Yoga Nidra is one of the most powerful practices for meditation and self-healing.
Yoga Nidra is a holistic system of healing through every layer of our being. In Sanskrit, Yoga means “Oneness or union” and Nidra means “Sleep.” Often you’ll hear it referred to as “Yogic sleep,” but it is far from simply that. Your body is relaxed, your mind stops its endless quest to distract you and slows down, you feel peaceful and almost dreamy.
It is said that one session of yoga nidra is the equivalent of 4 hours of deep sleep. It’s also useful for managing plain, old, everyday stress–the stuff that goes on at work, in our relationships, getting cut off in traffic, raising kids–everything that we call “life.
During the practice of Yoga Nidra you remain awake and aware. Your body lies flat, surrendered to the Earth so you relinquish all need to control, hold or support yourself – think Savasana or Corpse pose. Perhaps you have a pillow, a blanket, anything that lends itself to divine comfort so you can completely let go.
During this practice you see with your mind’s eye. The next 45 minutes you are guided through a systematic technique of directing awareness to each part of the body. You scan for areas of tension, holding or control from gross to subtle and allow your body to release into relaxation. Moving from the fingers, through the arms, the shoulders, down to your toes, up to the back, the chest, and everywhere to the heart.
As you dive into the healing of your heart you envision a “sankalpa” or a positive intention for your journey. See yourself fully healed and realizing your true potential in the present as if it already is and it will be. Visualize your reality and you begin to create it. Manifest it. As the Dalai Lama said, “True change is within.”
Throughout the journey you visualize healing. Often times when our bodies ache, that pain is rooted in a memory, emotion or experience. Some of this tension is surface level while other forms can live on a deeper layer of consciousness. This is the part where Yoga Nidra takes on a profound depth.
The structure of a full yoga nidra practice leads the practitioner from the most gross levels of existence to the most subtle. It’s a trip through the koshas. A kosha is a veil or layer. Each of us has five koshas that go from the least subtle (the annamaya kosha or physical body) to the most subtle (the anandamaya kosha or bliss body). Each part of a yoga nidra practice is designed to work on a specific kosha, leading you deeper and deeper into the more subtle levels of your being.
Because of this, yoga nidra can also be used as a spiritual practice. In the framework of the yamas and niyamas, it’s a form of svadyaya or self study. When we travel to the deepest workings of our own minds in a relaxed and restful state, realizations and insights are often the result.
In the framework of the eight limbs of yoga, yoga nidra is a form of pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses) that can lead to the states of dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
We are born into this life with “Samskaras” deep grooves/patterns that ultimately shape how we experience life. Some call “Samskaras” psychological imprints or karmic tendencies; others deem it genetics or DNA. Despite one’s belief of reincarnation, we can agree that in life you have experiences – and these experiences colour the way you engage with the world around you. It is through the practice of Yoga Nidra that we can heal our scar tissue and reset these for balance and growth.
Yoga Nidra has many benefits
• Eases symptoms of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, anger and hostility
• Reduces levels of stress
• Helps with insomnia
• Reduces blood pressure
• Lowers cholesterol
• Reduces activity in the craving-related area of the brain
• Improves pain related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Enhances immune system function