Yoga Nidra

This is the first part in the two part series on Yoga Nidra.

Yoga means union with the absolute, ultimate, infinite. Nidra means deep relaxation. Union with God happens only in the stage of awareness – the Awareness of self – the Awareness of d-identification with the body. Commonly when we go to sleep, we say we are relaxing. A smoke, or sipping coffee or alcohol is casually taken as a relaxing method. But scientifically relaxation is totally different. Relaxation is not limited to sense perceptions but is a stillness of the mind where thoughts have ceased and the mind is paused. Relaxation does not mean sleep. Relaxation means to be blissful – Unlimited bliss rediscovered in self. And this bliss relaxes the inner self. This is yogic sleep where the yogi is aware of everything and the mind is at pause. This is dynamic sleep. During yoga nidra, the individual seems to be deep asleep. But actually the body is relaxed and the person is one focused and completely aware of the body going to sleep. The individual is conscious while the body is in a deep stage of relaxation. This state is known to come when the mind is in alpha stage. Here both the subconscious and conscious communicate with each other. The mind is tuned to penetrate into a deeper realm of life, away from outer experiences. Such a consciousness which is more inwards and which is disconnected from the outside world is very powerful and can be applied in various modes of life for happy living. For example, to change habits, to increase memory retention, creativity, alertness, sharpness , to cure diseases etc. supposing you play a tape but you go to sleep and listen to nothing, but the tape is still on. Now when you replay this tape on waking up in the morning you will have seemed to know those things already and the more you listen, the clearer it becomes. This is because of the communication between the unconscious mind and conscious mind.

Deep sleep with consciousness has more potential than in the dreaming state. This means one can learn more when we are asleep. Sounds strange? Well it’s simple logic. When the relaxation is complete, the receptivity is greater. When the consciousness is connected to senses, the receptivity is decreased. This is the very secret of yoga nidra. The conscious mind is like a rock on which we cannot put impressions which we want as the conscious mind is constantly thinking and analyzing with its intellect. In yoga nidra, the mind accepts all impressions, sankalps, and our subconscious does not reject it. It will start functioning even at the conscious level to give fruit of what was sowed in the yoga nidra stage. Just as on melting the iron we can mould it the way we want to, with the help of yoga nidra we can attune the mind and create impressions in it which are better and pure. Receptivity of the mind can be awakened only when the dissipations are annihilated and in yoga nidra we do this by awakening the unconscious mind. This is therefore the most important and easiest science of self transformation. The intuitions received in yoga nidra enable one to find answers to all problems within ones own self. It is almost like opening the third eye. Third eye because the individual is no more identifying himself with the body, no more clutches of emotions, and therefore no more tensions and worries, which again help the mind to enter in deeper states of consciousness more. Emotions have been giving rise to so many psychosomatic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, migraine, asthma, gastric ulcers, heart attacks and so on. Modern science is not paying attention to the root of all these diseases – which is tension. Tensions again are not only mental ones, but are muscular which is related to nervous and endocrine imbalances, emotional tension derived from various dualities of life like love-hate, profit-loss, failure-success, happiness-unhappiness, and the last is mental tension resulting from excessive mental activity.

Yoga nidra effectively changes the way of feeling and thinking  by de-identification of self with body. it is more efficient and effective form of rest, both physiologically and mentally thereby rejuvenating body in better way as compared to conventional sleep. Our regular sleep of 6-8hrs/day does not relax us so nicely as much one hour sleep of yoga nidra. one hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of regular sleep. This is the secret of out Indian yogis who despite sleeping less were always energetic and full of bliss, as Ramkrishna Paramhans. He use to sleep almost only 3 hrs pre day but he has been full of blissful experiences throughout his life. Yoga nidra harmonizes and balances all energies of life, making us progressed in both the ways i.e., materially and spiritually .Through the constant practice of this technique we not only learn to relax in the inner self but also reconstruct reform our whole personality. say for instance that if I say this is right and that is wrong, you may agree but may not be able to implementing routine life.

So what is the obstruction? Yoga nidra puts us in touch with our psychic personality which is responsible for all that we are, we do and think.

Practical aspects of yoga nidra: This technique usually lasts for about 20-40 minutes. Time limits may vary for different persons depending on what they need. Say for Hypertensive patients, it should be a minimum of 20-30 minutes. For those who want to enter in a deep meditative state, the time will be increased. One requires a quiet room, whose doors and windows should be closed. Make arrangements in a way so as to there is no noise in the room or nobody can disturb you in any way. Now lie down in shavasana. Shavasana is the yogic posture wherein an individual lies down on the floor on his back (supine position) with palms facing the sky and very little space in between two legs. Hands should not be touching sides of the body and nor should the feet touch each other. This is to avoid the touch sensation. Fingers are curled up and should not be kept straight touching the floor, as fingers are the most sensitive organs for touch sensation. The head should be straight and not side ways. While doing this asana, the clothes should be loosened. The floor on which you lie down should neither be too hard nor too soft; neither hot nor cold. It should be just as to be undisturbed by any senses. Care has to be taken regarding the fan, breezes or drafts should not be directed towards the body. The room should not be very bright. Light is eliminated by closing the eyes. Now do not try to focus on anything, only take easy breaths. And follow the instructions mentally. The most IMPORTANT thing in yoga nidra is to refrain from sleep. If you fall asleep you loose the awareness which you are aiming for. During the process of yoga nidra there should be no physical movements. Take 3 deep breaths with a firm affirmation that on exhalation all your worries are being removed out of the body. During this process you will be working on listening and awareness. One must not try to analyze the instructions or else the relaxation will be disturbed. Now the mind has to be focused on the verbal/ mental instructions. If the mind is forcibly excluded, then the mind would become completely restless. Therefore the mind is directed towards the verbal/mental suggestions with the attitude of witnessing.

Now bring the feeling of inner relaxation in the whole body and concentrate on the stillness of your body. Slowly and gradually develop awareness of your body starting from the tip of the toe, proceeding to the ankles, knees, hip, trunk, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger, thumb, neck, brow, eyelid, eyeball, face, lips, jaw, tongue and swallowing. This awareness should be followed with the recitation of OOmmmmmm and imagination of that particular part of body. With this there should be a feeling that the body is completely relaxing. OOmmmmmm ends silently for each body part. This recitation is internal/mental and not external /verbal. While reciting in the mind be aware of reciting OOmmmmmmm, and also be aware of your body’s consciousness moving to different parts of your body from toe to head. This process should be very slow and gradual. There should be no hurry in doing so. Be aware of yourself. Be aware of nose inhaling and exhaling. Be aware of mantra recitation. Be aware of the body lying down on the floor. Be aware of the stillness of your body. Be aware of the eyes closed. Lastly be aware of awareness. Now without moving the body, lips give the suggestion to your mind that it is relaxing and entering in deep peace. Make yourself imagine as if you are floating on water like a dry leaf and allow it to flow the way and the directions in which water takes without any resistance. Allow to fall down in depths. With this thought, your mind will come to a stage of antar maun or inner silence. By this time your mind and body will be relaxed. Be aware of this stage also. Do not fall asleep. Watch. Be awake and watch your mind and body.

After you have finished with this, focus your attention to the naval area, which is to observe the rise and fall of the naval region. With the attention focused at this area watch your breath. Observe that with each inhalation the navel contracts and with each exhalation the navel expands. Concentrate on this movement in synchronization with your breath. Go on practicing, but be sure that you are aware. Now start counting your breaths backwards from 27 to 1. Like this: 27 navel rising/expanding, 27 navel falling/ contracting. 26 navel rising, 26 navel falling, 25 navel rising, 25 navel falling. And so on. Say the words and numbers mentally to yourself as you count your breaths. Be sure that you do not make a mistake. If you do then start again from 27 and go till 1. Keep on with this practice. Once you have finished with navel counting, shift your attention to the chest. Observe rising and falling of chest with each breath. Become aware. Do not fall asleep. Be conscious and awake. Start your count from 27 to 1. In the same way as you did on the navel area. 27 chest rising, 27 chest falling, 26 chest rising, 26 chest falling. Do not make mistakes, if you do then start again from 27 and go till 1. Keep on with this practice. Once finished with the chest, focus your attention to the throat. And repeat the same technique of countings here too. Do not sleep. This is followed by counting at nostrils. Finish counting from 27 to 1 in the same way as done at navel, chest and throat. Remember not to make any efforts of breathing. One has to be watchful.

Once this is done, the next step should be of image visualization. Visualization technique can be made 100 times more powerful when emotions are added to these images. The images that you visualize should be felt and the required emotion should be put into, for better results. But do not forget while visualizing and emotionalizing that you have to be aware even of this image and emotion. Awareness is a must. Start imagining with simple forms like candle, then a burning candle, then a melting candle, endless ocean, endless desert, pyramid, snow, mountains. And then start with little more complex images like the sun (I call sun to be complex to imagine as sudden darkness comes in the eyes as you look towards it and sometimes the body balance is lost), flying birds, flowing of river, smiling Buddha, waves breaking on the beach etc. They all should be accompanied with emotions that you usually get when you think about them.

One should practice this technique for atleast 3 days and should then take up with a final step putting sankalpa. How to select sankalpa, how does sankalpa and conscious rotation work, will be discussed in the next article.

By – Dr. Hiren Parekh