Yoga Nidra: A Complete Guide to Ancient Deep Relaxation Practice

Sometimes,
to achieve more, you have to let go of things that hold you back. We are
talking about things that cloud your senses, such as insecurity, stress, low
self-esteem, fear, anger, and other negative thoughts. When these thoughts
overpower you, it results in suffering, desolation, and low productivity.

The
best way to win over these negative thoughts is to practice Yoga Nidra, the art
of doing nothing.

Yoga
Nidra takes you to the higher realms of consciousness where you realize your
true potential. You attain a state of awareness where you realize that the
thoughts influencing your mind are temporary objects. These thoughts will come
and go, but you will remain forever.

Once
you achieve this state of mind, you will become a self-realized soul,
determined to fulfill your duties, without subjecting to temporary influences
of this physical world. And the simplest way to achieve this state is by
practicing Yoga Nidra – the ancient art of relaxing the mind and elevating the
consciousness.

Are
you excited to know more? Let us now dive deeper into the world of Yoga Nidra.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga
Nidra – also known as Psychic Sleep, Yogic Sleep, and Dynamic Sleep – is an
ancient technique of attaining a state of consciousness between waking and
sleeping. It’s a way of inducing deep relaxation and at the same time, being
aware of the inner consciousness.

Confusing?
Let us talk about Yoga Nidra definition in detail.

To
understand Yoga Nidra, you must know about the three states of consciousness
that influence human existence. These are:

  • Jagriti or
    Jaagrut (Conscious) – Wakeful State of Mind – When the mind is connected to the
    external environment. It relies on the sensory organs to receive and interpret
    signals from the surroundings.
  • Swapna
    (Subconscious) – Dream State – The mind drifts into the world of dreams. It’s
    the state between the external world and the inner world.
  • Sushupti
    (Unconscious) – Deep Sleep – The mind slips into an unconscious state wherein
    you have no connection with the outer world. You are not even aware of the flow
    of time.

So
when you are awake, your mind and body are in a wakeful state. You are
conscious of the activities happening around you. But when you sleep, you enter
into a dream state (subconscious) or deep sleep state (unconscious) of mind.
Your awareness shifts to these states and you are not aware of the outside
world. Your body also slips into the rest mode.

Now
in Yoga Nidra, your body moves into a state of rest (relaxation), but your mind
is awake. Yoga Nidra is an art of inducing a state of rest without falling
asleep. The mind attains a state wherein it is connected to the conscious state
as well as the unconscious state.

Yoga
Nidra helps you in attaining pratyahara (withdrawal
of the senses). You listen to a set of instructions, similar to a guided
meditation, to shift awareness from the outside world to the inner world. Besides
pratyahara, you also practice pranayama (breathing techniques) and dharana (concentration) to enter a
relaxed and conscious state.

Practicing
Yoga Nidra takes you into self-awareness mode, wherein you can consciously
watch and analyze your samskaras (impressions
of the mind). The samskaras are the
result of your experiences from the past. Based on the nature of experiences,
the samskaras manifest in the form of
suffering, happiness, contentment, and other humanly states.

Yoga
Nidra helps you in breaking the bonds associated with the samskaras, tensions, and other negative habits. You undergo a
spiritual as well as emotional evolution. You attain higher levels of
consciousness and become more receptive to people and situations in your life.
Ultimately, you evolve as a better human being, possessing a positive outlook
towards life.

How does Yoga Nidra work?

Swami
Satyananda Saraswati – who popularized the practice of modern Yoga Nidra in the
mid-twentieth century – says Yoga Nidra is attaining a state between waking and
sleeping states. The body is at rest, but the mind is active. As a
practitioner, you can experience it by practicing Yoga Nidra under the guidance
of a Yoga Nidra expert.

There
is a scientific explanation for Yoga Nidra as well. Different states of
consciousness are marked by different levels of brain activity, measured in the
form of brainwave patterns. So when you are awake, your brain emits a
particular brainwave pattern. And when you are asleep, the brain emits different
types of brainwave pattern.

An
electroencephalogram (EEG) test is conducted to measure the intensity of these
brainwave patterns in cycles per second (cps). Let us have a look at the
brainwave patterns for different states, including Yoga Nidra.

State
of Consciousness
Psychological
Name
Brainwave
Pattern
Characteristics
Alert Wakefulness Conscious Mind Beta (frequency > 13 cps) Receptive to the external world
through sensory organs
Relaxed Wakefulness (Yoga Nidra) Superconscious mind (Transition from
Conscious to Subconscious & Unconscious state)
Alpha (8 – 13 cps) Deep & conscious relaxation, a
state of drowsiness
Dreaming Sleep Subconscious Mind Beta (3 – 7 cps) Dreams appear, the brain is awake,
body paralyzed
Deep Sleep Unconscious Mind Delta (frequency < 4 cps) Disengagement of the mind and
consciousness, body restoration takes place

Yoga
Nidra, or the Sleep of the Yogis, induces the Alpha brainwave pattern. Once you
enter this meditative state, your heart rate slows down, muscle relaxation
takes place, and the autonomic nervous system kicks in. The process stimulates
the pineal gland that, in turn, releases melatonin – a hormone that reduces
stress and boosts the immune system. Your mind and body start to rejuvenate.

Now
the question arises – how to practice Yoga Nidra and rejuvenate your mind and
body? Let us proceed ahead and look at the Yoga Nidra practice popularized by
Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

Eight Stages of Yoga Nidra

Swami
Satyananda Saraswati, the founder of Bihar School of Yoga, devised the modern
Yoga Nidra concept and codified the practice in eight stages. Let us guide you
through these eight stages of Satyananda Yoga Nidra practice.

Stage
1: Preparation

To
begin with the process, you must relax your body and create a suitable
surrounding, calm and serene. Select a space where you can lie down in Shavasana. Make enough room on the floor
so that your body doesn’t make contact with any object. Lie down on the floor,
cover yourself with a blanket, and assume Shavasana
position, limbs stretched out in a relaxed position with no tension at the
joints.

Stage
2: Sankalpa – The Resolution

When
you begin Yoga Nidra, you need a Sankalpa,
a resolution, a determination to focus upon. It’s not like that you are
doing Yoga Nidra to fulfill a wish or a dream. Taking a Sankalpa is a way of strengthening your will power. It’s a way of training
your conscious and subconscious mind to work towards fulfilling your goals.

So
when you begin Yoga Nidra, you take a Sankalpa,
and when the session is about to end, you repeat the Sankalpa. You are planting the seed in your subconscious mind. As
you keep on practicing Yoga Nidra every day, you nourish the seed so that it
grows into a healthy plant. The process continues till the time your Sankalpa comes true.

Stage
3: Rotation of Consciousness

There
are two sections in this stage – rotation of sound awareness and rotation of
body awareness.

The
rotation of sound awareness begins with the process of internalization. You
start by focusing on external sounds. You will hear all types of sounds – insects
creaking, wind blowing, footsteps in the alley, horn blowing, and so on.
Gradually, your focus on the external sounds diminishes, and instead, it shifts
inside you. You start becoming aware of your presence. This is the point where
the process of pratyahara (withdrawal
of the senses) comes in.

The
rotation of body awareness makes you realize the “wholeness” of your body, not
just individual parts. The instructor guides you through the process of
internal awareness of the body parts. He or she names the body part, you think
about the part, and you become aware of it. As soon as the instructor names
another body part, you become detached from the previous body part and your
awareness shifts to this particular part. The process continues until you become
aware, and at the same time, detached of the whole body.

Stage
4: Breath Awareness

Once
your body becomes still, the internal processes also calm down. Your breath and
heart rate slows down. You enter a relaxed state. In this stage, you watch and observe your
breath. You DO NOT control it. Just let it flow through different channels and
become aware of its movement. The process will further open the door to
consciousness within you.

The
breath is the link between physical and mental aspects. It is the Prana (the life force). The relaxed
breathing calms your mind and body. Eventually, it removes the psychological
blocks, revealing your suppressed thoughts and emotions. You observe your
thoughts and let them pass by, without holding on to them. Ultimately,
relieving yourself of the unnecessary weight that you have been carrying for a
long time.

Stage
5: Manifestation of Opposites

In
this stage, the practitioner learns to deal with the emotions and the emotional
states. The instructor arouses opposite emotions or feelings at the physical
and emotional level. The opposite feelings can be love/hate, heat/cold,
pain/pleasure, and so on. As a practitioner, you experience these opposite
emotions, let them fade away after some time, and finally enter into a relaxed
state, unaffected by the emotions.

This
stage activates the limbic system of the brain that deals with three key
functions: emotions, memories, and arousal. The ultimate aim of this practice
is to develop will power, emotional control, and composure.

Stage
6: Creative Visualization

This
stage will invoke the power of visualization within you. This practice aims to
visualize imagery and use this visualization to construct or recall emotions
and experiences. These experiences may be from the past, present, or the
future. Since you are in a relaxed state, these visualizations don’t influence
you. You are aware of the nature of these visualizations. But you will analyze
them, use your creativity to paint a complete picture, and let it pass by
without holding on to them.

Stage
7: Sankalpa

Remember
the Sankalpa you took in Stage 2?
It’s time to repeat the same Sankalpa and
let the subconscious mind know what it needs to do. Since you are completely
relaxed and aware of the cosmic consciousness within you, it’s the perfect
moment to focus on your resolution. Your mind is receptive to the instructions,
and therefore, you should recall the Sankalpa
at this particular moment.

The Infinite Consciousness…

Before
you proceed to the last stage, you experience the infinite consciousness within
you. The seven stages of Yoga Nidra stimulate the consciousness within you. You
are aware of the ‘inner spaces of consciousness’ within you. Chidakash, or the ‘space of mind
consciousness’ manifest inside your forehead or behind your eyes. Hridayakash or the ‘space of heart
consciousness’ exists at the center of your chest.

Yoga
Nidra practice activates these inner spaces of consciousness within you where
you can watch your thoughts, feelings, samskaras,
and experiences. You watch them, but they don’t affect you. They appear, and
they go, and you experience them, with complete detachment.

Stage
8: Externalization

The
last stage brings back the practitioner from the internal world of psychic
sleep to the external world. The process of externalization should be gradual
because if it’s too quick, the practitioner may feel disoriented and the
serenity after a Yoga Nidra session may disappear abruptly.

The
instructor guides you through a series of steps, comprising of breath
awareness, body awareness, and familiarization to the external
surroundings. Finally, the transition
takes place from sleep to wakefulness.

Yoga Nidra vs. Meditation

People
often confuse Yoga Nidra with meditation. They say – the difference lies in the
position, you assume an upright position in meditation and while doing Yoga
Nidra, you lie down as if you are sleeping. Well, this is one of the major
differences. But there are other aspects as well that makes Yoga Nidra and meditation
similar yet different practices.

Yoga
Nidra
Meditation
Position You lie down on the floor in Shavasana. The body is completely
relaxed and tension-free.
You sit cross-legged in an upright
position. You can lean against the wall to maintain an upright position. If
possible, you can also sit in lotus pose.
Process A cycle of Yoga Nidra comprises of
eight steps. An instructor guides you through these steps.
While meditating, you focus on your
breath, mantra, or any other intangible tool, such as numbers, a ball of
light, and so on. An instructor may or may not guide you during meditation.
State
of Consciousness
You enter a state of deep conscious
sleep. Your mind is awake, but the body is at rest. It’s a state between
being asleep and awake.
You are in a waking state of
consciousness. You are aware of the external environment. However, you can also
transcend into deeper levels of consciousness.

Learn Yoga Nidra

Yoga
Nidra is an ancient art devised by the Yogis and excelled by the Yoga experts.
Whether you want to live a stress-free life or you want to open the door to
opportunities, Yoga Nidra can assist you in both cases.

You need an instructor who can guide you through the complete process of Yoga Nidra, and help you in exploring the depths of consciousness within you. Get in touch with a Yoga Nidra expert to embark on the journey of self-awareness. To learn more about Yoga Nidra join Jeevmoksha yoga teacher training in Rishikesh




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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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