Yoga nidra is by far my favourite yoga practice. I am so passionate about it because it has honestly transformed my life. I whole heartedly believe everyone can benefit from the practice of Yoga Nidra. Those who practice are often amazed at the results. This post explains how the practice works and each of the stages -
Ideally, yoga nidra is practiced in the posture of shavasana, with the eyes closed. (If this pose isn't appropriate an alternative pose can be adopted). In this stage, initial relaxation of the body and mind is induced by the awareness of stillness, comfort, posture, position, breath, and listening to the external sounds with the attitude of a witness.
The sankalpa is a resolve, a statement of positive intent. It ‘works’, because it is like a seed planted deep in the rich earth of the subconscious when the mind is quiet and relaxed and ready to absorb it. This seed will germinate, take root, and grow into a healthy plant that will flower and bear fruit, helping us to make the changes we want to make in our life, and to become all that we are capable of being.
The rotation of awareness
In the rotation of awareness the body and the mind are brought to a deeply relaxed state. While the focused mind follows the guiding voice around the body, the body is energied.
The rotation teaches us to let go. As our attention moves quickly and lightly from each part of the body to the next, not lingering or ‘concentrating’, we are being taught in the simplest, clearest way not to ‘hang on’. The ‘letting go’ lesson learned during the rotation applies to everything in life: emotions, sensations, experiences, achievements, possessions, disappointments, people. Ultimately, it applies to life itself. Letting go is a lesson for us all to learn. It may be the single most important lesson of yoga nidra, as it arguably is of life.
In this stage, one simply becomes aware of the natural breath without making an attempt to change the flow of the breath. One may become aware of the breath by watching it in the nostrils, chest, and abdomen, or in the passage between the navel and the throat. The practitioner becomes aware of each incoming and outgoing breath by counting them mentally.
In the pairs of opposites, we practice detachment. This quality empowers us to stand back a little, not to hold onto sensations and emotions, not to get entangled in them, but to let them come and let them go. We learn to look at what is going on inside us without being afraid of it. We learn that warmth and cold are just warmth and cold, not ‘good’ and ‘bad’. They are just what they are. Pain and pleasure are simply pain and pleasure: we learn to experience them without judging them, without flinching from pain or clinging to pleasure. In creating, developing, feeling, and letting go of sensations and emotions, we learn that sensations and emotions are transitory: they come and they go, and do not last. We learn that ‘the thing is as it is’.
The different types of visualizations in yoga nidra – rapid images, story lines, the chakras, healing – allow fears and insecurities to surface so that they can be acknowledged, accepted and released. They connect us to our creativity, using our imagination to create and develop images and stories. Working with visualization in yoga nidra, when we are open and sensitive and our imagination can roam freely, helps us to remember and let go of painful stuff from the past. It accesses and releases our samskaras, the impressions grooved into our consciousness by our past experiences. This brings a release from some of the psychological, emotional, and karmic causes of illness and opens us to new experiences.
Once again the sankalpa, taken in stage two, is repeated mentally three times in this stage with full dedication, faith and optimism.
Ending the practice
Before ending the session of yoga nidra, slowly the awareness is externalized by asking the practitioner to become aware of the external sounds, objects and persons. They are asked then to slowly move the body parts and to stretch the body.