Yoga Nidra - The Yogic Sleep.
Yoga nidra is one of the the practice that is must for not only yoga aspirants but also normal men. In our modern day society, human life has become very fast, hectic and demanding. You may have seen people complaining that they are highly stressed, and if not controlled properly, negative stress may manifest in the forms of physical, mental and psychological problems.
To manage this problem, many people are now turning to meditation, which has become a powerful tool in helping people to achieve relaxation for both their mind and body. In my own experience, one technique that I have found to be easy to do, yet deeply relaxing is yoga nidra.
Yoga nidra originates from the ancient Yogic practices. While the yogis in India have known yoga nidra for thousand of years, the practice was revived when Swami satyananda Saraswati, founder of the Bihar School of Yoga in munger, India, adapted and presented it in a systematic and scientific way in the 1960s.
It is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. While the relaxation is a very important aspect of yoga nidra, it is not the ultimate goal of the practice. It thoroughly examine the natures of the structures and beliefs that make our personal identity.
Purpose of Yoga Nidra
The literal meaning of Yoga Nidra is psychic sleep or deep relaxation with inner awareness, where one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. In terms of psychology, it is a state between sleep and wakefulness. When you are in this state, you have access to the latent or subconscious level of the mind, and are even able to influence it. For instance, you will be able to directly attenuate the deep habit patterns of attachment and aversion that drives your actions in the waking state.
The purpose of this practice is to touch and experience the various dimensions of our being and to awaken consciousness in areas where it is usually dormant due to tensions. The aim is that by doing so, we are able to experience that we are not bound to just one plane of consciousness, but rather that we consciously contain them all.
The word 'Pratyahara' means abstracting or leaving something, distancing or letting go. It is the fifth limb of Rajayoga as outlined in "Patanjali yoga sutra". In pratyahara, one withdraws his mind from the sensory perceptions of sound, sight, smell nad thoughts so that mind remains in a calm and undisturbed state of silent witnessing. In this state, we observe the process of percieving and our mind's response to different perceptions and observations. Instead of suppressing any sensation we observe the reaction of our mind to that sensation. The mind is able to conclude whether the sensation is dangerous or useful.
Stages of Yoga Nidra
There are various stages through which one has to go while practicing Yoga nidra. These stages are in such a order that one relaxes his physical body first, then gradually goes deep down in different mental planes and starts exploring them. The various stages are:
Yoga nidra is performed in the "Corpse pose" or "Shavasana". The body is stretched out with head in straight line with the body. The feet are slightly apart, the arms beside the body, the palms of the hands turned upwards and eyes are closed. After you attain this posture comfortably, there should be no physical movement throughout the practice. In this stage, initial relaxation of the body and mind is brought on by the awareness of stillness, comfort, posture, position, breath, and listening to the external sounds.
In this stage, the practitioner asserts his or her intention to enter into the practice of Yoga Nidra. The intention is to remain focused and un-distracted throughout the session. You must instruct yourself that “I will not sleep, I will remain awake.” or "I am practicing Yoga nidra, I will remain awake throughout the practice" This intention sets the direction and tone of the practice.
Sankalpa (The Resolve):
When the body and mind are relaxed, then the practitioner is instructed to take a resolve or sankalpa according to his or her own wish. The sankalpa should be short, clear and positive. The practitioner repeats the selected sankalpa or resolution three times mentally, with full determination, conviction and confidence. With deep relaxation, we are able to access our subconscious mind. It becomes very open to suggestion, and thus we are able to effectively change deep set patterns and habits.
Rotation of consciousness:
After sankalpa, the awareness is rotated around the different body parts in a systematic and ordered manner. The practitioner is instructed to remain aware, to listen to the instructions and to move the mind very rapidly according to the instructions without making any physical movements. The rotation of awareness in Yoga Nidra follows a definite sequence:
Right side of the body... beginning with the right hand thumb and ending with the little toe of the right foot... left side of the body, from the left hand thumb to the little toe of the left foot... back of the body... from the buttocks to the back of the head and lastly the front of the body, from the forehead and individual facial features down to the pelvis. The awareness is then brought to major parts of the body – whole arms, whole legs, whole torso, whole right side of the body and whole left side of the body. Eventually the entire body is brought together into awareness.
In this stage, one simply becomes aware of the natural breath without making an attempt to change the flow of the breath. One may become aware of the breath by watching it in the nostrils, chest, and abdomen, or in the passage between the navel and the throat. The practitioner becomes aware of each incoming and outgoing breath by counting them mentally. Counting the breath is an important exercise as it sharpens the practitioner’s ability to focus. With practice, he or she will be able to remain wide-awake and alert.
Opposite feelings and sensations:
In this stage, the physical or emotional sensations are recalled, intensified and experienced fully. The practitioner is instructed to experience pairs of opposite feelings or sensations like heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, pain and pleasure etc. The thinking mind is only able to focus in one direction at any one time, it cannot move simultaneously in two opposite directions at once. Thus when instructed to do so, it stops thinking and becomes silent. In this quiet, the practitioner is able to experience his or her self expanding in a multidimensional space.
In the stage of visualization, the awareness is taken to the dark space in front of the closed eyes, referred to as chidakasha in yogic terminology. The practitioner is then instructed to visualize some images or symbols, which may include the smell of the earth after rain, the ocean at night, a steady candle flame, a blue lotus and so on. The symbols serve as a catalyst to provoke a reaction in the unconscious mind.
However, since the practitioner’s mind is not given any time to react, it becomes detached and the ego becomes temporarily inactive. Suppressed conflicts, desires, and deep patterns hidden in the unconscious are liberated and rise into awareness. As they are viewed in an attitude of welcome and not denial, they surface and then dissolve. When these deep residues move out of the unconscious, feelings of peace, stillness and joy manifest.
Sankalpa (The Resolve):
Once again the sankalpa, taken in stage two, is repeated mentally three times in this stage with full dedication, faith and optimism.
Ending the practice:
At the end of the session, the practitioner may still be in a very deep state. As such, they are instructed to slowly externalize their awareness by listening to external sounds, and becoming aware of objects and persons in their surroundings and the room that they are in. They are asked then to slowly move the body parts and to stretch the body. When they are sure that they are awake, they can then sit up slowly and open their eyes.
It is one of the practice that must be included in one's daily schedule. You can do it when you retire for bed and getting ready for sleep. In this way, you also don't have to find spare time to do this practice.
Unless one gets perfect in this practice, he or she needs a instructor to give proper instructions for doing it. Since it is difficult to find a human instructor in daily life, therefore you may use the recorded instructions. I am giving here the "Basic Yoga Nidra" that can be practised by any one.
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Initially when you will start practising yoga nidra, you may fall asleep while doing the practice. There is no need to worry if this happens because it will automatically go if you sincerely practice for two weeks or so.
When one gets perfect in doing basic yoga nidra, he can move to higher level yoga nidra in which certain more stages are added and more effective visualisations are performed. For higher yoga nidra, you can use the contact form given on this site to contact me.
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