Hilary Jackendoff: What yoga nidra means to me
Train with Hilary on Wanderlust TV: Her new collection, Reclaim Your Right to Rest, is a 4-part Yoga Nidra series that will support healthy sleep habits and allow for deep healing. Access this collection along with thousands of yoga, meditation and movement classes on WLTV with a free 14-day WLTV trial.
I’ve been talking about the life-changing benefits of relaxation and yoga nidra for almost 15 years, and I’ve never wavered in my evangelism because I know how powerful the practice really is.
Let’s go back to the day it all started for me: February 9, 2008. I don’t want to be dramatic, but it really was “the day my life changed forever.”
I was living in New Zealand and needed a “break” from my boyfriend at the time, so I went on a retreat to a traditional yoga ashram. I was lying on the heated floor of a yurt overlooking Golden Bay, being led into my first yoga nidra by an extremely tall, extremely blond German man. sannyasin (yogi monk) named Swami Marutdeva.
I struggled with insomnia and anxiety in my teens and early 20s (and that was before smartphones). By this point, I had been practicing meditation in the Buddhist tradition for a while, but the techniques I was practicing at my local Kadampa center in Philadelphia never really caught on. I never felt at peace. I always felt like I was sitting in a puddle of my own mental muck for an excruciating 45 minutes at a time.
But yoga nidra was different. It was this practice that brought all the good things. I felt as if I had effortlessly moved into a state that I can only describe as bliss. In one moment, I finally understood what meditation could do. I finally understood what it is to let go – to release all tension. Feel a calm mind. Go beyond the mind. It was a complete spiritual experience. And I wanted to more.
I became a yoga nidra addict. That’s all I was talking about. I have arranged my life to make sure that I correct myself every day. I practiced so much that in just a few months I memorized three 45-minute recordings, line by line. It has completely transitioned my relationship to sleep and has given my insomnia and anxiety a lot of relief.
I had to go even deeper. That October I went on a retreat to spend some time at a yoga lineage ashram in India. After a powerful spiritual experience in India, I realized that I should be in the family tree. So I left. Within 8 years I took 2 tantric initiations into the lineage and lived and studied in an ashram as a sannyasin for 2 years.
While at home in New Jersey, between years at the ashram, I experienced a terrible trauma. I lost my childhood best friend and neighbor to a heroin overdose. (I really wish he could learn the peace and annihilation of the ego through yoga nidra. It might help him get off heroin.)
I was with Rocky the day before he died and my last words to him were, “I love you Rock. Don’t die because of me.” The next morning, December 30, 2012, I watched as paramedics carried him out of my childhood bedroom window.
I returned to the ashram a week after his funeral to complete my second year of study. Deeply consumed by grief and suffering from trauma, I endured a brutal bout of insomnia that lasted 3 months. Yoga nidra was my safe place. It was the only way to rest. It was the only time I felt at peace. It was the only thing keeping me sane considering I was in such a state of severe sleep deprivation and emotional pain. It also helped me to integrate my emotions and gradually release the sense of responsibility that I held after his death.
I have personally experienced every transformative benefit of yoga nidra: stress and anxiety relief. Restoration of sleep and rest. Emotional healing of trauma. Transformation. Release. Spiritual unity. Yoga Nidra helped me make sense of life. In fact, it provided me with my path in life.
The photo above was taken shortly after I received my spiritual name from Swami Satsangi Saraswati. Your spirit name reflects your potential and serves as a mantra that reminds you of your highest self every time it is spoken.
It is no coincidence that my spiritual name is Om. Yoga nidra mantra. The symbol Om 🕉 represents the four states of consciousness – waking, dreaming, sleep and the fourth – pure awareness in deep sleep – the state of yogi nidra.
So, I will try to live up to my name. I intend to continue to guide people into a relationship with Yoga Nidra—the practice and the state—with the hope that it will change their lives as it has changed mine.
Hilary Jackendoff is a yoga nidra and meditation teacher, teacher trainer and human design coach. She began studying tantric yoga in 2008, then spent two years formally training while living in an ashram in Australia. In 2019, she discovered Human Design and created containers and coaching offerings for deconditioning integrated with yoga practices. Hilary’s work is dedicated to sharing accessible tools and grounded spiritual teachings that encourage self-exploration so you can release stress and self-judgment and awaken self-love, inner ease and joy.
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