Introduction to Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra, which comes from the Tantras, is a powerful technique in which you learn to relax consciously. In yoga nidra, sleep is not regarded as relaxation. In yoga nidra, the state of relaxation is reached by turning inwards, away from outer experiences. When relaxation is complete, receptivity is greater.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati was living with his guru Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh when he first experienced yoga nidra. He began studying the tantric scriptures and, after practice, constructed a system of relaxation, which he began popularizing in the mid-20th century. The form of practice taught by Swami Satyananda includes eight stages (internalization, sankalpa, rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, manifestation of opposites, creative visualization, sankalpa and externalization).
Yoga nidra comes from the tantric practice of nyasa, which involves placing specific mantras on different parts of the body and then meditating on them, while in a seated posture. First the name of the body part was recited, then it was visualized or touched, and the mantra was placed there.
Yoga nidra is for people who are unfamiliar with Sanskrit mantras to receive the full benefits of the traditional practice.
Yoga nidra helps us to explore the deep impressions or sanskaras, which drive our actions or karma.
How do I perform Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra usually takes around twenty to forty five minutes to complete. The process is carried out by first doing a few asanas. Then lying on the back in shivasana, the corpse pose. Eyes are lightly closed, arms are kept with palms facing upwards, and breathing is natural and quiet. Remaining awake during the duration of the practice is important, although many people find it difficult. Even if you do fall asleep you will receive peripheral benefits as your subconscious mind remains aware of everything that you take in with your sensory inputs (including sounds). Falling asleep during the practice, particularly in the beginning is very common so don’t get discouraged.
Please note that it is extraordinarily challenging if not impossible, to do the practice on your own without external instruction (either through a recording or listening to a live teacher). It simply takes too much effort to remember and go through a fairly complicated sequence of visualizations and exercises; and it takes away from the experience of just being and witnessing. Eventually however, with sufficient, usually long term repetitive practice, the Nidra state can be entered into at will.