Yoga Nidra

Submitted by Thiruvelan on Fri, 06/25/2010
Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra means "yogic sleep"; it works very effectively on mental-resolve, will power, resolutions and provides physical and mental calmness thus useful for insomnias.

What is Yoga nidra?

Many people testify to the unbelievable power and effectiveness of the resolution (Sankalpa) made during the practice of Yoga nidra. Resolution can use to eliminate negatives and impose positive or overcome addiction if any or to attain the goal (aim in life).

Many people in the East and the West are attracted to Yoga Practices, for they think they can find the solution to every problem therein, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual! A great importance is attaches to relaxation techniques that might help a person tensed due to chronic stressful lifestyle. Yoga Nidra is one such wonderful technique for physical or mental relaxation.

Ordinary sleep and Yogic sleep

It is to understand that ordinary sleep is not a relaxation; the tensions cannot always resolve completely in ordinary sleep. Although the word 'Nidra' means sleep,

Yoga Nidra is qualitatively different relaxation. It is a 'sleep,' where all the burdens are thrown off to attain the more blissful state of awareness, a relaxation much more intense than ordinary sleep.

Yoga nidra's Neuro-physiologic relationship

There is a close relation between the body and the brain, which is proving by all scientific means. Various centers in the brain control, modify, and affect our bodily functions. In fact, there is a center in the brain for every act, whether willful or reflex, physical or mental. Stimulation of these centers leads to appropriate action, be it motor, sensory, secretary, emotive or cognitive. Thus, we have a holographic representation of the body on the brain.

It is proven that the left half of the body is representing in right half of the brain and vice-a-versa. As far as the muscular actions are concerned, the representation is in an 'upside-down manner'. Thus, at the top of this part of brain, the lowest part of our body (i.e. foot) is representing. Then, it comes ankle, leg (calf), knee, thigh, hip, trunk, shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, palm, fingers, thumb, then neck, jaw, face, eyes, ears, tongue, taste, swallowing, etc. The same thing is applicable to sensations. Stimulation of brain-centers of sensory cortex evokes sensations on the opposite half of the body.

Yoga Nidra Practice

Asanas - first doing few asanas - practicing few postures such as child-pose, lotus-pose, or sun-salutations, then carry out Yoga nidra.

Shavasana - Then the person lies on his or her back in totally relaxed posture (Shavasana - posture simulating dead body). Eyes are lightly closed; arms are keeping with palms facing upwards, and fingers are half lifted from the ground; breathing is natural and quiet.

Resolve or Sankalpa - Before the rotation of awareness the aspirant should make a positive resolve about the aim in life. The wordings should be clear and precise. It is not expecting that the sadhaka make minor resolve like, 'I will give up smoking, or drinking, or tobacco, but he or she should think higher. A few resolves are:

  • I will awaken my Vital potential
  • I will be successful in all undertakings,
  • I will achieve total health
  • I will be in positive help to others, etc.

Rotation of Awareness - One has to visualize the part of the body mentioned by the instructor, be that a teacher or a tape. The student should not move; any part of their body unnecessarily. Quickly corresponding with the instructions, one has to shift the awareness from one part to the next. The aspirant should not imagine the next part before the instructor mentions it. The whole process is a pleasure and not a burden. There should not be any anxiety or expectation. The usual pattern is to start focusing awareness in the following sequence:

First on the right side, thumb, fingers (one by one), palm of the hand, then the wrist, the forearm, the elbow, arm, shoulder, right back, hip, thigh, knee, leg, ankle, foot, great toe, other toes of the right foot. The same sequence is repeats for the left side.

Then awareness is the focus on the proximity of the body with the carpet (ground). In the back of the head, shoulders, back and spine, thighs, heel. Next, the front of the body surface is bringing in to awareness: Face, brow, eyes, nose, lips, mouth, chin, neck, chest, abdomen, upper thighs, legs, foot, and toes, in that order.

Awareness of the Breath - After rotation of the consciousness in such a sequence, focusing attention on the act of breathing completes physical relaxation. One simply maintains awareness of breath, either at the nostril or of its passage through the navel and throat.

Relaxation at the emotional level - Next comes, relaxation at the level of feelings and emotions. Attempt is made to bring to memory the intense physical and emotional feelings; they are re-experienced or re-lived, and then effaced (remove completely from memory). Usually, this is the practice with pairs of two opposite feelings like hot and cold, lightness and heaviness, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, etc. Relaxation at the emotional level and building up of strong willpower is the major outcome of this procedure.

Visualization - The final stage of Yoga Nidra relates to mental relaxation. The aspirant tries to visualize the objects as described by the instructor. Usually such images and symbols are choosing that have universal significance. To quote a few symbols: mountain, river, ocean, temple, church, cross, Saint, flower, etc. The practice helps to develop self-awareness and helps in concentration or dharana ("concentration" or "single focus"). Rarely, even dhyana may be the natural outcome.

Ending the Practice - Once again, the resolve or sankalpa is intently thinking of or even visualize. Thus, consciously one tries to direct the unconscious mind about the goal in life. This time the unconscious is very receptive and therefore, may accept the suggestion from the conscious mind with more intensity. It is the claim that in due course of time, depending upon the sincerity and regularity of the sadhaka; the resolve bears fruit in sadhaka's life.

Benefits of Yoga nidra

Yoga Nidra helps in restoring mental, emotional, and physical health by way of relaxation, and makes the mind more conducive to pratyahara ('withdrawal of the senses'), dharana, and meditation.

Such a practice helps harmonize two hemispheres of the brain and the two aspects of autonomous nervous system viz. sympathetic and parasympathetic. The impressions in the subconscious are bringing to surface, experience and remove. Thus, the fixation of awareness to the body is replacing with awareness linked with subtler aspects of prana and spiritual dimensions.