Grounding Myself in an Ancient Practice

I was not sure what to write about for this “Beyond the Bio” assignment, or where to start. I’ll begin by sharing with you my love for yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation from India that is more than 3,000 years old. As my teacher Uma Dinsmore-Tuli explains it, it is a state of being, not doing; an effortless meditation upon the cyclical processes of falling asleep. It trains us to become familiar with, and aware of, the states of consciousness leading into and out of sleep. All the brainwave states that arise on the journey into sleep, and during sleep itself, are present in yoga Nidra, which is why it feels so relaxing.

It is an effortless and nourishing yoga practice that involves no physical movement, simply resting and listening. An adaptive, meditative state of being, anyone can access this practice to find healing, nourishment and liberation.

Why do I love yoga Nidra? It has helped me return to myself time and time again, especially during the pandemic. I had not been aware of how anxious I was during the first four months of the pandemic, until I began a workshop with Yoli Maya Yeh on sacred cosmology and shortly after started my training as a yoga Nidra facilitator.

At every yoga Nidra practice I would fall asleep immediately. The magic and beauty of yoga Nidra is that your body’s inner intelligence will take you where it needs to go, and it took me to sleep, which is what I needed. As months went by and I continued to practice twice a day, I began seeing and feeling changes within myself, some physical and some behavioral.

This love of yoga Nidra led me to ease, to the embodiment of ease, and to the awareness of how my nervous system was sometimes uncomfortable with ease. Yoga Nidra taught me how to be at ease with ease. It has also taught me how to be at ease with discomfort, liminal spaces, change, and most of all how to be at ease with myself.

Not all yoga Nidra practices are created equal—I am fortunate my path landed me with the right teachers. Yoga Nidra is not the only tool that has transformed my life.

‘Yoga Nidra taught me how to be at ease with ease.’

About 5 years ago, while working in a school district, I was asked to move out of my office from one of the school buildings into the main district’s office. This took me by surprise because I had been told that I would not have to move that year, but that it could happen eventually. Because I didn’t think I would be moved, I had decorated my office and made it cozy. Weeks later I was told by my boss that I would need to move offices, at that moment I didn’t know why, but I began to cry and could not stop.

It was silly of me to cry; I had no idea what had come over me. When I got home, I told my husband what happened and again began crying and could not stop. I told him I need to do yoga—I have no idea why this is affecting me so much.

I opened YouTube, pulled up one of my favorite yoga teacher’s videos, and began my practice. By the end of the practice, I knew what had happened, I knew my body’s state, and that the sensations present when I was asked to move offices were the same sensations I had experienced at age 11, when I was told by my mom that we were moving to Chicago. I had felt ungrounded, my feet felt as if they were floating off the ground, and my chest felt heavy and tight. I was equipped enough now to realize that this experience awakened a cycle of sensations that had not been fully processed when I was a kid.

This experience, along with re-conditioning myself to be at ease with ease made me aware of how many of us could be navigating our lives with a nervous system in a constant state of fight, flight, or fawn. And if 80% to 90% of illness stems from stress, shouldn’t we incorporate embodiment practices from birth, to help us reach the cyclic completion of traumatic experiences?

I share this story in conjunction with my love for yoga Nidra because I see the need for more embodiment practices to help us return to ourselves, to mother nature, to the natural cycles of living, and to so much more we have forgotten along the way. Yoga, yoga Nidra and Ayurveda have helped me to shift my life tremendously in the last decade, and to cultivate a profound awareness of living.

These practices also have helped me reconnect to my Mexican Indigenous healing practices, which, due to colonization, migration, and racism have been lost in my family. My maternal grandparents moved from the state of Michoacán to the state of México for opportunities, and as my aunts, uncles and mom got older they slowly began migrating to Chicago to do the same.

I feel there’s a lot of unresolved loss and grief in my family lineage, and tremendous amounts of strengths and resilience. From these losses we have gained opportunities and lives that would not have been possible if it weren’t for my grandparents’ courage to move. But also, it has created disconnection, and this is where learning our ancestral practices is important to explore for healing the mind, body and spirit.

I leave you with two of the most profound statements that my yoga Nidra teachers often share in their practices “Welcome home to yourself,” and “You are welcome as you are. You are perfect, whole, and complete.” Reminders that our homes lie within us and we do not need to contort ourselves to fit any molds.

Mazie Soto, MS, is ASA’s LMS manager.

Photo caption: Mazie Soto at Paledora Campus in Chemuyil, Quintana Roo, Mexico. 

Photo credit: Te Almo