Yoga Nidra — Return to Self

Me and my boy Tortilla in early January …



Tortilla knows how to play hard … every second is a new adventure for this kid. Jim has described the contents of Tortilla’s brain as “full of silliness & squirrels.” But our boy knows comfort & rest better than any living being I know. He seeks out the fluffiest blankets, the sunniest sunspots, the coziest corners … & takes full advantage. Towels just out of the dryer? Yes, please. Space on Mama’s lap (or some way I can MAKE space)? Here I am. While backpacking – your pillow or that poofy sleeping bag? Hmm, move over just a bit, Dad.

While our boy Baxter is constantly vigilant, always watching us, herding us or otherwise on the lookout … Tortilla’s motto seems to be Why stand when I can sit? Why sit when I could lay down? Why stay awake when I could be napping? They’ll get me when they’re ready for fun … or when there are squirrels.

Another teacher in our midst.

I don’t “rest” well. I’m a habitually light sleeper, lived on 5-6 hours of sleep in grad school, & burned the candle at both ends through more than a few jobs I was passionate about. I stay up later than necessary, & have always been an early riser. And I’ve never liked naps (much to Jim’s utter dismay). Waste of time. I could be accomplishing something. I don’t sit still often by choice … though I sit more often than I’d like to admit these last few years … nevertheless, when I’m sitting I’m doing something. While Tortilla can totally let go & just rest after a hard day of chasing sunspots indoors & bunnies outdoors, I keep going well after the workday or work week officially ends.

When I list the jobs / projects I’m involved with, people have often commented, “Wow, you’re a busy lady!” For a Type A personality, that’s a compliment … a badge of honor … right?

Then I look at Tortilla …


I’m starting to understand this “you’re busy” comment as a gentle nudge from Something Bigger to step back & re-evaluate … a red flag that I’ve … once again … overstepped my own rhythm & sustainability.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about meeting with one of my yoga teachers/mentors … & how we talked about everything from the yoga classes I’m teaching, to recent deaths in my family/community, to my food choices, to my sleep quality. I was prepared to take notes on an asana practice she’d assign me for the next 6 months … but we didn’t talk much about physical poses (except for my aggravated shoulder … no chaturangas for me).

Rather, she gave me a meditation practice, offered tips for my food choices based on Ayurvedic principles, & encouraged me to find nourishment.

Permission to rest.


I’d already practiced yoga nidra a few times over the past few months. What is yoga nidra? It’s a form of “yogic sleep” adapted by Swami Satyananda from traditional yoga practices of nyasa. Click here for a down-to-earth definition =). I’d also looked into a yoga nidra program called Daring to Rest, by Karen Brody, & had tried a few of her free sessions. After our meeting, I signed up for the 40-Day Daring to Rest Challenge, which began January 8th.

So, 20 days in … it’s not been easy. You’d think, well, just lay down & be still & zone out. Nuh-uh. There’s work to be done in yoga nidra, but not the outer, superficial, social media post work. This work is internal, subtle … a gentle, powerful return to myself.

Just granting myself PERMISSION to stop … to STOP … was life-changing.

Then accepting that maybe I AM THE EXPERT on me, on who I am & who I can be — rather than co-opting someone else’s solutions, however “yogic” or spiritual or lovely they might be.

Finally, learning … still learning … that I AM NOT CRAZY. And I have felt crazy at various times over the past few years (… decades)? I have felt a random yet powerful connection in nature … I have had wicked powerful emotions come out of nowhere … I have intuited something & thought, oh boy, if I say this out loud …

It’s a powerful statement to say “The feminine part of us is not crazy” … The feminine is INTUITIVE, sometimes a little wild … & women have an internal power most of us don’t tap into regularly. What you choose to call the source of that intuition is up to you — Something Bigger, God, Universe, Spirit — go for it. The feminine is powerfully connected with rhythm, cycles, ebbs & flows … which has been ignored or dismissed at best, or has resulted in shame or even persecution of women (& some men) at worst. To rediscover those rhythms, cycles, connections is overwhelming for me, yet also pretty fucking awesome.


So I’m experimenting on myself, figuring out what works =). So far, dialing back on my commitments, eating cleaner food (most of the time 😉 ), getting back into Nature, & broadening my yoga practice with yoga nidra are supporting me in slowly returning to myself — it’s not happening overnight or even over a year. Long-term project, internal, subtle … & I hope I’ll encourage someone else along the way.

How do you return to yourself?


Published by ericaengel42

I practice & share Hatha Yoga for a simple reason -- it works. Hatha Yoga in the Himalayan Tradition is a holistic system of philosophy & practices passed down through an unbroken 5,000 year lineage of Himalayan sages. What Hatha Yoga is not: trendy, bendy or one-&-done. What Hatha Yoga is: a systematic approach to uncovering the real, authentic YOU in body, mind & spirit. Hatha Yoga cultivates well-being, stability, clarity & ease in modern life through traditional, time-tested practices. I also recognize both our shared humanity & our differing privileges & barriers -- I am a cis-gendered white female with a graduate degree, who has dealt with family trauma & an eating disorder. My goals in my own practice include to cultivate awareness of my own privileges & social conditioning, unlearn & re-learn in order to be mindful & take compassionate action toward a more beautiful, just & peaceful world for ALL humans, creatures & our Earth. I'm making mistakes daily, & hopeful that I'm falling forward toward these goals & vision. I hope we can walk our paths & support each other along the way.

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