Yoga Nidra is specific relaxation practice following a precise method for inducing complete, deep physical, mental and emotional relaxation, while maintaining awareness at the deeper levels of consciousness.
“In Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake.”
Indeed, the practice is so relaxing that it becomes very difficult to remain awake, but you finish feeling more rested than you do after a good night’s sleep, Yoga Nidra is a more efficient and effective form of rest, both physiologically and mentally compared to conventional sleep with one hour of yoga nidra being equivalent to around 4 hours of regular sleep.
As time goes on, the practice of Yoga Nidra deepens from relaxation to the full experience of Yoga Nidra and a deeper state of mind, sometimes this experience lasts just for a moment, but eventually, with patience this state becomes more sustainable
This level of consciousness is the place where thoughts, emotions, images, and sensations go when they recede from the Waking and Dreaming states. Because of this, Yoga Nidra is a valuable tool for examining, reducing, and eliminating habit patterns which are not useful or positive in life. Yoga Nidra effectively changes the way of feeling and thinking and habitual negative actions and behaviours can be reduced or eliminated through regular, sustained practice of Yoga Nidra.
Stages of Yoga Nidra Practice
- Initial Relaxation of the body and mind is induced by the awareness of stillness, comfort, posture, position, breath, and listening to the external sounds with the attitude of a witness without the need to identify or name the sounds.
- Intention, Sankalpa is a short, positive statement repeated mentally 3 times with feeling and awareness, for example “I will enjoy total health.” “I am happy and content.”
Explanation:The resolve should be chosen very carefully, and be precise and clear; otherwise it will not move into the subconscious mind. Here are some examples which can be used:
* I will be successful in all that I undertake.
* I will be more aware and compassionate.
* I will achieve total health.
* I will make healthy food choices.
* I will create less stress in my day to day life.
* I will awaken my spiritual potential.
Choose only one resolve and be patient. Once chosen, the resolve must not be changed. Do not expect results overnight; time is required depending on the nature of the resolve and the degree to which it is planted into the mind. The result depends on the sincerity and desire to obtain the goal of the resolve.
- Rotation of consciousness rapidly through different parts of the body, with each area’s name mentally repeated and awareness brought to that area of the body. Practice always starts with the right hand and moves quickly through various areas of the body.
Explanation:From neurophysiology we know that each part of the body has a different control centre in the brain—curiously, small ones such as the fingers or armpits claim a large brain area. The movement of awareness through different parts of the body not only relaxes them, but also clears nerve pathways from each area of the body to the brain.
- Rotation of awareness around the more subtle energy body
Explanation: Experiencing and connecting with various energy centres in the body, taking your awareness into the deeper levels of subtle sensations within the body.
- Breath and Energy Awareness is practiced by becoming aware of the natural breath without making an attempt to change the flow or rhythm of the breath. The practice can be awareness of the breath in the nostrils, throat, chest, and abdomen, or in the passage between the navel and the throat. Counting of the breath can be added to the practice to aid awareness of each incoming and outgoing breath.
Explanation: Continues relaxation and promotes concentration, awakens higher energies and directs them to every cell of the body.
- Sense Perception is the next stage in the form of an awakening of sensations of pairs of polar opposites, such as heaviness and lightness.
Explanation: The alternating of opposite sensations such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, helps to improve the body’s ability to regain balance and brings the related involuntary functions under conscious control. This practice harmonises the opposite hemispheres of the brain, develops willpower on an emotional level and brings about emotional relaxation.
- The stage of images, visualization or journey involves rapid visualization of images and abstract symbols or a guided journey. This practice is finished with an image that evokes a sense of profound calmness and peace and makes the mind receptive to positive thoughts and suggestions, which leads onto the repetition of the resolve.
Explanation: Visualization is a method of consciously using a symbol our image as a catalyst to provoke a reaction in the unconscious mind. But since no time is given for the conscious mind to react, you remain detached and the ego becomes temporarily inactive. This phase helps to resolve suppressed conflicts, desires, memories. Relaxes the mind and purges it of disturbing and painful material.
- Sankalpa – As above
- Return to awakened state through a guided, slow transition from deep relaxation to being a state of being awake, calm, and refreshed.
Benefits & Uses of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra prevents stress and stress-related disorders by inducing deep physical, emotional and mental relaxation, by training the mind to remain calm and quiet and by rooting out the repressed desires and thoughts from the deeper realms of the mind. Yoga nidra awakens the inherent creativity and promotes the learning and memory abilities of the practitioner.
Research has also discovered that yoga nidra can be used as a therapeutic technique for psychological disorders like anxiety, hostility, insomnia and also psychosomatic diseases like asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer and hypertension. It’s value has been scientifically investigated in recent years around the world with positive results and there are many applications for Yoga Nidra, far too many to go into detail here, so I shall just list the main categories:
Drug & alcohol addiction
Pain Management & relief
Pregnancy, childbirth & menstrual disorders
Increasing learning capacity and memory function
With our current lifestyles and the stress and tempo of modern life, where psychological and psychosomatic problems are on the increase, the technique of yoga nidra is rapidly becoming an essential tool for mankind.
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