Before I practiced yoga, I frequently found myself physically tense and mentally stressed, whether hunched over a computer screen or lying in bed struggling with insomnia. When an opportunity arose for me to visit Kripalu, Jennifer’s Yoga and Deep Relaxation Retreat seemed like a good opportunity to introduce myself to yoga generally, as well as to address my insomnia and stress-related tensions.
I’d never had any exposure to yoga of any sort, but luckily, Jennifer’s program, and particularly her specialties of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra and Five Element Yoga, proved to be perfectly tailored for me. While I continued to sleep as poorly as ever during the retreat, I never failed to feel energized, even going without my usual mid-day naps! I attribute this largely to Divine Sleep, which allowed me to let go the trappings of life. Letting them fall away, I was able to take stock of my mental and physical state via the framework of the five koshas levels – the yogic map of the human being.
Being guided through the yoga nidra process with Jennifer every day allowed me to rejuvenate myself, ensuring that I got sizable doses of restoration, if not a little sleep as well! Yoga nidra coupled with the yoga practice, proved far more effective in allowing me to clear my mind of distractions more fully than other methods I’ve tried. I found that Jennifer was skilled at helping me to direct my focus to the present moment. Her precision and warmth made her a great instructor and guide, especially for someone new to yoga like myself.
Five Element Yoga made for a fitting introduction to yoga, as it linked postures, mudras, breathing, and affirmations in a manner that makes the links memorable for me now as I continue my yoga practice on my own. It also provided a guide for a direction to steer my practice as I aim for specific goals. At the beginning of the retreat, Jennifer had each participant declare a one-word intention for the week, and I chose ‘calmness’. I have to say that I have never felt calmer than in her classes.
Since returning to everyday life, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to successfully insert some of that calmness into my daily routine! Jennifer prepared me not to only get into the habit of a once-a-day yoga practice, but also to integrate yoga throughout the day. Now I now regularly am aware of my breathing. Throughout my day I take five minute breaks from my computer screen to go through a short routine of a few postures and mudras, and have the option of replacing attempts to nap with guided sessions of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra (Jennifer’s CDs have proven very helpful in this regard).
These integrated practices have greatly enhanced my mindfulness of the present moment, allowing me to not only find my calm but also to remain more centered. I still have the pre-existing anxiety and insomnia, and my yoga practice is not exactly where I’d like it to be yet (for one, self-compassion could still use work!) but I know I have just begun this journey. To me, perhaps the most appealing aspect of yoga is that there is nothing to chase or race to – no endpoint – just an open horizon representing an unending process of refinement and self-discovery.