iRest Yoga Nidra:
Discovering the Unsung Hero
As You Journey Inward
by Lara Eisenberg
In 2008 one of my closest friends, Michelle Larson, died of cancer. She was 34. I am someone who has devoted her life to understanding trauma and various diseases of the body and mind, but I have never personally witnessed anything as debilitating and painful as my good friend’s long battle with cancer. Supporting her through this illness and eventually having to say an early goodbye to such a beautiful person shifted my perspective on life and taught me something invaluable: the art of “welcoming.”
Michelle and I loved to dance. We went dancing often and developed many friendships within the dance community. Dancing was a shared passion and a powerful way for us to express our joy and also to release our sadness. A few days after Michelle’s funeral, I decided to honor something we both loved and go dancing. When I arrived, I saw several people that knew Michelle but were not yet aware of her death. Fear and dread coursed through me at the thought of being asked about Michelle and her health. I questioned whether I should have come and spent most of the evening trying to make myself invisible. But as the music lured me onto the dance floor, I consciously stepped out of the shadows and let myself become visible to all. Almost immediately, the person I most dreaded seeing tapped me on the shoulder. This person had been in love with Michelle and I knew he wanted to inquire about her. As soon as our eyes locked, all of the fear I had created in my mind disappeared and I experienced a fully embodied state. In place of fear and avoidance, a calming sadness pulsated through my veins. We embraced and there was no fumbling with awkward words or condolences; speech was both meaningless and unnecessary. It was a moment of pure sensation—no toxic repression, rejection, or dismissal of anything. I felt liberated and fully alive. I had to welcome the sadness and fear before I could journey to a place of trust and surrender.
In reality, this awakening probably took place in a matter of a minute or two, but I traveled miles and miles in that time. And once I did, I returned to the dance floor and danced for Michelle. My entire being danced with the infinite sadness, love, and ecstasy of what lies beyond when we accept, welcome, and embrace all of life.
A year later, I discovered a technique called iRest Yoga Nidra. This practice gave language to my experience, as well as a path to help guide me through the various challenges and experiences of life. Learning about this practice prompted me to ask myself, do you believe that ecstasy and peace are present amidst all of life’s circumstances? Do you believe you can be your own hero as you navigate through life? I said “yes” to myself and began on this path.
Yoga Nidra (“yogic sleep”) is a meditation practice derived from the ancient teachings of Yoga and Tantra. These practices are designed to lead us to an experience of who we truly are beyond psychological, cultural, and social conditioning. Yoga Nidra teaches us to dis-identify from our habitual patterns, and opens us to our essential self that is ever calm, at peace, and informed by the grace of each present moment in life. With heightened awareness, we learn to acknowledge and welcome emotions, thoughts, sensations etc., as opposed to resisting, withdrawing, or projecting what arises in our life and consciousness. With correct understanding, we begin to fully embrace life and experience our true nature in the midst of all life’s circumstances. From this realization, we move into the world with dignity and grace. As the individual and universal meet, we discover there is no separation and the unsung hero that lies within each of us is revealed.
Integrative Restoration (iRest) is a modern adaptation of Yoga Nidra. It is a transformative process that leads to psychological, physical, and spiritual healing. iRest teaches skills that assist you in utilizing your inner resources when encountering difficult life experiences. The practice is integrative in that it heals the various unresolved traumas and issues in the body and mind, and restorative in that one experiences a sense of ever present peace in the midst of life’s constant changes. Whether you desire to decrease anxiety, improve sleep, free yourself from addictive tendencies, or improve an aspect of your health, iRest can support your healing process and give you a direct experience of your true nature as inherent joy and well being.
The 10 Components of iRest
There are 10 essential components of iRest. The first component is called Development of intention—what do you want to achieve? Second is Heartfelt desire for one’s lifetime—what do you want more than anything else in life? Third is Inner resource of well-being—in which place do you feel secure, calm, and safe? How do you feel in your body when you imagine this place? Fourth is Physical sensation/Body sensing—what are the sensations in your body? Five is Breath and energy awareness—breath sensing—what is your breath like (calm, rapid, shallow)?
The next five components of iRest have to do with “experiencing” different physical and emotional aspects of difficult life experiences. The first of these is Experiencing feelings and emotions—what feelings (hot, cold, heavy, light) and emotions (calm/angry, relaxed/tense, etc.) are present in your body? Second is Experiencing thoughts, beliefs, and imagery—what beliefs are present (e.g., “I am not good enough.”)? Where does the opposite thought live in the body? Can you think of a time you experienced being good enough? Third is Experiencing joy and well-being—what person, place, or thing evokes a sense of joy and/or well-being? Fourth is Experiencing witnessing and well-being—freedom from the sense of separation generated by the senses and mind. Finally, there is Integration into life (the ability to experience peace amidst the changing circumstances of life) in every moment — can you feel your innate sense of well-being regardless of life’s circumstances?
Lara Eisenberg began her studies in Eastern healing practices in 1999. In 2001 she graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in Psychological Counseling. Lara works as a Certified Integrative Yoga Therapist, teaching workshops and providing individual and group iRest sessions. She specializes in stress management, trauma, food addiction, anxiety, and depression. For more information on how to discover the unsung hero within you, please visit www.yogatherapysandiego.com.