Bullrushes in early twilight

An Intro to iRest & Traditional Yoga Nidra


Yoga Nidra (pronounced ni (like knit) +dra) has been known for thousands of years by sages and yogis. Also known as yogic sleep, viagra approved medications Birch and Hargreaves (2104) note that references to yoga nidra “can be found in Epic and Pur??ic literature, web ?aiva and Buddhist Tantras, medieval Ha?ha and R?jayoga texts (including the widely known Ha?haprad?pik?) […]. In the 17th century the posture yoganidrasana was named. (Click here to read the article).

Yoga Nidra’s Tantric roots advocate inquiring into the nature of Truth using one’s first- hand experience rather than second-hand knowledge. Many people’s beliefs are based on what was taught by their parents, teachers, relatives, friends, and society, as well as what was read or seen in the media. Notably, the source of this information is usually second or third-hand making the experience of truth even more elusive.

“Your whole idea about yourself is borrowed – borrowed from those who have no idea of who they are themselves.” ~Osho

iRest and traditional Yoga Nidra encourages each seeker to make their own inquiry, to test the truth of the teacher’s words and the practices with their own pure direct feeling-sensing experiments. To know if something is true, it needs to be questioned with one’s own mind, against one’s values, and through sources one trusts. My personal benchmark questions are;

  • “Is it loving?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it logically consistent or are there contradictions?”
  • Can I be sure? Really sure?

These questions are best answered in the laboratory of one’s own meditations.

Swami Satyananda further developed yoga nidra when he served as a disciple of Swami Sivananda during the 1940s and early 1950s. He brought his 7-step process to the West and taught it at his Bihar School of Yoga. Therefore, “western” yoga nidra’s popularity is due in large part to Satyananda’s success in introducing it in the U.S.

iRest and Yoga Nidra are often confused with the guided deep relaxation at the end of a yoga class known as corpse pose or Shavasana. Nevertheless, it is much more than just relaxation; it is also a tool for physical, mental and emotional healing as well as a path of inquiry into one’s most basic nature.

iRest stands for Integrative Restoration, a modern adaptation of traditional Yoga Nidra, developed over 25 years by Richard C. Miller, PhD. iRest is integrative in that it heals the body, mind and heart, and restorative in that it is a path of mindful inquiry into your true spiritual nature.

Richard Miller is a clinical psychologist, author, researcher, yogic scholar and spiritual teacher. Richard is president of the Integrative Restoration Institute, co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapy and past president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology. Richard serves as a consultant on research studying the efficacy of the iRest meditation protocol.

He has written two books; Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga, and The iRest Program for Healing PTSD and has produced many CDs. He teaches internationally leading iRest trainings and retreats. You can find more information at www.iRest.us.

In the beginning, while Richard was teaching traditional yoga nidra classes, he wondered about the effects of traditional yoga nidra’s imagery on his American audience. He began to experiment by guiding students to access their own emerging personal, cultural and societal images rather than imposing those from traditional yoga, which are rooted in east Indian culture. Richard found that this change deepened  students’ already profound experiences and so he began a process of secularizing the traditional Yoga Nidra for a western audience.

Richard’s own personal practice also influenced the development of iRest. While experiencing the sheath of bliss (Anandamaya kosha) he noted that even in this last stage of the traditional kosha model, the ego-I was present as the thought, “I am blissful.” To acknowledge this experience he restored the little known, Asmitamaya Kosha to the process.

As this modern adaptation continued, a 10-step protocol emerged which has enabled standardized research to be done on its effectiveness. To date approximately 24 studies have shown positive changes in a wide variety of populations and conditions.

What You May Experience During iRest & Yoga Nidra

Both Yoga Nidra and iRest practitioners aim to remain awake and aware while deeply relaxed and exploring consciousness. It is usually practiced lying down in relaxation pose. Students enter a dreamy hypnagogic state that is a transition phase between waking and sleeping. The hypnagogic state is marked by a high level of both alpha and theta brainwaves, and has been associated with creativity. Various sights, sounds, smells, tastes and bodily sensations may be experienced. The student may be aware of the teacher’s voice but not recognize the words. Initially, when practiced lying down, it is common to fall into a deep unconsciousness and snore (it’s ok!). This may happen frequently until sleep debt is repaid.

Remaining Alert During iRest & Yoga Nidra

In order to increase alertness during the practice, students often choose to sit up in a classical meditation posture. Some people will also try standing during the practice.

A second method, when lying on the floor, is to hold your arm vertically, or if in a sitting meditation posture, to hold a bowl of marbles. The falling arm or tipping bowl will bring attention back to the moment.

iRest encourages practicing in all positions so that we come to realize our True Nature is available right now, right here, no matter when or where that is. To this end, we consciously practice in all possible positions so that when life turns us up upside down we can still respond with trust, wisdom and compassion.

Two Major Developmental Phases of Yoga Nidra

iRest and traditional Yoga Nidra consist of two major phases; a constructive phase and a deconstructive phase.

The constructive phase teaches transformational healing tools and processes for meeting, greeting, welcoming and engaging habitual beliefs and behaviours that stand in the way of a deep contentment with self and life. Yoga Nidra, in its simplest expression, is a process that assists people in locating, describing and welcoming the various sensations, emotions, beliefs, mental images and memories, which prevent their presenting issues from resolving.

When an attitude of welcoming is engendered, defensive strategies (i.e., trying to get out of, overcome, or be rid of the “negative.”) are seen through and released. Welcoming encourages insight into self-defeating patterns that may include overwhelming or threatening psycho-emotional material which has resulted in confusion, fear and suffering.

The deconstructive phase involves turning the attention away from the contents of consciousness and back into Awareness Itself within which the person’s experience is arising, unfolding and resolving. This felt inquiry can reveal a person’s underlying nature as non-conceptual and non-separative Presence in which we know ourselves not as separate from welcoming, but welcoming itself. This heals the misperception of separation and brings an end to suffering.


The Benefits of iRest and Yoga Nidra

Both iRest and traditional Yoga Nidra have many benefits. I categorize them roughly as:

1) Relaxation for physical health,
2) Psychological and emotional healing, and finally
3) Awakening to your True Nature.

Relaxation is an essential remedy to the stresses of life. There is a cornucopia of scientific research that supports the importance of purposeful relaxation, beyond watching TV and going on vacation. Stress is a fear reaction that has profound negative outcomes on health and happiness; iRest, guided relaxations and mindfulness are three important practices in relieving these harmful effects.

iRest is particularly useful for helping resolve psychological and emotional distress; it uses the practices of mindfulness, the opposites, and witnessing, among others, as tools and methods for healing. By resolving our core negative beliefs and familial and societal conditioning we can liberate the energy that was bound up in either denying or wrestling with our “baggage.” Instead, it is possible to harness that energy and attention for living life and nurturing one’s spiritual development.

iRest and traditional Yoga Nidra are both paths to realizing the True Nature of your Self. True Nature is that which precedes the body, mind and the personality; it is unconditionally loving, aimless and whole. It is who you are.

Life without the experience of you True Nature is fraught with fear, conflict and dissatisfaction. Living life from your True Nature gives Meaning,Value and Purpose to your life that comes from within and enables you to respond to circumstances in a compassionate and wise manner. This is a great gift to yourself, your friends, family, co-workers and society.


Next Week: 9 Differences Between iRest and Yoga Nidra

PNB HeadShot Preferred rnd cornersPhilip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with people who want to reconnect with themselves and their passion. Free discovery sessions are available in person, by Skype or FaceTime. You can email Philip here or  book Philip here for your complementary first session.

For a free 11 minute mp3 & PDF for relaxation, sleep and focus check out the home page. You’ll also receive blog posts and information about courses and workshops. Want to be inspired? You can follow Discover Yoga Nidra on FaceBook, by clicking here.

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