There are different “parts” to a Yoga Nidra, and they may differ depending on the school of thought to which you prescribe. What is remarkable, though, is how these different parts are woven into a rich tapestry that guides you deep into a state of relaxation, or awakened sleep. In a linear culture that very much values the idea of duality, the ability of Nidra to put you in the center of this bountiful container of life, able to hold all, is a true gift.
One important part of a Nidra is the exploration of pairs of opposites. Hot/cold, up/down, heavy/light, we are all familiar with this idea and were probably introduced to it as children in grade school. What many of us don’t know how to do, however, is to hold a pair of opposites as true at the same time.
If you have ever attended therapy, you may have heard of the term “dialectical thinking”, which refers to the ability to hold multiple issues from differing perspectives. What happens while holding a pair of opposites within the container of a Yoga Nidra is similar to this way of approaching issues. In fact, it exercises the neurological pathways of the brain so that you are more readily able to see things from multiple perspectives.
What happens during a Yoga Nidra involving opposites?
In general, you may hear the Yoga Nidra facilitator reference one part of an opposite pair on an inhale and the other on an exhale. In a grounding practice, for instance, I usually guide my clients through feeling the ground below them or a heaviness and sensation of being held on the exhale. On the inhale, they may feel the air above them or a sense of lightness and expansiveness. After a few rounds, they will be instructed to have some curiosity around what it would feel like to hold both. I may even ask a question such as “where do you feel it in your body?”. When practicing Yoga Nidra, you may also explore a pair of opposite emotions, which, in my personal experience, can really help you to feel how your body senses various emotional states.
Dialectical thinking has a huge impact on our daily lives.
There are many instances in life in which holding multiple things to be true is vital for your resilience. Divorce, for example, can be a time of both grieving as well as new beginnings. You may have a deep grief of leaving your old ways of life, your spouse and even sadness about the drastic changes you are seeing in your family. At the same time, however, a divorce can also mean a new beginning or a certain freedom depending on your marriage and circumstances. To hold both things to be true can allow you to process feelings in a different way than if you just submit to the grief completely or push the grief aside in order to focus only on your new beginning.
Another less intense example is simply our everyday lives here on planet earth, which are full of many opposites. If you are like me, you really value a sense of inner peace that can come with a consistent yoga or meditation practice. However, the reality is that the majority of us are householders, dealing with children, work and fellow employees, romantic partners and/or expectations of our culture, as well as our own desires and needs.
All of these brew a perfect storm that may sometimes feel like it is intent on overshadowing your sense of ease and joy. Again, being able to hold opposites here is incredibly pertinent. What if I feel my inner peace AND my screaming four year old who is unhappy that she can’t have a lollipop for breakfast (this was truly my life last week). What if I can meet that difficult co-worker with a sense of ease, and hold both the difficult feelings of perhaps irritation or frustration right alongside the feeling that everything will turn out just fine in the end?
Let go and let (insert Divine terminology here).
Holding opposites can sometimes feel like just allowing the Divine, Source, Universe, God, or whatever name you prefer, to take over. By holding opposites within a Yoga Nidra, we can give ourselves the tools to think more openly in everyday life and understand that multiple things can be true at the same time. We can rest in a deeper sense that everything coming to us was meant to come and that our challenges will build resilience and the ability to be more flexible with those around us. This practice delivers a true gift in that it can help us to find a sense of ease and calm in our everyday lives, even amidst the storms we are required to walk through.