Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Author Kathryn Beet: Evidence Based Yoga Nidra Heals what Ails You

(Lewis Carroll's sketch for Alice in Wonderland)
 "Let's pretend there's a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze so that we can get through. Why it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare...And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright, silvery mist".  (Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll)

M ost days I forget any one of a number of things: my yoga card, my umbrella, or socks, at my home away from home, Yoga Space Toronto. Maybe that's just because of the sheer number of hours I spend at the studio. Or, maybe it has something to do with the slumbering ease I feel when I walk through those doors. You could call that feeling a kind of "nidra"; a diffuse awareness that day after day, my lost items will reveal themselves in some nook, some basket... and that the front desk will thoughtfully tuck my yoga card underneath their workspace yet again. I've come to trust that Yoga Space is all about making room for restful awareness; even if it means sometimes we're ambling around in a perforated, yoga-induced, dreamstate.

Founder and director Kathryn Beet began Yoga Space 15 years ago in a quiet alleyway on Bellwoods Ave in Toronto. Now expanded beyond its original space, the luminous hardwood floors on Ossington Ave are marked by a continuous, steady stream of staff and practitioners that have been with the studio for years. Kathryn is a sensitive, highly-intuitive and skilled teacher whose teaching style is a powerful blend of intelligent use of energy, and rigorous demand for the hard-facts; the evidence of the therapeutic benefits of asana. She prefers discussions that stay grounded in the physical realities of individual bodies, providing detailed verbal instruction, highly-effective hands-on augmentation, and definitive demonstration. She has been providing Yoga Therapy for individuals in clinical settings for 10 years. Gleaning insight from the many teachers, therapists and artists she has worked with over the years, she has created a unique fusion of yoga therapies in Therapeutic Yoga, which she has been cultivating at YogaSpace for 4 years. 

I had a rainy day chat with Kathryn Beet about her own practice; and discovered her growing interest in Yoga Nidra. I immediately asked if she would be willing to contribute her ideas as a guest author. In the following post, Kathryn explores the mounting scientific evidence in support of the long tradition of Yoga Nidra, its therapeutic benefits, and its transformative potential.
~ ~ ~

Evidence Based Yoga Nidra Heals what Ails You
by Kathryn Beet

(Photo of Savasana, Corpse Pose, covered in a blanket)

Y oga Nidra, which means sleep of the Yogi, is an ancient, sacred yogic practice of meditation that can lead to profound changes in both mind and body.  It is a vital resource for transforming physical health and reshaping personal, interpersonal and professional relationships.  The origins of Yoga Nidra can be traced back to the ancient sacred teachings of Yoga and Tantra.  The practice has been revived over the last half century by Yogis, such as Swami Satchidananda and Nischala Joy Devi, to name a few.  Most recently, clinical psychologist Richard Miller has effectively demonstrated the indubitable healing potential of Yoga Nidra to mainstream North America.

Founder of the Integrative Restoration Institute in California, creator of iRest Yoga Nidra and author of Yoga Nidra, A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing, Miller serves as a research consultant, researching the healing effects of Yoga Nidra on diverse populations including soldiers, veterans, college students, children, seniors, the homeless and people suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, chemical dependancy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD).

In 2006, the United States Department of Defense conducted research on the iRest Yoga Nidra protocol with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing PTSD.  Following the study, the Deployment Health Center integrated Yoga Nidra into it's weekly treatment program for soldiers. Yoga Nidra classes have subsequently been set up in treatment facilities throughout the U.S.

The Multiple Sclerosis Institute and the Mountain State Tumor Institute in the U.S, having previously conducted research on the helpfulness of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction on patients with chronic illness, recently completed a similar study on the effects of Yoga Nidra with the same group.  The study concluded that Yoga Nidra is an effective stress reduction technique for cancer and M.S patients.  Furthermore, Yoga Nidra is easier to perform than MBSR for many chronically ill patients with restricted physical capabilities.

While Miller's research has established a strong foundation for the integration of Yoga Nidra meditation into mainstream treatment centres, clinics and Yoga centres throughout the U.S., his work as a teacher is spreading the benefits of the practice well beyond the U.S. border.  To date, his organization boasts iRest Yoga Nidra teacher graduates throughout the U.S. Canada, Chile, Iceland and Australia.

Yoga Nidra is an easy to learn, simple to practice, tool that increases well being and can be used for a lifetime.  In a typical session, the participant lies comfortably supported on their back, eyes closed, as the facilitator guides them through a seven stage process.

Here in Toronto, Yoga teacher Fran Brunke, and Yoga teacher/Psychologist, Andrew Kun, both graduates of the iRest training program, teach Yoga Nidra to people from all walks of life.  Kun, who has completed advanced studies in iRest, incorporates Yoga Nidra into his busy clinical practice at the Transformational Arts College.  He also trains Yoga teachers and psychologists to facilitate Yoga Nidra sessions.  A gentle, unassuming person, Kun spoke to me about his passion for sharing Yoga Nidra both with people interested in personal healing, as well as those interested in healing others.

Like our American neighbors, Canadians prefer to have their faith in sacred esoteric teachings supported by a little scientific evidence.  And so after thousands of years, supported by Richard Miller's strong evidence based research and a growing army of Facilitators, Yoga Nidra is becoming a livingroom word and a commonly sought after healing modality, offered in treatment centers, clinics and Yoga studios across Canada.

(Anantasayanam,  Gupta Temple, Deogarh - 5th C.E)

• For more information regarding Kathryn Beet, her class schedule and upcoming calendar for Therapeutic Yoga, please consult

Yoga Space will host a Yoga Nidra Facilitator Training
with Yoga Teacher and Psychotherapist Andrew Kun
The workshop runs for 4 Fridays, January 14 through February 4, 9-5pm.  $650 + hst
To register, call the studio at 416.516.9940.


  1. Hello Priya:

    Recently stumbled upon your blog and have been following it with interest. Thanks for the many thinkers you have profiled and conversed with!

    Particularly enjoy your emphasis on highlighting the intellectual rigor underpinning Yoga.. a facet that often gets ignored thanks to the probably well meaning but mostly mischaracterized understanding of Yoga as something for and by the "new agey" types in popular culture.

    Re: Yoga Nidra in particular, as I have since come to understand, Swami Satyananda Saraswathi and his Bihar School of Yoga deserve full credit for popularizing it and perhaps even formulating it in its current avatar. My father learned it in India as part of a retreat a few years back and taught it to the rest of our family. Its truly phenomenal. So I naturally read the article with interest.

    The only somewhat dischordant note was struck at the very end when I saw a facilitator workshop advertised for $650..

    While I do understand the ground realities of the economics of yoga particularly in the west and I am the first to admit that Yoga Nidra is definitely worth its weight in gold, it still gave me pause that this wonderful practice should be rendered so inaccessible for financial reasons.

    I'm not quite certain that it is something that can or indeed should be "workshoppable" at such a hefty price tag but am only tentatively sure of what the options could be. Anyway just thought I'd put it out there as some food for thought since I'm sure I'm not the only one who might be feeling this way.

    Do keep up the good work. You have a very engaging blog here!

  2. Hi Janani, thank you for reading the blog and writing your comments. i couldn't agree with you more re. yoga and commodity. for me, my problem with commodity is how it seems to trigger a tightrope-like performance of excess and access in communities. Commodity exaggerates the worst feelings of "lack" in everyone. and i never saw that feeling do anyone any good...But, to be honest, I think everyone, no matter what you do to earn your keep, struggles with the devil's bargain. Most of us choose to keep our heads down, staying silent in what political theorist Norman Geras might call "The Contract of Mutual Indifference". (awesome book btw - worth checking out) How much do we take in order to make daily life sustainable? I would argue that certain decisions take their toll on a human being in more ways than are quantifiable... I figure, that if you take more than you give you eventually wind up unhappy, quite simply...somehow parched and impermeable... But those are personal decisions that every individual navigates (hopefully to the benefit of their communities). I figure the best I can do is to feature interviews/events as they happen so that people can just watch it all unfold. i feel quite lucky to have a chance to chat with the people who've spent their time answering my questions/writing their ideas...God knows, the yoga community is the better for their generosity. ok be very well, pt