Yoga Nidra is an incredibly powerful technique in which you learn how to relax consciously. When we are tired and stressed we often tend to do activities to ‘relax’ that actually aren’t very relaxing or restorative at all. Television, Netflix, YouTube, scrolling down our Facebook feed, having a beer or a cigarette. These are all examples of sensory diversion. They may feel relaxing but in reality they are not restoring our energy levels. True relaxation is much deeper and actually requires awareness. Yoga Nidra is a technique which induces complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
Yoga means union and Nidra means sleep. During the practice one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level. It is a state in between being awake and asleep, between relaxation and meditation. It is sleep with a trace of awareness…and this awareness holds the key to many of the benefits of the practice. Here are just a few listed below.
Training the Mind
The awareness creates a link to the subconscious mind, which is very receptive in this state. The practice is started and ended with making a resolution that is programmed into the mind. It can be anything, ‘I am healthy’…’I am calm’ for example. If you practice Yoga Nidra and train your subconscious mind, the ordinary mind and intellect will follow suit. This makes lifestyle changes more integrated and easy to sustain.
Yoga Nidra and the Brain
Neurophysiologists have been able to find the link between specific body parts and areas of the brain. During Yoga Nidra the facilitator will guide you to move your awareness through the different parts of the body in the precise order correlated to how they are located in the brain. Certain areas of the body are also given more emphasis, again in sync with how they are mapped out in the brain. For example the hands, fingers, lips and nose occupy areas of brain tissue far in excess of the relative size and dimensions of those parts of the physical body. This rotation of your awareness through various parts of the body induces a flow of pranic energy within the neuronal circuit of the motor homunculus which creates an experience of relaxation, release or ‘letting go’. It is a spontaneous withdrawal of the awareness from the sensory and motor channels. This relaxes the mind by relaxing the body.
Excessive sensory stimulation (so common in our modern lives) leads to nervous depletion and even breakdown. This imbalance is alleviated in Yoga Nidra by the withdrawing of energy from the sensory channels. This energy is redirected for healing and rejuvenation of overtaxed tissues, glands and organs
So what is it and what will you experience?
During the practice, you will be lying down on the floor on a yoga mat. It is highly advised to join a Hatha yoga class before so that you will be able to relax your body more easily. You will be guided through the various stages of the practice; preparation and relaxation, setting your resolve, rotation of consciousness (rotating your awareness through various parts of the body in a specific and precise order), body awareness, breathe awareness, awareness of opposite sensations, inner space meditation, story visualization, resolve, and ending with a gentle closing and coming back into the body.
Each stage of the practice has a specific use. For example the story visualizations uses imagery which are very symbolic for the subconscious mind. This process enables us to bring out any tensions from the mind, thus purifying the layers of our mind and bringing us into a state of emotional harmony. This helps us feel happier and more at peace and gifts us progress in our yoga and life journey.
Each stage adds to the overall experience. Once completing the practice you will probably not be able to tell if you were awake or asleep during the practice, you will feel deeply relaxed and at peace.