“Yoga Nidra: A Healing Practice for People Living With Cancer” (http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2008/dapr08/yn.shtml is an eloquent article by Julie Friedeberger in the April 2008 issue of Yoga Magazine.
For anyone who has an interest in Yoga Nidra, whether suffering from any illness/trauma or not, this particular article is surely worth reading. Satyananda Yoga Nidra is by far the most popular yoga practice I have taught.
Julie, a Satyananda Yoga teacher, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. Yoga Nidra was a “key factor” in her recovery and long-term healing. Some parts of the article are very similar to what Anahita expressed in her experience with breast cancer (Healing From The Heart With Breast Cancer).
However, healing does not have to be triggered by cancer or a life-threatening illness, although it can be a strong trigger that rips through illusions. Intense emotional pain and trauma can also be equally strong triggers that change the trajectory of life.
First of all, there is a definite expectation that those who teach and practice yoga may (or should) somehow be immune to diseases such as cancer. Of course, this is wrong. No one is immune from life. Julie explains:
But the reality is that all bodies, even the bodies of yogis and yoga teachers wear out and break down. The great spiritual masters have not been exempt: Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi died of cancer, so did Sri Ramakrishna, among others. Ultimately, the reality is that we are all going to have to let go of life itself, and realizing it now helps prepare for the eventuality. The rotation of awareness in yoga nidra gives us practice in letting go, gently prying us loose from our illusions, and possibly easing our journey towards death.
Every stage in Yoga Nidra is important. The author goes on to explain the specific relevance and healing qualities of the individual components of the Satyananda Yoga Nidra: relaxation, sankalapa (positive affirmation), rotation of consciousness, pairs of opposites, visualization.
Every part of the practice of yoga nidra works to free blocked energy. Most significantly, practising yoga nidra can help us to acknowledge and accept the reality of our situation, however unwelcome, difficult, or scary it is; and can help us to acknowledge, accept, and release the powerful emotions it brings up. These emotions are understandably often bottled up and repressed, but once they have been brought into consciousness the energy that has been trapped in repressing them is freed, for more useful, more creative purposes.
The shock of our mortality can have the ability to incisively tear apart (painful) the old ways of thinking that avoided what the mind deemed to be unpleasant. It can be an opportunity to accept reality with a new grace–a way for healing deeply from within and for spiritual transformation. Yoga Nidra is an important tool in an intensive healing process.
It is a great privilege to pass on the wonderful practice of yoga nidra, and all the other transformative tools of yoga, to people who are in such real and deep need of them. The reward for the teacher is that each of them, in his or her own way, wholeheartedly takes up the tools and uses them on the journey towards wholeness and healing.
This blog shares Julie’s feelings, and that view from over 30 years ago has been the motivation and force behind this blog and www.mahasriyoga.com where you can find several free Yoga Nidra audio downloads (www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation). It is rewarding that some cancer institutes are now recommending the website and this blog to their members and patients.
The healing power of Yoga Nidra has been seen over and over again: from a parent mourning the loss of a child, to a person dying with cancer, to someone living with impossibly difficult relationships, to coping with job loss, and test or exam-related stress.
For the most authentic writing by the author who brought the tantra-based practice out into contemporary times, see the review for the book Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. In the book, Swami Satyananda writes, “Yoga Nidra, by maximizing the patient’s conscious efforts to become healthy and whole, is an effective form of cancer therapy.”