Does this summer's heat wave have you feeling as droopy as a thirsty hydrangea? This month's mini home practice battles fatigue by connecting us with our body's natural currents of energy. Plug into awareness of your body's autonomic processes and replenish your vitality. Get ready to relax and rejuvenate as we explore Prana Nidra, or "energy rest."
Prana Nidra is an energy-based type of yoga nidra. In yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, we enter a deep state of relaxation while remaining fully aware in order to experience contentment and to achieve healing brainwave states. In yoga, we refer to energy as prana. In both prana nidra and yoga nidra, we enter a sleep-like state of complete relaxation.
Prana nidra differs from yoga nidra in the focus placed on experiencing pranic sensations associated with the body's autonomic nervous system processes. These processes regulate heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and body temperature, to name a few.
When we experience chronic stress, the prana associated with these systems can become dysregulated. Pranic dysregulation can result in physical problems such as high blood pressure, abnormal breath patterns such as holding the breath, digestive irregularity, fatigue, and hot or cold sensations that do not line up with reality. Pranic dysregulation can also result in mental problems such as anxiety, fear, agitation, anger, depression, or feeling stuck.
Prana nidra is a practice used to build awareness of the body's pranic systems. With experience, the practice educates us on how to use mindful awareness to intentionally regulate the pranic systems that integrate our body's autonomic processes, ultimately restoring balance within the autonomic nervous system.
So let's try a mini prana nidra home practice.
To try it, find a flat firm surface and lie down on your back with your palms facing up and some space between your limbs and your torso. Feel free to support your head and neck with a rolled towel, placing pillows beneath your knees.
Begin by taking a deep breath in through your nose, and a longer breath out your mouth with an "aaaahhh" sound. Take several breaths in this way.
Next, focus your mind on the bottoms of your feet. Imagine that you are breathing in through the sole of your right foot, and out through the sole of your left foot. If it feels possible, try to perceive the path this breath might take if it were to travel up your right leg, across your pelvis, and down your left leg. With each breath, follow the breath in through your right foot, up the leg, across the pelvis, down the other leg and out the left foot. Try this for 2-3 minutes.
Then, reverse the flow of this imaginary breath, breathing in through the left foot, and out the right. Trace the pathway between the soles of the feet, through the legs and pelvis. Repeat this for 2-3 minutes.
Initially, your breathing may be intentional and active. As you begin to relax and settle into the practice, allow your breath to become more shallow, still, and involuntary. Use your mind to follow the imaginary path of your breath, but surrender to the role of observer of this breath.
As you release conscious control of the breath, you may start to notice things about your breath. Perhaps it moves quite quickly, like electrical signals zipping through cables. Or perhaps there are pauses between each breath, causing you to wait for your body to take its next inhale. You may experience or perceive something during the stillness between breaths, or you may not.
Your observation of your body's energy has begun, and with this awareness comes pranic regulation. With regular practice, symptoms of pranic dysregulation may begin to resolve.
The benefits of the practice are derived from your experience observing the state of your vital body, or your pranic flow. Often, people report blockages or difficulty feeling certain areas that are experiencing dis-ease. Through awareness and practice, these areas usually begin to open and become more accessible for perception.
Release the practice and deepen your breath once more. Notice how you feel. Take a moment to marvel at your ability to use your mind to impact functions in your body that are normally involuntary.
This is just a small sampling from a much longer full prana nidra practice working with other areas of the body, but I hope you enjoy trying it out for yourself.
For a full prana nidra practice, please get in touch! If there is interest, I will record a full prana nidra practice for you to use at home.
Wishing you all the vitality you were born with... Happy Mid-summer!