Tranquil Hearts Yoga

What is yoga nidra?


What is yoga nidra?

Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,
This is termed nidra.
Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,
But yoga nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens, It is of a blissful, higher quality altogether.

-Swami Satyananda Saraswa

To dream is to create a vision that you wish to live. Most people dream during the night in a way that is out of their control. Others experience more lucid dreams and can take control of their dream lives

Yoga nidra is a way to create sleep that transcends dreams. If you have a wish that you want to fulfill, if you are looking to accomplish your personal legend, yoga nidra is a practice that can help. Your dream is like a garden’s seed. You are the gardener, and the practice of yoga nidra is the water with which you nurture that dream.

What is the goal of yoga nidra?

Relaxation does not mean sleep.
Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,
It has no end.

-Swami Satyananda Saraswa


In short, yoga nidra is the practice of relieving tension as a means of relaxation. The tensions that are referred to in the practice are muscular tensions, emotional tensions and mental tensions.

Muscular tensions are related to the body.

Throughout the day, our body experiences a lot of asymmetry and circumstances that affect our nervous system, our heart, and our mind-body connection. The first stage of yoga nidra is to relax the muscular body, and to strengthen the mind-body connection.

Emotional tensions are more complex relax.

The most difficult part of this process is to be honest and acknowledge our emotional tensions so that they are expressed and not repressed. When we deny parts of ourselves, they only become more deeply rooted into our hearts. When you go to sleep with unresolved emotional tension, relaxation and restoration during deep sleep are not as present. Yoga nidra helps to tranquilize the emotional structure of the mind, not by numbing it but by being fully present with it and excepting it without resistance.

The last of the tensions are mental tensions which result from mental activity.

Throughout the day we have daydreams, anxieties, opinions, and other stories we tell ourselves. Within our existence and our consciousness there exists a mental body. Just like your physical body stores and digests all of the food that you’ve eaten, the mental body stores and digests the thoughts and emotions that you have taken in. The causes of our misalignment between what we think about ourselves and how we behave in reality are the accumulated tensions from the mental body. Through yoga nidra we are able to dive into the subconscious mind the space where these thoughts and impressions are stored and release them and establish harmony between our mental body and our consciousness.

woman in park practicing yoga nidra on yoga mat in grass

Has this ever happened to you?

You wake up from a dream and for a brief moment you relate so strongly to the life from your dream that you have trouble letting go of those emotional attachments. You might experience an emotion that was rooted from an event that happened in your dream, or you might have a hard time recalibrating to your waking life and remembering the life that you’ve lived in your body.

The secret of yoga nidra is that every practice not only relaxes our tensions, but also restructures and reforms are whole personality from within. Just as you truly experienced the emotions from the events that happened to you in a dream, you can truly experience the emotions and the sense of newness that is created from a practice of yoga nidra.

What happens during yoga nidra?

Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.
Bliss relaxes the atma, the inner self

-Swami Satyananda Saraswa

Yoga Nidra is a practice that lasts typically for 20 to 40 minutes. It is a simple practice which can be done through use of a recording and the only thing you need is a quiet room and time for yourself. There are seven stages of yoga Nidra which are performed in a certain order, though you may see variation or omissions depending on the practice. The seven stages are as follows
  1. Preparation for the practice
  2. Resolve or Sankalpa
  3. Rotation of consciousness
  4. Awareness of the breath
  5. Feelings and sensations
  6. Visualization, and
  7. Ending the practice

Preparation or induction can vary depending on the practice, but usually involves developing an awareness of the body and its surrounding environment. This can include listening to sounds in the distance or nearby, feeling the body and making contact with the ground beneath you, visualizing the walls in the room around you, or simply using the breath and the movements of the body to become adjusted.

The resolve that you make is your seed, the life that you are creating and reforming, or the new personality that you are aiming to create does not happen without effort or forethought. Creating an intention or a sankalpa is important to set the tone for your practice. Without an intention, the practice is simply relaxation. With an intention yoga Nidra becomes a way to be reborn with each practice, and develop a new sense of personal identity and being.
This sankalpa is an affirmation that you are the person that you wish to be. There is no need for becoming, and the practice of resolving mental and emotional tensions is what helps you unbecome the person that you no longer wish to be.
The rotation of consciousness is a practice of becoming aware of each of the parts of the body. Your guide will take you from point to point in your body do the right and left sides the front and back, and your task is to simply develop an awareness of that space without moving. This helps to establish a mental body within your consciousness. The more you can connect with the feeling of your body parts without physically prompting them with sensation, the stronger your connection with your mental body becomes in your consciousness.

Awareness of the breath is similar to a breathing meditation practice or pranayama. The physical tensions are relieved through the practice of awareness of breath, and the consciousness is brought into the present moment by following each and every inhale and exhale, while the mind is becoming alert and staying awake, the body is falling asleep.

Awareness of the feelings and sensations are another practice for strengthening the connection with the mental body. Imagine right now that you are in a cold room like a walk in freezer. Truly imagine yourself in that space, not just seeing the interior of this freezer, but feeling the warmth of your breath touching the cold air just outside you. Feel the hair standing up on your forearms as you shiver. Feel the chill of the air making contact with your skin. This is the practice of developing an internal sensation without an external response.

Visualization is the culminating practice of yoga Nidra and it is the most difficult for new practitioners to grasp. The mental relaxation is induced by visualizing images that have universal significance and powerful associations within the subconscious mind. These images include landscapes, oceans, mountains, temples, saints, flowers, and descriptions of powerful psychic symbols such as the chakras.

Difficulty with visualization is a difficult gap to overcome when beginning the practice. The common misconception about visualization is that it is an entirely visual process. That you need to see visually within your imagination is not necessarily true. When you picture of blue sky in your mind, you may see a blue sky as if your eyes were open towards the heavens, or you may just bring to mind the qualities of the sky such as bright and vibrant and perhaps cloudy.

What is important in the process of visualization is not that you see, but that you feel and develop an emotional response to the object that is brought up during the visualization practice.

By the end of the practice, the body may be fully asleep, and it is important not to rush to leave from the state. Slowly coming into awareness of the body involves starting with visualizing your body back in the room where you are laying, returning small movements to the extremities like the fingers and toes, and not rushing yourself to a seated or standing position.

What is the difference between yoga nidra and meditation?

Meditation is a broad term to describe a breadth of practices. Yoga nidra might be considered one of these practices under the umbrella of meditation. The traditional practice of meditation as we are familiar in the west is a seated meditation of open awareness. This practice can be called dhyana in the yogic tradition. 

Dhyana, or secular meditation, can help with self-regulation and reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. The practice of using consciousness to align body and mind with the present moment is a significant part of most meditation practices. Where yoga nidra goes further is in its promise to dive into the subconscious and make edits based on your intentions.

However, there was a tendency toward a greater effectiveness of the Yoga Nidra intervention regarding anxiety, which might represent an effective tool in reducing both cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety.

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