“Where’s the thermometer?” I asked my husband while stuffing my pajamas in a suitcase and mentally packing our kid’s lunches. There wasn’t much time before my ferry left and there was so much left to do!
After holding still for fifteen seconds, a green light flashed, announcing my 98.6 degree temperature. I was thinking, “Huh? I am healthy? No fever?” Except for my head ache, sore throat, mouth ulcers, lethargy and crankiness belied something was going on. However, it did mean I could indeed still attend Five Element Yoga and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra retreat at Kripalu Center in the Berkshires!
Like everyone who has been to Kripalu, I love it there! I had heard yoga nidra and that it could mean ‘peaceful sleep’. When, some friends recently sang Jennifer Reis’ praises, I took it as a sign and registered for the weekend, even though I didn’t know anything about Five Element Yoga.
The thing was, I needed sleep so badly, I actually felt sick. I wanted to find sleep in the most natural and lasting way possible. And after over two years of trying essential oils, a noise machine, room darkening shades, daily meditation, breathwork, herbs, acupuncture, exercising, not exercising, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, counting sheep – you name it – I was even more determined than ever to avoid pharmaceuticals.
The insomnia had been especially hard on my family. I was so grouchy that in my mind I made Vladmir Putin look like Mickey Mouse! Even so, deep down, I still had hope that I could sleep again.
Finally, I landed on a mat in the second row of Jennifer’s class on Friday night. During introductions, participants were invited to say where we were from, and what we were hoping for during the weekend. When the microphone came to me, I tilted it towards my mouth and made a wish, “Sleep – please?”
I was stunned that out of the forty or so participants, who were there from all over the world, I was the only one to mention sleep. I hoped I had registered for the right workshop. Could my wish will come true? Could I change from a caterpillar to a butterfly? Jennifer assured me these practices can help. She shared about her teaching, and said she has taught yoga for over 20 years (but to me she look about 20!). That and her laid-back, playful, manner quickly won me over.
When I was in a yoga posture that joyously involved pulsing to the beat of the music, I felt something inside me connect with this practice of Five Element Yoga. Near the end of that first session, we learned self-massage techniques, then Jennifer led a yoga nidra meditation. Later I drifted off to a decent night’s sleep. Awesome!
During Saturday’s session, Jennifer lead yoga with live music with Senta Reis and her many instruments. We learned more about how to balance the inner five elements, ways to use the breath to affect the nervous system, and more on ‘how to’ relax. Then a wandering walk past blossoming cherry trees, through a forest, towards a quiet lake did me wonders!
After an equally amazing afternoon session, I checked in with myself: My throat didn’t hurt – but I was still no butterfly. After resting in the sauna, I sat in the quietly and journalled. I felt slightly cheated that I didn’t instantly feel 110%. I came looking for a miracle. If I couldn’t find one here, where would I find it?
That night I laid awake until 3:30am, realizing it was probably because I ate three helpings at every meal – has anyone ever told you how amazing the food is at Kripalu? Wishing I had done it earlier, I finally download some of Jennifer’s CD’s to my smartphone, and listened to Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra while holding Adhi mudra she taught me for sleep. That worked and I finally fell asleep!
Near the end of our heavenly Sunday morning Five Element Yoga and yoga nidra, we bid our ‘Aum’s’ which feels yogic for ‘farewell’. I am assured by Jennifer that “this can help you, but you have to practice regularly. The effects are cumulative.”
I will try just about anything and thank goodness I have remained so open because I finally found something that has helped me tremendously! Sunday night back at home, I felt something shift within me. I broke through my usual two am wakeup pattern and instead pleasantly enough slept all the way to 3:45 am! Then I listened to another yoga nidra from Jennifer and was able to sleep until 6:30 am. For me, this was profound!
During the week that followed, my children joined me for yoga nidra, begging to hear Jennifer’s Magic Blanket Divine Sleep Journey recording on her Children’s CD/MP3. When together we practiced another of the children’s tracks, the Butterfly Journey, I actually felt butterfly-like! I realize I had no more headache, no more grouchiness, no more mouth sores! Yoga nidra was working!
When listening to Jennifer’s voice, I can easily see the enchanting center of a poppy flower and feel its nectar healing my feet. My children have been asking for yoga nidra instead of bedtime stories. My husband joins us too! The four of us line up with beloved blankies, eye masks and pillows on the bedroom floor to listen.
The recordings are simple, yet profound. Full of wonder, yet also grounding. Guided in the journey, I hear my four-year-old’s voice repeat so sweetly three times, “I am always calm and full of love.” My eight-year-old reflects after the Magic Blanket Journey, “I wish I could do that in the middle of my school day; I would feel so much better.” My husband admits, “That is so calming.”
And I can finally say, “I am healthy! I am sleeping!”
The effects are cumulative. During the weeks following the retreat, I forget about things that don’t really matter and am able to let them go with ease. I am no longer driving down the road with a list of ‘to-do’s’ running through my head. It feels like there is a slow-moving magic wand and I can suddenly let go of the little things! And now I feel so much more peaceful.
I’m wake my son from his nap more gently. I notice more sensations in my body and feel more connected. I can absorb my life in a more open-hearted way and feel increasingly attuned to what really matters. My mind is clearer. Admittedly, I do not always sleep well, but I trust as time goes on, and I get even more connected to my body, breath and being, with regular practice the effects WILL continue to do their work within me to bring me greater and greater ease and peace.
Now, when people now ask me about how I’m sleeping, I answer, “I’ve discovered yoga nidra which is all about inner balance and harmony. It’s helped my whole family so much. Everyone should try it.”