What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga nidra is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. The term yoga nidra is derived from two Sanskrit words, yoga meaning union or one-pointed awareness, and nidra which means sleep. During the practice of yoga nidra, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. In this threshold state between sleep and wake-fulness, contact with the subconscious and unconscious dimensions occurs spontaneously.
If the consciousness is able to be separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many ways, for example, to develop the memory, increase knowledge and creativity, or transform one’s nature.
Yoga nidra can be used for directing the mind to accomplish anything.
The practice of yoga nidra enables one to receive intuitions from the unconscious mind. This state is the fount of artistic and poetic inspiration. It is also the source of creative scientific discoveries. The intuitions received in yoga nidra enable one to find within oneself the answers to all problems.
R – E – L – A – X
Yoga nidra is a powerful technique in which one learns to relax consciously. People feel that they are relaxing when they collapse in an easy chair with a cup of coffee, a drink or a cigarette, and read a newspaper or switch on the television. But this will never suffice as a scientific definition of relaxation. These are only sensory diversions. True relaxation is actually an experience far beyond all this. For absolute relaxation you must remain aware. This is yoga nidra, the state of dynamic sleep.
Through the practice of yoga nidra, we are not only relaxing, but restructuring and reforming our whole personality from within. With every session we are burning old patterns, habits and tendencies in order to be born anew. This process is not only much quicker than other systems which work on an external basis only, but the results are also more reliable and permanent.
How to Practice Yoga Nidra
While resting comfortably on your mat, you are guided on a specific journey that produces profound and proven results. The techniques employed during the 45-55 minute guided meditation include the following:
Making a Resolve (Sowing the seed of change)
In yoga nidra, perhaps the most effective means of training the mind is found in the resolve, which you make for yourself during each practice. The resolve takes the form of a short mental statement which is impressed on the subconscious mind when it is receptive and sensitive to auto-suggestion during yoga nidra. The resolve has to be made, not when you are intellectually active, but when your mind is calm and quiet. Before and after the practice of yoga nidra there is a short period dedicated to creating your personal resolve. The resolve you make at the beginning of the practice is like sowing a seed, and the resolve at the end is like irrigating it.
Rotation of Consciousness throughout the Body
The neurosurgeon affects the body by stimulating the brain. The practitioner of yoga nidra begins at the other end of the nerve pathway by heightening the awareness of the body in order to stimulate the brain.
The progressive movement of awareness through the parts of the body not only induces physical relaxation, but clears all the nerve pathways to the brain, both those governing the physical activity and those concerned with incoming information. At the same time a total run through of the brain surface is made, from inside out. In this way, yoga nidra relaxes the mind by relaxing the body.
This state of perception is induced by by gradually withdrawing the senses during the rotation of consciousness throughout the body, and by practising breath awareness. This induces both pratyahara (sense withdrawl) and deep relaxation. In fact, deep relaxation has been shown to be an altered state of perception. Once this state has been induced, the guided image visualization proceeds.
Guided imagery in yoga nidra is a method of using a symbol ( (archetype) or image as a catalyst to provoke a reaction in the unconscious parts of the mind. The subconscious and unconscious material of the mind is awakened and released to become integrated into consciousness.
The use of guided imagery in yoga nidra is a very powerful method of resolving suppressed conflicts, desires, memories, and ‘samskaras’ (addictions / ingrained habits).
Experiencing the opposites
As we awaken the sensations of heaviness and lightness, heat and cold, pain and pleasure, etc., we stimulate those centres of the brain responsible for maintaining harmony between our inner and outer environments. Each of these centres has its reciprocal centre for balancing our basic drives. (For example, the pain centre and the pleasure centre. )The pairing and alternation of these sensations in yoga nidra helps to maintain this homeostatic balance and even evolves it by bringing normally involuntary unconscious functions under control.
Invoking the opposite sensation is not an arbitrary choice, but is in accordance with electrophysiological operating principles of the brain. Whenever a neuron fires, it transmits an impulse which is relayed and registered in the brain. However, if the same cell continues to fire repeatedly for some time, its message is no longer acknowledged by the brain, becoming a constant electrical background feature of the central nervous system.