Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: The Importance of Relaxation through Yoga Nidra and Non-Sleep Deep(er) Rest Introduction
Well, we’ve had a few episodes which we’ve explored insomnia. We’ve spoken to Sleep Psychologist Rosemary Clancy. We’ve spoken again to a Sleep Physician from Colorado in the US, Dave McCarty. But today, we are going to be exploring Insomnia from a different perspective. And we’re talking to Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
Now, Shankardev has been on the podcast several times. He’s a member of the Advisory Board for Unstress Health, and he’s a good friend. He’s an integrative doctor and general practitioner who specializes in psychotherapy and has for almost 50 years been teaching yoga and meditation. His site, his program, Big Shakti, is a great site if you are wanting to access meditation courses and learn from a real expert in this field.
Now today, we’re going to be talking about Non-Sleep Deep Rest. And you’ll hear what that’s all about. And as I’ve said many times, and I say in the introduction to every one of my podcasts where I pay my respects to the original custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast. The reason I do that is because I really believe we have so much to learn from the past. Lessons from the past are something we really need to focus on because those lessons have stood the test of time, and they come from wisdom and experience and common sense, and a sense of connection and respect for not just the wholeness of the human body, but our connection to the land in which we live and the whole respect for the planet.
So anyway, I get to say I got a bit distracted there, but it’s interesting to hear that Non-Sleep Deep Rest is a real thing. I mean, sleep and rest are important. And guess what? Yoga Nidra has been a technique that’s been used for thousands of years, and it looks remarkably similar to and sounds remarkably similar to Non-Sleep Deep Rest, which may be a wonderful tool to use if you suffer from insomnia or if even if you don’t you’re having some restless night’s sleep. So I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Unstress. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders – past, present, and emerging. I’m paying my respects because I believe we have so much to learn from our First Nations people, particularly about connection and respect.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:31] Well, we’ve had a few episodes which we’ve explored insomnia. We’ve spoken to Sleep Psychologist Rosemary Clancy. We’ve spoken again to a Sleep Physician from Colorado in the US, Dave McCarty. But today, we are going to be exploring Insomnia from a different perspective. And we’re talking to Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:55] Now, Shankardev has been on the podcast several times. He’s a member of the Advisory Board for Unstress Health, and he’s a good friend. He’s an integrative doctor and general practitioner who specializes in psychotherapy and has for almost 50 years been teaching yoga and meditation. His site, his program, Big Shakti, is a great site if you are wanting to access meditation courses and learn from a real expert in this field.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:01:28] Now, today, we’re going to be talking about Non-Sleep Deep Rest. And you’ll hear what that’s all about. And as I’ve said many times, and I say in the introduction to every one of my podcasts where I pay my respects to the original custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast.
The reason I do that is because I really believe we have so much to learn from the past. Lessons from the past are something we really need to focus on because those lessons have stood the test of time, and they come from wisdom and experience and common sense, and a sense of connection and respect for not just the wholeness of the human body, but our connection to the land in which we live and the whole respect for the planet.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:17] So anyway, I get to say I got a bit distracted there, but it’s interesting to hear that Non-Sleep Deep Rest is a real thing. I mean, sleep and rest are important. And guess what? Yoga Nidra has been a technique that’s been used for thousands of years, and it looks remarkably similar to and sounds remarkably similar to Non-Sleep Deep Rest, which may be a wonderful tool to use if you suffer from insomnia or if even if you don’t you’re having some restless night’s sleep. So I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:57] Welcome back, Shankardev.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:02:58] Thanks, Ron. Good to be here.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:00] Shankardev, we’ve been talking in recent weeks about insomnia, and we’ve been talking to psychologists and sleep physicians, and the advice is generally, “You know if you’re not sleeping well if you have insomnia and it’s taking a long time to get to sleep after 20 minutes, get up, move around and start again if you like.” And that’s never sat well with me. And then I discovered this Non-Sleep Deep Rest thing, which is real and powerful, and it sounded suspiciously like Yoga Nidra, which I know you have been talking about for many, many years. Tell us about Yoga Nidra. Tell us about what it shows and how it can fit in.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:03:47] Sure. Well, Yoga Nidra is a relaxation meditation. And in fact, the term Yoga Nidra is a complex term because it has multiple levels of meaning, as do a lot of these things in the yogi and Sanskrit traditions. In its original sense, Yoga Nidra meant the dissolution of the entire universe. When God went to sleep. That was his Yoga Nidra.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:18] Okay.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:04:19] It was him.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:20] Yeah. Okay, well, well, let’s not go down that path at the moment.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:04:24] But anyway.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:24] That’s a subject for another podcast…
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:04:26] That’s right. But that’s an ancient philosophical ground from which the word Yoga Nidra arose. And the reason that it’s important is that there’s a lot of confusion about how long Yoga Nidra, as a technique, has been around versus as a philosophical concept.
And so basically what happened was that in about the sixties, fifties, and sixties, Swami Satchidananda from the Bihar School of Yoga developed a technique called Yoga Nidra, which he derived from ancient yogic texts that enabled us to take control of the body and the mind through lying down and directing our attention systematically to various parts of the body and the breath and to the mind, and to induce a state of deep, deep relaxation. Very simple, very effective, and became incredibly popular.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:05:27] And nowadays, it is probably one of the most useful and ubiquitous of all the meditation techniques around, and many other schools adopted the methodology, which is a relaxation-based technique. And it’s been a lot of different relaxation techniques which have worked with the body and the breath and so on, and they’ve adapted it and called it their own form of Yoga Nidra. So there are many forms of Yoga Nidra out there. And, you know, each school has its own way of understanding and developing it. And so there are different systems, there are different ways of doing it.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:06:07] The most popular method that I know of is the one from Swami Satchidananda, and it originally is a technique that was designed to take your awareness into a state of conscious sleeping. The word yoga means, in this instance, because the word yoga has multiple levels of meaning, any form of connection to yoga, but here it’s conscious connection with the sleeping state.
So what it meant was that you could go inward in a meditative state while you were lying and explore what would happen to you consciously as your body progressively moved towards the sleep state. And then for very advanced yogis, they could stay awake even when they were in a very deep state of physical sleep in a Delta brainwave state, which indicated deep sleep. But they were able to consciously remain aware of what was happening externally and internally at the same time.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:07:11] It has been adapted now, and it has two main forms. The first is therapeutic, that is, stress reduction and the removal of the negative effects of stress and the incorporation of the positive effects of stress. Allowing you to take stress into your body and manage it well. Digest it, basically. And as a powerful, deep meditation state that allows us to explore very deep states of consciousness.
And that really is something that most people living a normal life can’t do because we are so exhausted by the various forces, you know, of responsibility, the world, the state, the economy, and viruses. And so, you know, with stress. And so, Yoga Nidra becomes a very powerful method of recuperation. Deep rest. So relax, rest, recuperate, recharge, and rejuvenate 5 hours that I think of the therapeutic.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:19] Say it again. Say it again.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:08:20] Relax. Rest. Recharge, rejuvenate. Yeah, rejuvenate. I can’t remember now exactly.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:28] Oh, that’s okay. That’s okay. But listen, you know…
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:08:30] That popped out at the moment.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:31] That’s right. But what’s so interesting about this is because, you know, we get told, and we might pass this message on many times, that sleep is the most important part of the day in the sense of getting doing all those things, recharging, rebooting, rebuilding… Is that another… Can we throw another R in there? Rebuilding. Let’s do rebuilding. You know.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:08:54] Did you say rebooting?
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:55] Rebooting? I did say rebooting.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:08:57] I love the reboot. I like it.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:59] Well, you know the mind sometimes. Well, that’s what sleep’s doing. It’s kind of rebooting and sorting out our memories from the day, what’s worth keeping, what’s not, processing emotions, etc., etc. So when you think of sleep as being the most important part of the day, and you’re not sleeping and waking and when not sleeping and you know, Oh God, this is really important. And yet here I am, not sleeping. Oh, God, I’m getting stressed. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. And I know, Sleep Psychologist Rosemary Clancy said once the prefrontal cortex gets involved in sleep, forget it. You’re not going to sleep. But here’s where Yoga Nidra can bring that into play in a positive way, isn’t it?
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:09:41] That’s right. Absolutely. So sleep is definitely one of the most important arms or legs of the four-legged stool or the five… These unstressing principles that we need to remember and cultivate sleep. And the thing is this insomnia, this extreme insomnia in which people feel they haven’t slept at all. And then there is just ineffective sleep, you know, inefficient sleeping, or the sleep architecture becomes chaotic.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:21] Mm hmm.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:10:22] And that can be because of all the other factors of stress, food, alcohol, and so on. So these all play a role, and they all have to be addressed. And so sleep hygiene is an important part of it. And for some people who are cognitively inflamed, in a sense, you know, that their thinking process and their anxieties are so strong, then the various orthodoxies around insomnia have a value. But I think, as you rightly say, here’s another addition to the momentum that we can use.
And what happens in Yoga Nidra is the technique is described like this. You progressively move from what’s called a gross estate of consciousness, physical consciousness, to subtler states of physicality, physical awareness. So you move into, you know, you work through the body, you go to the breath, you get the mind. And then, if you can go deeper, you can go into your psyche. And then in the yogis would say, you can touch your soul with it because that’s the ultimate aim of this practice.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:11:08] But in insomnia, what happens is that the thinking when the frontal cortex becomes autonomous and out of our control so that we wake up with a thought and we know the moment that thought occurs, it triggers usually adrenaline or a, you know, cortisol stress response. We know that the body’s then triggered into wakefulness. That’s, you know, reduces the melatonin, you know, interferes with the melatonin cortisol cycles. And we all know how difficult it is. It takes time then to reset and go back. And this is where Yoga Nidra works, especially the five stages of Yoga Nidra.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:12:09] The first two stages are particularly important, and I’m talking about the Sachinanda Yoga Nidra tradition that I was trained in. The first two stages of that are very important. First is body rotation, which is common to most forms of Yoga Nidra in which you go through part of the body. It’s common to most relaxation techniques.
You name a part of the body, you go systematically from part to part moving up through the right hand, up through the shoulder, down the right side, then to the left hand, up to the shoulder, down to the left side, to the feet, up the back, and down the front. And you touch the various parts of your body.
And what that does, we believe, is that the triggers, the cortex, the sensory-motor cortex, and moves sort of along the homunculus, what’s called that, you know, it triggers various pathways along the cortex. And so it takes the brain away from the thinking frontal aspect to a most sensory aspect, and that sensory aspect is the key.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:13:14] So, for example, one of the great tricks that I often teach my patients is to feel the whole back pressing against the bed and how good that feels. So that’s a slight hypnotic suggestion. But it works because it’s true. If your back is pressing, you can allow yourself to relax down and feel that you can really let go into the physicality of the moment.
Then you get out of that thinking, you ground yourself back in the body out of thinking. So that kind of movement in trains, the awareness away from being fixed into a kind of obsessive thinking, you know, rumination, and takes it back into a more sensory motor aspect. And then you go into the breath. And the breath, of course…
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:04] Hang on, Shankardev, we’re in stage one of body scanning, more or less, isn’t it?
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:14:09] Body scanning. That’s right.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:10] Body scanning. So that’s stage one. Yeah, just working. Literally working our way through the body. Well, from head to toe, and being aware of your presence in the bed as you interact with the bed. That sensation on the back of your legs in the back, the sheets, the whole experience. That’s stage one. So go on. Now, stage two. [00:14:33][22.4]
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:14:34] Before we go to stage two, Ron, I just say that with all of these techniques, these are meditation techniques, that the more you practice them if you did it on a daily basis while you went to bed. For example, at the moment, you know, part of your sleep hygiene, you lie down, and you go through your body rotation. That in itself starts to form a habit, a good kind of habit, and it creates its own neurological patterns and positive virtual signaling, you know, in terms of up-regulating relaxation of the body so that it becomes more accessible when you need it.
And that’s the problem with all of these things, they’re not pills. The pills, you know, take them. They take over. You no longer. You surrender yourself to the drug. But with these sorts of techniques, the great advantage of this is that the more you practice this kind of body rotation, in particular, you set up a kind of doorway and access into another part of your brain that’s being cultivated and strengthened. It’s exercised like anything that has a great advantage.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:15:43] And then once you’ve done that, as we said, you said stage two is breathing. And the breathwork generally involves following the breath in the nostrils or in the belly and becoming aware of the rhythm of the breath so that each breath in, you want to slow it down, consciously take control, and each breath out, you want to consciously let go and feel that you’re letting go. And we know that of all the ordinary nervous system functions, respiration is the only autonomic system function that has dual control.
It has both autonomic, and it has conscious voluntary control. It usually goes on by itself, which is great for us to think about it. But when you want to, you can use it. And you can use the breath to regulate every other system in your body, which is why in the yogic traditions, breathing techniques called pranayama have been so, so important, and the use of the breath is so important. And prana, of course, in those traditions is thought of as a life force, as is vital energy and the cultivation of that. It’s a great thing in these traditions.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:17:02] So definitely what you would do in this technique, let’s start with that you might follow the breath rising through the two nostrils. There are lots of different patterns you can create, but generally speaking, you don’t want to be doing too much effort. You’re not making too much effort or trying to, you know, breathe too, too, with too much control. You simply want to influence the breath, let’s say, so that it slows down and it starts to initiate a more parasympathetic dominant tone. And that then reduces the cortisol, adrenaline, and sympathetic axis, and you move back towards sleep.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:17:46] Of course, it all depends on what’s going on in your life at the same time. Because, you know, having said this, for some people, they’ve got good reason to worry. And, you know, and sometimes being up at night, you can be creative as well. So getting out of bed, going out, and being creative is good. But for the majority of people, you know, sleep is just generally there haven’t been processed the stresses of the day.
And so these are things that we can do to what we call, let’s say, become self-aware, number one. Self-aware of our own structure and what’s going on. And then induce self-regulation. And self-regulation is the key to conscious self-regulation. So it’s voluntary control. And you know, what they used to say about yoga? Yoga was mind over matter is probably true.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:18:35] Hmm. I mean, breathing is, you know, about ten or 15 years ago, somebody I learned late in my career, but I learned that you could switch on the parasympathetic rest and digest within a minute or two or within a few breaths by taking a slow breath in through the nose for three or 4 seconds, going out through the nose or mouth for three or 4 seconds and holding the breath for a few seconds and repeat that five times and bang, you’ve switched on the rest and digest. And what a great time to do that. Just as you’re lying in bed and also probably just before you eat something is probably a good time as well.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:19:18] And guess what? There’s a whole… And here you are talking about pranayama, which has been around for a long, long time. It’s not like non-sleep deep rest, a.k.a Yoga Nidra resonance frequency breathing is a modern term for pranayama and switching on the parasympathetic. This is why I love it. Because we’ve got so much to learn from lessons from the past. Go on. Stage two is the breathing stage. Let’s go. What are the five stages you mention?
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:19:51] Stage three is the development of the mind. So it would be, for example, there are so many different ways of doing it. So you could, you could work on sensations. So, so what happens is with sleep, the reason that sleep is so important is that what we’re doing is we reduced the sensory load on the brain. That’s the key.
So sensory input is reduced, and meditation is the same. Meditation is about the reduction of sensory input so that you become aware, whereas in sleep, you want to become unconscious and allow your body to just do what it wants to do. In meditation, you want to participate in an internal process just through awareness. Again, self-awareness is the key. And then, you learn these techniques of self-regulation.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:19:52] So stage three is generally about working with feeling states. So it could be inducing a feeling of heat in the body or cold in the body, or pain. You could remember certain painful stimuli or pleasurable stimuli that you learn to create feeling states, and that way, you feel in control. Because one of the problems, one of the things that most people are afraid of is unpleasant feelings, unpleasant emotions, and unpleasant thoughts.
And that gives those thoughts and feelings a lot of power. So by learning to create and destroy a feeling, you know, create a sense of remembering what it felt like to lie, you know, on the beach in the middle of the day, in the hot sun. And you can feel, you know, the sand is below you. And the heat of the sun is on top of you. It’s penetrating your skin. You can feel that heat, and you just feel that you imagine that, and then you switch.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:21:58] And suddenly, it’s become very cold. And you’re lying on the ice, and it’s very, very cold. So it’s kind of hypnotic process of, it’s a self-hypnosis. Or your heavy incredibly heavy. So your arms are so heavy, you can’t move them. They feel like LED pipes, or you feel like you’re lying on feathers. It’s so light. Actually, you actually begin to float off. So you’re creating, you know, you’re using the internal potential of your own imagination to create positive, negative anything. It doesn’t matter. You’re free. And, of course, once you can do that, you have a sense of confidence.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:22:42] So stages three and four would be the visualization of various objects and symbols. Because when you move into… So in stage three, what you’re doing is you’re working with sensations, but internal are sensations because they’ve got nothing to do with the external. There’s nothing going on externally. You’re not in any danger. You’re just experiencing a sensation that you’ve self-created. Then you move to a deeper part of the mind, which is the symbolic, mythic, and archetypal level. And that level, you would take symbols. Very simple.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:23:24] So often, a teacher will construct for more advanced students in particular. We’re not talking about insomnia here so much, but for more advanced students, various symbols would support them to access deep, mythic, symbolic parts of themselves. It could be very primitive because of the psyche.
We’re talking about the psyche here, the psyche has two polarities, basically the animal instinctive, you know, part of the psyche, in the more spiritual part of the psyche. The higher, the lower elements. And so you might help people to access any of those the instinctive, you know, the power of instinct, the power of the various drivers that, you know, that drive humanity, power, sex, money.
Or you might take them into animal symbols in which you try to experience the power of that animal – a cobra, an elephant, an ant, you know, a deer, a gazelle, or a koala bear or kangaroo, depending on where you are. And then also you take them into spiritual symbolism such as, you know, the sun, those luminous symbols, and so on. Those luminous symbols have uplifting, more uplifting, and kind of they direct the consciousness to enlightening parts of us that say.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:24:57] The fifth stage is the ultimate stage, which very few people ever reach, which is what’s called the totally awakened state. And in that state, you are totally conscious, you remain self-aware, and all conditions. So you never lose your awareness of self. Even when your body’s asleep, you’re totally present. So that’s what they would say. The real enlightenment, the total, you know, self-realization and, you know, ultimate state of meditative accomplishment. Takes a little bit of practice.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:25:30] Yeah, but what a journey to go and what a structure to have to play with. I mean, this is, as you say, exercising. It is the key to getting better at it? And but even those first two stages, as we well, you know, as actually three and four are pretty, pretty powerful. That’s true. That’s really, you know, for us to, you know, as we’re lying there in bed, stressed by the fact that we’re not sleeping and preoccupied with whatever has happened. And as you say, it’s often entirely appropriate that we do that. But I think when we talk about insomnia, it’s something that has become ingrained over more than three months of at least three nights a week. I think it’s defined as…
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:26:19] Yes.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:21] …that, you know, you’re doing this well, you know, you need to start forming new habits. And this is what I love about this particular approach it gives you so many tools in that toolbox to play around with.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:26:35] Absolutely. And so stage one alone is enough for a lot of people.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:40] Yeah.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:26:41] That’ll do it. That will do it because you’re really getting into the brain’s sensorimotor cortex. And I think. In my experience, most people fall asleep well before they finish the complete process. Hmm. Those are most people.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:26:57] Well, non-sleep deep rest. What do you think of that, and how is that different from Yoga Nidra?
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:27:04] Well, I think what they’ve done, ‘Huberman’, isn’t it? What’s the name of that guy?
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:08] I’m not sure of the name. I’ve heard of Huberman.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:27:11] Huberman.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:11] Huberman. Yeah, he’s terrific. Andrew Huberman from Stanley.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:27:16] Well, he said in his podcast that he doesn’t like the word Yoga Nidra.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:22] Yes. I’m sure he doesn’t.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:27:23] It’s very confusing, you know? F*cking hell. Don’t beat me out on that one.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:27:29] No, I see. I think that is actually so interesting, isn’t it? Like this is part of what is the problem. You know, people come up with an idea, and they want to own it. And when they find out that, and I think Andrew Huberman is fantastic, I have to say, I mean, it’s very often his programs are very intense. I know I’ve been drinking a lot less alcohol since he did that whole thing on alcohol. But this is an interesting one because non-sleep deep rest, you know, if that’s his thing, and he finds out, hang on, this is something we’ve been taught that have been talked about for thousands of years. Maybe I’m not as special as I thought I was I think he is because he puts a neuroscientific perspective on it.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:28:16] Look, it’s what happened to all of yoga. In the West.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:28:20] Yeah.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:28:20] He got planted in the soil of the West. Now, these ideas and concepts and techniques and they’ve got reduced, you know, they would cannibalized. And because of that, you know, as you say, look, the human body, foibles, frailties, you know, whatever it is, you know, the quirks of humanity, the ego. We want to think we want to make it our own, you know, special, you know, American, Australian, whatever.
And so we lose access. Not everyone, of course, because it’s out there, but the good thing is that it makes access to a lot more people. Yeah. The negative thing is, you know, you’re only getting you’re not getting the capacity, the deep breaths, you’re getting the rest component, but you’re not getting all those other levels of movement from state to state.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:28:23] Yes.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:28:23] You see, which has potential, which strength. And so instead of just having a tool that’s a Band-Aid, you can have a tool that’s promoting more and more power in the individual, a greater control or a greater sense of what we’re capable of. And that’s the great value of it, you know.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:29:34] Yeah. And I think…
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:29:36] Not just therapy. Yeah.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:29:38] And again, again, I think this kind of lesson from the past, and you know I do there’s some acknowledgment to the country at the beginning of every podcast, and I do it because I want I feel we have so much to learn from our past and in particular about connection and respect. And I know you’ve said many times that yoga and meditation are, in other words, for connection. But First Nations people or traditional cultures have such an, they’ve embedded those two concepts of connection and respect into every aspect of life.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:30:17] Without it, you don’t survive. The other thing to say about Yoga Nidra is that it has application as a restorative function. So if you didn’t sleep well and you woke up in the morning, and you were tired, you could put on a Yoga Nidra recording, find one that you like, and within 20, 30 minutes, you will feel that you’ve had the equivalent of several hours of sleep. You feel restored.
We know that napping, conscious napping, as long as it’s not more than, you know, an hour or so and you’re not going into these deep states of sleep, you’re going to the more superficial level, a very helpful in restoring function. In some ways, of course, you want to be careful about. The problem is that if you do drift into a deep sleep, then you knock yourself out of balance. So you have to use a recording, and you have to use half an hour, 20 minutes, or 30 minutes is the right amount.
And that will give you, you know, like that deep rest. You’ll restore your nervous system back, and you’ll accumulate rest, basically, versus accumulating stress and tension. So you can do that in the morning. You can do that in the afternoon. I don’t recommend that people do a complete Yoga Nidra practice before sleep because they’ll usually wake up refreshed.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:31:47] From the Yoga Nidra.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:31:49] From the Yoga Nidra. Often. It goes for everyone. It’s different. You see, you’ve got it’s a very individualized process. These are not standardized pills, you know. So we do need to be aware of, you know, how self-awareness is the foundation. You know, how is it affecting me? What do I need? What’s working for me? But I think stage one and stage two are not a complete Yoga Nidra generally. You know, and you would do that without a recording.
The best thing is you would have a very short recording that gets you in. Like, for example, on our website, we do have two Yoga Nidras and a relaxation and meditation program. And in the relaxation meditation program called 3Z Steps, we have a short Yoga Nidra attached to that, and we have two Yoga Nidras. One is for beginners, Yoga Nidra, only Body, and Breath. And then, we have a more advanced Yoga Nidra on the checklist.
And we’re going to build more of those because, you know, we’re going to create more therapeutically applied practices. But I think that once you get the idea of it, the idea, you know, once you understand what you’re doing, you’re better off not using a recording, but generally speaking, for the practice, most people need a recording. Otherwise, they will fall deeply asleep, and their brains are not programmed yet to wake up at, you know, 20 or 30 minutes. You know, they will keep sleeping on if they don’t have a recording.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:33:24] Yeah, well, that particular three introductory three-way thing I know is a CD that we’ve had in our surgery at the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre for the last, I think, 25 or 30 years actually since we’ve known each other and it’s still very, very popular amongst our patients, you know, it’s just so accessible. So, I guess the message is it’s a powerful tool to use during the day or on waking if you haven’t slept well, but if you’re lying there in bed and you’re not sleeping or if you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s a tool to use.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:34:01] That’s right.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:34:02] As a way of engaging with that. That’s right.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:34:05] And so what you would do before you do the getting up type of routine, running around, you know, make it make yourself tired again. Some people like to shower or, you know, relax their bodies and stretch and then go back to bed. But before you do that, you might just lie down, recognize the brain is overtaxed and overactive, come into the physicality of the body, and rotate the awareness around from point to point.
So you work from you learn it routine. For us, I always start with the right-hand thumb, then the first finger, second finger, third finger, little finger, wrist, elbow, shoulder side, waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf ankle, little, little to sort of the toes, the left-hand thumb first, second, third, fourth fingers, palm still to go up. And then, down the left side, you touch each part with your awareness.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:35:04] So the awareness, when consciousness makes contact with a part of the body, then the, you know, it’s feeling that part. Then that’s a neurological stimulus. So that goes down through the hips and knees, calves, and so back to the toes. And then up the back is the right buttock, left buttock, right, shoulder left. I mean, it’s a process. And then so you really have to you’ve got to use you’ve got to start to pull the awareness away from the gravity of worry and anxiety and rumination, you know, Oh, I’m not going to sleep, blah, blah, blah.
You know, some sort of catastrophic self-hypnosis, a hypnotic process that you’re going to create more and more stress for yourself by thinking you pull yourself out of that. And he goes through a ritual. These rituals and these rituals have a form. And the forms are designed to take you into certain states, away from stress, into relaxation. So you do that at night. Give it a go. See what happens.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:07] Beautiful. And don’t give up.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:36:09] Don’t give up if you can’t do it properly the first time. It takes a bit of practice.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:14] Yes. Well, listen. What, thank you. Because this is just as soon as I read about it and heard about it, the next thing was I contacted you and said, We just got to talk about this, and we’ll have links to your website for that Yoga Nidra. It’s something that I know we’ve used for all of that time. And I think it’s one of the reasons why when I’m not sleeping well, and then you know what happens? It happens to us all. Yeah. You know, rather than stressed out about it, I just think. Okay. And when I heard Rosemary Clancy say once the prefrontal cortex kicks in, your sleep is done. So this is just providing me with an alternate thing. Yeah.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:36:54] Shankardev, thank you so much today for joining us. As always.
Dr. Shankardev Saraswati: [00:36:58] As a great pleasure.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:37:00] So there it is. I always love talking to Shankardev. That’s why I always get him. I learn so much whenever I talk to him. As I mentioned, he’s on the Advisory Panel of our Unstress Health Platform and Community. And it’s really I’m looking forward in the New Year to maybe even doing some live workshops with him together for our Unstress Health Community.
But Yoga Nidra and it’s such a simple and powerful tool, and that’s really what Unstress Health is all about. Creating just gathering together people and things and information, which is easy, accessible, cheap, and profound. It’s at your fingertips. You know, as I said, I’ve said before, is the world we live in becomes increasingly more complicated. I truly believe the solutions to better health are remarkably simple.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:37:58] And what can be more simple and accessible than body scanning and controlling your breath, as we’ve talked about on so many other podcasts? It’s why we at Unstress Health believe that ‘Sleep’ and ‘Breathe’ are absolutely the foundational pillars. And once you get them right, you will have the physical, mental, and emotional energy and resilience to make all the right decisions about what you’re going to need, how you’re going to move, and be able to control how you think, and Yoga Nidra and those five stages.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:38:32] It is so interesting to see these new ideas of non-sleep deep rest become so… Well, will become. If you haven’t heard of it, you will. It will become more popular. But it’s been around for thousands of years in Yoga Nidra. And well, at least since the 50s and 60s with Swami Sachinanda Saraswati, who is intimately connected, it has influenced Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
When I first met Shankadev 25 or 30 years ago, he was Swami. Dr. Shankardev Saraswati, as I said, he’s been teaching yoga and meditation for almost 50 years and I’ve known Shankardev for 30 years. We’ve had his CDs, so get on that Big Shakti website and download that Yoga Nidra and start putting it in, including it in your toolbox of things to do.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: [00:39:10] And on those nights when you’re not sleeping well. And remember what Rosemary Clancy said. Once your prefrontal cortex kicks in, and hey, it does for all of us, you know, we ruminate over the day’s events and stressors, and that’s normal. But if it’s happening night after night after night and you want to regain control, then, hey, body rotations, breathing internal sensations by focussing on hot, cold, heavy feathers, pain, and then visual visualization of objects, symbols that are spiritual or getting into the animal or instinctive side of things, and then achieving eventually a total awakening. What a wonderful tool to have. We’ll have links to that, of course, on our show notes. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.
This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. This content is not intended and should not be construed. As medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.