Yoga Wellness Educator. Certified to teach Hatha Yoga, Meditation, Pilates, Reiki. Yoga Therapist-in-training. I love to write.
Yoga Nidra is a powerful methodical technique that can bring you a far-reaching physical, emotional, and mental relaxation. It is known as yogic sleep. You may look asleep, but your consciousness is working at a deeper level than usual. Your awareness is at the meeting point of the subconscious and unconscious aspects of your minds. You can be led to higher states of meditation with this state of deep relaxation.
In 2007, I attended a workshop on Yoga Nidra with Ananda Xenia Shakti. She reminded us of what the ancient scriptures say, “Yoga Nidra is the state in which the gods reside, a state of complete physical relaxation that when achieved allows the consciousness to release deep seated mental stresses without being obstructed by physical limitations”. Your body, mind and spirit can then rejuvenate and revitalize.
In Yoga Nidra, you transcend the three states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping so you can experience the ultimate reality of life. With regular practice, you can work from within to restructure your personality and reshape your destiny.
Physical and Spiritual Benefits
Yoga Nidra can help you:
- Release deep-seated tensions and stress.
- Improve your sleep.
- Develop emotional control.
- Heighten your intuition.
- Reconnect with yourself and reshape your destiny.
Resolve or Sankalpa
It is important that you set an intention or resolve in Yoga Nidra. Your resolve could be to relax, or to reflect on a particular sensation, emotion, belief, or situation. This helps you reshape your personality and be the architect of your own destiny.
Think of your deepest desire, and set it as your intention for the change you want. Word it in simple and positive terms. This is your resolve or Sankalpa.
You mentally repeat your resolve at the start and at the end of the practice; at the start to focus your attention, and at the end when you are in a profound state of openness.
The ability grows slowly as we gradually get closer to our own nature. The self never sleeps.
How Do Meditation and Yoga Nidra Differ?
Meditation and Yoga Nidra have comparable benefits with subtle but distinct differences.
In a guided Yoga Nidra session, your senses of hearing and feeling are the two faculties that remain awake. When you practise it on your own, only your sense of feeling is awake.
Your body is in a more restful position in Yoga Nidra, but your mind stays restfully alert in both.
Try meditation and Yoga Nidra to notice which method works better for you. Your preference may change over time and in keeping with situations and health conditions, and that’s fine. If you’re new to meditation and find yourself getting frustrated, Yoga Nidra is more useful to you.
When you meditate, you normally sit in a chair on a blanket or a mat. You hold your body in an upright and alert but comfortable position.
You lie down on your back to relax completely. You can use props such as pillows and a blanket, to be in a comfortable position.
You place your attention on the breath or on a mantra. There are several forms of meditation and guided meditations to help you focus.
You follow step-by-step instructions where your attention is directed to different parts of your body. Some people find following instructions easier than meditating.
State of Consciousness:
People can experience various states of consciousness in a meditation. Some find it challenging to go beyond the waking state. Meditation techniques do exist to help you transcend daily awareness and reach higher levels of consciousness.
You move beyond the waking and dreaming states of consciousness into a state of conscious deep sleep where healing occurs. Your mind remains alert but in a state of restful alertness. This is the reason Yoga Nidra is known as a restorative practice.
Do It Yourself
- Make sure you are in a quiet place where you’ll not be disturbed.
- Lie down, close your eyes, and make yourself comfortable. Your arms are by your side with your palms turned up and your feet apart. Stay still during the practice, and if you need to move, make the movement as little as possible.
- Relax and let go of tension and fatigue.
- Become aware of your breath. Notice the natural flow of air in your nostrils, throat, and rib cage as well as the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breath.
- Think of your deepest desire, and set it as your intention or resolve for the change you want from this particular session. Word it in simple and positive terms. This is your resolve or Sankalpa.
- Mentally repeat your resolve three times.
- Scan Your Body. Piece by piece, move your awareness through different parts of your body:
- Sense your jaw, mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.
- Sense your forehead, scalp, neck, and the inside of your throat.
- Sense your left arm and left palm, your right arm and right palm, and then both arms and hands at the same time.
- Sense your torso, pelvis, and sacrum.
- Sense your left hip, leg, and foot, and then your right hip, leg, and foot.
- Sense your entire body.
- Without trying to change anything, be at ease with sensations such as heaviness, tension, or warmth, or emotions such as sadness, anger, or worry that you feel. Notice opposite sensations and emotions without judging them.
- Notice any thought, memory, and image that may come up.
- You are your own witness. You are aware of your thoughts, feelings and / or sensations. Be mindful of what is going on inside you without judging.
- Mentally repeat your resolve three times as your mind is now more open and receptive.
- When you feel ready, reacquaint yourself with your surroundings to move back into your daily life. Come back slowly with a feeling of gratitude for this restorative you-time.
A witness is a direct observer. Inner witnessing is the capacity of your awareness to stop identifying itself with any mental activity, and to observe ‘with its own eyes’. We are all able to witness the workings of our minds and stay detached.
As your awareness distances itself from the changing way you perceive your body, breath, and mind, it rests in its own nature. This new perspective is gradually adopted and becomes a source of spiritual strength.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Parisa on July 21, 2020:
Thanks for sharing Liliane! I can't wait to actually follow the steps provided in this article!
manatita44 from london on July 09, 2020:
Yes, yes. It's actually part of Sri Chinmoy's spiritual philosophy. For us it's very natural. Hari Om Tat Sat
Liliane on July 09, 2020:
I like the idea of walking, running or swimming as a spiritual exercise. When practised with the proper mindset, it becomes meditation in action.
manatita44 from london on July 09, 2020:
I think you have covered the subject excellently. More importantly, you have left room for the different types of practitioners. Many will definitely benefit from this!
In Patanjali's philosophy, it would appear that the stages of Asana (Hatha and its variations), are significant. However, Sri Chinmoy didn't dwell on it, neither did Ramakrishna Paramahansa, as far as I know. Yet it has been beneficial to many.
I have not used it in my 38 years of daily practice, but some Disciples from my own community have. What we have all done is running, as that's recommended by Guruji. Running or some form of daily exercise: a two-mile walk, swimming ...
I think that you have done a great job here and it's important that you hinted that souls are different, as each would benefit according to his/her stage of spiritual progress. Om Shanti!
Liliane Najm (author) from Toronto, Canada on July 09, 2020:
What a joy for a writer when she receives confirmation that her article produced the desired effect.
Lorna Lamon on July 09, 2020:
I actually felt peaceful reading this article Liliane. I have practiced Hatha Yoga and meditation for many years. However, the idea of Yoga Nidra really appeals to me. Thank you for sharing this enlightening article.