Nidra yoga is the art of lying still while your mind scans your body and picks out sounds around you. It’s so restful, guaranteed to calm and improve; that is, unless you’re about to spontaneously combust from all the internal body heat you’re generating.
At the start of my yoga class last week, I was joking with classmates about how fussy I am when it comes to choosing my pillow and cover for Nidra Yoga. After all, body heat is important. You don’t want to get cold during the session, so I’ve tried everything, including even knitted woollen blankets.
Then I discovered the perfect wonderful lightweight eiderdown.
I have a deep emotional connection with eiderdowns.
An eiderdown is central to a cherished childhood memory and involves my paternal grandmother (one of my favourite people) who gave me 20p to buy a dusky pink beauty at a village jumble sale.
Dragging this trophy home, slung over my shoulder a la Linus from Peanuts, people stopped me to comment, alerting me to the trail of innards I was leaving behind me.
“Granny will stitch it,” my celebratory five year old self confidently offered, ignoring the fact I’d never actually seen her sew anything.
There I am in yoga then, totally relaxed and half-listening to the guided meditation (I’m quietly rebellious in yoga too).
One minute I’m fine and relaxed, the next I’m hot…
…As in Vesuvius throwing a temper tantrum hot – and suddenly I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I throw off that carefully chosen eiderdown, leap from the mat to starfish on the cold inviting wooden floor beside me, or do I stay put?
Star fishing is a great response when the menopause turns up the body heat by the way. The object is to get as much air around your limbs as you can so your extremities go cold. It’s brilliant, but a little undignified.
However, I don’t do this. There are others in the room, all of them focused, contemplative, relaxed. I’ll disturb them if I move and it’s not fair on them. Also I’m not exactly ‘delicate’ in my movements, so there’s no way I’ll be able to pull off the subtle evac manoeuvre that’s called for.
Besides, do I really want to talk about the Big M in yoga?
I’m not averse to talking about the menopause obviously, but neither do I wish to be defined by it. My heat reactive t-shirt (if I owned one) would be emblazoned with the slogan: ‘I am so much more than my hormones.’
So instead I lay there feeling intense thermal energy erupting from my core. Which part of my body creates this surge? I feel it start up like and spread so fast that within seconds my entire body feels molten and I am filled with the mad desire to escape myself. This is what sunbathing at the equator must feel like.
I don’t particularly sweat during these episodes which is a blessing. However, I would probably look like a beacon under thermal body imaging; if I could only harness all this energy, I could recharge my phone while I’m here.
I channel a soothing counselling voice, the kind on those annoying self-help apps.
Recognise what’s happening (Heat surge!) and label the sensation (Bloody Hot!). Now let your mind and body accept this (Am I going to explode? If I do, the woman lying next to me won’t like it) and finally, be at one with all aspects of your life, positive and negative (Oh shut up, FFS! It’s bad enough being internally baked alive without you wittering on).
Then the Hungarian tones of my yoga teacher Andrea, float over me. “…And when you’re ready, start waking up the body.”
My eiderdown comes off and I’m splayed on the floor. The heat subsides. When we finish, my thanks is so heartfelt I almost cry.