Yoga Nidra: What is it and how does it work?
“In yoga nidra, the consciousness is in a state between waking and sleep, but is subject to neither.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Contemporary Yoga Nidra was developed as a specialized yoga practice by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from the Bihar School in India. After researching ‘sleep learning’, Satyananda developed Yoga Nidra derived originally from Tantric practices and texts. Satyananda died in 2009 and wrote over 80 books about yoga, healing, health and the mind-body. Yoga Nidra is now practices all over the world and is part of the 5th and 6th limbs of the Eight Limb Path of Yoga, Pratyahara and Dyarana.
There are many types of Yoga Nidra however they all have a common goal: A holistic approach to relaxation and healing of the mental, physical and spiritual body.
How it works
Yoga Nidra works on the premise that while you are in this ‘dream-like’ state between sleeping and wakefulness you are able to enter a deep state of conscience relaxation. While the body relaxes, the mind stays aware and is able to access our subconscious and unconscious mind, where memories, trauma and sensations reside. During Yoga Nidra our awareness of the external world is reduced. As a result our defences are down and we are able to remember deeper layers of ourselves that are often blocked.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Healing, stress reduction, improved sleep, reduced nervousness and migraine headaches, ability to bring forth specific healing and emotional needs, and improved creativity!
Most Yoga Nidras follow a similar pattern, with a full practice taking up to 45 minutes. Shorter versions omit some of the steps rather than rush through each one. Many Western approaches skip the Sankalpa and the Chidakasha.
The pattern usually goes like this:
Rotation of Consciousness (nyasa)
Manifestation of Opposite Sensations
End of Relaxation
What is a Sankalpa?
The sankalpa works on the subtle body to help heal trauma, break negative patterns and assist in making positive changes in our lives. Our sankalpa is repeated 3 times at the beginning and end of the Yoga Nidra practice to help bring transformation, healing, vitality and a more positive outlook on life. When we in the active process of healing a sankalpa can be of particular benefit because we can focus on a very specific to heal the body. Sankalpas are NOT affirmations. Affirmations tend to be generic positive statements that don’t specifically relate to you, whereas a Sankalpa is created by you, for you. Once you have found your sankalpa state it with conviction and don’t change it until it comes true (months, years).
What is Nyasa (Rotation of Consciousness)?
Unique to Yoga Nidra is the rapid and systematic body awareness rotation through various parts of the body. During this practice we are able to enter the physical body on a much deeper while the mind is active and awake. This work helps to build concentration and increase awareness of how our whole body is interconnected. Going through one body part at a time also allows the space for hidden memories or trauma to surface.
During this part of the practice we focus on any number of breath awareness practices like Nadi Shodhana.
Positive and creative visualization have tremendous powers to heal. During the Yoga Nidra practice a variety of guided visualizations are used for different effect. Some visualizations focus on sensations of the body (hot or cold), a journey through various natural landscapes, or targeting the subtle bodies such as the chakras. The effects vary, but the potential to experience a wide range of emotions, symbols, and memories that can later be integrated into the conscious mind.
What is Chidakasha?
The Chidakasha is a meditation practice of noticing the space in front of the closed eyes. One may see images, colours, shapes, people or landscapes. During this practice we just observe what arises which can often lead to tremendous creativity.
Give it a try!