restorative deep rest
To restore & reclaim vital energy,
cultivate nourishing healing rest
align to your inner voice of self-trust,
wisdom and compassion.
"Yoga nidra is the practice of awareness. Let inner harmony be your first priority."
-- Uma Dinsmore Tuli
I have been practising yoga on and off for years, so I was familiar with the concepts and flow. But I had never experienced yoga nidra until I attended a (virtual) retreat with Leigh. Working through Zoom calls (which she initially had some hesitations about... but worked really well!), Leigh guided a group of women through yoga nidra sessions over a period of two months. I'll never forget that first session - wrapped in my cocoon of blankets, I felt that I had floated away! I slept very well that night. I later had the privilege to go on retreat with Leigh and her evening yoga nidra sessions were a peaceful delight.
Unfortunately I caught the coronavirus this spring and was in physical and emotional distress for many weeks. My symptoms rapidly progressed to moderate/severe and to ensure hospitals had capacity for the most vulnerable, clinicians encouraged me to stay at home as I'm young and otherwise fit. As my symptoms progressed, I coughed constantly, was breathless, wheezing, confused and often in a lot of distress. My coughing fits could last up for 8 hours at a time. I couldn't speak a complete sentence for being so breathless. Sometimes tears would run down my cheeks for hours (without having the sensation of crying) as I held so much pain and fear. One of the most comforting things was a yoga nidra recording Leigh sent me. One night, at the peak of my illness, my husband rang for help, but unfortunately the health systems were over capacity in our area. Listening to Leigh's yoga nidra recording - while on my hands and knees gasping for air, with my entire body shaking - was the only thing that helped my brain realise that I was OK as I tried to pay attention to my breath. When I later shared this experience with Leigh, her words will always stay with me: "we teach breathing into the body - you had the extra challenge of breathing into your breath!". I regularly used Leigh's recordings during my four week illness and my eight week recovery - and still do to this day.
I cannot recommend highly enough, for people - and especially women - to practice with Leigh, if they have the opportunity. Her grace, calm presence and generous compassion nourishes us on many levels. I cannot wait to see what she shares next with the world.
SAMANTHA MEIKLE - LONDON, 2020
FOUNDER OF PRECIOUS ONLINE MAGAZINE FOR WOMEN OF COLOUR / UNITED KINGDOM MBE RECIPIENT
REAL ESTATE / LONG TERM CROHNS DISEASE
FOUNDER OF HUNGER HAS NO RELIGION
ASHLEY DAVID SIMON
PROFESSIONAL INTERNATIONAL DANCER/CHOREOGRAPHER
INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED COACH-SPEAKER-AUTHOR
restorative deep rest
"The art of deep and profound relaxation & powerful rest."
What is yoga nidra?
The practice of Yoga Nidra is a guided form of deep relaxation, often applied as the rotation of consciousness and lying meditation resting in a presence of awareness that provides a supportive path through the healing process.
"We humans we have lost the ability to relax." Rod Stryker says. "Yoga Nidra is so important and effective for our lives today. Culturally we are moving towards higher levels of diffusion and division - we are speeding up in life to accomplish more, and at the same time being split up into smaller parts. This leads us to fear, anxiety, restlessness and the inability to relax."
It is an effective tool for overcoming post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, depression, fatigue and insomnia. Beginners and experienced practitioners both benefit from the practice.
Many studies have and are being done and solid scientific as well as experiential research has determined that the practice of yoga nidra is effective for PTSD, anxiety and is being used in prison programmes, with ex-army, police and combat teams and abuse victims.
As well as for anyone who just needs some restorative rest or who is dealing with feelings of overwhelm or having difficulty relaxing or sleeping. Personally I have found the practice invaluable especially for chronic pain and stress, dealing with chronic illness.
It does not cure but definitely brings about a sense of more ease and wellbeing and is deeply therapeutic leaving the whole being feeling lighter and more well-rested. It also helps to calm and soothe the mind and the nervous system. It is very experiential and can sometimes be just a form of relaxation but with regular sustained application it can be a really profound experience, especially when it is practiced alongside your normal daily meditation practices to enhance more clarity and awareness and rest the physical body in a way we don't usually do.
It is rooted in ancient Indian yogic traditions and has been practiced in many forms, the modern application on the most basic level being a simple body scan in Savasana. (lying down or 'corpse pose').
Effectiveness of Yoga Nidra
Several studies on yoga nidra have been conducted and have shown positive results. The Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, as cited in the Huffington Post, found that “Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, health and wellness yoga nidraheart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women.” Another study, which involved a Vietnam and Iraq veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), found that regular practice of yoga nidra helped them reduce “rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity.” Other studies have reported a “decrease in negative thoughts, self-blame, and depression.”
In a research study done by Renee Harrington of NC State University on how yoga nidra reduces stress, she listed benefits to the heart, brain, and overall wellness. It is said that yoga nidra can increase dopamine production to 65%. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain responsible for giving “pleasure”. It provides feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate us to do, or continue doing certain activities. Aside from increased dopamine production, yoga nidra also increases stimulation of the brain.
Benefits on practicing yoga nidra
Aside from reducing anxiety, fear, anger, and depression, yoga nidra has a lot of benefits on the overall wellness of a person. Here are more benefits of yoga which were enumerated in Harrington’s research:
Reduced emotional reaction
Deep relaxation of body and mind
Overcome insomnia/improved sleep
Reduced anxiety, fear, anger, and depression
Boosts the immune system
Decreases inflammation/reduces pain
Symptom relief related to cancer, asthma, diabetes, addictions, heart disease, and migraine headaches when used in conjunction with conventional medical care
Helps with pre- and post-surgical conditions
Can be used to control physical body functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature, and brain waves.
Leigh (Sherab) Taylor
Red Lotus Retreats &
Sustainable Human Being
Why yoga nidra?
Since a child I didn't really need much rest at all, so it is kind of ironic that my main focus these days for women's wellbeing is all about lying down and resting in a relaxed state!
The first time I experienced the practice of yoga nidra I was about 10 years old in South Africa where I was born.
I remember the yoga teacher telling us to lie down after doing the stretches and close our eyes. Then she took us on soothing audio and mental visual journey and
I remember feeling light as a feather and a sense of relief washing over me.
I can't really explain what I felt other than very chilled out. Yet even at a tender age it left a profound impression on my mind.
I first truly appreciated the profound beneficial effects of the practice of yoga nidra or 'sacred sleep' or 'yogic sleep' when I became very ill and was diagnosed with a
chronic immune illness in 2010. For years my energy had become quite depleted that robbed me of a lot of my vital life force and energy.
I needed to spend the bulk of a year bedridden which often made me feel very powerless and I was getting frustrated with the debilitating pain and exhaustion.
The regular practice of Yoga Nidra has helped me to calm the central nervous system, restore vital energy and also deeply relax on a cellular level leaving every part of body and mind in a more harmonious lucid state.
I wish I had started this practice sooner!
I feel that this soothing practice is very beneficial for people and especially for busy women who experience stress, anxiety or feelings of overwhelm by all of life's demands, pressures and time constraints. Most of us do.
As a long term meditator and student of buddhist philosophy I personally love that this practice has deep roots in the ancient yogic traditions from India.
Yet is timeless in the sense that it can be applied in the modern fast-paced world and still have the same profound benefits of powerful rest, deep relaxation
and clarifying awareness.
I'm looking forward to sharing this practice with you and going on a relaxing journey of loving awareness.
Red Lotus Projects & Background
I have been traveling to India, Nepal and Thailand since 1997 where I was first introduced to meditation and I spent my first year at 19 in extended periods of retreat. In many ways India is home where I spent most of my adult life living in studying intensively with Himalayan masters in the practices of meditation and tibetan yogic practices. After meeting the Dalai Lama in 1997 I made the firm resolve to start a meditation and wellbeing centre in South Africa to create a sanctuary for inner peace and having been working and refining the vision since.
In 2000 I started my own women's retreat programme hosting and managing holistic women's retreats at the largest Taiwanese Meditation Centre in South Africa. During this time I was the manager of retreats and events for western students and also headed the organisation for the western chapter of the annual Peace and Light cultural festival, bringing together thousands of people. In 2003 I spent 6 months in intensive retreat with master Hui Re, a great master of the Ch'an tradition at a meditation centre in South Africa before moving to India and Nepal.
I spent the next ten years living, practicing studying and volunteering full time at meditation centres, monasteries and refugee organisations. A lot of this time was spent living close to Himalayan masters and immersed in meditation retreats.
In 2010 I had to return to South Africa due to illness but during this time imported fine quality asian goods from India and Nepal to promote the arts of meditation and support local village incentives.
In 2013 I moved to London where I founded Red Lotus Projects after co-ordinating and managing retreats internationally and organising sacred pilgrimages to India.
During the time in London I started an entrepreneurial journey collaborating with other inspiring and heart-centred entrepreneurs.
I focused on organising wellness events, meditation retreats and programmes specifically focusing on reducing the effects of burn-out and to instil more holistic wellbeing and supporting women with chronic illness.
In London I also worked for various big corporate companies using my background as a graphic design professional and strong organisational skills. During this time I worked on a project to research Oil Spill prevention for Shell to help combat impact on environmental pollution, health and safety.
Since then I have traveled and lived in many parts of the world including France, Portugal, the Netherlands and most recently I am living in Barcelona in Spain with my partner Justin (Samten), a yoga teacher, mindfulness instructor and IT professional. Together we help co-ordinate wellness programmes, meditation retreats and continue work with other inspiring heart-centred entrepreneurs who embody the same ethos to collaborate, organise and manage bespoke retreats and holistic programmes.
I'm delighted now to be collaborating with Aleksandra, a seasoned yoga teacher and meditation practitioner, as we both resonate with the strong ethos of serving others, care and kindness to support women on their journey of compassionate wellbeing and to provide more dignity and love to those in need.
Humanitarian Outreach & Sustainable Human Being Ethos
I find that inner peace and wellbeing should be something that is sustained and maintained through regular practice and careful daily care and attention. My deep passion or calling is to support other women on their journey of holistic wellbeing and living as a sustainable and self-sustainable human. Last year my partner Justin and I founded 'Sustainable Human Being' after we embarked on the journey of building an eco wellness retreat centre in South Africa on the breathtaking Garden Route. It is still in the beginning of the building process with only the foundation completed at this stage. Our vision is to support others by not only creating a sanctuary of peace and wellbeing but also to support humanitarian causes and local incentives for often neglected and invisible grassroots projects that deserve care, support and attention. Two of these project we are currently supporting is Hunger has no religion and Slovo Centre of Excellence in South Africa and other village incentives in Nepal and india run by women and ethical businesses.
The Lotus is a powerful symbol for me.
In eastern philosophy it is infused with so much meaning, primarily that of being able to rise above adversity and obstacles, inner, outer and all life circumstances.
Apart from the root symbolism of mind's pure quality pristinely rising out of muddy waters (challenges), it also embodies a fine strong feminine quality of endurance, resilience and strength. The red lotus is specifically connected to vibrance, energy and wisdom.
Yoga nidra for me along with meditation is specifically nourishing on so many levels, nourishing every part of your being, physically, mentally and emotionally,
resting in more lucid awareness.