yoga nidra: yogic sleep or something deeper?

basics of Yoga Nidra

There’s been a lot of buzz lately around Yoga Nidra, but you may not know exactly what it is. Many people refer to it as yogic sleep, and while that’s true, it’s not exactly sleep. Traditionally, we practice Yoga Nidra while awake. Do you know the basics of Yoga Nidra? Let’s find out.

Yoga Nidra is a form of deep meditation that takes a practitioner to the fourth state of consciousness known as turiya. This state of consciousness is our underlying pure consciousness. It resides deeper in our mind than the three states of consciousness that most people are aware of: waking state, dream state, and deep dreamless sleep. Because we go past the first three states of consciousness into turiya it is often called yogic sleep. We do this, however, in a state of wakefulness. 

How Does Yoga Nidra Work

Practicing Yoga Nidra allows us to tap into the vast unlimited abilities of turiya. If you have ever thought it would be great to learn by osmosis, you can. Yoga Nidra allows you to do so. During Yoga Nidra the practitioner listens to the voice of the guide. The guide serves the purpose of taking the practitioner to the state of turiya and it is there that learning can occur without the interruption of our thoughts that take over during waking and dreaming states.

Towards the beginning of the practice the guide will have the practitioner state silently the resolve that he or she wants to manifest. This manifestation takes place once we reach turiya. Keep in mind, though, it’s not a once and done thing. We don’t immediately manifest our resolve in one session. It takes repeated regular sessions to manifest our resolve. Sometimes it takes a few sessions and other times more. It is, however, particularly noteworthy that whatever our resolve is will happen- if we keep up our Yoga Nidra practice. 

Yoga Nidra and its benefits are available to anyone. If you struggle with traditional yoga asanas (physical postures) you can practice Yoga Nidra as it’s not a physical practice. We traditionally practice Yoga Nidra while lying in savasana (corpse pose). If lying flat on your back isn’t comfortable for you, it is possible to do while lying on your side or sitting in a chair. This is most helpful for those who tend to fall asleep while meditating in savasana because, again, Yoga Nidra is traditionally done while awake.   

Yoga Nidra Steps

Now that you know more about what Yoga Nidra is it’s important to understand the outline of a typical practice. 

  1. Preparation- This is your getting ready phase where you get in a comfortable position and quiet your mind and body. You will also begin to externalize your senses by noticing the feelings, sounds, smells, etc around you and not inside of your own body.
  2. Sankalpa- Your resolve should be positive, present, and powerful. It should be short enough that you can repeat it exactly the same way each time you say it. It’s important to keep it in the present tense, saying your affirmation as if you are already living it. Repeat three times. 
  3. Rotation of Body Consciousness- This is a guided trip through the part of your body. The guide will state each body part quickly and you let that part come into consciousness and then move one. It helps to relax your mind and body. 
  4. Breath Awareness- This is a period of observing and counting your breath. It helps to take you to a deeper state of relaxation and brings you down through the states of consciousness to turiya. 
  5. Opposite Feelings/Body Sensations- During this phase you will experience different sensations and their opposites. Teachers often omit this in beginning practices as it can sometimes bring up traumatic memories. 
  6. Visualization- This stage begins with rapid fire visualization of random images and then becomes a visual scene. 
  7. Sankalpa- Repeat your sankalpa three times as done previously. You set your affirmation with the first set of repetitions. This repetition anchors your resolve into your deepest states of mental awareness. 
  8. Ending the Practice- You will be guided back to the full state of waking consciousness. Your guide will lead you back through the reverse of how you were taken into the practice. The practice often ends with the guide chanting the mantra “Hari Om Tat Sat” meaning “may you feel peace and directed toward truth.”

There’s a really good video explanation for Yoga Nidra that I like. You can watch it here. Now that you know what Yoga Nidra is you may want to experience it for yourself. You can read about my Yoga Nidra services here.

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