Yoga Nidra means "deep sleep." Yoga Nidra is both a state of being and a sequence of tools utilized to attain this state. Yoga Nidra is deep sleep with a trace of awareness. In the practice of Yoga Nidra the body sleeps but the mind remains awake listening to the instructions.
The tools of Yoga Nidra, will systematically move awareness from our waking state (beta brain waves), to our relaxed mind (alpha brain waves), to our unconscious and subconscious brain waves (theta and then delta). We will spend most of the practice in theta brain waves. The theta state is where most of our physical, mental, and emotional stress is digested, assimilated, and healed. At night while sleeping we spend approximately 15 minutes of every hour in the theta state. During Yoga Nidra we spend almost the entire time in the theta state making a 45 minute practice equivalent to the healing of around 3 hours of sleep!
BENEFITS OF YOGA NIDRA
- Minimizes physical, emotional, and mental tension
- Counteracts stress
- Turns off fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and turns on the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system)
- Relaxes the mind
- Awakens creativity
- Yoga Nidra has potential for preventive, promotive and curative value. It may prevent stress and stress- related disorders by inducing deep physical, emotional and mental relaxation, by training the mind to remain calm and quiet. As a promotive science, Yoga Nidra awakens inherent creativity and promotes learning and memory abilities of the practitioner. Research also indicate that Yoga Nidra can be used as a therapeutic technique to benefit psychological disorders like anxiety, hostility, insomnia, and psychosomatic diseases like asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and is used by the military in treating PTSD, plus many more.
Creation of an Effective Intention/ Resolve or Sankalpa
During the practice you will “plant” an intention into your mind. When planting the seeds of an intention in our psyche, it’s important that intention be in present tense and the wording be clear and precise. Another important quality of setting the intention is making it "real."
When we desire something in life, what we are really wanting is the feeling/emotion we believe the having of that person, place, thing, situation, or outcome will create. Therefore, feeling, sensing and visualizing the intention are key components when “planting the seed of the intention.” The more authentic your imagery and the more senses you utilize to generate your connection to your intention the deeper the seed will root.
A few examples of resolutions:
• I move through life with comfort and ease.
• I am at peace.
• I am a positive influence in the lives of others.
• I have and enjoy total and optimal health
It was Swami Satyananda Saraswati who adapted and presented the practice of yoga nidra in a systematic and scientific way in the 1960s. Yoga Nidra came into Courtney’s life through study with her teacher Rod Stryker.
THE 8 STAGES OF YOGA NIDRA
The eight stages of yoga nidra are designed to systematically guide the practitioner through all the levels of their being: physical, mental, energetic and spiritual. The methods allow the practitioner to fall into deep sleep while retaining a hint of consciousness. Yoga nidra takes one beyond relaxation, into awareness of one’s true nature . . . moving towards the true self.
- Entry: The initial relaxation where the practitioner settles into the meditation experience. One begins to become calm, still and silent as awareness begins to move inward. Attention is brought to the physical body and the breath.
- Sankalpa: A brief, positive statement created by the practitioner. Something that one is committed to achieving or being. The wording must be clear and concise in order to penetrate the subconscious, plant a see and eventually take root. For example, “I move through life with ease and comfort. I am at peace.” or “I am a positive influence in the lives of others.”
- Rotation of Consciousness or 61 Point Meditation: Awareness is brought in a systematic fashion to different points of the physical body. The body remains still as the practitioner effortlessly visualizes or senses each body part. One does not concentrate, but simply listens. The body parts are mentioned at a pace slow enough to allow the practitioner to follow yet quick enough to keep the mind involved and occupied. Body parts are mentioned in a systematic way to activate the different hemispheres of the brain.
- Breath and Energy Awareness: Effortless attention is brought to the breath. One simply maintains awareness; there is no attempt to shape or alter the breath. The practitioner may be instructed to visualize or count the breath in order to deepen relaxation and focus the mind, but the breath should remain natural.
- Sense Perception: Relaxation of feelings and emotions. Awareness is brought to sensations or even memory. Sense perception is usually performed in opposites: hot/cold, heavy/light, pleasure/pain. This further harmonizes the opposite hemispheres of the brain. Latent emotions, memories and traumas can be addressed in order to help the practitioner heal or explore such feelings.
- Images, Visualization, Journey: Induces mental relaxation even further. One visualizes images as directed by the instructor. Images can be ordinary objects, symbols, chakras, archetypes, nature scenes or stories. This leads the mind into deeper relaxation and concentration. Images and stories can be chosen by the instructor to achieve specific results.
- Sankalpa: Reaffirmation and repetition of the sankalpa, the intention set at the beginning. The mind is receptive to positive thoughts and the subconscious is accessible for firmly planting a seed of resolution. This is much more effective than a conscious decision to change one’s attitude, behavior and destiny.
- Return: The practitioner is slowly guided back from the state of conscious deep sleep and relaxation. One is lead through the deeper states of conscious back to the waking state while retaining a sense of stillness and silence.