I recently returned from another iRest training, this one (Level II) in Banff, Alberta with Anne Douglas. There were 29 of us, mostly from Canada, but with some coming from as far away as Germany and Australia. Everyone had already completed Level I iRest training and we were back for more specialized work. Some of us were yoga teachers, but there were also social workers, nurses, a psychologist, a major in the Canadian military, a lawyer, and a retired 911 operator.
I first encountered iRest Yoga Nidra when I attended a workshop by local yoga teacher Andrea Soos several years ago. I thought it was great, but kind of forgot about it until a few months ago when I was having trouble sleeping and started looking into it again. Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice and known for helping people sleep better, and iRest Yoga Nidra is an updated version, developed by Dr. Richard Miller, an American psychologist. Dr. Miller’s iRest is a 10-step yoga meditation, usually done while lying down; it is led by a teacher who talks the class through each step. Students get comfortable, settling in with a blanket and a bolster under the knees, and then are guided through a three-part Intention, then relaxing the body, connecting with the breath, and finally noticing any physical sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise. It is extremely restful, and as a bonus, sometimes an interesting insight pops up. In a recent class, one student described the experience as “like floating and sinking at the same time,” and I thought that captured it pretty well. You are aware of your surroundings and the teacher’s voice, but at the same time completely relaxed. If you like Shivasana--the short relaxation at the beginning and end of our yoga classes--you’ll love iRest.
iRest teachers generally work from scripts which are provided after Level I training, because it helps to cover each of the 10 steps and to use consistent language. These scripts have been honed down and used for year, and have been the basis for much of the scientific research that has suggested that iRest helps people with anxiety, trauma, insomnia, grief, chronic pain, and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). But you don’t have to have any of these issues to try iRest Yoga Nidra – many people find it is just a more comfortable way to meditate than sitting upright!
This training in Banff was to allow us to move deeper into the practice, so we spent time talking about each of the 10 steps and why they work. Anne Douglas brought her 30 years of experience working with iRest to discuss ways that classes for each of the specialized groups (trauma, insomnia, PTSD, grief, etc) would be slightly different. She encouraged us to adapt the scripts for the group in front of us and to find some of our own words and images if we wish.
Anne also demonstrated and trained us in iRest Co-Meditation, which is a way of doing iRest one-on-one. We had done this in Level 1, but we did much more of it in Banff. The Co-Meditation is usually done with the teacher and student/client sitting facing each other. The teacher invites the client to relax and begin to tune in to body sensations, and with lots of time and space, to speak about what they’re feeling. Continuing in this way, gently returning to the body and any sensations that are arising, there is sometimes an insight. I found these co-meditations really powerful and interesting.
I enjoyed my iRest Yoga Nidra training. It attracts a sensitive and intelligent group of people; I felt it was a good way to dig deeper and learn a bit more about myself and in the longer term, to help others.