her two year Diploma in 2010.

One practice which Alison always found powerful – regardless of yoga styles – was Yoga Nidra. And the Satyananda training dedicated several hours to teaching and exploring this aspect of yoga.

Alison says: “Yoga Nidra is accessible to anyone – irrespective of age, fitness, health condition, race, culture, spiritual inclinations (or not!).  It can be practiced in lots of ways and in various settings.”

And it became Alison’s saviour when she was suffering with chronic insomnia during peri and post menopause. She says: “I had the classic pattern of sleeping solidly for five hours and then waking up at 1am and not being able to get back to sleep for three or four hours.”

At the time Alison was living in an ashram and had to get up often around 5 am – and she became chronically sleep deprived. She says: “I would just do back-to-back Yoga Nidra at this time – and  you can guarantee that it was the only time I didn’t fall asleep during the practice!”

She believes it nourished her and enabled her to have enough energy to manage demanding days in the ashram. She adds: “I still mainly practice in this way now.  Though when I teach Yoga NIdra, I often slip into a practice space that nourishes me as much as those I am instructing.”

She also uses her Yoga Nidra practice when she is travelling and on those pre-COVID days when she would be on a 24 hour flight back home to Europe.

She says: “Apart from the challenge of staying awake – it is an effortless way to connect with who we are.  I feel passionate about sharing this practice with anyone, and in recent years I have been training health professionals in Sydney hospitals.”

 

Alison Mactaggart (Mantradharma) is leading a half day online workshop and a full-day face-to-face session in Yoga Nidra for the IYTA – to find out more or book in please click HERE.

 

 

Yoga Nidra – Foundations of Transformation

Online – Zoom

Sunday, August 2, 2020

1.30pm – 4.30pm

IYTA Members $55 non-members: $65

 

This three-hour online session will be an introduction to what yoga nidra is and how the key benefits and effects are achieved through the stages and the practice as a whole.

 

Unlock the Mystery of Yoga Nidra

Sunday, October 4, 2020

9am – 4pm

Crows Nest Community Centre

Members $197, non-members: $225 

 

The one-day workshop will enable participants to delve a little deeper into the practice and each of the stages.  The focus is on understanding how Yoga Nidra supports us to learn the skills to regulate our nervous system so that we can respond more positively to life’s challenges and in the long term evolve into who we are meant to be.

 

Sign up now to both or either of these workshops.

Trauma informed yoga teaching

This was a short session to encourage teachers to think about how yoga practices may impact on their students who have experienced trauma.

Some background was provided to form a context for the practical approaches:

Why teach yoga through a trauma informed lens?

Research indicates around 90% of the population experiences trauma at some point in their lifetime; between 8-20% develop PTSD as a result. (Bessel van der Kolk and David Emerson)

“Trauma refers to any threatening, overwhelming experiences that we cannot integrate…  after such experiences we are often left with a diminished sense of security with others and in the world and a sense of feeling unsafe within our own skin.” (Pat Ogden)

Experiences that are commonly associated with trauma – developmental (through child abuse/neglect, living with domestic violence), war zones/conflicts as military personnel or civilians, domestic violence, first responders, refugee experiences, natural disasters, accidents and through working with people who have experienced trauma.

Trauma may impact on many levels: physiological, energetic, emotional, behavioural, mental, physical and interpersonal. Across all koshas in fact.

Specific impacts may include hypervigilance, disconnection from bodily sensations, loss of rhythms, loss of trust, past is often present and an exaggerated startle response. Loss of bodily autonomy, loss of choice, boundaries have been disrespected. Suppression of breath, abdominal inhibition, diminished core strength, locked jaw- all of which inhibit breath. There can be a sense of shame about selves/bodies.

Yoga- asana/pranayama/mindfulness/meditation have been hailed as solutions for all that ails us and have been adopted joyously, wholeheartedly and uncritically by many well-meaning people, but they can be very tricky for people who have experienced trauma.

“It is naive at best, harmful/dangerous at worst to assume that any and all yoga practices including breath work are inherently healing for and helpful for trauma survivors.” (Caitlin Lanier)

During the session Marg very briefly addressed the overall goals and general principles of Trauma Informed Yoga classes.

Some practical approaches which can be implemented in general classes as well a specific trauma specific groups were suggested:

  • Offer choice in all practices. Use invitational language and language of inquiry such “when you are ready”, “notice, feel, be curious” to encourage making effective choices and develop interoception.
  • Use slow, mindful movement to foster present moment awareness and a sense of safety.
  • Focus on function rather than alignment for movement and asana to assist in reclaiming/befriending the body. Choose asana/sequencing carefully to support students to move towards safety and comfort.
  • Respect boundaries, avoid walking behind or lingering. Stay in view and let students continually assess for safety.
  • Suggest stabilizing anchors in the environment eg: open eyes, pay attention to surrounds to shift attention towards something external if a student is feeling dysregulated.

We practised seated mountain, sun breath, standing mountain and tree pose through a TIY lens. The session was completed with a grounding exercise which might be useful if someone was dissociated at the end of class.

Whilst this experience did not prepare us to become dedicated teachers of TIY, it did encourage us to understand that we can have an impact as yoga teachers and that it is important to stay within our scope of practice for everyone’s safety.

A full day session is planned for 2020 to enable IYTA members to understand the nature and impacts of trauma, provide an opportunity for more experiential work and a chance for further discussion.