With so many meditation offerings and trainings available today, why pick iRest® yoga nidra meditation?
My personal experience with iRest began in 2013 when Dr. Richard Miller and his team of assistants came over from the US for the first wave of trainings in Australia. I owe a debt of gratitude to Fuyuko Sawamura-Toyota for having the foresight to encourage them over to this part of the world, forever impacting my life and those of so many other students who have embraced the practice.
I now have the privilege of assisting at iRest teacher trainings and attending many retreats - and I see over and over how the simplicity of this yoga nidra meditation protocol allows people to discover themselves after years, sometimes a lifetime, of searching. It offers practical ways of “coming home” to our authentic, unshakeable ground of Being. And truly is a practice for every moment of life. Here’s what a few participants from recent Level I trainings in Australia have had to say about iRest:
If you’re thinking of embarking on formal meditation training, or maybe trying meditation for your own personal practice, here are a few points that highlight what makes iRest stand-out from what can feel like an ocean of offerings:
We also learn how to meet, greet and welcome the physical and energetic bodies, how to be with difficult emotions, thoughts and beliefs and not become identified with them. We explore joy, peace, well-being and the sense of I-ness which claims all our experiences. (Setting it apart from traditional yoga nidra, there is an entire step in the protocol which is dedicated to the exploration of this filtering lens of I-ness).
Ultimately, iRest can be anything from a “study” of how to become a more fully-functional, resilient human being who knows how to meet life authentically, to a complete path of meditation for enlightened, awakened living. How you bring the practice to life is entirely up to you.
2. It’s an Evidence-Based Meditation Protocol. The iRest protocol has its origins
in research conducted at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre (WRAMC) in 2006
on the efficacy of iRest yoga nidra meditation for treating soldiers suffering from
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). iRest is based on ancient yogic meditation practices but was modernised into this 10-step protocol by Richard Miller, who is himself a clinical psychologist, researcher and yogic scholar.
This initial research study at WRAMC was so successful that it’s now part of the weekly treatment program at the Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed. It has since been endorsed by the US Army Surgeon General as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and, to date, there are nearly 30 research studies on the effects of using iRest in healing trauma, chronic pain management, sleep intervention, depression, and more.
iRest offers a unique combination of ancient teachings that have very successfully been modernised by drawing upon the latest understandings from neuroscience and psychology. Thanks to Richard Miller, the practice continues to evolve and subtly adapt as new understandings within science unfold.
Click here for a complete list of iRest Yoga Nidra research.
3. iRest is Trauma Sensitive. As mentioned above, Richard Miller developed a protocol
that has been proven to help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. Part of what makes the
practice trauma-sensitive is the focus on developing a strong sense of inner resource -
a ground of safety and security that we learn to nourish and come back to whenever it’s needed. This inner resource is grounded somatically until it becomes part of our everyday life, readily accessible. With this in place, we may then be ready to meet what feels broken and in need of healing.
iRest teachers are also trained to use trauma-sensitive language that is very permissive for the student or client. Instead of telling a student what to focus on or what emotion/belief to explore, the student themselves decides what they will greet and welcome, and only when they feel ready to make that inquiry. While the teacher may at first seem to be guiding the practice, it is more accurate to say the teacher safely holds the space while the student or client takes the wheel - so when you practice iRest, you are definitely in the driver’s seat!
We can often feel out of control in life, especially after suffering trauma. The entire iRest protocol helps us re-establish proper relationship with our feelings, emotions, thoughts and beliefs so that we keep them in healthy perspective as messengers telling us when we are on or off course - in or out of harmony with ourselves.
(Level II study includes training on how to offer practices for special populations such as those suffering from PTSD, sexual abuse, chronic pain and more. Richard Miller’s book - The iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma) is a great resource for more information on using iRest for trauma, and to get a sense of how the practice works.
4. iRest is Mindfulness ++. Of course when you’re meditating, feelings, emotions, and thoughts
have a way of flooding into the foreground, seemingly “getting in the way” of the practice.
With mindfulness, we learn to acknowledge these movements, noticing them, witnessing
them as phenomena within Awareness.
But sometimes noticing and coming back to breath, for example, just isn’t enough. Isn’t it true that some emotions and beliefs seem to be lifelong companions? And in iRest we open to the view that maybe, just maybe, these visitors have something they need to impart - some message perhaps about how we’re living our life, how we may be off course or off-centre, and pointers to Awareness itself.
With iRest we learn how to proactively engage with these messengers in ways that welcome them fully into the practice - into our lives as our friends who may need an ear. We learn
how to use opposites as a way of embracing the entirety of experience - the full range of
emotion and cognition acknowledging their existence along a continuum of expression. We also learn how to skilfully invite these visitors in for conversation. There are a range of tools on offer for use when and if the student senses this is the right course for them.
5. Connecting in Co-Meditation. What does this mean? In simple terms, during trainings we
learn how to safely and skilfully meet another human being, moment to moment, in one-on- one co-meditation. Applying the protocol, the practitioner becomes the container for the unfolding of the client/student’s meditation experience. We become the listener, the witness of their experience, offering potential avenues of exploration that they might use if they decide it is in service of their practice.
I can honestly say that for me this is the most powerful aspect of my work with iRest in the community. This way of using the protocol has profoundly impacted my ability to meet another’s difficulties from an inexhaustible ground of wholeness. The simple act of being fully met, seen, and heard without judgement or agenda often has a profound impact on the people who come to see me in this capacity. And, in a sense, aren’t we always in co-meditation with ourselves? So this is an essential part of learning to meet ourselves in this same way - freeing ourselves from guilt, blame and self-judgement.
6. High Degree of Training. The iRest Teacher Certification Program is, on average, a two-year process. So whenever you attend a class or course run by a certified teacher, you can be confident that they have undergone a supervised training process that ensures a certain standard of embodied understanding of iRest. There are two levels of training as well as writing, teaching and reading assignments, and a minimum attendance of two retreats/immersions over the course of study. There are only a handful of senior iRest trainers worldwide, and they have all spent many years steeping in this meditation practice.
Finding the meditation “system” that’s right for you is an important decision - not one that’s to be considered lightly. Becoming a certified iRest teacher was one of the best decisions of my life. More than just study, it provided a constructive path to embrace self-compassion and release judgment. It led me to embodied understanding of living meditation in everyday life - a complete perspective change that lets me live and breath in a way that’s much more harmonious with my authentic self. But it all starts with just one step - attending a local class, picking up that book about iRest, listening to some practices on youtube, or going to immersion or retreat. I encourage you to try iRest on - see if it fits in a way that works for you!
Una Hubbard is a Certified iRest® Teacher based in Wellington, NZ. She’s been offering classes, workshops and co-meditation sessions since 2013 and regularly assists as Staff Manager at iRest Trainings in Australia and New Zealand. She has teamed up with Neal Ghoshal to promote and share the path of iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation in NZ: