We now meet at Winter Solstice, finding ourselves together on the shortest day and longest night of the year and truly in the heart of winter. Nature is dormant. We might be finding that our bodies are continuing to want to slow down alongside this natural rhythm, but that life is amping up as society pushes us towards the festive period.
For many of us, this may come with added stresses and pressures and the big lights and social events may challenge those of us who might be feeling more drawn to hibernation and solitude.
Holistically supporting our nervous system during these busier periods can help us to truly rest and support ourselves emotionally with these added pressures, for example with a form of guided meditation called yoga nidra and through adding herbs referred to as ‘nervines’ to our diet.
The wonderful benefits of yoga nidra are going to be shared through the wise words of three of our Collective Members: Marie Williams, Georgina Huggins and Lynn Carter.
Yoga Nidra means ‘yogic sleep’. It takes the brain from active beta waves to alpha waves, which connect the conscious to the subconscious and leads to the release of dopamine which helps to calm the mind, enabling it to move more easily towards the dreamy, deeply relaxed delta brain waves that most often occur whilst sleeping.
During yoga nidra you are in what’s often referred to as a ‘liminal space’ – neither asleep nor awake, but an ‘in-between’ place, an ‘awakened sleep.’ This might allow you to experience timelessness and spaciousness from the everyday consciousness.
The journey of yoga nidra guides us through the various different layers of our being, systemically settling them one by one, moving inward from the outermost layer of our being to the innermost subtle layer – our inherent nature / our truest self.
This can provide space and relief from the everyday rumination of the mind, which is often helpful for those suffering with mental health conditions that might prevent them from sleeping well, yoga nidra thus allowing them that space to rest.
The rotation of consciousness also encourages the physical body to relax through increased awareness of the body, which shows up in brain regions associated with somatic experiencing and a down regulation in regions associated with executive functioning.
It can simply feel blissfully divine to lay down and truly relax for a while and it’s said that one hour of nidra can be as restorative as four hours of sleep. Alongside this, studies have shown that nidra can help:
- Ease insomnia
- Decrease anxiety
- Alleviate stress
- Reduce PTSD, chronic pain and chemical dependency
- Help women suffering from menstrual issues
- Heighten awareness and focus
- Transform negative habits, behaviours and ways of thinking
- Foster feelings of peace, calm, and clarity
There is also an opportunity to set a sankalpa (affirmation/intention) to help create meaningful change from within. When deciding on your affirmation keep it simple and create a phrase that is in the present and positive, as if it has already happened. For example: “I am confident” or “I am peaceful.” You can use this to help move towards whatever you would like to have more of in your life.
Nervines nourish the central nervous system and help to restore balance physically while also supporting the body with stress and anxiety. They can help with restless sleep and by easing those ruminating thoughts that can run wild, whilst also reducing muscle tension.
Here are some examples of milder herbal nervines which you can take easily and *safely by brewing into a tea. If you’d like to see my tips for infusing herbal teas, then visit my previous blog.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
- Skullcap (Scutellaria)
- Milky oats (Avena sativa)
Winter Solstice is a time for really pausing and taking a moment to find and truly appreciate the stillness within, amongst the busy, hectic movement that surrounds us all. It’s also a time for community and celebrating connectedness, not just to friends and family, but to the earth.
Step gently by trying to buy locally, sustainably sourced gifts and perhaps by choosing to buy from charity shops or even by making the decision not to buy gifts at all. Light a candle to acknowledge the return of the sun, as from the 22nd onwards we step into the waxing/lighter half of the year as the days once again begin to lengthen.
The wheel as ever keeps on turning.
Words by Heather.
Connecting people to nature.
* All herbal medicines should be taken with care. Please seek advice from a trained medical herbalist and if harvesting your own plants, please do so sustainably and cautiously.