The 7 step iRest Protocol:
- Set An Intention (include arriving in the space etc)
After settling into a comfortable position, set an intention for your practice, such as being present, at ease and safe, remaining awake and alert, or you may have a wish to simply enjoy deep rest.
- Connect to your Heartfelt Desire
Reflect on what you deeply wish for your life. What are the guiding principles to how you live? What gives your life profound meaning? While this may be an ongoing enquiry, we can affirm our heartfelt desire as a short, clear, positive statement in the present tense, as though we are consistently connecting to our deeply felt desire to be in harmony with ourselves and with the universe.
- Invite the support of your Inner Resource
Any potentially transformative and authentic meditative enquiry may of course bring up much yoga swing that may be challenging for us, on all levels, physically, energetically, emotionally and mentally.So Richard Miller felt it essential to include as part of the protocol the cultivation of an Inner Resource, a place inside where we can be fully safe and secure. This may be a place in nature, something real or imaginary, a loved one, or a practice … whatever works to become more at ease. One student said it was their “happy place”.Inner Resource is one of the ways in which iRest is quite unique from other forms of Yoga Nidra. We tune into the very sensorial experience of our Inner Resource – using our visual sense, auditory, smells, taste, texture, the inner felt sense. What is it like to truly feel and be at ease, to be safe and secure? What are the sensations? We may welcome and return to our Inner Resource at any time during any practice … in fact any time of the day or night, when we need support and safety our Inner Resource is always available. So Inner Resource speaks to our resiliency in life – the more we can feel and be at ease, or enter states of wellbeing, the more we can meet life’s challenges and still remain calm and centred. The first three steps make up the Sankalpa of Yoga Nidra (whereas traditional Yoga Nidra includes an intention as a resolve, iRest expands this to these three stages. Sankalpa may be translated as “Born From The Heart”).
- Body Sensing
Having laid the vital foundations for the practice with the stages of Sankalpa, the protocol now turns to explore the physical body (in yoga trapeze this is referred to as the Annamaya Kosha). We explore the somatic felt-sense of the body by rotating a curious attention through and around the body, taking time to truly feel as we go. The body is experienced as a field of sensation which through regular practice we become more and more sensitive to. A response to Body Sensing is that the body tends to release into a deeply relaxed state. We practice Body Sensing in a way that anchors a busy mind into feeling the body. The thinking mind slows down, the body softens and relaxes.
- Breath Sensing
After meeting body sensations we begin to explore the subtler experience of the energy body (in Yoga, the Pranamaya Kosha), and we primarily access this via our breath. So at this stage in the iRest protocol we may tune into, with a great curiosity, our breathing. A focus perhaps on our inhalation, exhalation, the pauses in between, the felt sense of breath as movement, and so on. The possibilities are almost endless.
Curiosity is a wonderful quality to cultivate in our meditative practice – it touches into our deep yearning for understanding, presence and ultimately, for ease and freedom in how we live our life.
- Welcoming Feelings and Emotions
With the ongoing support of our Inner Resource, and being more accustomed to the experience of body and breath, we may begin to welcome feelings and emotions (in Yoga and the iRest protocol, we call this aspect of ourselves the Manomaya Kosha).This is where for me personally iRest Yoga Nidra has been a particularly powerful practice. Learning to welcome all feelings and emotions and not to judge them or push them away has been truly transformational. I may, of course, be deeply affected by strong emotions such as anger and fear but, because of the practice, I might have a little more resiliency – more tools at my fingertips to be able to take a pause or have a clearer response rather than an unhealthy reaction.At this stage we can become sensitive to the felt-sense of feeling and emotions. This is why body sensing is so important – the practice grows our kinesthetic intelligence and resiliency, so that we can tolerate and learn to be with strong emotions. We can also welcome in and notice opposite sensations and emotions and learn to step back and dis-identify with them. We might, instead, connect more with what is unchanging in ourselves – our innate wholeness and goodness. Stepping back can give us the understanding that, rather than “I am sad or happy”, sadness (or happiness, or anything else) is arising within Awareness. Emotions will come, we can welcome and acknowledge what is arising (rather than rejecting it). We may ask ourselves, where in our body do we feel a particular emotion? How does it feel? What does it want, what does it need and what action might it be asking me to take?
We can learn to remain anchored to our wholeness and stay steady and at ease as experience flows through us.
Indeed, Richard says we can even see emotions (and thoughts and beliefs), as special messengers, showing us something important for us to learn about ourselves, and ultimately pointing us home to our True Self.
- Welcoming Thoughts and Beliefs
Just like welcoming feelings and emotions, we may also welcome and explore our thoughts and beliefs. (In Yoga, the Vijnanamaya Kosha).Thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and about the world arise, unfold, dissolve. When we connect to our unchanging wholeness, our witnessing presence, there is not only an observing of thoughts and beliefs, but the possibility of a more pro-active “welcoming” of them. This may be a radical departure from pushing or rejecting aspects of ourselves. By welcoming we have the opportunity to inquire into them – to see ourselves, our thoughts with greater clarity, objectivity, and with a certain amount of kindness and compassion.And again, we can also welcome and feel their opposite thoughts (or alternative thoughts). Are there any accompanying body sensations to a particular thought or it’s opposite? Experience one, then the other, then both simultaneously, and ask ourselves, now, what is the impact of this enquiry on our body and mind? Then once again, step out and into witnessing how all this experience is arising, unfolding and dissolving. Perhaps you can see how transformational (and accessible) the iRest protocol is – offering us tools that continually encourage us to connect to the somatic felt sense of our experience, and to anchor into our always present and unchanging wholeness.I feel it is important at this point to note again that not every stage of the iRest Yoga Nidra protocol needs to be practiced every time. For me as a teacher and holder of space, it is vital to keep creating a truly safe space within which to practice, establishing a strong sense of one’s Inner Resource(s), before aerial yoga hammock diving into experiencing and welcoming strong emotions or deeply held beliefs.