"In Yoga Nidra, the consciousness is in a state between waking and sleep,
but is subject to neither." -Swami Satyananda Saraswati
I came across Yoga Nidra over 20 years ago, and like all things rthe promote rest, I loved it. Yes, that's me in the drawing above, floating through space. It's part body scan and part visualization that guides you to a place between wakefulness and sleep.
Contemporary Yoga Nidra was developed as a specialized yoga practice by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from the Bihar School in India. After researching ‘sleep learning,’ Satyananda developed Yoga Nidra, derived originally from Tantric practices and texts. Satyananda died in 2009 and wrote over 80 books about yoga, healing, health, and the mind-body. Yoga Nidra is now practiced worldwide and is part of the 5th and 6th Limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, Pratyahara, and Dharana.
There are many types of Yoga Nidra; however, they all have a common goal: A holistic approach to relaxation and healing of the mental, physical and spiritual body.
How it Works
Yoga Nidra works on the premise that while you are in this ‘dream-like’ state between sleeping and wakefulness, you can enter a deep state of conscious relaxation. While the body relaxes, the mind stays aware and can access our subconscious and unconscious mind, where memories, trauma, and sensations reside. During Yoga Nidra, our awareness of the external world is reduced. As a result, our defenses are down, and we can remember deeper layers of ourselves that are often blocked.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Healing stress reduction, improved sleep, reduced nervousness and migraine headaches, ability to bring forth specific healing and emotional needs, and enhanced creativity! Richard Millar has also worked with PTSD and Addiction clients with tremendous success. See his books in the bibliography.
The pattern goes like this: Relaxation, Sankalpa,(resolve), Rotation of Consciousness, Manifestation of Opposite Sensations, Creative Visualization, Chidakasha, Sankalpa, and End of Relaxation.
The Sankalpa works on the subtle body to help heal trauma, break negative patterns, and make positive changes in our lives. Our Sankalpa is repeated three times at the beginning and end of the Yoga Nidra practice to help bring transformation, healing, vitality, and a more positive outlook on life. When we are in the active process of healing, a Sankalpa can be of particular benefit because we can focus on a very specific to heal the body. Sankalpas are NOT affirmations. Affirmations tend to be generic positive statements that don’t specifically relate to you, whereas you create a Sankalpa for yourself. Once you have found your Sankalpa, you state it with conviction and don’t change it until it comes true (months, years).
Nyasa (Rotation of Consciousness)
The rapid and systematic body awareness rotation through various body parts is unique to Yoga Nidra. During this practice, we can enter the physical body much deeper while the mind is active and awake. This work helps to build concentration and increase awareness of how our whole body is interconnected. Going through one body part at a time may allow hidden memories or trauma to surface.
During this part of the practice, we focus on breath awareness practices like Nadi Shodhana.
Positive and creative visualization has tremendous powers to heal. During the Yoga Nidra practice, various guided visualizations are used for different effects. Some visualizations focus on sensations of the body (hot or cold), a journey through multiple natural landscapes, or targeting the subtle bodies such as the chakras. The effects vary but can be integrated into the conscious mind.
The Chidakasha is a meditation practice of noticing the space in front of the closed eyes. One may see images, colors, shapes, people, or landscapes. During this practice, we just observe what arises which can often lead to tremendous creativity.
What You Should Do During the Practice
Stay awake, don’t move, and follow the instructions. Though it seems counter-intuitive to healing or transformation, you don’t need to do anything. Just lying back and following along, actively with the mind, is all you need to do.
Yoga Nidra versus Hypnosis
Although Yoga Nidra and Hypnosis share some similarities, they are different. During Hypnosis, one is guided into a complete state of sleep, the brain shuts down, and you are under the direction of a guide who often gives specific information designed to change something in you. During Yoga Nidra, you remain awake.
Guided Yoga Nidra on Youtube