In addition to its other names, "yogic sleep" and "effortless relaxation," Yoga Nidra is the name given to a specific type of guided meditation. It is typically done while lying down, and under the guidance of an instructor. We learn to focus inward, allowing us to "surf" between waking and sleeping states, where our bodies achieve homeostasis and the breath settles into a quiet stillness, the subconscious and conscious parts of the mind become transparent, and we enter a natural state of profound, blissful awareness.
Now that we're relaxed, we can focus on the fundamentals of what it means to be aware and conscious. The 'deeper' features of yogic teachings, which we may have previously considered abstract, begin to manifest for us, allowing us to experience qualities like expansiveness, inclusiveness, and deep restfulness; feelings of wholeness and unity; and a sense of interconnectedness.
The practise of Yoga Nidra induces a state of inner peace and relaxation with relative ease. Here is where we can find wholeness and restoration, and where the dormant, all-embracing, and all-knowing parts of ourselves can awaken. It's an excellent method that's catching on all over the world, and new studies keep showing that it works.
Who should practice?
Yoga Nidra is beneficial for anyone, but especially those who have a hard time relaxing (I'm sure many of us have "battled" through meditation at some point or another). Those with insomnia, trauma, anxiety, or depression can benefit greatly from it as well (to any degree). It's ideal for people who have read about or experienced profound meditative states but have never been able to replicate them on their own.
My preferred and taught Yoga Nidra technique is known as iRest, and it has been shown to be an effective way to improve health and reduce stress. Some of the studies are available at www.irest.us/research.
People are frequently taken aback by the strength and effectiveness of this method after visiting my private clinic. For some reason, Yoga Nidra was always something I was missing in my yoga therapy toolbox, and this is ironic given that it doesn't aim to fix anything. Instead, many physical and mental health issues can find resolution through open communication and genuine listening. I love explaining the paradox that in order to be truly with something, we must first transcend it. Being present with what is and feeling complete acceptance of oneself and the world around us is the essence of yoga and enlightened living.
To accept reality as it presents itself and to experience complete acceptance of oneself and of life is the essence of yoga and the pinnacle of enlightened living.
In what way should one engage in Yoga Nidra?
It's time to take a nap on the couch! After about 35 minutes of instruction from the instructor, you should feel comfortable moving forward independently. We begin by asking ourselves where we want to go and whether or not we are on the right path, which is setting an intention (why are we doing this?). The next step is unique to iRest, and it consists of building a "inner resource" or "reserve" of thoughts, emotions, and memories that serve to calm and strengthen you. When we reconnect with a multi-sensory reflection prompted by memory, imagery, and a felt sense, we return to our baseline state of happiness, belonging, security, and ease..
After this has been established and a sense of safety has been established, we can begin to cultivate focus and sensitivity by tuning in to the body and the breath. You use your senses like a microscope, probing, listening to, and accepting every nuance of your body and your breath. This method induces a profound state of calm throughout the entire being.
This is the point at which various emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, often unexpected, begin to surface. Perhaps there are events or feelings that you haven't had the opportunity to process, or that you've found too overwhelming and have decided to bury deep within. With our physical and mental states restored to "neutral," we are better able to accept and respond creatively to these shifting emotions, ideas, and convictions. From this place of profound inner calm, we may be better able to face an upsetting memory or traumatic experience, and through attentive listening and warm acceptance, find some measure of resolution. Classical yogic methods, such as contemplating polarities or sensing our inherent open, spacious awareness, can help us build confidence and go deeper into our experience.
After a person's thoughts and feelings have been acknowledged, acknowledged, welcomed, and connected with, the mind and emotions too become more subtle. This leads to the practice's penultimate stage, which is an investigation of one's own consciousness. Do you recognise yourself? Do you know who you really are on the inside? When you say "sentient," do you mean that you understand what it means to be conscious? The practise of Yoga Nidra allows us to fully immerse and know our true nature—our Self (capital S)—to be one of boundless, limitless, open awareness. This is the pinnacle of understanding and freedom we can achieve.
It's time to take the plunge and see your Self (capital S) as limitless, boundless, boundless, boundless awareness. And this is the highest and most complete realisation we can achieve for ourselves.
The origins of Yoga Nidra
The Sankhya philosophy, which dates back to roughly 700 BC, is where Yoga Nidra got its start. Patanjali and the Buddha are two of the most well-known exponents of these teachings, but they were refined and practised by many others over the centuries. Approximately a century later, the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism expanded upon these ideas.
This includes a vast amount of knowledge and instruction, all of which points to one simple truth: at our core, we are the silence of awareness, and the illumination of this stillness is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos and realising our oneness. Yoga Nidra practise encompasses all of these philosophies along its path, becoming an experiential map of the history of meditation.
Why We teach Yoga Nidra
There are many of us who struggle to unwind, rest, and relax in today's fast-paced, information- and activity-rich world. Yoga Nidra combines the practises of deep rest and introspective meditation. We find that lying down is a very nourishing, welcoming, and easy position in which to practise. Some people might even consider it cheating. Never discount the power of this method; by letting go, we are reborn into our true, whole selves.
Changing one's mindset to one of openness and attention can have profound effects. In the process of becoming a good friend to ourselves, we develop a more empathetic disposition and are better able to hear the perspectives of those around us, resulting in an increased sense of authenticity and a deeper connection to others. To paraphrase Derek Walcott's poem "Love After Love," we "fall in love with ourselves again" in the end. This is a method for self-improvement through compassion and letting go.