Yoga Nidra (Yogic or psychic sleep)
Turning on the tv, taking alcohol and tranquillizers provide limited respite from gross tensions. It does not bring deep relaxation. It is deeper perception of one’s inner being that leads to deep and lasting relaxation. In yoga, relaxation is clearly defined as a state in which there is freedom from physical, emotional and mental tension. It speeds up learning process and memorizing the rules and facts of language, maths, science and so forth. It awakens innate inner intelligence.
In Sanskrit nidra means sleep. Nidra is unconscious sleep. Yoga Nidra is conscious sleep. In yoga nidra, there is loss of awareness of the outer world but awareness of the inner world is retained. In nidra there is loss of both outer and inner world. It is said that one hour of yoga nidra is equal to four hours of normal sleep.
Yoga nidra or yogic sleep induces deep relaxation in the whole of the body including muscles, nerves and various organs. It also helps in eradicating deep rooted psychological complexes, neuroses, inhibitions etc., in removing a vast number of ailments mainly mental such as high BP. Regular practice slowly clean and polish the mind. It releases fears, anger, jealousy and emotions that cause tension. Real relaxation comes only when one achieves a state of what can be called spiritual awareness.
Scientific tests have detected several physiological changes which occur in the body during yoga nidra – profound reduction in the heart beat, measurable decrease in the brain wave patterns (mainly from beta to alpha -associated with relaxation), dampening down of the sympathetic activities of the body (generally associated with stress, fear, and overactivity of body-mind), measurable reduction in the lactate level in the body etc.
Yoga nidra is method of exploring the different layers of the mind (conscious / sthula / gross mind, subconscious / sukshma / subtle mind, unconscious / karana / casual mind and truiya state). It recharges physical, pranic & mental levels, in improving both absorption & retention of information from outside as well as inside, in improving intelligence, in opening up the potential of the mind and also awakening the faculty of intuition.
Sleepless sleep is highest state of yoga nidra where one balances between introversion and extroversion. This is the path of sushumna and corresponds to the awakening of the kundalini. It is the method of ridding the mind of chronic tension, and of inducing inner knowledge and meditation. It nulls the rational thought processes and brings inner peace. It harmonizes pranic flow.
The technique can be used to treat various ailments – asthma, diabetes, headache, migraine, neuro-physical disturbances such as neurasthenia, peptic & duodenal ulcers, hypertension, rheumatism, cancer, hormonal imbalance, sexual problems, mental illness such as schizophrenia, melancholia, neurosis, psychosomatic diseases etc.
Process & Stages of Yoga Nidra:
Yoga nidra has nine stages which are sequential. the instructions on the successive stages can be by direct words of teacher, electronically or self-mental commands. The instructions should be sufficiently fast and capture the attention of the practitioner and prevent distractions. During the practice, there will be fluctuation between periods of awareness and unawareness. Gradually, external perception is dimmed but inner awareness is maintained.
Yoga nidra can be done in shavasana (corpse pose) on the flat level ground with eyes closed. The practice of yoga nidra should be done in comfortable clothing, in a quiet, dark & freshly ventilated room and at the time of one feel physically and / or mentally tired. But not after meals. The nine stages are as under:
The awakening and intensification of feelings is an integral part of the practice. Its purpose is to help induce deeper states of relaxation and to awaken and perhaps relieve emotional knots in the mind as a means to their removal. The six main types of feelings used in the practice are: heaviness, lightness, heat, cold, pain and pleasure. In this practice, one can develop the above sensations and eliminate at will. One can also bring vivid pain experienced in past and throw it out of mind. Emotions such as jealousy, anger, fear, and so on can also be awakened by remembering the past experiences. These are powerful in cleaning the mind of accumulated tensions. One more stage – intensification of feeling, can be added before sage of visualization. In this sage, one should create the above feelings from best of the abilities. Create the intense feeling, feel it in the body and relive it.
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati