By Evangelia Ganosellis
Trying something new can be daunting. Intimidating. Uncomfortable. And yet, more often than not, once I've stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something I've never done before, I'm glad that I did. And that was the case for me after I tried yoga nidra, a meditative form of yoga, with Marisa Shearer.
I've been taking classes with Laura and Lindsay at Retreat since the studio opened here in the Turks and Caicos a year ago, and I practiced hot yoga with Laura for about a year before that. I love their classes — they're challenging and fun, and they always leave me feeling better than I did before. But as tough as hot and dynamic yoga classes can be, the absolute hardest part of yoga for me is meditation — the ability to quiet my mind, let go and just be.
So you can imagine my hesitation to try a form of yoga that's rooted in meditation. Usually when I attempt any kind of meditation, I just end up feeling frustrated. But I reminded myself that my struggle to reconcile meditation doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. In fact, it means that I should probably do it more. We can't expect to get any better at something if we don't face our challenges head on.
The Mind-Body Connection
I think we so often forget about the mind-body connection, and the "mind" part of yoga. Instead, we get caught up in the physical aspects of it, and becoming as fit as possible. Physical exercise is obviously a good thing, but without mindfulness, you're not really practicing yoga, are you?
So. What can you expect at a yoga nidra class with Marisa? When you walk into the studio at Retreat, you'll find a mat, pillow, blankets and an eye pillow prepared for you. A candle and a pair of tingsha (small Tibetan cymbals used in prayer) sit in the center of the room. Once you've made yourself comfortable on your mat and covered your eyes, the guided meditation begins.
Yoga nidra is also referred to as "yogic sleep": a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, so the challenge is not only letting go, but also not to simply fall asleep. It's meant to be the deepest form of relaxation you can experience while remaining conscious. And let me say this: If anyone is going to guide you through a meditative state, Marisa is the person to do it. She has a calm, soothing voice that helps you relax and focus.
I've been to two classes so far, and each experience was a little different. The first time, I managed to switch off my brain for most of the 30 minutes and fully relax, but I didn't fall asleep. The second time, my thoughts flowed more freely but without holding on to any particular thought. And I drifted off a few times.
One thing that didn't change, though, was a peculiar feeling I got when Marisa instructed the class to focus on individual parts of the body, one by one. From the palms of each hand down to each of your toes. I could almost feel an energy pulsing in each particular area she listed. Kind of like a tingling feeling. It's not often we take the time to simply be aware of the individual parts that make up our whole physical body.
By the end of both classes, I left feeling as if I had just awoken from a deep sleep. And when I started the second class, I was feeling irritable and frustrated. I went into it knowing that I might not be able to let go of those feelings and enjoy the class, but I must have underestimated just how much I needed that 30-minute break. By the end, I felt totally relaxed. Whatever was bringing me down, I had managed to let it go.
Whether you already have your own yoga routine or you're new to yoga altogether, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Remember that yoga goes far beyond challenging physical postures. Mental strength, the health of our mind, is just as — if not more — important. And yoga nidra with Marisa at Retreat may well be the path to guide you there.