Anyone who has known me for longer than 15 minutes during the last 10 years of my life has probably heard me bang on about yoga nidra. Personally, I attribute this simple practice of meditation and relaxation as being a pivotal tool in my quest to re-frame my mental sphere and effect significant change in how I am able to live my life.
How does yoga nidra do that? Well, quite simply, through causing a state of deep physical and mental relaxation, yoga nidra enables the practitioner to access the subconscious mind and higher levels of consciousness. Once in this state of mind we have the capacity to access ‘Chitta’ our storehouse of mental, emotional and physical patterning and begin to 'sort stuff out', gaining the capacity to move beyond those ideas that do not serve our higher goals.
I could talk about yoga nidra all day, and I’d love to, although it’s much better to spend our time practicing yoga nidra than reading about it. But before you get started, here are 5 quick things that I really want you to know;
1. Yoga Nidra is really easy
Yoga Nidra is a profound and powerful practice, it can seriously change your life (to the point where your life doesn’t seem quite so serious... ) It may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but it does have a huge success rate amongst those who chose to adopt it - a big part of the success is probably because of the simple fact that it is REALLY EASY. It is really easy for a few simple reasons;
- We do it lying down (YAY!) i.e.. no fussing over uncomfortable seated position and dealing with cramps and discomfort, we turn up, lie down chill out… Bliss!
- It is guided - not always, but mostly, we will be guided through the practice by a teacher - either in person or recording. Our job is just to lie down and listen.
- The stages of yoga nidra are clearly defined and you will learn them quickly, once you have a grasp on this it makes the journey through the practice smooth and simple, like any meditation practice, the more comfortable and familiar you are with the technique , the more potent the effects will be.
2. Yoga Nidra IS meditation
This point is occasionally queried with Yoga Nidra, but I’m here to tell you that there is no doubt. Yoga Nidra is absolutely a meditation practice. In the Yoga Sutras (the definitive guide to yogic meditation) Meditation is defined a Dhyana, or effortless concentration - where the observer is settled in steady observation of the object. The pathway to Meditation is through Pratyahara/withdrawal of senses (think listening for sounds and body rotation in Yoga Nidra) > Dharana/Effortful concentration - where we have to keep returning our attention to the concentration (think counting the breath in Yoga Nidra) and then into Dhyana - where the concentration is settled and ‘effortless’.
Not only is Yoga Nidra a meditation practice - it is for many people, a BREAKTHROUGH meditation practice, where we can move quickly through Pratyahara and Dharana and settle quickly into the profound state of Dhyana. Many meditators claim that Yoga Nidra is extremely supportive of their other meditation practices and Yoga Nidra is an important part of the Yogic Meditation framework.
3. Yoga Nidra is extremely powerful.
Yoga Nidra can change your life, make no mistake. This is a profoundly powerful process that connects us wholeheartedly with our bliss and can entirely re-frame the way we see the world. In this practice we relax our physical body and conscious mind and begin to work with our subconscious mind. In the yoga nidra state we get access to our background programming that is the subliminal driving force for so many of our thought feelings and actions.
A Sankalpa is the 'spiritual resolve’ that we make during Yoga Nidra Practice. We make it twice during the practice, at the beginning and the end - when the conscious mind is settled and the subconscious becomes receptive. We seed the idea for the change and then this concept, such as “I eat healthy nourishing food” becomes part of our subconscious programming, so that the next time we go to binge on junk food the concept of our sankalpa will jump in from the background, and guide us back towards our higher junk food free purpose. To be sure, to be sure, Yoga Nidra + Sankalpa is a yogic superpower.
4. Science says YES!
I think that yoga nidra is great, and know a lot of other smart people who think so too. But thankfully for each of us, you don’t just have to rely on my opinion, yoga nidra is a well researched field and its fairly conclusive that yoga nidra really helps reduce anxiety, improve sleep, promote physical healing and support the symptoms of PTSD. On top of all of the wonderful spiritual transformation and psychological integration, Yoga Nidra is profoundly restful, 30minutes of rest in the nidra state is said to be approximately equivalent to 3 hours of normal sleep. Blessed news for the sleep deprived!
5. Yoga Nidra is from Tantra.
Tantra is an ancient system of philosophy and practice that is based on a concept of radical acceptance and reverence for all life. In this system we cultivate our capacity for observing life in it’s most subtle forms, through our breath, our thoughts and the subtle energy (prana or chi) that flows through each of us. In the relaxed state of yoga nidra we begin to work with the dimension of prana (pranamaya kosha) refining our chakras, activating our Kundalini energy and seeking to harmonise and expand our energetic dimension. For those interested in exploring the subtle realms of energy and kundalini, Yoga Nidra is a marvellous vehicle through which to do it.
6. It only works if you do it!
Alas, and here is the bad news. Although the bad news is actually good news 😃 Yoga Nidra does work, it works really well and it is it is easy to do, BUT IT ONLY WORKS IF WE DO IT!!
The fact that it can be done lying down and is so incredibly restorative is great news because it makes us more inclined to do it, but the hard cold fact is that you alone must make the choice to commit to the practice. I recommend finding a consistent time in the day, mine is mid afternoon but it could be early morning, before lunch, before dinner or before sleep. Find a time, whether in a regular class with a teacher or get a recording (preferably both) and try to engage with the same technique for at least a few months.
There’s so much more I’d love to say about yoga nidra, if I've piqued your interest, please come along to a class and we can practice and talk about it some more, or even better get onto a recording of the practice below and make it part of your own sadhana, your spiritual practice. Try to make a commitment to engaging with it a few times per week and see where the adventure takes you. As I said at the beginning of this post, yoga nidra can change lives for the better, let your life be one of them!
MORE STUFF !!!
A further outline of the practice, with a bit less hyperbole, and a clear outline of the 8 stages of yoga nidra, as they are taught in the Bihar Yoga tradition;
This is a potent element of the Yoga Nidra, where we are planting the seed from which our higher self can emerge. This article from Yoga International covers it well and is defo worth a read.
A summary of other Yoga Nidra resources including links to a few published studies
The Insight Timer is an app, you can download it to your phone or device, it has heaps of guided meditations, the one I’ve listed is from a friend of mine, Hilary Jackendoff aka the Meditation Chick, it’s well recorded and is correctly put together. There’s a lot of other Yoga Nidra practices out there, but as I’ve stated before, it’s best to grab one and stick with it for a spell, so you can get the full effects of the practice, before setting out further!