Attached is an audio Yoga Nidra for you to use at home, but first, here’s why I chose Yoga Nidra in relationship to this topic.
Survival to me is connected to the will to live, fight or flight, the ability to know when the time is right to adapt and evolve. A wild mind response that is intuitive and sensory, our internal climate responding to our direct external environment.
Survival is core to life, our biological drive to procreate. The earth is our means of survival, our source of food, water, and connection to sunlight. Earth as an element provides our nourishment, in connection to both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines it relates to our stomach and spleen organs. Our stomach being our centre of digestion, transforming and transporting our food. Our spleen stores platelets and white blood cells, recycles red blood cells and builds blood. The spleen nourishes other internal organs, providing lift to hold them in place. Much like gravity affecting surrounding planets. This important organ also helps with metabolism, controlling appetite, regulating the immune system, nourishing muscles, controlling blood within the vessels, and promoting healing to injury. If you bruise easily it is a sign that your spleen needs some quality nourishment.
Our internal system is affected by thoughts and emotions. The body has a direct response to our mental creation of life, our physical survival responds to our perception of the world. Over thinking, dwelling, pensiveness, and worry have a depleting effect on the spleen organ. These sinking feelings bring a sinking feeling within the system. Being responsible for our sense of sweetness and satisfaction, this organ is affected badly by processed sugars and needs the nourishment of warm foods and earthy sweet grains. These grains give a different quality of softness and strength to the body where sugars prove to offer a slumping, sluggish texture leading to wanting more. I include more detail about the spleen here as it provides like a mother to the organs, giving blood needed to fulfil their functions. The mother earth of the internal solar system.
For seasonal dietary advice visit this link: Fantastic food blog
Sofia has included a great recipe for nourishing the spleen-pancreas, this is a good tonic during a change of season and during harvest time in late summer.
I find these yoga postures helpful for connecting to the earth element :
Bridge pose, Warrior sequence, Mountain pose. Finding a steady pose & holding for up to 12 breaths. Still & sturdy, focusing on the stability between the parts of my body that are in contact with the earth. In future blogs I will include asana yoga rituals to follow.
Aromatherapy oils for Earth element :
Our sense of smell is strongly linked to our sense of survival.
Sandalwood, patchouli, tangerine, black pepper, coriander, & geranium.
In this unique life time, when our human existence as a whole is threatened, how do we find a sense of safety within the present moment? Seeking the reality of the present without disregarding the fact that the way human life currently exists is threatening us as a species.
Right now there are over 7 Billion people on the planet earth, this number is rising rapidly almost beyond imagination, what is more, the birth rate is more than double the rate of death. Whilst I feel a deep urge in my womb to have children I also feel disturbed by the future available to our grand children. The resources available now will be used up. Having created a human dominant environment we are no longer under threat from predators, other human beings are now the core threat to our existence.
There are different types of threat we can consider, imaginary threat, physical threat, social threat, and species threat. The mother instinct has a strong nose for potential threat, as she seeks to protect her young. So it is to this earth mother that I ask what we can best do in this life time to provide a future life for our species.
Threat triggers our survival instinct, we are biologically programmed to survive, in this way our threat instinct is our friend and ally, yet can grow out of control and become something that limits our freedom. Whilst it is right to calculate risk, if I choose not to walk out at night to ponder the stars for fear I may come under attack, I am limiting my freedom. How can I trust my instinct or body to know that I am safe?
Survival holds hands with evolution, we have evolved to be incredible animals that can sense threat and respond intelligently to survive. Consider your body and senses for a moment, perhaps there is some lack of tone in the muscles as hunting has been replaced by a drive to the supermarket. But let us return to contemplate the human potential that we see in athletes, dancers, circus performers, musicians, and You. The ability to sense and respond appropriately to your surrounding environment.
I took some time to look at human sensory abilities, having found the information difficult to relate to I suggest this may give a more tangible idea. Take a moment (away from the computer screen) to be fully present with your sense of sight, look around you, notice the colours, textures, definition, distance and field of your sense of sight. Try closing one eye and notice any differences between how each eye focuses. Now close your eyes and focus on the sounds you can hear, the depths and distances. Then become aware of touch, the air against your skin, notice if this gives a concept of distance and your surrounding environment. Try the same for your sense of smell and taste. There are no rules to the sequence, take as long as you like to play with this experience. Notice if being alert to your senses helps to provide a map of the environment surrounding you. Become aware of any changes to your emotional state. Take some time to focus on your breath moving in your body, feel your feet in contact with the earth, ensure you take time to come home to yourself so that you feel comfortably grounded.
This exercise I hope will be helpful to remind you of the magical gifts you have within the human body. It is a remarkable piece of biological technology that offers you the ability to distinguish between reality and imaginary threat to your survival. Meanwhile of course we all return to the source eventually.
Being able to distinguish real threat assists our survival. Physically it can save your life from danger for we as animals are both predator and prey. Whilst in the Uk we do not have predators other than human beings, we have other threats created by the social systems in which we live. Our physical need for spontaneity and relaxation is interfered with by elements in our culture that demand tension and alienation.
I notice that changes in my environment can sometimes create a sense of anxiety. When the wind picks up I can feel flighty and unsettled, adrenaline can rush making my skin sensitive and heart beat faster. Coincidentally as I write this Bob Dylans Blowin’ in the Wind has come on in the background.
I recall when teaching children’s yoga the children were always excitable and wild on a windy day. Whilst this heightened activity is a natural reaction to potential risk to survival, if my mind distills this into imaginary threats this can lead me to being overly cautious and limit my feeling of freedom and spontaneity.
The fear is not of the wind. What comes is an imaginary fear that someone will break in the house and cause me harm. So why is this fear coming? I consider the rape of our land, the disrespect that human beings as a whole demonstrate to this earth. I wonder if this fear is relative to the threat that human nature offers itself. Blowing our own fate to the wind as we continue to live beyond our needs.
These thoughts and meandering contemplations can roll through this endless ocean. So I turn to direct experience for a reality check, sometimes a change will come mentally through physical action, sometimes physical patterns change through mental action. In this way there is direct relation between mind and body. So much so that our body doesn’t distinguish between mind or memory, it will respond to thoughts directly. Hence thoughts, dream, or illusion leading to a physical feeling of reality, feeling threatened when the direct threat is relatively non existent. Yet the threat to humanity is constant, we are ambivalent, diving into our own destruction.
I do not have the answers to these big questions, I can only offer what I experience. Rolling through tides of joy, despair, love, fear, a glowing hue of emotions in response to life. There is a steady constant connection that I find in my breath, an intimacy with life. A coming home to the present moment, a coming home to my body as a part of nature and all things. A universal “I am”. It is in this coming home that I feel safe in my body where ever I am. Imaginary fears melt away and patterns cease. The environment can be changing, yet in this space of feeling my inner and outer worlds connect, here I feel I am home.
I have chosen to offer Yoga Nidra for this subject, it is a ritual where you focus your mind rapidly around your body. I find this ritual incredibly focusing and relaxing to my mind and body. It is important as human animals to have a sensory awareness of our physicsal bodies, an awareness of our internal and external relationships, I find yoga nidra is helpful for this process.
Yoga Nidra is best done in a space where you are alone and will not be disturbed.
This should not be done whilst operating machinery.
It is most important that you are comfortably warm, so prepare your environment for this journey by clearing the space.
Preparation for savasana (corpse pose):
- Have cushions if you need them to be comfortable laying flat on your back.
- Placing a cushion under your knees will offer relief to the lower back.
- A small folded blanket under your head can help to keep your neck long and the back of your head soft.
- An eye pillow can help you to drop your attention into the body more redily.
- Have plenty of blankets and do not skimp on comfort.
- Lay on a hard flat surface, your bed will do if you have no better space.
- Your feet are apart and arms away from sides of your body, palms face up.
- Gift yourself plenty of time to follow the yoga nidra from start to finnish.
- It takes 20 minutes, I suggest you allow 30 minutes to enjoy the ritual fully.
The yoga nidra ritual is provided here as an audio piece :
Yoga Nidra Nurture : created by Gayle Fletcher
Please email me with any questions or feedback, please let me know if you have trouble using the link.
Dedication to Swami Satyananda Saraswati :
As you grow to know the sensation of bringing breath and attention to different parts of your body, you can use a simplified version anytime and anywhere to bring yourself home. For example you might bring your attention to feeling the movement of your breath within your belly, or bring your attention to feeling your feet as you are walking. These simple techniques bring yoga into daily life. Following the full yoga nidra regularly has many benefits, you can experience these for yourself.
Gratitude and love to Uma and Nirlipta Dinsmore-Tuli, your cd ‘Simply Calm’ brought yoga nidra to my daily life and has been inspiration for this recording.
With thanks to my wonderful friends & teachers Frances Lewis, Sofia Arjuao,
Jai Garruda, Alex Harvest, Keef Miles, Amber Rose, Nickie Heape, Vick Finch, Nicola King, Astrid Van Waveren,
Andi St Clare and all who are a part of my yoga journey.