There are so many different types of yoga on offer; it's hard to really know where to start or what to try and what it all means. You may or may not have heard of Yoga Nidra, but I would like you to meet each other as Yoga Nidra can benefit everyone, even if you have never been in a yoga class before. And dare I say it, we ALL NEED this practice.
Scientists and medical professionals have systematically worked to cure plagues as well as many diseases and ailments over past decades and centuries. However, in our time, what society is plagued with is TENSION. Not only muscular, but mental and emotional tension too.
The stress from the ever quickening pace of our ever expanding cities, the constant drive to achieve more, more quickly and to network and maintain far-reaching connections, to keep up a pristine Instagram account and be the most popular, fun, loved person to everyone who knows you, it’s too much. Even writing it increases my heart rate. I’m sure a few of us know this is not sustainable, so we make sure we have time to relax; we book a holiday or make sure we go to our yoga class or watch a film to 'switch off.’ We often think of relaxation as lying on a sun-lounger around a pool with a cocktail, or curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea and book, or having a lazy lie-in watching Netflix. And yes, on some level, this is allowing us to relax, to allow our nervous system to reset a little, perhaps we manage to digest and feel clearer, ready for the next day or week of running around. However, these are only sensory diversions, and the tensions tend to stay with us throughout these activities.
Yoga nidra has nothing to do with downward facing dog, vinyasa or even using a yoga mat… WHAT? Yes, yoga nidra is a practice of dynamic sleep or ‘conscious relaxation.’ It’s derived from two sanskrit words, yoga meaning 'union' or 'one-pointed awareness' and Nidra meaning 'sleep'. Yoga nidra is a systematic method of inducing REAL AND DEEP complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. During Yoga Nidra, you may appear to be asleep but, in fact, you are in a consciously deep state of relaxation, "Yogic sleep."
Ok - so, what do you do?
Throughout the practice of yoga nidra, you lie down and stay in that posture (‘savasana’) for the whole practice, which can be anything from 15 minutes to 2 hours. If you are practicing in a studio class then the teacher will lead you through a spoken (normally scripted) meditation. The idea is that you listen to the voice and follow through the instructions without moving, or having to do anything else. Yoga nidra scripts can vary from simple body awareness scans, to taking you on a deep imaginative journey to the centre of your subconsciousness. Every script is designed very specifically to take you from your outer consciousness a layer deeper, and a layer deeper, and every layer down until you are in a state between sleep, dream-state and wakefulness, and spontaneously in contact with the subconscious (and unconscious) parts of yourself. Don't worry, it then brings you back out safely, to a full awareness of where you are and what you are doing.
There have been many scientific studies and research projects that prove the benefits of yoga nidra, and it is impossible to ignore them. The modern person has excessive identification of the psyche with the material body, through the medium of sensory channels, leading to nervous depletion and even breakdown. In yoga nidra, this destructive psychosomatic tendency is effectively alleviated by the opposite somatopsychic route. The psychosomatic imbalance is restored spontaneously due to release of nervous energy, which is withdrawn from the sensory channels as our awareness is drawn in. And, guess what? This energy is then redirected for healing and rejuvenation of overtaxed tissues, glands and organs.
And where do you actually get yoga nidra?
Some yoga studios will offer yoga nidra as a class, so you can rock up and spend your lunch break ACTUALLY resting. Otherwise, you can download recorded yoga nidra meditations from iTunes, or a brilliant website The Yoga Nidra Network. When I was first introduced to yoga nidra, it really did change my whole outlook on relaxation and rest. And if you are looking to get the feeling of three hours sleep in twenty minutes, then this really is for you. If you do decide to download some yoga nidra recordings yourself, then make sure that you sample the voice before you download as you want one that you feel will relax and not aggravate you. Also, make sure that no one will disturb you whilst you do the practice. Don't just crawl into bed; you want to lie flat on your back, with a light blanket for warmth, palms up and head supported. To be honest, lying on the floor is best, but sometimes I do lie on top of my bed. Remember, the challenge is not to fall asleep. However, if you feel that you have, this does not mean that you have wasted your time. On some level, you will have taken it in and rested in a much deeper way than normal. Nine times out of ten, the script will bring you round and you will automatically wake up…it's pretty amazing. However, if you are worried, then set a gentle alarm for five minutes AFTER the yoga nidra is due to end so that you don't worry about this whilst in the meditation. Try not to do a yoga nidra close to bedtime, as you really do feel rejuvenated afterwards and it may mean you don't sleep as well.
You can also pick some yoga nidra recordings that aim to help with specific issues you may be dealing with in life, so have a browse on the Yoga Nidra Network for these.
My favourite and first ever nidra was this one.
Give it a try and let me know how you feel.
“When a person is under tension, their behaviour is influenced, and when they relax, they are natural and they know truth. Knowledge of truth only comes when you are free of tension.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati