Known as ‘yoga of the sleep’, the Sanskrit word Yoga means ‘union’ or ‘one pointed awareness’ and Nidra means ‘sleep’
It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep, and one of the deepest forms of meditation, relaxation and rejuvenation that you can experience, whilst still being awake and aware. It relaxes every muscle group, the whole of the central nervous system and calms the mind, bringing about a feeling of peace, inner stillness and mindfulness
In ordinary meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the waking state, go past the dreaming state, and go to deep sleep, yet remain in a state of deep relaxation
Your body, mind and intellect are completely relaxed, your consciousness is functioning at a deeper level, and the subconscious and unconscious realms of your mind get opened up. By accessing these powerful forces, you can, according to proponents, learn to gain knowledge, cure diseases, increase creativity, and realise your full potential. Powerful stuff!
Yoga Nidra can help release deep seated mental and physical/muscular stresses and tension, as well as reducing anxiety, fear and negativity by changing mind patterns and conditioning
A single hour of Yoga Nidra is said to be as restful and refreshing as three to four hours of conventional sleep
According to proponents, there are many benefits that can be gained from a regular practice of Yoga Nidra, including the improvement of your physical, mental and emotional health, aided by the deep relaxation that is induced, and by a renewed feeling of personal empowerment which will help you to move into new areas of life; leading to positive life changes. Yoga Nidra is said to reduce insomnia and stress. It’s also a great tool for managing pain in those suffering from a long term or intense illness
Old thought processes or behavioural habits, such as reoccurring negative thought patterns, can be changed and eliminated over time, which consequently leads to an improvement in the quality of life
What will happen during your Yoga Nidra Session?
A Yoga Nidra session can be tailored towards a group of individuals, with the general theme being one of relaxation and emotional release, or it can be tailored towards the specific needs of an individual, for example a session can be used to aid the recovery of, or to gain some relief from, a specific illness
Yoga Nidra is practiced in a warm, dark room, which is neither too hot nor too cold; the room should be quiet and free from external noise and distractions. It may be beneficial to use a pillow and a blanket to aid your comfort because as you relax the temperature of your body will drop dramatically
You’ll be asked to lie on your back and be covered with a blanket for warmth. Once you’re comfortable, your awareness will be guided towards the rhythm of your breathing. You’ll then be asked to think of a positive statement or ‘resolve’. This statement will be mentally repeated at both the beginning and end of the session
Rotation of consciousness
When you rest in Yoga Nidra, the conscious mind is directed inwards towards an awareness of the physical body, through a process known as the rotation of consciousness. You’ll be asked to become aware of specific areas of your body, in sequence, and to mentally repeat, internally, that area as it is mentioned; thus inducing a complete physical and mental relaxation
Your attention will then be brought back to your breathing. You should let your breathing be fluid and natural and shouldn’t try to force it or alter it in any way. By maintaining an awareness of your breathing, your attention is automatically taken inwards; visualizations can also be used to assist you. An example of this would be counting your breaths, where you would count each inhalation and each exhalation, counting backwards from 54 to 1. This practice enables you to relax even further
Feelings and sensations
Your attention will then be guided to an awareness of feelings, emotions and sensations within your body. The feelings and emotions that are aroused should consist of opposites, for example, you may be guided towards a feeling of heaviness, then to one of lightness, or to remember a time when you may have experienced a feeling of pleasure and then towards a memory where there was an experience of pain, thus helping to balance the two emotions or sensations within the opposite hemispheres of the brain, and enabling you to gain greater conscious control of your emotions and feelings. An increase in willpower and drive will result from the new found control because you’ll begin to act consciously as opposed to unconsciously within your emotions on a day-to-day level
The next stage of the Yoga Nidra practice is that of visualization or guided imagery. Here universal symbols are used to unlock and awaken the contents of your unconscious mind, allowing it to release past traumas and associations, by generating images that bring the memory forwards from the unconscious mind and into the conscious mind; once here the feelings associated with the memory can be re-experienced from a place of peace and safety, and as the memory is brought into the conscious mind, it then dissolves and no longer influences you on an unconscious level, thus freeing you from any pain associated with it
You’ll then be asked to repeat the resolve you made at the start of the practice, as before, it should be repeated 3 times, with conviction and should be worded in the present tense
You’ll be left with a feeling of inner peace and calm at the end of the guided visualization; thus leaving your unconscious mind open to receiving the positive message of your chosen resolve. The resolve will be heard within your unconscious mind and as a consequence, the seed of the resolve will be planted and will then grow and eventually manifest so as to influence your attitude and behaviour throughout your daily life
Your attention will then be guided back to your breathing thus bringing you back to full conscious awareness, gradually and gently. It is important to ensure that you are fully grounded, before coming back to a seated position
Where can I practice Yoga Nidra?
As always, Google is your best bet for finding classes and practitioners near you. Alternatively many books, CDs, DVDs etc. on the subject can be found at Amazon