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nidra the practitioner remains in a state of light pratyahara with four of his or her senses internalised, that is, withdrawn, and only the hearing still connects to the instructions.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.