burning brain



Do you ever feel like your brain is on fire? We do, especially when we sit down to meditate. That’s why we have devoted an entire section of Yoga Lagniappe to help you put out those fires and cool your mind, while maintaining the fire of your soul. It’s a delicate dance. We would love to hear your suggestions on cultivating stillness and meditation.  Contact us with questions or comments any time.

Delving Deeper into Relaxation with Yoga Nidra

By Nikki Carter

Photo courtesy of S. Brooke Bailey

Photo courtesy of S. Brooke Bailey

I remember one of the first times a friend and I discussed the concept of lucid dreaming. She told me she had been trying to stay as conscious as possible during the first few moments after she drifted off to sleep, seeing if she could control or manipulate her actions in those first minutes of dreaming. I’ve thought of this many times since then, so I was intrigued when I read about relaxation with yoga nidra, which is generally defined as a sleep-like, but fully conscious, state.

The benefits of yoga nidra are similar to those offered by a regular meditation practice: reduced anxiety and relief of many medical conditions. Brooke Bailey, founder of Yoga Lagniappe, practices and teaches yoga nidra, so I asked her for more details about how she came to know yoga nidra and what this practice can offer.

NC: What was your first experience with yoga nidra? 

BB: I discovered yoga nidra when I took a workshop with Clara Hori and she played a recorded version of one of Rod Styker’s yoga nidra sessions. I was completely amazed at how much deeper my level of relaxation was with yoga nidra compared to my usual experience in savasana.

NC: What is the difference between yoga nidra and meditation?

BB: As with many things in the yoga world, it depends on the teacher you ask. As a student of Rod Styker and his lineage of Sri Vidya, I have been taught that yoga nidra is not the same as meditation. You lie down to practice yoga nidra, whereas you are in an upright seated position for meditation. In this tradition, meditation is distinct in the upright position of your spine and the conscious direction of your energy. In yoga nidra, you eventually develop the ability to guide yourself through the practice, but most people have difficulty with this at first because they drift between sleep and consciousness.

I have certainly heard yoga nidra referred to as a type of meditation, so it just depends on your teacher and where the emphasis is placed.

NC: Is this an at-home practice or is there a local class or workshop?

BB: From time to time, I offer workshops in yoga nidra, as do a few other teachers in New Orleans, including yoga therapist Amy Archinal. Tracey Duncan teaches at various New Orleans yoga studios and incorporates elements of yoga nidra into her group classes, as well as her massage sessions. Yoga nidra is most effective when you practice it consistently, 2-3 times a week. This is why it can be helpful to use a recording to continue your practice outside of classes and workshops.

NC: What benefits do you see firsthand from practicing yoga nidra?

BB: Yoga nidra is an incredibly powerful tool for resetting your nervous system through deep relaxation. It is also very effective when used in conjunction with your sankalapa, or resolution, to plant the seed of your intention in your subconscious mind, where we tend to hold patterns and beliefs that keep us from fulfilling our goals.

NC: Do you have any tips for beginners who are interested?

BB: Yoga nidra is one of the easiest ways to experience deep relaxation. If you have trouble letting go in savasana, or even if you have never tried yoga before, this can be a great entry point. As a beginner, I would suggest seeking out a teacher who can guide you. Most of us tend to want to rush into it. It’s a bit ironic, but our culture pressures us to master things quickly and independently – even relaxation.

You can also try a recording first and then seek out a teacher to help you customize your practice. I have a 30 minute yoga nidra download avaialbele on my website SBrookeBailey.com.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting Yoga Lagniappe! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Happy New Year! 


Alternative Healing Series: What is meditation?

By Nikki Carter

‘… a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed.’ -E.B. White

I love the above quote because it reminds me that life is all about perspective, and understanding that is the key to claiming my own power. My life thus far has, at its core, been about recognizing and claiming that innate power inside of me. It’s been a journey to learn how to hold my negative emotions, challenges, and fear from a place of acceptance and action rather than resistance and struggle. I tell you all of that as a lead in to this month’s alternative healing series on meditation. Meditation is an amazing way to impact our perspective and help us realize our power, and with May being National Meditation Month, there’s no better time to try it.

What is meditation?

Meditation is quite hard to define, but it is a practice that we undertake to train the mind and focus attention in a conscious way. For some, this consists of sitting quietly for a length of time while focusing on a mantra or trying to clear the mind completely of any thoughts. For others, it may mean a moving meditation such as a yoga practice or an outdoor walking meditation. Many also believe that the physical asanas of yoga are meant as a precursor to a seated meditation session. Other components of a meditation practice may include things like a designated space/altar for meditating, breathing exercises, guided imagery, or body scans.

Meditation began in the East in ancient times and has made its way to the West as we search for solutions to these over stimulating times. We are more technologically connected than ever, but many of us are still searching for ways to actually feel connected, both to ourselves and to others. Spending dedicated time on ourselves by way of meditation is an effective way to remedy the stress we face and feel.

A meditation practice does not mean you’re affiliating yourself with any specific religion. If I had to describe what I think of as meditation, it would be time that I take to be quiet with myself, “watch” my thoughts in a non-judgmental way, and breathe in positive thoughts. It’s a great way to cultivate mindfulness, as it teaches me to be in the moment and tuned in to what I am experiencing without attaching any meaning to it.

What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation is said to have many physical and emotional benefits, including increased feelings of calmness and relaxation. As I said, it contributes to mindfulness, which can help us to be more resilient in stressful times. I find when I commit to my meditation practice, I remember things more easily and have more creative ideas. I also have more patience and feel that there is plenty of time to accomplish everything I need to do. I really start to feel like I am in the “flow” of my life more and as if I can handle anxiety more readily.

How I meditate

I would recommend starting off with a small length of time in mind (I started off with 5 minutes). You will be surprised how hard it can be to sit quietly for 5 minutes at first! I sit on my floor in a cross-legged position, set a timer, and then rest my hands on my knees and close my eyes. I try to consciously relax the space between my eyes and do a quick body scan to relax any tension I’m feeling. Sometimes I will use a mantra and say it to myself as I focus on my breathing, while other times I try to maintain a sort of blankness in my mind.

If any distracting thoughts float up, I observe them without allowing myself to go off on a tangent. It can be easy to get sidetracked into using meditation sessions to brainstorm or think about to-do lists, but resist this challenge! I have also sometimes focused on a feeling that I want to create space for in my life – for example, gratitude – and focused on my breathing while I think about how I want to feel.

You can’t make any mistakes here, so feel free to experiment. Maybe you feel good if you hold an object that’s special to you while you meditate. Perhaps you like to recite your mantra of choice out loud.  Have fun exploring what works for you.

Resources to help you

Mid City Zen of New Orleans – local meditation group offering classes and group meditation sessions, founded by two priests from the San Francisco Zen Center.

Headspace:  My friend, who is more of a visual person than I am, swears by this app for her meditation practice.

i-Qi Timer:  This is the timer that I use. It is less jarring than using a typical alarm clock.

Transform Your Life:  This app offers a different quote and reflection each day to help you in your quest to be more mindful and aware.

Spirit Junkie: This is a great app designed by Gabby Bernstein that can serve as an alarm clock and give you easy-to-remember mantra inspiration. I like to look at it first thing in the morning, before I get out of bed.

The good news about all of the technology available to us is that there are a score of other apps you can find out there; these are just the ones with which I have personal experience. Good luck with your practice!


YL’s List of Local Area Meditation Classes and Groups

Awakening New Orleans
Mondays 6:00-7:30p.m.
Consciousness raising meditation and deeksha
Donations accepted to cover space rental
Bodhisattva Tea Spa
3021 N. Arnoult Rd.
Metairie, LA
Contact: Susan (724) 312-1580

Also at Bodhisattva Tea Spa
Sunday Class at 10:45am, By Donation
3021 N. Arnoult Rd.
Metairie, LA
Contact: (504) 888-9299

New Orleans
Bayou St. John
Art of Living Guided Meditation Group
No charge
Saturdays 2:30-3:30p.m.
Fairgrinds Coffee House
3133 Ponce de Leon
New Orleans, LA
Contact: Allen (504) 247-6692

Vipassana (Insight) Meditation & Discussion Group
Donation Based
Wednesdays 7:00-8:30p.m.
New Orleans Healing Center
2372 St. Claude Ave., 4th Fl.
New Orleans, LA
Contact: (504) 905-4090

Mid-City Zen
Daily meditation sessions
Donations appreciated
3156 Toulouse Street
New Orleans, LA

Sitting Meditation Group
Saturdays 10:00-11:00a.m
3909 Bienville St. Ste. 103
New Orleans, LA
Contact: Brian (504) 644-7351

Insight Meditation Group
No Charge, Donations Gratefully Accepted
Tuesdays 7:30-9:00p.m.
2134 Magazine Street, 3rd Fl.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Thursdays 8:00-9:00a.m.
Life Yoga Studio
5422 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
Contact: Larry (504) 343-8378

Unity Powerpath Healing Circle & Meditation
Sundays 9:00-10:00a.m., No Charge
3722 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA
Contact: Mike Wittenbrink (504) 339-0594

Uptown Holistic Center
Mondays 5:00-6:30p.m.
723 Hillary St.
New Orleans, LA
Contact: Dr. Jess Tregle (504) 352-6418


Meditation Resources

What is mediation (according to Wikipedia…)?

Insight Meditation Society

Want a mainstream approach to meditation? Try Headspace’s Free “Take 10” App


Cultivating Stillness

We received a beautiful submission from Theresa, a yoga student in New Orleans, that we wanted to share with you.

“Here are my thoughts on cultivating stillness:
It’s all about my mat. My mat is my refuge. Not my escape, but my refuge, my safe place. When I’m on my mat, I’m there, no where else but there. I can focus on the moment, listen to my breath, feel my body and be aware. I don’t have to plan anything, answer any questions, talk, or worry about the past. If I want to take it easy, I can. If I want to push hard, I can. It’s all about the moment. The more time I spend on the mat, the more I am able to take that experience off the mat into ‘real’ life. It’s all about my mat.”

If this doesn’t make you want to practice yoga and meditation, we’re not sure what will. Thank you Theresa.