What is it?
Yoga Nidra is an extremely effective method of relaxing. Most of us live with chronic tensions that are the cause of all the agony we experience in modern life. Yogic philosophy, along with modern psychology, refers to three basic types of tensions. These are physical, emotional and mental tensions. Even in deep sleep, we carry these tensions.
The physical tensions are related to the body itself, the nervous system and endocrine imbalances. With Yoga Nidra, these tensions are easy to remove.
The emotional tensions come from various dualities such as love / hate, win / loss, success / defeat, happy / unhappy and so on, and these are more difficult to remove. This is because we are not able to express our feelings freely and openly. We sometimes refuse to acknowledge them, and rather suppress them. As a result, tensions take deeper and deeper roots and become more difficult to release. Even in sleep, it is not possible to relax these tensions. With Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, it is possible to numb our entire emotional structure and release these tensions.
Mental tension is the result of excessive mental activity. Our mind is a soup of fantasies, confusions and fluctuations. Throughout our lives, experiences are registered by our consciousness and accumulated in our mental body. Sometimes we can experience that these tensions explode and we experience anger, sadness, irritation, etc., and it is directed at completely insignificant and superficial things. This is then a result of our accumulated tensions on the mental level. Yoga Nidra is the science of relaxation that enables us to dive into the depths of the subconscious mind and free ourselves from accumulated tensions.
In this way, with Yoga Nidra we can create harmony in all levels of our being.
Yoga Nidra describes the state we’re in more than the practice itself. Yoga Nidra means ‘Sleep Yoga’, but it describes a different type of sleep than what we think of as sleep. In this case, we maintain an awareness while stepping into sleep. With an instructor as a guide, you are guided into deep relaxation while anchoring your consciousness firmly in the voice of the instructor. In this way we can systematically go in and make ‘sleep’ much more efficient. 1 hour in yoga nidra is therefor the same as 4 hours of normal sleep.
What are the benefits?
Yoga Nidra has a wide range of benefits. Through Yoga Nidra we can release traumas and memories that hang over us and affect our lives. We can let go of destructive or unwanted habits and addictions. We can reduce the amount of sleep we need, and therefore get more out of our lives. As we let go of the tensions we carry, we will also experience more energy and vitality. In Yoga Nidra we are also extremely receptive and can therefore reconstruct our personality and manifest the lives we want.
How does it work?
Yoga Nidra has a very scientific and systematic progress. There are several ways to practice depending on how much time you have and what you want to achieve with the practice. We can do a 10 minute practice that works great as a transition from a stressful day at work to time at home with the family. We can also use a similar practice that will quickly make you fall asleep. The more classic practice lasts approx. 60 minutes, but can be reduced to approx. 20 if we do not have more time.
Part 1) Remove distractions
The first thing to do is turn off the TV, radio, telephone or other things that can be distracting. Draw for curtains and make sure the room is dark but not completely dark.
Part 2) Yogasanas
Pain, stiffness and physical tension are major obstacles in yoga nidra practice. Therefore, it is ideal to practice Yoga Nidra after yoga asanas (the physical postures).
Part 3) Preparation
One lies down in the correct position, and mentally prepares to calm down the mind and body.
Part 4) Sankalpa
Sankalpa is Sanskrit, and ‘san’ means ‘to become one’ and ‘kalpa’ means ‘time’, and ‘subconscious mind’. Sankalpa is intention, and is used in advance of Yoga Nidra. This is like a kind of seed that we plant in the subconscious
Part 5) Rotation of consciousness
This part consists of moving our focus throughout the body, up to several times. Each body part is connected to a completely separate point in the brain. Some body parts, such as lips, nose, hands and fingers, have a much larger area in the brain, compared to their size. Together, these parts have almost as large a part in the brain as the rest of the body combined. They are therefore important aspects when we move our attention through the body. The specific position of the body parts in our brain is the reason for the systematic approach with specific order when we move our attention throughout the body. Once we have started with this sequence, it must not be changed as it induces a flow of energy / prana in the neuron circuit of the motor homunculus. This flow carries with it an experience of relaxation as a spontaneous dissociation of consciousness from the sensory and motor occurs. With regular practice, this flow becomes more efficient and happens faster and goes deeper.
Part 6) Breath
After the rotation of consciousness in the body, continues and complete physical relaxation with attention to the breath.
Part 7) Senses
Now we move on to the plane of feelings and emotions. Feelings that are physically or emotionally intense are evoked, experienced fully and completely, and then removed. This is usually done by using contrasts such as heavy / light, cold / hot, pain / pleasure, etc. When these emotions are paired, we harmonize the halves of the brain and create balance in our basic driving forces that normally lie in the subconscious.
Part 8) Visualization
In the last step of Yoga Nidra, work is being done on visualizing various images and symbols. This creates relaxation on the mental level. Because the images and symbols used often have universally important and powerful associations, they bring hidden content from the deep subconscious into the conscious mind. In this practice, the mind is cleansed of disturbing and painful material. Furthermore, this mind leads to dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation), and potentially even Samadhi.
Part 9) Sankalpa
After completing the practice, the intention is repeated
Part 10) Closing
After repeated sankalpa, we slowly return our attention to the body and space, and begin to move gently small muscle groups first before we finally open our eyes again.
Sources: Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati