In 2009, I started my 500hr Yoga Teacher Training. We were treated a couple of times to “yogassage” so we could get used to adjusting others’ bodies as well as having our own moved, and Yoga Nidra. The first time the instructor announced it, a few people were excited. After my first experience with Nidra, I, too, became excited when an instructor said they were going to end class with a mini-Nidra session. In the summer of 2012, I was finally able to attend a training on Yoga Nidra. Since then, I think I’ve had as many private sessions in asana as Nidra.
‘Yogic sleep’ is the English translation. There is a large body of scientific evidence that supports Yoga Nidra in the healing of all levels, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. I usually describe it to people, as I demonstrate corpse pose,x as “relaxation and guided visualization that allows the body to reset the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that is always working in our society because of the constant stress we live with”. That usually gets their attention!
Like an asana class, each time I participate in Nidra, the experience is a little different. Sometimes I’m able to drop in right away, and other times I’m completely present and unable to relax or let go of my thoughts. When I facilitate Nidra, I always do about 10 minutes of asana to prep the body to lie still for 45 minutes. Then we do breathing and a few other things to relax the physical body. I give instructions to not fall asleep and to follow my voice. When I work one-on-one with a client, we discuss their intention for the practice and develop an affirmation. When I have a class, I choose general positive statements. I have had students share with me that they feel rested, that a particular emotional trauma was more manageable and was healing, and some that requested that I teach it every night because they are so relaxed and feel so refreshed at the same time. The body knows what it needs and when we begin any yoga practice we begin to heed that wisdom. The more one practices Nidra, the more one becomes aware of their conscious thoughts, their physical body, the subtle bodies, and they begin to bring all of that union.
Nidra is equivalent to 3 hours of sleep. The stages I follow take people from their normal Beta brain function to Alpha, and the more experienced practitioners can drop easier into Delta. It’s not a state of “sleep” like we do at night in bed. Nor is it a fully waking state consciousness. The steps that lead the student to a place of utter relaxation and healing are pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana, a removal of stimuli (closing the eyes, making the physical body very comfortable), concentration (body awareness, breath, visualization), and meditation (passively watching thoughts arise and dissipate).
As helpful as the postures are for many levels of the body as well as giving us a place to practice the yamas and niyamas, Nidra takes a slightly different approach, and the results are often unseen, but felt, and many times greater than asana. I had compiled the poems in my project Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation, Volume I, before I had lots of experience with Yoga Nidra. At least one poem will be dedicated to this practice in Volume II! If you’re interested in how I’ve taken some of the tools of yoga and placed in a book to be used by other practitioners and students, you can view it on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
Have you ever participated in Yoga Nidra? What are your thoughts on the practice?