I would like to start by quoting Swami Satyananda Saraswati on Yoga Nidra. He has made the unique and supreme practice of Yoga Nidra accessible for us and has said that ‘Yoga Nidra is the Yoga of aware sleep. In this lies the secret of self-healing. Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is relaxed’.
I would add that Yoga Nidra is conscious aware relaxation. It is an ancient technique by which we first withdraw our senses (thus going into pratyahara) and then consciously relax each and every body part while being awake. We aim to achieve a state where we watch our body parts relax and also watch the mind relax. Your ‘self or soul’ remains a WITNESS… in the backdrop.
Yoga Nidra is different from Shavasan as it is practiced for a minimum of 20-30 minutes minutes while Shavasan can be practiced for 5-10 minutes for optimum benefits. In Shavasan we relax only the body.
Yoga Nidra is different from Meditation too. In meditation we make a focused concentrated effort on a tool such as the breath or on a syllable/mantra, an image or on a person we revere. We may attempt to meditate for 10-30 minutes but actual meditation happens for only 2-5 minutes.
Yoga Nidra is also different from Hypnosis. In hypnosis we tend to go into deep sleep while being guided by the hypnotist who guides/controls our mind asking pertinent questions.
In Yoga Nidra we maintain awareness of our body and mind. We are conscious of both. Hence Yoga Nidra is beyond Shavasan, Meditation and Hypnosis.
What happens to us when we practice Yoga Nidra?
The body and the mind go into a deep state of rest and relaxation due to the resting instructions given on a rotation. These are more precise than those given in a usual shavasan session.
In my very first Yoga Nidra session I had fallen asleep but was told to not worry as even when we sleep our consciousness is present. I did reap the benefits from that particular session and from subsequent sessions.
Here I would like to introduce the Sanskrit word Hiranyagarbhaya which does not mean the womb of the deer but means ‘potential’. Yoga Nidra helps us attain the potential of the conscious and the subconscious mind. During Yoga Nidra when our consciousness is detached from the senses we are more aware.
The consciousness between sleep and awake and between unconscious and subconscious is very powerful and has the potential to correct habits, help you achieve goals, improve your creativity, make you work harder/effectively and it can also transform your personality traits. Usually at the start of a session we make a Sankalpa (an intention)- which you repeat to yourself at the end of a session. The mind is highly receptive at that stage (referred to as the fertile ‘theta’ and ‘delta’ brain wave states) and any resolve that is accepted by the mind is achieved in due course with regular practice of Yoga Nidra.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati has this to say: ‘Anything in life can fail you, but not the sankalpa made during the practice of Yoga Nidra’.
During a teacher’s training session in 2016 I first heard about Sankalpa and I worked on my personality traits that I knew I needed to correct. These can range from insecurity, laziness, procrastination, low self-esteem, negative habits, relationships, thought patterns or emotional issues such as jealousy, hatred, unhealthy comparisons, anger, forgiveness or inability to let go. Usually what you need to correct may come to you at a Yoga Nidra session itself. When we come face-to-face with our limitations we embrace them and uplift ourselves to new heights. Sankalpa can also be about your goals or working harder. It can be anything that you require to improve yourself- personal, career or fitness goals.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
Yoga Nidra is relaxing, de-stressing and rejuvenating
Helps with management of chronic pain
Helps with insomnia
Helps wellness and wellbeing
Helps manage lifestyle diseases
Helps deal with depression and trauma
The sankalpa plants a seed for self-improvement
How is Yoga Nidra conducted?
A trained Yoga Nidra teacher will guide you into shavasan and then into Yoga Nidra. The voice and tone of the teacher is modulated and soon you will find yourself going into a state of deep relaxation, physically, emotionally as well as mentally. The teacher will give you time to recognize and internally repeat your sankalpa.
Anshu Vyas is an International Yoga Alliance certified trainer (2016) and a certified Reebok trainer. She conducts a special online workshops on Light Yoga, Pranayama and Yoga Nidra. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to her YouTube channel and her Facebook group for fantastic Yoga advice.
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