Indian ancient saints, as well as, contemporary yogis have established a wonderful relaxation technique called Yoga nidra. There are several techniques to relax the body and mind. Yoghea nidra is probably the best known technique to induce complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. It is a method of peeling off the subliminal sheath of conscious (external) mind that covers the inner core of the unconscious (inner) mind. In this state, the individual consciousness is able to receive cosmic signals of the super consciousness. Yoga nidra aims at removal of the pratyaya from the conscious or external plane, the subconscious or subtle plane and the unconscious and causal plane. Yoga nidra is a state between sleep and Samadhi. It is a half sleep and half waking state. The simple and useful practice of the art of sleeping, yogis know, has proven infinitely beneficial to many people. It may also be referred as psychic sleep.
Yoga nidra is actually an altered state of consciousness. It is neither sleep nor dream nor is it the state of Samadhi. The aim of practicing yoga nidra for the saints and rishi’s in India was to develop the witness attitude, i.e. being aware of the subconscious and unconscious states and ultimately to enter the state of super consciousness. The author of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, great yogi Swatmarama, classifies Yoga nidra as the state of turiya; means the all expansive and encompassing ‘fourth dimension’ in which Shakti neither contracts nor expands, but is in union with Shiva or supreme consciousness. Abhyaset Khecharim Tavadyavat Syadyoganidritah, Sampraptyoganidrasya Kalo Nasti Kadachana.
Which means, Khechari should be practiced until yogic sleep occurs. For one who has attained yogic sleep, time becomes non-existent. Here, the term yoga nidra has been used as the state of Samadhi. Yogic sleep or yoga nidra is the state in which conscious mind subsides but awareness remains.
Yoga nidra according to Swami Rama (1925) is a state between sleep and Samadhi. It is a state of conscious sleep in which one can record what is going on. There is a fine demarcation between Yoga nidra and Samadhi. In yoga nidra one can record those things which he cannot receive in the conscious state. When one cannot register something properly in the waking state, they can go into yoga nidra to register it. Yoga nidra is used to develop that wisdom that cannot be developed otherwise. He has divided the practice of yoga nidra in three phases – in the first phase, one lies down in shavasana and does sixty-one point exercise. In the second phase, there is shithilikaran and in the last phase, breathe awareness with the visualization of different chakras (the different psychic centers of subtle body).
According to Sri Ram Sharma Acharya (1998), yoga nidra can be called as scientific sleep. It is a total practice of yoga itself. The practices of Sithilasana, Savasana, Sunyavastha and Samadhi are of great importance in conditioning the body and mind for Yoga nidra. In usual sleep one does not have any control over his dreams.
Autosuggestion is impossible in this case. The practice of yoga nidra on the contrary allows one to attain a state of ‘awakened’ sleep. In this state, the body and the external mind (and hence the thought process) are made to sleep as per the order of the inner will. The determination, the willpower of the individual self, remains active in this state and endeavor auto- suggestive experience of the power of the unconscious mind and its linkage with the soul.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1975) explains Yoga nidra as a state of mind between wakefulness and dream. When someone practices yoga nidra he opens the deeper phases of the mind. During the practice of yoga nidra the consciousness is at different levels. Sometimes it is very close to the senses and at other times it is at a very remote distance. When the consciousness is at a remote distance, it is possible to understand only through the auditory channels. During yoga nidra, the consciousness is suspended for a few moments periodically, which means that it alternates between the subconscious and unconscious states.
For the practice of Yoga Nidra one should lie flat on the back and follow the instructions given by the yoga instructor. It is convenient to use Yoga Nidra tape. During the practice there should be no movement by the practitioner as well as he should try to remain awake and be aware of every given instruction.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
- Yoga Nidra gives the sadhaka profound experience of muscular, mental & emotional relaxation.
- It makes the mind to cast good creative impression there by helping receptivity.
- Plays an important role in ensuring psychological health & well being of children.
- Helps better development of fetus in intra uterine growth.
- Decreases the requirement of imageries, hypnotic & sedative drugs.
- Helps lower blood pressure & reduce the need for high blood pressure medication.
- Improves the ability to control breathing problems.
- Helps sadhaka to cope well with ‘fight & flight’ mechanism during stress.