By LSF Yoga Practitioner, Leah Diaz
Leah’s passion in life is helping others find true health and wellness. She is a 200 RYT, currently finishing her 500-hour advanced training with a focus on trauma-informed therapeutic yoga and meditation practices. She is iRest level 1 certified and has been leading this type of practice for several years now. She has a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness coaching and will soon be starting a Master of Arts in clinical mental health counseling program. She currently teaches regular classes at Resound Yoga Studio and holds events and workshops at both Resound Yoga Studio and Embrace Yoga Studio in Fayetteville, NC. To contact her, she is searchable on https://www.yogaalliance.org and https://www.irest.org/teachers and can be reached by email at LeahRaeDiaz@gmail.com.
With this month being Brain Injury Awareness month, it is important to recognize that there are many types of effects on those who have had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are also many types of treatments that are available to help those with a TBI. One modality or tool that may be especially helpful for someone who has had a brain injury is called iRest.
What is iRest?
iRest is a trauma-informed Yoga Nidra meditation that was created by psychologist Dr. Richard miller. It is a practice designed for people who are dealing with PTSD, trauma, chronic pain or illness, stress, depression, anxiety, and other things that bring discomfort or unhappiness to daily life.
This practice works with the many layers of awareness that we all experience. But sometimes we have barriers between these layers when an injury occurs in the physical body, the emotional mind, or in the centers of the brain.
How can iRest help?
When the body feels safe and at ease, the mind can take in information in a new way. When cortisol levels in the body decrease, the ability of the prefrontal cortex to function at higher levels increases.
iRest creates a safe space for the mind while working through some of the negative beliefs or stories that are created by trauma. When someone with trauma (especially a TBI) practices iRest, they are utilizing something called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to create new experiences when faced with stimuli that may have previously caused distress. In essence, bridges are being built over the gaps, the canyons even, that were left by the traumatic injury.
What you can expect with iRest:
Like all things that make us stronger and more resilient, iRest is a practice and it takes some effort and openness to achieve full results. However, most practitioners have reported a positive change of mindset and even increased physical ease following the first session.
I like to say that there are only two rules to iRest: 1. You can’t do it wrong. 2. All is welcome. When you show up for iRest, there aren’t any expectations of you. You only do what you’re comfortable with and whatever happens is perfect just as it is.
Suffering happens when we want our circumstances to be different than what they are. It is okay to want things to change, but it is helpful to know that our happiness doesn’t have to depend on that change actually happening. You are the unchanging blue sky. Everything else is the weather; just passing through. The sky might look different at times, there may be heavy rain or dangerous winds, but YOU are the unchanging space behind all of it. This practice will help you get to deeper layers of your awareness and come back to your essence.
If you’ve never practiced Yoga Nidra before, it can seem a little intimidating. What if I have never meditated before? What if I fall asleep? That’s okay! Think of it like putting your computer on sleep mode to run updates. The screen may be dimmed or even off… but there is a lot going on within the brain of the computer. IRest is the same way. Come as you are, and welcome what comes.
Lone Survivor Foundation provides a no-cost Post-traumatic Growth Program to help service members, veterans, and their families recover from combat trauma. To learn more about our program, please visit www.lsfprograms.org.