Yoga Nidra or Yog Nidra is an ancient yogic technique that helps to achieve Pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga. In the strict sense, it tends to be interpreted as mystic rest, as Nidra implies rest. However, technically, it is not that at all; it is the withdrawal or internalization of your senses. Thus, it is one of the many ways to practice pratyahara, and mastering it allows one to move to the next limb, Dharana, or concentration. It has its roots in the tantric practice of Nyasa and the Buddhist yogic practice of vipassana. Yoga Nidra meditation or sleep meditation requires all senses to disconnect from external stimuli except the sense of hearing. This is because the practicer must keep their hearing open for the instructions of the teacher, who guides them into this sleep awareness state. Thus, the methodology of Yoga Nidra is guided meditation.
History Of Yoga Nidra
The first mention of Yoga Nidra was in the Upanishads and then, in the Mahabharata. In the modern-day, the propagator of Yoga Nidra was Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He started teaching it in 1964 in the Bihar School of Yoga first to his four-year-old protege Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. Later, he modified the practice to teach other students, dividing it into eight steps.
Richard Miller, an American yoga teacher, was the first to introduce the technique in the West. He modified the method to be more accessible to students of all levels of yoga expertise. He also started popularizing the use of Yog Nidra for soldiers, veterans, homeless people, children, patients, recovering addicts, convicts, etc. Hence, he was the first to suggest that Yog Nidra was highly effective for therapy, naming it iRest or Integrative Restoration.
Later, in 2004, Christine Goertz, a researcher, and Robin Carnes, a yoga teacher did a study on the efficacy of Rest or Yoga Nidra to treat PTSD in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This led to more scientific studies on not only the conditions that Yog Nidra could help treat but also its beneficial effects on the human body.
How To Do Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, as Satyananda Swamiji taught, consists of eight steps. These are given below:
- Internalization – The first step involves opening up the mind to all external stimuli without any judgment. As a result, the five senses slowly become immune to all the signals and withdraw to the internal world.
- Sankalpa – Sankalpa translates to resolve. In this, you use short, positively reinforcing statements of resolution to help remind us of our purpose and plant it deep within our souls.
- Rotation Of Consciousness – Now, as the teacher will guide, one must rotate their awareness of their body in the motor homunculus path. This follows the sensory-motor complex and helps to withdraw the senses from each part.
- Breath Awareness – By slowing down and increasing the depth of one’s breath, one becomes conscious of the life energy or prana flowing through the body. This is the final step in the complete transfer of consciousness from the physical to the spiritual body.
- Manifestation Of Opposites – Next, one switches their consciousness between opposite sensations in quick succession, like heat-cold, pain-pleasure, heaviness-lightness, etc. This helps to break our mental conditioning or samskaras and removes all resistance to our deepest consciousness.
- Creative Visualization – Visualization helps one come to terms with their truest desires and feelings. Moreover, this provides the encouragement necessary to reach out for one’s goals in life.
- Sankalpa – Once we know what we want and have opened the doors to our deepest spirit, we repeat our Sankalpa. This will help it take root permanently in our minds and prevent us from backing out easily.
- Externalization – Finally, it is time to return to the real world. The teacher will slowly guide the consciousness of the student to the external world without any sudden interruption. This step completes the session of Yog Nidra.
Benefits Of Yoga Nidra
The benefits of Yoga Nidra are manifold. Some of these are as follows:
- Yog Nidra finds great usage in the therapy of PTSD, addiction, stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, BPD, etc.
- Numerous individuals go to Yog Nidra for a sleeping disorder. You can practice yoga Nidra for sleep, relaxation, stress relief, etc.
- Yog Nidra can also help heal many psychological and emotional wounds.
- Many people with traumatic brain injuries and chronic pain have benefitted from Yog Nidra.
- Self-awareness is one of the biggest revelations of Yog Nidra. One can use Yoga Nidra for self-exploration to discover one’s truest, deepest desires.
- For those who struggle with low confidence, insecurity, weak willpower, a fickle mind, and poor resolve, Yog Nidra is the best solution.
- Yog Nidra also helps find inner peace and calms the mind during hours of stress and emotional turmoil.
- Likewise, Yog Nidra is the ideal method to end your standard yoga practice. It cools down and calms the body and makes it accept the benefits of the asanas you just practiced.
- Yoga Nidra is one of the most effective ways to master pratyahara and move forward to Dharana.
Only instructors who truly understand the purpose and essence of Yoga Nidra should teach it to others. Else, they may wind up making more damage than anything else to their understudies. Rounding up a yoga session with yoga Nidra is the perfect way to conclude your practice. If you want to experience the benefits of Yoga Nidra, a class at Tratak Yoga is just what you need.