We can all agree that one of the most enjoyable (and most important!) parts of a yoga class comes at the end when we rest in Shavasana, also known as, corpse pose. A posture that invites us to "have a small death every day" as Pattabhi Join puts it, a moment to relinquish all control over the body, a moment that offer us, full permission to deflate, relax, die and reborn afresh.
After, having moved the body, stretch everywhere, lengthening here and there...then after, there is stillness and relaxation.In Shavasana we realize deep serenity, a sense of effortless joy, and a glimpse into our true nature as unqualified presence.
Yoga Nidra is an ancient tantric yoga path that leads to inner freedom, a deep relaxation for relief from day-to-day stress. The development of one-pointedness a key to spiritual awakening healing from painful emotions, such as fear, grief, and anger. More effective and energizing sleep, and much more suitable for both beginners and advanced practitioners, but new to most Westerners. Yoga Nidra provides an unmatched way to experience the culmination of the art of yoga, and the deeper physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards that are its promise.
Yoga nidra as a state of conscious deep sleep. One appears to be sleeping but the unconscious mind is functioning at a deeper level: it is sleep with a trace of deep awareness. In normal sleep we lose track of our self but in yoga nidra, while consciousness of the world is dim and relaxation is deep, there remains an inward lucidity and experiences may be absorbed to be recalled later. Since yoga nidra involves an aimless and effortless relaxation it is often held to be best practised with an experienced yoga teacher who verbally delivers instructions.
This state of consciousness (yoga nidra) is different from meditation in which concentration on a single focus is required. In yoga nidra the practitioner remains in a state of light pratyahara with four of his or her senses internalised, that is, withdrawn, and only the hearing still connects to the instructions. The yogic goal of both paths, deep relaxation (yoga nidra) and meditation are the same, a state called Samadhi.
Yoga nidra is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness.
The practice of guided relaxation in Yoga Nidra has been found to reduce tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain respond well.
The major modern development of yoga was facilitated by Dr. Richard Miller and his I Rest system or “Integrative Rest” yoga nidra. In the last 10 to 15 years Dr. Richard Miller’s work has been hugely influential in bringing yoga nidra to even more people in the West.
There are different structures to nidra depending on the above three schools. The practice can last anything from 10 to 40 minutes. It typically begins by settling and making the body comfortable. Sometimes an intention for the practice, or Sankalpa, as it is known is set. We then embark on a journey around the body relaxing various parts known as body sensing or the rotation of consciousness.
Next we turn to the breath and the subtle and inward observation of the body breathing. After that we may work with suggestions of opposites – feelings, emotions or simply just sensations. The practice can then move into visualizations or just resting in awareness. In all approaches there is a proper closure and integration from the nidra into present state.
GENERAL HEALTH BENEFITS
As well as obvious beneffits such as reducing stress and tension, yoga nidra can also help with chronic fatigue. For those requiring long-term convalescence in hospital yoga nidra has proved very helpful. By encouraging balance within the body yoga nidra supports and nourishes the immune system. Working by shifting the body from the sympathetic state – “Fight or Flight” – to the parasympathetic state – “rest and digest “– the practice brings about a range of physiological and neurological benefits.
The practice of yoga nidra is richly restful but don’t just take my word for it! Many scientific studies have shown that regular practice can cause brainwave activity to change from a beta state to an alpha state. Put simply this means that we shift from the usual alert, awake and stressed state of beta activity to the more relaxed alpha state. Increased dominance of alpha waves in the brain is beneficial as it is conducive to mental resourcefulness, creativity, problem solving, eficiency and relaxation.
SANKALPA AND BEYOND:
As with all yoga there is also a deeper spiritual and emotional dimension to yoga nidra. The ancient yogis devised this practice to return to the source of themselves and their inner being. And so there can be a focus in the nidra on setting an intention or Sankalpa within your life’s purpose or dharma as it is known. And within Richard Miller’s I Rest system there have been huge successes in treating PTSD among soldiers, those with addictions and other mental illnesses.
* Swami Satyananda Saraswati (founder Bihar School of Yoga) Wikipedia- Yoga Nidra.
*Yoga Nidra by Dr Richard Miller 2010.
It is a fundamental premise that the world that we perceive through our limited 5 senses, is only a minute slice of a much larger reality and that there are many more subtle planes of existence, that now modern science are beginning to discover and analyse. The first discovered Hatha texts (more than 5000 years ago) speculated on a subtle physiology made of finer substance or energy that the physical body. The Sanskrit word for this fine subtle energy is PRANA, that best translates as “Life Force Energy”.
In Oriental medicine and in martial arts, the terms refers to cosmos energy believed to come from the sun and connecting the elements of the Universe. This Energy is the universal principle observed in all nature, responsible for the body’s life, heat and maintenance, prana is the sum to total of all energy that is manifested in the universe.
Through their exploration of the body and breath, the ancient yogis discovered that prana (life force energy) could be further subdivided into energetic components they called Vayus (winds).
The five Vayus of prana all have very subtle yet distinct energetic qualities, including specific functions and directions of flow. The yogis were able to control and cultivate these Vayus by simply bringing their focus and awareness to them. Through this conscious control and cultivation they were not only able to create optimal health and well-being, but were able to activate the primordial Kundalini energy to obtain states of enlightened Samadhi.
Complete mastery over the Vayus is not necessary to benefit from using them to improve our inward focus and the ability to feel the subtleties within the body. Cultivating a basic awareness of one or more of the Vayus will help us deepen our awareness of body and breath to enrich our yoga practice.The two most important Vayus are Prana-Vayu and Apana-Vayu.
Prana–Vayu is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region. The flow of Prana-Vayu is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other Vayus. To experience Prana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel an energy flowing up the torso from the belly to the third-eye.
Apana–Vayu is situated in the pelvic floor and its energy pervades the lower abdomen. The flow of Apana-Vayu is downwards and out and its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. Apana-Vayu governs the elimination of all substances from the body: carbon monoxide, urine, stool, etc. To experience Apana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you exhale feel an energy flowing down the torso from the top of the head to the tailbone.
Vyana–Vayu is situated in the heart and lungs and flows throughout the entire body. The flow of Vyana-Vayu moves from the center of the body to the periphery. It governs circulation of all substances throughout the body, and assists the other Vayus with their functions. To experience Vyana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale feel the breath radiating outward from the navel to the arms and legs.
Udana–Vayu is situated in the throat and it has a circular flow around the neck and head. It functions to “hold us up” and governs speech, self-expression and growth. To experience Udana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath circulating around and through the head and neck.
Samana–Vayu is situated in the abdomen with its energy centered in the navel. The flow of Samana-Vayu moves from the periphery of the body to the center. It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances: food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. To experience Samana-Vayu: Close your eyes, sit or stand with a long spine and relaxed body, and as you inhale and exhale feel the breath rising and falling in the front, sides and back of the torso.
Awareness of one or more Vayu has several applications in yoga, and is most easily illustrated within a yoga posture. The awareness of Prana-Vayu creates a focus to lift, lengthen and open the upper body. The awareness of Apana-Vayu creates a focus to ground and stabilize the lower body. The awareness of Vyana-Vayu creates a focus of strength and fluid movement body. The awareness of Udana-Vayu creates a focus to maintain a long spine and a correct posture. The awareness of Samana-Vayu creates a focus to open and relax the body.