How Yoga Nidra Can Be a Catalyst During Uncertain Times
Esalen Team
August 1, 2020
"When we know that we are whole and infinite, the illusion of scarcity and brokenness dissolves and we can let go of fear that is informed by the misperception of duality that shows up as othering, oppression and racism, and sorrow."

Expanding our potential often requires a certain amount of grace. Esalen faculty Tracee Stanley saw this fact clearly more than 20 years ago and embarked on a personal practice that eventually included Yoga Nidra, which transformed her entire life. She has since become a sought-after teacher dedicated to sharing a sacred alchemy of practices that also include self-inquiry, meditation and asana (body posture) that are sourced from the traditions of the Himalayan Masters.

“Most people do not realize that Yoga Nidra is a technique, a state of consciousness similar to samadhi—a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation—and a Goddess written about in ancient texts like the Devi Mahatmhya,” Tracee says. “It is a practice of transformation. And this moment in history is asking all of us to transform.”

We reached out to Tracee to learn how Yoga Nidra can assist us now.

Esalen News: What are some of the benefits of Yoga Nidra, especially during uncertainty?

Tracee Stanley: Yoga Nidra is a practice of dissolution. It allows us to rest deeply and to recognize where and how we experience resistance. With consistent practice, it can help us to acknowledge and release tension, but this requires surrender and a sort of partnering with the unknown. In this surrender, we may let go of identifying with everything that is always changing within us: thoughts, feelings, emotions.

Who will I be if I let go? Is it safe? If I am not thinking, who am I? With the grace of the practice, we can begin to touch a place within us that is always steady and brilliant—an inner radiance deep within the heart space that is referred to in the Yoga Sutra 1:36. This helps us to develop an inner resiliency that becomes a life raft for us to weather the ebbs and flows of life.

Why was it important for you to offer the Free Self-Love Meditation on your website, and what do you hope people gain from that?

If we can anchor ourselves in authentic self-love and become aware of the source of our limiting beliefs, we can become less reactive, more loving and understanding towards others.

We can become a source of healing in the world. When we know that we are whole and infinite, the illusion of scarcity and brokenness dissolves and we can let go of fear that is informed by the misperception of duality that shows up as othering, oppression and racism, and sorrow.

You also offer a program called Empowered Life, which assists people in becoming aligned with their truth and power. What three actions can we all take in that direction?

Three actions that can activate an empowered life are: radical self-inquiry, deep listening and courage. Radical self-inquiry helps us get to the root of our pain. Deep listening, which happens in stillness and silence, allows us to tune into our core frequency, which is our true nature.

Courage—we can notice the difference between familiar pain and emerging truth, learning to live in the space between and practicing to have the courage to turn away from what is familiar and look towards the light of our truth, even when it's uncomfortable. This helps us to move in alignment with ways of being that are supportive and nurturing.

What originally led you to do this work?

A lot of what I share is sourced from the lineage of Himalayan Masters and Sri Vidya (a Hindu Tantric religious system devoted to the Goddess as Lalitā Tripurasundarī). My expression of these teachings is filtered through my own understanding and more than 20 years of personal practice that is informed by living as a Black woman who produced Hollywood movies, is a stepmom, an entrepreneur and forever yoga student.

What I feel is most important for people to know and experience is that there is a pristine place inside of them that is unchanging. It is a place referred to as "sorrowless joy," and it is who we really are. I always try to point students back to this teaching, as it leads to developing trust in their inner teacher.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love so many things. I love creating sacred containers for transformation, sharing Sadhana practices that I know work and watching people’s lives change. Not because I did anything, but because they made a choice to be their best self—they did the work. If there is anything that we must remember in these uncertain times it is: do your work. There is no more time to waste.