Yoga Nidra

Its Advantages and Applications

The term Yoga Nidra means yogic or psychic sleep. It is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, induced by a guided meditation. It is one of the practices of Pratyahara (The practice of consciously withdrawing the senses from their objects and guiding them inward to the nature of the mind, which is formless).

Today, life has become extremely fast, hectic, and demanding. Our lifestyles and how we each adapt to the everyday stresses can give rise to mental or psychological problems. Some react to the increasing demands by becoming overactive while others may withdraw inwards. Unacknowledged or unaddressed stress builds up in the body causing all kinds of issues.

For most, our minds never really turn off, and we can remain unaware of the fact that we are in a constant state of arousal and tension. The practice of Yoga Nidra can help to greatly reduce the build-up of stress in both the mind and body. With the practice of Yoga Nidra you will learn how to gently relax, becoming aware of where in your body and your mind you hold tension. There are several benefits to practicing Yoga Nidra, some of those benefits are:

  • Minimizes tension.
  • Trains the mind.
  • Relaxes the mind.
  • Clears up the unconscious.
  • Awakens creativity.
  • Enhances memory and learning capacity.

The Eight Stages To Yoga Nidra

  1. Preparation

Yoga Nidra is performed in the posture of Shavasana with the eyes closed. In this stage, 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.

2. Sankalpa

When the body and mind are relaxed, then the practitioner is instructed to take a resolve according to his or her own wish. The Sankalpa should be short, clear and positive. The practitioner repeats the selected Sankalpa three times mentally, with full determination, conviction and confidence.

A sankalpa is a vow and commitment we make to support our highest truth. It is a statement you can call on to remind you of your true nature and help guide your choices.

3. Rotation of Consciousness

In the third stage, the awareness is rotated around the different body parts in a systematic and organized manner. The practitioner is instructed to remain aware, to listen to the instructions and to move the mind very rapidly according to the instructions without making any physical movements.

  • A rotation of awareness in Yoga Nidra follows a definite sequence:
  • Right side of the body, beginning with the right-hand thumb and ending with a little toe on the right foot.
  • Left side of the body, from the left-hand thumb to the little toe on the left foot.
  • Back of the body, from the heels to the back of the head, and
  • Lastly the front of the body, from the forehead and individual facial features to the legs.

4. Breath Awareness

In this stage, one simply becomes aware of the natural breath without making an attempt to change the flow of the breath. One may become aware of the breath by watching it in the nostrils, chest, and abdomen, or in the passage between the navel and the throat. The practitioner becomes aware of each incoming and outgoing breath by counting them mentally.

5.  Opposite Feelings and Sensations

In this stage, the physical or emotional sensations are recalled, intensified and experienced fully. Usually this is practised with pairs of opposite feelings or sensations like heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, pain and pleasure, love and hate, and so on.

6. Visualisation

In the stage of visualisation, the awareness is taken to the dark space in front of the closed eyes, referred to as chidakashain yogic terminology. The practitioner is then instructed to visualize some objects, stories or situations in the chidakasha.

7. Sankalpa

Once again, the sankalpa, taken in stage two, is repeated mentally three times in this stage with full dedication, faith, and optimism.

8. Ending the Practice

Before ending the session of Yoga Nidra, slowly the awareness is externalised by asking the practitioner to become aware of the external sounds, objects, and persons. They are asked then to slowly move the body parts and to stretch the body.