Feeling stressed and overwrought is a common complaint.
How often are you completing or trying to complete many tasks every day. Often our productivity is compromised by constant distraction, or by attempting to carry out tasks simultaneously. At the end of the day the adrenal glands are pumping, perhaps maybe worsened by a high energy work-out undertaken either earlier in the day or at the end of the day. For others, collapsing on the couch with an alcoholic drink in hand and with the TV on, will constitute relaxation.
The fact is that people have forgotten how to relax. Even sleep can leave us weary in the morning after a fitful night and numerous dreams. In fact Yoga Nidra does not consider sleep to be a practice of relaxation. Only by conscious relaxation obtained in the meditation practice of Yoga Nidra, you can learn to consciously relax.
Let us return to the example of the exhausted worker returning home and ‘relaxing’ with a glass of wine and the TV on. This practice is widely considered to be ‘relaxing.’ In fact, what has been provided to the sensory body is distraction, not relaxation. The alcohol numbs the foremost recent dramas of that day but only to release other thoughts and dramas from yesterday or yesteryear. The TV also introduces new narratives for the mind to feed on…
I don’t know who said it first …. but it is said that the mind is like a swinging monkey, its inherent nature is to constantly swing from branch to branch… from thought to thought.
Did you know that you gain the equivalent of 4 hours sleep after one session of Yoga Nidra? But wait! There’s more… relaxation is merely a physical benefit. The main goal of Yoga Nidra is to open the subconscious mind, for it is from this mind state that change can occur.
Limiting beliefs are re-programmed.
If you train your subconscious mind then your conscious mind will carry out the orders from the subconscious. As Swami Saraswati says… “then the ordinary mind and intellect will follow suite.” If you try to create change by embarking on a religious or moral path, this can sometimes create dissonance from within. From this internal conflict comes more self-judgment and consequent heartache every time you fail yourself.
Nearly all spiritual traditions acknowledge the existence of a body of energy that permeates the physical body and is responsible for our health and well being. The aim of acupuncture and all martial arts, for example, is to balance and enhance the flow of life force in your body.
Yoga nidra also aims to enhance and balance this energy.
The key however to creating real change in your subconscious is to set a sankalpa, or a resolve. This is a meaningful intention to create a powerful change in your life. This sankalpa is revisited again later when were are deep within our subconscious mind towards the end of the practice. This helps create an influential bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind.
In order to practice Yoga Nidra, the basic outline of the practice is as follows.
We begin in Shavasana. By lying on the floor, closed eyes and palms up we minimize touch and sight stimuli sensations. The mind then focuses on external sounds. Allow it to move from one till another until the mind tires of them and becomes quiet. At this point we choose our Sankalpa. This resolve should be clear and sincere and according to only your needs.
Step two in the practice is to practice rotation of consciousness. You will hear rapid instructions and it is important to mentally follow the instructions without moving the body. Visualize and feel the different parts of the body. The movement is systematic and usually begins with the thumb of the right hand and ending in the little toe of the right foot.
When we have completed a full rotation of the body, physical relaxation is continued by drawing attention to the breath without trying to change it.
Conscious breathing helps direct prana into every cell of the body.
By now the body feels completely relaxed and calm. Usually by this stage I have slipped deep within myself where in retrospect I could be sleeping, however I can still hear the voice and follow the instructions. All superficial thought has ceased.
Next we move onto relaxing our feelings and sensations. This is achieved by introducing emotions whilst deep in our subconscious mind by means of catharsis, as memories of profound feelings are revived.
This is achieved by pairing opposite feelings such as heaviness, lightness, heat and cold, joy and sorrow and love and hate. Swami Sataswati says that the pairing of feelings in yoga nidra harmonises the opposite hemisphere’s of the brain and helps in balancing our basic drives and controlling functions that are normally unconscious.
The next stage in this practice is a visualization inducing mental relaxation. The images used by the instructor are universal symbols with powerful associations, including landscapes, oceans, eggs, the cross or symbols of chakras. Visualisation leads the mind towards concentration, it develops self-awareness… again through a process of catharsis which purges it of disturbing material. Swami Saraswati says that visualization in its advanced stages develops into a state of pure meditation, or Dhyana as we call it in yoga.
When this occurs, there is no conscious experience of the visualized object in the unconscious as the distinction between conscious and unconscious dissolves and distracting imaged cease to arise.
The unconscious mind is now very receptive to positive thoughts and suggestions… and it is here we return to our resolve that must be retrieved from the conscious mind and delivered to the unconscious mind. In this way it is possible to significantly change ones attitudes behavior and destiny, as per the Law of Attraction. The resolve must be stated clearly and positively. The power of the statement will leave its impression in the mind.
The practice of Yoga Nidra is now concluded by gradually guiding the body back up through the layers of the mind back to a waking state.
There are many applications of Yoga Nidra. It is a wonderful sleep aid for the amnesiac, would be useful during pregnancy to rest the body and prepare for the birth of the child, also erasing fears of labour and associated anxieties. Yoga Nidra minimizes tension, trains the mind, relaxes the mind, clears up the unconscious, awakens creativity and counteracts stress apart from many other claims of memory enhancement and managing physiological disorders.
Yoga Nidra is a powerful self-healing meditation that can be used safely at home from the wide variety of recordings available, or taught from a teacher using a pre-prepared script. However this practice would be most powerful if used in a therapeutic environment if custom prepared by a counselor in order help disperse limiting beliefs and associated emotions. Often scripts take you on a visualization journey where you travel to the future to a point in time and insert your resolve or intention there. By creating the person you want to be in your unconscious mind you are laying the groundwork and infrastructure for the future. The conscious mind takes its instructions from the unconscious mind.