Is Your Yoga Nidra Teacher Trained?
Because of the systematic nature of this technique and its use as a healing modality for conditions ranging from addiction to PTSD, it is important to ensure your teacher has been formally trained to teach Yoga Nidra. Yoga Teacher Trainings do not prepare students to teach the practice – and it is also not included in the general Meditation Teacher Trainings that are newly emerging. It is very important for you, the student, to understand that this is an advanced technique to teach, and as such, requires advanced training and an embodied knowledge of the practice.
How would you feel about going up in an airplane with a self-taught pilot? ‘Oh, I know how to fly planes intuitively,’ she tells you. How would you feel about paying for a meal cooked by a ‘chef’ who read Thomas Keller’s cookbook? ‘The instructions are all there right in the French Laundry cookbook. I know how to read.’ he says. How about a yoga teacher who took a few Power Yoga classes and then read a book on yoga anatomy? You see where I’m going with this…why would you allow a Yoga Nidra teacher to guide you, if they have not received proper trained? And why would you pay them to do so?
Why It Matters
I have practicing this meditation for 10 years and teaching it for 6. My training spanned 2 years, while I practiced daily, under master teachers. I know first-hand the full range of experiences this practice can bring about. It is not a simple deep relaxation technique. It is a potent Tantric meditation, designed to bring up a variety of unfamiliar sensations in the body, as well as strong emotions, and subconscious memories. Having first-hand knowledge of these often intense mind-body experiences, I deeply understand and respect Yoga Nidra’s power and its innate ability to transform and heal.
My training is through my lineage, the Bihar School of Yoga, a North Indian lineage of Hatha Yoga and Tantric Meditation. The founder of the Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, first developed his version of Yoga Nidra in the 1950s from his experiences in meditation and his study of ancient Tantric texts. After discovering its immense potential, he began to spread this accessible Tantric practice to the Western world on his teaching tours to Australia, Europe and North America. I am proud to say I learned to teach this practice from teachers who learned directly from Swami Satyananda.
In addition to the method in which I am trained, there are other wonderful ways to teach and practice Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra as taught by Swami Rama of the Himalayan Institute is a beautiful method, as is Amrit Desai’s technique. Richard Miller’s iRest Yoga Nidra is the most recent method that has emerged, but should not be overlooked, as his is the version of the practice that has been widely studied and adopted by the U.S military for use in treating veterans with PTSD.
Have A Properly Trained Teacher Guiding You
Yoga Nidra is a powerful practice that grants access to the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind, as well as the space beyond the mind. It is designed to bring up emotional experiences and release stored impressions. Yoga and meditation teachers are getting excited about Yoga Nidra because it is a highly effective practice that seems to deeply relax their students – and because it seems easy enough to teach from a script out of a book.
As a result of its growing popularity, teachers are starting to teach it without having been properly trained. In fact, here in Los Angeles, yoga studio owners are actually encouraging their teachers who have not been trained in the practice to teach it anyway. The fact that even those who own yoga studios do not fully understand the necessity of proper training is so deeply upsetting. I highly doubt a yoga studio owner would allow a teacher who has not been ‘properly’ trained in a 2 month, 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training to teach asana in their studio. Why then, yoga studio owner, would you allow and encourage untrained teachers to teach such an ancient, subtle and powerful technique? The damage that can be done by improperly guiding students through a meditation designed to bring strong experiences to the forefront of the mind is arguably much more extensive than that which can be done through an untrained asana teacher poorly instructing the transition from Downward Dog to Upward Dog
Note to Yoga Teachers:
I know a lot of you are feeling called to teach Yoga Nidra. Some of you are doing it already. Please hear me out and don’t feel like I’m judging you harshly or trying to be the Yoga Nidra police!! I really just want to inform you. Yoga Nidra is an advanced practice to teach, even for most experienced meditation teachers. It’s not hypnosis. It’s not guided relaxation. It is an extremely nuanced technique that take you deep into the subtle body and provides access to the true Self. Many highly skilled yogis and teachers have devoted their lives to sharing with authenticity and integrity. Please respect this and understand what you’re claiming to have knowledge of. Understand its power. Before you teach this practice, you need to embody it. You need to know the wide range of experiences it can trigger before you can hold space appropriately for your students. If you want to teach it, be patient. Practice it daily. AND do a training.
Go train with Richard Miller in iRest. Train in the Amrit Method. Go to the Himalayan Institute and learn Swami Rama’s method of Yoga Nidra. Go to the Atma Center in Cleveland. There are many incredible places where you can formally train. I highly recommend it.
In the meantime, don’t tell your students you’re guiding them in Yoga Nidra. Tell them you are guiding them in a deep relaxation practice. And don’t do any trippy stuff, like working with the chakras or guiding students to bring up strong emotions. Trust me. And don’t use the scripts in the blue book. They’re not even remotely appropriate for beginners. Like at all. Actually…don’t use scripts. Go take a training. Embody the practice and you won’t need a script.
Students, Vet ALL Your Teachers
As meditation practices become more mainstream, making sure you have a properly trained teacher guiding you, not just in Yoga Nidra, but in all forms of practice, has never been more necessary. At present, there is no real barrier of entry to working in the meditation field and the demand for new meditation teachers is greatly exceeding the supply. This is not to say you won’t have a relaxing, pleasant experience if you practice with an untrained teacher. Most likely, you will. Most likely, as a beginner, you won’t even know the difference. But if you want meditation to take you deep and create real change in your life and in your personality…vet your teacher.
Develop some serious discrimination around those teaching you and feel free to boldly inquire as to their formal training. Spend your meditation money wisely. Do your homework. Determine what qualifies a well-trained meditation teacher…and then seek one out.
If you live in Los Angeles, come try one of my Yoga Nidra group classes at The DEN Meditation. Please check out my Class Schedule for more information.