Yoga Nidra is both a state and practice of consciousness between waking and sleeping. It is an ancient yogic practice that was developed by Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923 – 2009), the founder the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, India, and the author of a plenty of yoga fundamental books and systemic yoga manuals.
Sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep,” Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation and a mind-body therapy that allows for deep restoration and relaxation. This practice is based on ancient tantric ritual texts with description of nyasa (‘nyasa’ means placing or taking the mind to some points in the body accompanied by mantra and visualization techniques) and on teacher-voice guided shavasana practice. It frees up blocks and dissolves body tensions hidden deep in the subconscious and creating obstacles on the path to our goals. This is achieved through several techniques: taking the mind/consciousness to different points in the body in a specific sequence, making the body to remember different sensations (‘bodily memories’), enabling visualizations and symbols that guide consciousness to a state of harmony, as well as observing the stream of consciousness in between the eyebrows (‘chidakash dharana’), which helps to learn how to meditate.
A practitioner works out for themselves to “resolve formula” (‘sankalpa’) – a chosen resolution to send to the subconscious. When one practices Yoga Nidra regularly, then one may achieve great results in spiritual development, quieting the mind, increasing vitality, healing diseases etc., previously thought to be impossible. The whole practice is performed while lying in shavasana (the corpse pose).
Before the Yoga Nidra practice it is good to have at least a 15-minute warm-up session, consisting of surya namaskar and a few basic asanas. Then you can come to lie down in shavasana and start Yoga Nidra practice. Try to get rid of everything that can distract you: turn off your phone, close the door. If it is a cold season, bundle up - otherwise you can feel chilly because of lying still for a long time. You should lie on the flat level floor, on a mat or blanket. If you tend to hind-head or neck aches, put a soft pad under your head. You should not be worried if you sleep or drift off in Yoga Nidra skipping some parts of the guide. Time after time you will feel less tension and fatigue as relaxation and awareness deepen.
You can practice every day (but not more than one session per day) at any time. Use the same sankalpa until you get the desired results in your real life. Then you can work with other sankalpa. Sankalpa should be simple and positive.
In addition to providing relaxation Yoga Nidra was also prescribed to patients as a complementary therapy. As an all-encompassing healing practice, here are 5 reasons to practice Yoga Nidra:
1. It is an accessible form of meditation.
You do not have to practice yoga or meditation to practice Yoga Nidra. In Yoga Nidra, practitioners are lying down in shavasana and shorter versions of it can be completed even in less than 10 minutes, making it a very accessible form of meditation.
2. It helps the physical and mental bodies rest completely.
Our minds are always active, including when we are sleeping. Yoga Nidra is sleep but with traces of deep awareness. During “normal” sleep, we lose track of the self but, in Yoga Nidra, there remains an inward lucidity that can only happen when the mind is in a state of surrender and rest.
3. It is said that a 30-minute Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to 2-4 hours of sleep.
In Yoga Nidra, the benefits are immediate, from reduced stress to deep rest. Following a practice, you feel relaxed and rested. Whenever you are in need of an afternoon nap you may opt for a Yoga Nidra session instead which rejuvenates you for the remainder of the day.
4. It helps to improve quality of sleep.
According to Swami Satyananda, Yoga Nidra is “a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental, and emotional relaxation.” As we learn to unburden ourselves from stresses, the quality of our experiences improve, sleep included.
5. It is a powerful form of manifestation.
Each Yoga Nidra practice opens and closes with sankalpa, a heartfelt intention. It is a statement that should represent a deepest desire, but is said in the present tense as an existing reality (e.g. “I am whole, healed and healthy” as opposed to “I hope to heal”). Swami Satyananda says that sankalpa is mental energy that becomes stronger than matter. When practiced regularly from the depths of our being, it has the power to become reality.
1. Yoga Nidra as a complementary treatment of anxiety and depressive symptoms
2. Impact of Yoga Nidra on psychological general wellbeing in patients with menstrual irregularities
3. Psycho-Biological Changes with Add on Yoga Nidra in Patients with Menstrual Disorders: a Randomized Clinical Trial
4. The effect of yoga nidra in the management of rheumatoid arthritis
5. Six-month trial of Yoga Nidra in menstrual disorder patients: Effects on somatoform symptoms
6. Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
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