Yoga Nidra is now my go-to any time I need deep relaxation. It used to be a bath, then add abhyanga once I learned about Ayurveda. Now, for preventative medicine, as well as luxurious self-care, I lie on my back for an hour. Of course, it’s more than that.
This past Autumn, my husband and I decided to go to a training in Yoga Nidra to deepen our understanding of the practice. And full disclosure, we had been preparing in other ways, for the conception of our first child for the past year or so. In the back of my mind I knew this weekend together would only deepen our connection, but I did not fully understand how pivotal this practice would be in preparation for conception.
I want to share with you why Yoga Nidra is a practice you’ll want to include in your preparation for natural fertility and conception.
Often times Yoga Nidra is translated to mean ‘yogic sleep.’ This is not totally incorrect, though not exactly right on either. Yoga Nidra is actually referring to a state of consciousness that is not sleep at all – a deeply meditative, connected state of being. This is called ‘turiya.’ The practice and understanding of Yoga Nidra comes from the Mandukya Upanishad, one of the ancient Vedantic texts from India. Within this text are described four states of consciousness: waking, ‘turiya’, dreaming then deep sleep. So, in yoga nidra, we are not sleeping, but we are also beyond the mental body, or the intellectual body, where we might see images or be dreaming. We are also not completely unconscious, as in deep sleep.
So an understanding of the koshas, or 5 bodies, from yoga philosophy is also helpful to understand the practice, though I will not expound on this completely in this short article. Basically, the goal is to use the body, the mind, and the prana body, to reach the deeper levels, or koshas, of bliss body, and you may even say connection with our self, or soul. And it does not take an understanding of the philosophy to practice – anyone can do it and experience deep benefits.
So let’s now come to the Sanskrit term, ojas. Ojas is most often used in Ayurveda to refer to our innate immunity. Our strength, or energy reserves and resiliency. Ojas is considered to be an actual substance in the body – like honey, or oil – golden, liquid, oily and soft. Juiciness. Ojas also acts like our aura – protecting us from energetically draining circumstances as well. We are all born with a certain amount of super-fine ojas, called para-ojas. But we can cultivate it in it’s more gross form within the body (apara-ojas) through food and activities which strengthen and build us up. (We can also deplete this with activities that have the opposite qualities.)
It always comes back to digestion.
This type of ojas is the final product of good digestion. And remember, digestion does not only mean our ability to absorb and assimilate food stuff in our bellies. Food stuff is anything – experiences, sensations, life – coming in through all 5 senses.
The ability to digest anything and everything is dependent on the strength of our agni – roughly translated as our digestive ‘fire.’ My understanding of agni was deepened when one of my mentors mentioned that agni needs space to grow, to function, to conflagrate. Space is the first element. Space needs to be made for strong digestion – think seasonally cleansing and conscious fasting.
Meditation is a powerful way to make space and time to digest these more subtle life experiences (even those that are not so subtle…) and Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation. There are so many ways to meditate – and from my understanding, meditation is really any concentration practice that is brought to a point where the object of concentration can be released, or merged with.
Yoga Nidra uses a specific formula, in most cases through a guided script read to you by a teacher, that guides you into a deeply relaxed state, and uses the body and images as the concentration points. Because the physical body is so comfortable and relaxed, it is even easier to achieve a state of union or bliss.
It is very important to be comfortable physically when preparing for a Yoga Nidra session. Plenty of props and pillows are welcome. The physical body can be a host of distractions to our spiritual practices. In Yoga Nidra, the aim is to be so comfortable it’s easy to move beyond the gross body and into more subtle layers.
It has been proven in multiple scientific studies that when the body is so deeply relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system response is stimulated. It is in this state of functioning that the body can rest and repair and heal. There is decreased heart rate, inflammation, stress hormone release, and anxiety. Increased dopamine production was found in the brain, the hormone related to pleasure, contentment and bliss.
So what’s all this got to do with fertility?
In preparation for conception, Ayurvedic texts mention that it is important for both partners to balance their doshas as much as possible, and remove toxins or ama through cleansing. An important part of cleansing is post-cleanse – rejuvenation. Making a baby (literally, for mom) is one of the most energetically expensive things her body might need to do. That growing bundle is going to take all the (extra?) energy and ‘stuff’ the mother has in her body. Cells need to eat to grow. Their needs to be enough energy reserves to make it all happen. Ojas is vitally important for conception and pregnancy.
I have a Pitta/Vata prakriti, or nature. I was looking to conceive in the early Autumn, a naturally Vata-aggravated time of year. I felt that the nourishment and warmth of summer and harvest season would carry some strength over to me. Though I definitely need all the help I can get when it comes to balancing Vata dosha, and nourishing my energy reserves – just naturally, due to my nature. Vata dosha is balanced through stillness, warmth and steadiness. Stability and heaviness also balances Pitta dosha, and the depleting intensity associated with the fire element.
During our weekend training, we spent a few hours per day, for four days, lying down in a warm, cozy spot guided by soothing, loving voices – when does that ever happen? Our teachers recommended a 40 day sadhana of Yoga Nidra once we got home, which I gladly embarked on. It was just a week later that we conceived. And now during my pregnancy, as I said, this is my go-to practice when things get challenging – as inevitably this path to motherhood is meant to be.
Featured Photo: Bao-Quan Nguyen, Unsplash.com
Photo: Catherine McMahon, Unsplash.com
Yoga Nidra Photo: ShivaShaktiYogaSchool.com
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