What is Yogic Sleep – Yoga Nidra
As per the literature of yoga, it’s ideal to end your yoga sequence either with yoga nidra or savasana (corpse pose).
Sleep is of two types un-cautious sleep or regular sleep, and cautious sleep i.e. yoga nidra or yogic sleep. It has a word sleep in its name, however, it is not our regular sleep.
Regular sleep generally relaxes your tired body and prepare it for the next day. Ideally, we tend to sleep many times a day even after taking a full sound sleep at night. Moms go into the sleep (nidra) when their kids nap or while watching tv in the afternoon, working people feel this sleep (nidra) right after their lunch time and it is hard to sit at desk, even we go into this sleep in air-planes, buses and trains.
Yoga nidra is complete relaxation in consciousness, quieting the over-active buzzing mind. This is also regarded as a spiritual practice and yogic psychotherapy. In this practice, we become fully aware of our physic and psychic, feeling the body and focusing on the breath. This is said to be very effective to release tension from the body and mind, and taking care of your physiological, neurological, and subconscious needs. Unlike a quick savasana, yoga nidra allows enough time to sink into the deep relaxation.
Even scientists are researching the benefits of yoga nidra meditation to look inside the brains of the practitioners. The neuroscientists accept that regular meditation help the brain to make required changes which can improve health and well-being.
How to Practise Yoga Nidra – Tips & Techniques
Stress isn’t good for you, it comes in the form of fast heartbeat, broken breathing, racing thoughts, lack of concentration, and inability to just calm down and sleep. And that is why meditation is becoming more and more popular among people across the world. We see every expert “prescribing” meditation for stress. However, meditation is not so easy at it may sound in literally terms. But all of us can do the meditation of some sort if we want, and yoga nidra is one of them.
Ancient techniques of performing yoga nidra is very different to the modern form of yoga nidra. Modern techniques work on people of all ages. According to senior Sri Sri Yoga teacher, Dinesh Kashikar and and Shriram Sarvotham, here is a step-by-step guide to go into the yoga nidra:
Lie down straight on your back in Corpse Pose (Shavasana). Close your eyes and relax. Take a few deep slow breaths in and out.
Gently take your attention to the right foot, stay focused and relax the foot, then move your attention to the right knee, right thigh, hip, and your whole right leg in a gentle and focused way. Repeat this process for the left leg.
Similarly, take your attention to all parts of the body: genital area, stomach, navel region, chest, right shoulder and right arm, followed by the left shoulder and left arm, throat, face and the top of the head.
Take a deep breath and make your body still. Stay awake and feel nothing, think nothing, experience the state of nothing as long as you feel comfortable.
Now, slowly becoming aware of your body and surroundings, turn to your right side and keep lying down for a few more minutes, then slowly sit up, and slowly and gradually open your eyes.
It is quite natural to be distracted by random thoughts during yoga nidra. Do not try and curb them. You may also fall asleep naturally, don’t worry.
If you will search this topic on the internet, you will see a lot of results coming up – selling books, CDs, on-line courses, certifications, events, classes etc.
You can listen to the audio of mantras or some instrumental or gentle music.
Music is not necessary to go into yoga nidra, you can listen to your own internal rhythm.
Do visualization through the voice of your yoga instructor, or follow your breath.
It is a good idea to cover yourself with a blanket to keep yourself warm and to avoid a sudden drop in temperature after doing postures.
According to the ancient Indian mythological scriptures, Lord Vishnu lay on Sheshnag in cosmic sleep under the influence of yog nidra wherein the Lord is focused on the infinite reality of His own identity.
Yoga nidra is also mentioned in Durga Saptasati of Markandeya Purana. According to the visualizations of Maharshi Markandeya “at the end of Kalpa when the entire universe was in a deep relaxation Lord Vishnu was laying on the bed of serpent in the state of yoga nidra”. He states in his Purana that Lordess Yoga Nidra lives in the eyes of Lord Vishnu.
Ancient yoga nidra vs Modern practices
According to Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati of “Abhyasa Ashram”, “The form of yoga nidra we refer from ancient times is called Advanced Yoga Nidra. In recent years yoga nidra has been distorted in ways similar to yoga itself. Unfortunately, almost any guided practice that brings a modicum of relaxation is now called Yoga Nidra.”
He further adds, “Yoga nidra has been known for thousands of years by the sages and yogis as the three states of consciousness of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep, as expounded in the Upanishads, particularly the Mandukya Upanishad. Many people are now practising all sorts of guided imageries in the name of yoga nidra so that they can make money, have better sex, or manipulate other people. Where as the real yoga nidra was taught by the ancient sages for the purpose of exploring the deep impressions or samskaras, which drive our actions or karma.”
His opinions stand right as whatever ancient practices we hear, research, know or try to practice do not present in its true form. People who actually created, practiced, and experienced these rare ancient techniques are no more there in this world.
Still if you practice these techniques with right intention to get maximum benefit, you are on the right path. So let’s look at the popular ways of performing this practice.
As per experts, yoga nidra is suggested and good for most of the modern day problems like insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. It is also good to take care of your regular day stress.
It is not advisable to practice yoga nidra after meal, because you might end up to go into the sleep without yoga.
In case you feel discomfort in your back, use pillows to raise your knees, you can also place pillow under your head for more comfort.
[highlight]It is advisable to perform any asana in the supervision of a qualified yoga instructor.[/highlight]