About Suí Practices
What is Breathwork?
'Breathwork is mindfulness on speed. Coherent breath practices are the easiest and fastest way into a meditative state.' Derval Dunford
According to a paper by Dr. Richard Brown in March 2013 Neuroanatomic and brain imaging studies reveal breath-activated pathways to all major networks involved in emotion regulation, cognitive function, attention, perception, subjective awareness, and decision making.
Dr Brown, a professor of psychiatry, and a breath researcher for over twenty years states that specific breath practices have been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder.
In a 2016 paper by Dr. Brown and Dr. Gerbarg they state that although prescription medications (eg, anxiolytics, antidepressants, antipsychotics) can dampen overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), they cannot correct underactivity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
You can however learn to change your heart rhythm pattern to create balance in your physiology. This is called coherence; a scientifically measurable state characterized by increased order and harmony in our mind, emotions and body. Coherent breathing dampens the sympathetic nervous system but also actually boosts the parasympathetic nervous system.
Having trained with world renowned Doctors Gerbarg and Brown, and volunteered on many of their global teacher training courses, a lot of Derval's programmes are based on the Doctor's work. Derval designs ways to bring coherence to the mind/body system through a variety of simple breathwork, movement and creative practices.
Derval's practices are simple, effective, restorative, deeply relaxing, fun and easy to learn. They are also very grounding, always connecting nature and inner nature.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Also know as NSDR (Non- Sleep Deep Rest), a term coined by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman Yoga Nidra is a paradox, it is yogic sleep and yet it is awakening. It is the most relaxed state of awareness, an experience of timelessness, and may be a portal to deep sleep when a track is designed specifically for this purpose.
Yoga Nidra is an ancient yogic practice. There are several traditional approaches to Yoga Nidra, each with it’s own specific structure. Some traditions use sankalpa, which is similar to an intention, others do not. Most approaches to Yoga Nidra tend to use broadly similar structuring. Suí Yoga Nidra draws creatively from a variety of traditional and contemporary approaches, making it a subtle, natural blend of profound relaxation, and connection with inner wisdom. Suí Yoga Nidra offers simple, effortless, rich practices.
How does it work?
You are guided effortlessly through a series of subtle steps using the natural inbuilt stages of sleep to access deep relaxation, conscious sleep, or deep sleep. In other words you have everything you need, you just need to be given a little direction, then you can find our own way. Yoga Nidra has been referred to as an adaptogenic meditative practice, in other words your body and mind adapts the practice to suit your needs e.g. if you need to snooze, you will snooze, if you need to give the mind a rest, you will feel it settle, if you need to connect with your own deep wisdom, you can. Everyone’s experience is different and each time you practice, you will have a different experience.
Yoga nidra, for me, is the path, the means, and the realization of True Nature and our interconnectedness with all of life. Many consider yoga nidra a technique. I don’t. At its heart it is the exquisite embodiment of who we are meant to be and opens us to true authenticity, spontaneity, vulnerability, intimacy, and the realization of our true Self. It reveals how we are each an expression of the totality of life, and that we are intimately connected with every other expression of life…’
Preparation for Yoga Nidra/NSDR practice:
“The physical posture in yoga nidra should be so comfortable that you forget the existence of the body so that it can almost be regarded as merely as ‘shell’ or ‘husk’ of the mind.” (Satyananda Saraswati 2004).
NB To practice Sui Yoga Nidra is essential to be snug, well supported and completely comfortable. Derval suggests using a small pillow under the neck, maybe a support under the knees to allow the back to relax, a warm comfortable surface to lie on and cosy blankets.
Before the practice:
It is important to give yourself a few moments to get your nidra ‘nest’ (mat, blankets, cushions etc.) ready, so that you don’t feel rushed.
After the practice:
It is essential to take a few minutes after listening to tracks to give yourself time and space to emerge from the internal, and to re-engage with the external.
It is important to move slowly with awareness, to really take your time, and to support your lower back, as you move from lying down to standing.
After practicing yoga nidra it is really important to 'ground' yourself. There are many simple ways to do this before you re-enter an everyday state of consciousness and re-engage with the outside world. The most effective way is connecting with the senses, but especially the sense of taste and smell. Eating a piece of dark chocolate, dates or some crystalized ginger works well.
Using Yoga Nidra for sleep
“Sleep is the best meditation” The Dalai Lama
Yoga Nidra can be used as a portal to deep nourishing sleep. What the Dalai Lama is referring to in the quote above, of course is restful nourishing sleep. The type of sleep that you wake up feeling refreshed from. Not the restless sleep that many of us experience, that very common, unsatisfactory sleep experience, which leaves us feeling tired in the mornings, instead of energised.
When you practice Yoga Nidra in bed at night, it methodically relaxes body and mind, therefore creating the right conditions for sleep to come. Repetition of a bedtime practice creates an association in mind and body with falling asleep, which means that the practice becomes even more effective.
What is Mindfulness?
"Focus of attention in the present moment, the only one you can really live in, is… at the heart of the art of doing anything well. Focus means not dwelling on the past, either on mistakes or glories; it means not being so caught up in the future, either its fears or its dreams, that my full attention is taken from the present."
Timothy Gallway, The inner game of tennis.
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention, on purpose with curiosity, acceptance and kindness. It can be described as ‘living in our lives’ instead of ‘in our heads’.
How often do we drive or walk from A to B and not remember a single thing about the journey? We are operating in a state of distraction, running on ‘autopilot’. Many of us live in our heads, in the past or in the future, (worrying, ruminating, awfulizing) and as a result miss out on our lives.
Mindfulness is the common sense approach to living in the modern world. It is something that we can weave into daily life in order to feel more aware, content, and balanced. It helps us to recognise unhelpful habits, and to acknowledge what is useful and not useful. It provides a solid foundation to live from, steadiness, wisdom and clarity. It helps us to see things as they really are, rather than through the veil of thinking.
Mindfulness practice is just that…practice. It is not practice makes perfect, there is no goal or striving, there is just moment to moment awareness. It is about bringing the mind back to the present, back home to the body, the breath or the five senses, when it wanders off. It is the nature of the mind to wander, mindfulness practice is acknowledging the wandering, with curiosity and acceptance, and then bringing the mind home again.
While mindfulness practice is central to Buddhist tradition, evidence of it may be seen in many religious traditions.
NB In Derval's work mindfulness is used as a secular practice, and enhanced by the use of breathwork and NSDR/ Yoga Nidra.
‘We all know on some level that the world we live in is crazy. Derval Dunford offers us a response – real, utterly simple, and beautiful.'
Author of "Stopping and Quiet Mind"