iRest: Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation
Molly Birkholm is a trauma specialist and iRest® trainer affiliated with the iRest Institute; a cofounder of Warriors at Ease; and the CEO of Molly Birkholm, Inc. As a yoga and meditation teacher and trainer, professional speaker, consultant, and writer, she inspires others to create meaningful life changes using research-based yoga and mindfulness meditation techniques. A featured teacher for Yoga International and the host of a year-long, online course called Women’s Empowerment Initiative, Ms. Birkholm has spent extended time living in ashrams and monasteries in India and Bhutan, where she studied yoga, meditation, Sanskrit, and Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. In addition to her training in iRest® Yoga Nidra, Ms. Birkholm has also completed the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre Advanced Teachers’ Training Course. As a cofounder of Warriors at Ease, Ms. Birkholm helped pioneer evidence-based, trauma-sensitive yoga and meditation programs for people with post-traumatic stress disorder in the military and other communities affected by trauma. She has conducted innovative clinical research with the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and her stress management and trauma treatment programs are shared with leaders and top organizations around the world, including the U.S. Department of Defense, McKinsey & Company, JPMorgan Chase, and the Young Presidents’ Organization.
01: Introducing iRest Yoga Nidra
One of the most important principles in iRest is that of welcoming: inviting you to explore whatever arises as a part of your human experience. Begin your journey with a look at how stress affects the body, the roots of yoga nidra, and the 10 steps of iRest you’ll practice throughout the course.
02: iRest Foundations: Philosophy and Practice
Take a closer look at the foundations of iRest from philosophical and practical perspectives. What texts and teachings form the basis of yoga nidra? How do you set up the right practice space? What time of day is the best time to practice iRest? Is it OK to fall asleep during your practice?
03: Creating an Inner Resource
Your Inner Resource is a haven of peace and serenity—a felt sense of well-being deeply rooted inside your body. In this lecture, Ms. Birkholm shows you how to cultivate and connect with your Inner Resource, which is one of the most essential parts of your iRest practice.
04: iRest Practice: Inner Resource
Start tapping into your personal Inner Resource. Join several other students as Ms. Birkholm guides you through a helpful session designed to help you develop an internal experience of well-being that can help you transition from the anxieties of your outside life to the calm of your meditation practice.
05: The Power of Intention and Heartfelt Desire
Two tools you can use to live as your best self (however you define that) are intention and heartfelt desire. Explore these second and third steps of iRest Yoga Nidra as a way to move closer to reconnecting with your true self and living the life you want most.
06: iRest Practice: Intention
Explore your intention and heartfelt desire in this extended iRest practice session. By identifying them at the start of the practice, putting them away, and returning to them again at the conclusion of your practice, you’ll perhaps experience these two aspects of iRest Yoga Nidra in entirely different ways.
07: Learning to Listen to Your Body
Learn how to think of your body as a symphony of sensations and signals. After a brief overview of the different layers of consciousness in iRest, focus on the first: the physical body. Benefits of attuning yourself to your body include heightened sensory awareness and pointers into your true nature.
08: iRest Practice: Body Sensing
Practice allowing yourself to receive the different messages your body’s trying to send you. As a way to help you explore your body more deeply (and to gauge some of its benefits), this iRest practice session invites you to continually tense and relax your body (physically or mentally).
09: Exploring the Power of the Breath
Ms. Birkholm reveals what your breath can tell you about your health and peace of mind. Start by learning the yogic and scientific perspectives on breathing. Then, turn to breathing exercise techniques you can incorporate into your iRest practice, including breath counting, Ferris wheel breath, and alternate nostril breathing.
10: iRest Practice: Breath Sensing
The focus of this practice session is on a deep meditation using the principles of breath sensing you learned in the previous lecture. Join several other students and see some of the ways sensing and controlling your breath can influence your physical and mental experience during your practice.
11: Feelings and Emotions as Messengers
Another step of the iRest protocol is thinking of your feelings and emotions as “messengers” that tell you how your body and mind are experiencing the world. Learn to differentiate between feelings and emotions, examine the entire spectrum of emotions, and learn to work with opposite emotions.
12: iRest Practice: Feelings and Emotions
Put the previous lecture’s principles, strategies, and insights to use in a helpful meditative experience led by Ms. Birkholm. Welcome different emotions and feelings into your body—whichever ones happen to arise during your iRest Yoga Nidra practice—as if they were simply visitors in your home.
13: Finding Deeper Wisdom in Your Beliefs
In this lecture, Ms. Birkholm shares proactive tools for what you can do when you feel limited by your thoughts. You’ll encounter the fundamentals of cognition, the Laws of Opposites and Awareness, and the five kanchukas (or thoughts) that can be found at the root of all human suffering.
14: iRest Practice: Beliefs
Get better acquainted with some of the beliefs you have as a way to become more aware and accepting of your whole experience. Through this helpful iRest practice session, you’ll explore ways to use your thoughts and beliefs to direct you toward creating the life you want to lead.
15: Discovering Uncaused Joy
In this lecture, learn ways you can live in a joyous equanimity that exists independent of objects. Through methods including the “three blessings” (writing down three things that went well and why) and “day’s reviews” (reflecting on unfinished events), better realize the ever-present joy in your life.
16: iRest Practice: Joyful Well-Being
How can you better open yourself up to experience peace? It starts with this iRest Yoga Nidra practice session designed to help you cultivate joy. Join Ms. Birkholm and several other students as you, together, tap into the power of the anandamaya kosha stage of iRest.
17: Cultivating Awareness
Turn to the goal of iRest practice: cultivating awareness. Feel into the “I-thought” the same way you do your breathing. Take a closer look at the continuum of awareness, which stretches from your perception of the self as separate to pure awareness, in which all sense of self dissolves.
18: iRest Practice: Awareness and Peace
In this illuminating iRest practice session, you and several other students will take time to explore what it’s like to move into witnessing awareness and come closer to fully embodying enlightenment and deep connection in your life. How far along the continuum of awareness can you move?
19: Using iRest for Sleep
Focus on something Ms. Birkholm takes extremely seriously: sleep. First, get tips on turning your bedroom into a sanctuary for sleep. Then, learn two important techniques to help you get a restful night’s sleep, and cap it with a brief practice session designed to help you fall asleep.
20: Using iRest for Pain Relief
Walk through the 10 steps of the iRest protocol as they pertain to dealing with chronic pain, whether it’s physical (a car accident) or emotional (the loss of a job). Ms. Birkholm shows that, in order to manage pain, you need to approach it from multiple angles.
21: Using iRest for Stress Management
The key to overcoming anxiety, as you’ll learn here, is by becoming a source of connection, strength, and resiliency. And this is where iRest plays a critical role. To give you a taste of this, Ms. Birkholm includes a short iRest practice session designed to help you tackle stress.
22: Using iRest for Healing Trauma
Move beyond life’s ordinary stressors to look at how iRest can help heal major trauma in your life. Start by going over the basics of how trauma affects the body and mind. Then, examine how you can use iRest principles to integrate your experiences and counteract their traumatic effects.
23: The Science behind iRest Yoga Nidra
What about iRest Yoga Nidra makes it effective? It’s all rooted in the scientific research that supports the practice of iRest and illustrates how and why meditation is so healing. Take a closer look at how the five components of mindfulness—including intention and disidentification—work together.
24: iRest Yoga Nidra for Everyday Life
Conclude the course with a lecture on the tenth step of iRest, during which you come back to life in deep connection with a deep sense of peace. Enjoy a lasting feeling of empowerment at how iRest can help you become the fullest expression of your true self.