Yoga nidra is a meditation technique. It is a powerful technique of pratyahara, which can be used to bring about complete physical mental and emotional relaxation. As a technique of Pratyahara Yoga Nidra induces an experience of internalization in the practitioners. In the classical branch of Raja Yoga, there is a stage of meditation called Pratyahara which induces a state of internalization and inner relaxation. Yoga Nidra; literally translated as psychic or yogic sleep is one of the techniques of Pratyahara. The state of Yoga Nidra is very close to hypnagogic state. It helps disengage the mind from disturbing cycle of repeated thoughts and emotions and eventually provides much needed relaxation to your mind.
The term yoga nidra is derived from two Sanskrit words. ‘Yoga’ meaning union or harmony and ‘nidra’, which is broadly defined as sleep or relaxation. The term can be said to mean relaxation, which creates inner harmony. Yoga Nidra is based on ancient tantric practice, called ‘Nyasa’. The word nyasa’ means to place or take ones mind to that point. Using this techniques shakti or energy of the different parts of the body is awakened by reciting the corresponding mantra of the body parts. Yoga nidra is characterized by systematic withdrawal of awareness from the whole body to various parts first externally and then internally. When awareness is turned inwards, visualizing and meditation is developed. Yoga nidra is often refers to as psychic sleep as the individual is between the states of sleep and wakefulness.
Yoga Nidra is one of the techniques of Pratyahara. Pratyahara is one of the stages of meditation when one starts to experience withdrawal of the awareness from external sensorial experiences.
There are eight distinct stages of Yoga Nidra when taught traditionally.
In the first stage of preparation pose of shavasana (corpse pose) is assumed. This pose once assumed properly then it helps you to eliminate all discomforts of the body and would help to attain maximum physical relaxation. In this state of preparation, through various techniques, your awareness is internalized, which helps you disengaging from stress inducing thoughts. As a result it immediately connects you with the experiences of the body and mind ‘here and now’.
Once your awareness is internalized then you are asked to take a positive and simply worded resolve. Once you chose a positive resolve and repeat mentally in Yoga Nidra, it leaves a very deep impression on your sub-conscious mind. It helps giving a positive direction to your mental energies.
In the third stage of Yoga Nidra, you are guided to rotate the awareness through different parts of the body. Normally route to rotate the awareness is fixed and very systematic. In this stage, your awareness gets fully grounded in the body and systematic rotation through body would help to deeply relax not just the body parts but also your mind. Key to relaxation here is your conscious awareness with body parts which helps to establish a deeper connection with the body and hence relaxes it.
In the fourth stage, awareness of breath is enhanced. It helps to induce a deep physical and mental relaxation. It also provides your mind a support to remain aware and rooted in the present moment. Various techniques of breath awareness are employed in the practice to strengthen your ability to concentrate without creating tensions.
In this stage you are trained to create opposite sensations or feeling which remaining non-involved. Initially it may start with very simple opposite pair of physical sensations such as heaviness and light or heat and cold. Later it may involve more emotionally laden opposite feelings or emotions. But during the entire stage you are asked to remain an observer of the manifestations of these sensations or feelings. This stage not only releases the pent up emotions associated with the feelings but also enhances your ability to withstand them effectively in real life situations.
In stage six of Yoga Nidra, there are many visualization techniques used. These techniques may range from simple and random objects visualization to healing visualization, story visualization or daily routine visualization. The stage of visualization enhances the ability of photographic memory, relaxation of the mind, healing of the body and helps improving the learning outcome.
After visualization, the stage of Sankalpa is again repeated. This repetition helps to deepen the impressions of resolve when you are still in the state of deep relaxation. It is like irrigating the seed of Sankalpa through reaffirmation.
Once you graduate through all these stages explained above, then your senses are guided properly to reorient towards external surroundings. This allows you to come out of deep relaxation without any disorientation.
Sushant is Meditation & Philosophy Teacher and Academic Director at Rishikesh Yogis. Sushant carries long years of experience teaching practical as well as philosophical aspects of Kundalini yoga, Kriya yoga, Hatha Yoga and Tantra philosophy.