Introduction to Yoga Nidra
I was introduced to Yoga Nidra with a light touch earlier this year. Normally taught as a stand-alone practice, I was guided through a 25 minute Yoga Nidra. The teacher I was with was clear that a Yoga Nidra at the end of a ‘normal’ practice was not Yoga Nidra.
The beginning practices for Yoga Nidra remind me of guided visualisations or meditations. This year for the Wednesday Summer Yoga classes I am incorporating some of the principles of Yoga Nidra to our practice. It will be more accurate to think of this as guided meditation but although it is not a pure Yoga Nidra offering, I thought it would be useful to be introduced to the theory before we meet this week.
Yoga Nidra has been developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, influenced by the teachings of Tantra. It is a process to relax consciously. He describes it as true relaxation as opposed to the sensory diversion techniques we tend to use to relax, for example, television or reading, alcohol and warm drinks.
Yoga Nidra is a systematic method to induce complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. It is the practice of dynamic sleep. The practitioner appears to be asleep but their consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. It is deep relaxation with inner awareness. The conscious mind is given the opportunity to withdraw. All external distractions are stopped as you turn inwards (c. pratyahara). Your consciousness is withdrawn from the senses. Your mind becomes receptive to received impressions and intuitions, these do not have to withstand intellectual conditioning. Your inner knowing may even be revealed.
Yoga Nidra releases and removes tensions; muscular, emotional and mental. Sleep alone does not release tensions. For example, it is a common experience to wake at 5 am and be unable to return to sleep because the mind is as active as it was the night before or muscles can feel stiff and achey in the morning rather than rested. Through the practice of Yoga Nidra tension is released which allows true relaxation to follow.
I will be inviting you to make a sankalpa or resolve at the beginning of your practice in the form of a short mental statement. This is a determination to become something or do something. The purpose of a sankalpa is to create strength in the structure of the mind. Habitual patterns in the form of unhelpful behaviours are a symptom of a deeper pattern or conditioning. For example, using alchohol, cigarettes or caffeine to manage stress. If we can change our way of being at a deeper level to create balance, happiness and fulfilment, the external supports become a choice rather than an addictive need. We become master of our senses rather than our senses dictating to us – one of the goals of yoga practice. Yoga Nidra is a practice to influence and transform the whole life pattern. On all levels. The book I have been reading says that using Yoga Nidra just to eradicate bad habits is missing the point of the practice. We are in a position to make a change on a deep psycho-spiritual level and it is this change which will release us from the addiction to external distractions we use to get us through the every day stresses of life.
I am not sure what we will experience over five weeks and with a practice that isn’t truly Yoga Nidra … as with all our classes, let’s see what develops. I’m intrigued to see what people think of the practice and how it influences them over the coming weeks. I have my own feelings about this practice which we can discuss as time moves on.
If you can, give some thought to your own personal sankalpa. If you are lacking space and life is full, don’t force a sankalpa on yourself. You may find that being in the Loft and beginning this practice of truly relaxing will inspire discovery of your sankalpa.
What to bring: traditionally Yoga Nidra is experienced lying down. You may be lying for up to 45 minutes. Please bring bolsters or cushions if lying in savasana for that length of time is difficult. You also have the option of sitting in a chair or on a meditation stool. Whatever position you choose, ideally you will not be changing it during the practice.
There will be Ayurvedic tea served at the end of the practice. I want to make sure you are fully awake before driving home!
Any questions, please get in touch