Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. In yoga nidra, we consciously take our attention to different parts of the body and relax them.
A yoga routine provides deep restoration to your body and the mind. And to make your practice more effective, it’s ideal to end your yoga sequence with yoga nidra (yogic sleep).
Medical researchers estimate that up to 90% of illness and disease is related to stress, from something as slight as a cold to the more crippling ailments of heart disease and cancer.
It seems that no matter what you do-whether you work too much or not at all-you still accumulate tension at the physical, mental, and emotional levels.
Over 30 years ago, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of the renowned Bihar School of Yoga in eastern India, adapted ancient tantric meditation techniques into a practice he calls Yoga Nidra, which he translates as “Psychic Sleep.” This practice induces complete relaxation while maintaining consciousness.
Swami Satyananda drew this technique from an ancient Tantric practice of nyasa (meaning “to place” or “to take the mind to that point”). Other tantric meditations follow this phase: awareness of your whole body, brain, internal organs, and feeling contact between the earth and your body.
Swami Satyananda calls the prolonged suspension between Yoga Nidra’s wakefulness and sleep the “hypnogogic state,” where we can awaken our deepest levels of creativity and healing energies. In this state, you can ultimately change thought patterns for the better.
Yoga practices increase the energy levels in the body. Yoga Nidra helps conserve and consolidate this energy and relax the entire system, preparing it for pranayama and meditation. It is, therefore, important to keep aside sufficient time for yoga nidra after yoga postures.
A 20- ‘to 30- minute session of Yoga Nidra is said to be the equivalent of approximately three hours of deep sleep!
In this fast-paced world we live in, we have lost a much-needed connection with our minds and bodies,” he explains, Yoga Nidra helps to re-establish this connection and is beneficial on many levels. It brings muscular relaxation, better understanding and control over our emotions, and improved psychological health.
While doing Yoga Nidra, make yourself comfortable in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation takes you through the pancha maya kosha (five layers of self), leaving you with a sense of wholeness.
The trick in yoga nidra is to: relax with awareness, remain effortless and consciously relax the body and mind.
It is quite natural to be distracted by random thoughts during yoga nidra. Do not try and curb them. If you fall asleep naturally, don’t feel guilty once you wake up.
Yoga nidra is thus a rapturous, effortless way to end your yoga practice.
Getting Ready for Yoga Nidra:
The stomach must be empty of light before the practice. It is not recommended to practice Yoga asanas or Yoga nidra after a full meal.
Before beginning, find a quiet, peaceful space where you will not be disturbed. Get comfortable so you can remain motionless during the entire practice. Practice Yoga Nidra in Savasana (Corpse Pose), as you follow the spoken instructions of a teacher or a recording. You can either have a friend read you the instructions, or you can record them yourself and play them back. In the first phase of the session, you progressively relax your muscles by rotating awareness through different parts of your body. If you need, put a bolster under your knees, cover up with a blanket, and place an eye pillow on your eyes.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
- Cools down the body after yoga Asana
- Restoring normal temperature
- Activates the nervous system to absorb the effects of yoga asanas
The process to do Yoga Nidra:
- Lie in Savasana (Corpse Pose), body stretched out, your head in line with your body, feet apart, arms beside you, your palms turned upward. Make yourself comfortable, then let your body remain still. Close your eyes and keep them closed until the end of the session. Make a promise to yourself that “I will not sleep. I will remain awake.”
- Take a deep breath in, and feel coolness and calmness spreading throughout your body. As you breathe out, let your cares and worries flow out of you. Become aware of your body, and relax completely, both physically and mentally. Become aware of your breath as it moves between your navel and throat. Repeat your resolve mentally three times with feeling and awareness.
- Now, begin to rotate the awareness from one part of your body to the next. Repeat the name of the part in your mind as you simultaneously become aware of it. Try to remain alert, but do not concentrate too hard.
- Become aware of the right side of your body. Take your awareness to your right hand: The Right Thumb, Index finger, Middle Finger, ring finger, little finger, palm, back of your hand, then your wrist arm, elbow, shoulder, armpit, waist, hip, thigh, kneecap, calf muscle, ankle, heel, sole of your foot, top of your foot, toes.
- Gently, repeat this process for the left side of your body.
- Take your attention to all parts of the body: genital area, stomach, navel region, chest.
- Take your attention to the right shoulder and right arm, palms, and fingers then repeat this on the left shoulder and left arm, throat, face and finally the top of the head.
- Take a deep breath in, observe the sensations in your body, and relax in this still state for a few minutes.
- Now, slowly becoming aware of your body and surroundings, turn to your right side and keep lying down for a few more minutes. Rolling over to the right side makes the breath flow through the left nostril which helps cool the body.
- Taking your own time, you may then slowly sit up, and whenever you feel comfortable, slowly, and gradually open your eyes. Do not sleep. Say to yourself: “I am awake, I am practicing Yoga Nidra.”