Sara Waymont is a Yoga Nidra and Yin Yoga teacher, specialising in alternative approaches to working with trauma and chronic stress. Sara is a former ISAF Accredited War Artist (Afghanistan 2014) and trained TRiM Practitioner, who turned to yoga and art as a self-directed way to heal from her own traumatic experience. Sara is the author of ‘Yoga, PTSD and Me’, which is now used on both Norman Blair’s Advanced Yin Yoga Teacher Training and Veterans For Wildlife’s (V4W)
Footprints of Hope programme.
Sara is co-author of the V4W Footprints of Hope programme (endorsed by the Psychological Society of South Africa), on which she leads therapeutic art and yoga workshops for veterans suffering from PTSD and related conditions. Sara also leads a therapeutic art workshop for a local Young Onset Dementia charity and, in her private practice, has worked with a diverse range of people from those suffering from anxiety and depression to women who have experienced miscarriages.
Using Yoga Nidra Sara can help you to overcome the effects of trauma, break unwanted habits, combat insomnia or simply experience deep relaxation and restoration.
Sara’s approach is holistic and person-centred, tailored to meet the needs of the individual, whilst respecting that a diverse toolkit of therapeutic approaches is often the best way for people to achieve their goals, feel empowered and move forwards with their lives.
The Practice of Yoga Nidra
Yoga, often translated as ‘yoke’ or ‘join’, represents an awakening to and a description of our True Nature. ‘Nidra’ means ‘sleep’ and is the state in which we are unconscious of our True Nature, when we might be swayed by thoughts, actions and misperception. In this state we are reactive and blind to our True Nature as Being.
‘Yoga Nidra’ is a play on the words ‘awake’ and ‘sleep’. It means ‘The Sleep of the Yogi’. The implication is that the ordinary person is asleep to their True Nature at all times, whether awake, dreaming or in deep sleep. The yogi, in contrast, knows his or her True Nature. The yogi is awake in all states, even the deepest sleep.
In practical terms, Yoga Nidra is a transformational practice that allows us to deeply relax and also modify unhelpful or unwanted behaviours.
Yoga Nidra shares many similarities with the process of hypnotherapy, taking the participant to a trance like (theta brainwave) state. However, unlike hypnotherapy, no suggestion is made by the therapist; any thoughts, feelings or changes that you experience will be entirely of your own making.
The exception here is when a participant actively engages the therapist to write a Nidra that will target a particular behaviour or personality trait (for instance grief, anxiety or smoking cessation). In this instance, the participant will work with the therapist to develop a script that targets the unhelpful behaviour or emotion and rewrites it with a new, more useful, one.
Most conventional therapies address any unhelpful or unwanted behaviours in an active (alpha/beta brainwave state, which leads to the participant trying to rewrite one active thought pattern with a new active thought pattern. This can lead to a clashing of behaviours as the existing, habitual behaviour, contradicts with the new intention, making it much more difficult to stick to one’s resolution. In Yoga Nidra, the unhelpful behaviours (samskaras) are replaced by a positive intention (sankalpa) of the participant’s choosing, which is accessed in the theta brainwave state, allowing new neural connections to be made and, consequently, new patterns of behaviour to be created without ever having to clash against the old ones. The more often this sankalpa is revisited during Yoga Nidra, the stronger these new neural pathways become and the easier it is to rewrite and avoid old behavioural patterns.
Yoga Nidra for Relaxation
Outside of the therapeutic applications, Yoga Nidra can be used simply for deep and nourishing rest and relaxation. It is believed that one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to four hours of sleep in terms of the rejuvenation it provides for the body. Yoga Nidra is scientifically proven to trigger the Relaxation Response (as studied by Herbert Benson), turning off the Stress Response and its cascade of inflammatory stress hormones. By targeting the cortical homunculus, through the hands or the face, the therapist is able to take participants through the hypnogogic brainwave state to the theta and sometimes even delta brainwave states. The theta brainwave state is that experienced by humans in the initial stages of sleep, whereas the delta brainwave state is that which we experience when we go into a deep, dreamless sleep. Both states are intensely restorative and essential to normal, healthy functioning of the human body.
Yoga Nidra for Insomnia
Yoga Nidra can be designed specifically to help a participant transition into sleep and to stay asleep.
Once a Nidra has been taught, participants can use the same techniques to fall asleep in the comfort of their own homes or they can use the familiarity of their therapist’s recorded voice before bedtime. When using Yoga Nidra for insomnia, emphasis is placed on the Rotation of Awareness and breathing practices (including the 7:11 breath, lengthening exhales and shorter inhales).
This therapy is again best approached as a partnership between therapist and participant, so that the most effective Nidra is constructed.
“Take an hour out of your busy schedule to unwind, rest, rejuvenate and rebalance. Take this time of quiet to prepare yourself for the many demands of the hectic festive season. Treat yourself to an hour of yogic sleep and immerse yourself in its healing power.”
“Are you tired of being told to relax, but don’t really know how to? This Yoga Nidra class will guide you into a state of deep relaxation, which will benefit your sleep patterns, your mood and your general sense of wellbeing.”