I have lost count of the amount of times I have been lying in savasana, just getting into that lovely relaxed state only to hear my teacher utter the words “…and now wiggle your fingers, your toes.” All too soon, I am sitting up, bidding my fellow Yogis “Namaste” and heading out into the big wide world to continue my day.
If like me, you crave some extra deep relaxation and meditation time, then yoga nidra is for you. Translated as Yogic Sleep, this powerful meditation induces a deep body-mind relaxation state — meaning it is not just an excuse to nod off. The practice was developed in the late 1940s by Swami Satyananda, who utilized the ancient tantra of nyasa, which means “to place or take the mind to a point.”
The power of yoga nidra is that it teaches us to stay awake while in a deep relaxation state, ultimately tapping into our sub-conscious and unconscious. Regularly practicing yoga nidra will help you expand your intuition and sense of self. Yes, you may fall asleep the first few times that you try it (and that is okay), but eventually you will be “aware” even though seemingly asleep—a great place to be, don’t you agree?
The other wonderful thing about yoga nidra is that it allows for the creating of a “Sankalpa,” or intention formed by the heart and mind. Yoga nidra calls for you to repeat your Sankalpa mentally three times at the start and end of your practice. While the intention was formed with your conscious mind, over time and with regular practice, ultimately you cement the intention into your subconscious until it is fulfilled.
To form your Sankalpa, you need to think about your desires, how you will achieve the desired outcome and then set your goal. This needs to be expressed in a simple, positive statement using the present tense. So, you may wish to state something like “I am healthy,” “I am free,” “I am determined,” “I am strong”—you will know what you need at the time. You don’t need to think about this too much before the yoga nidra as this intention is formed as part of the practice.
How to practice:
Yoga nidra is practiced lying down on your back, palms facing up. It is important to use any props to support the body and blankets to keep warm if needed. Take a few minutes ensuring you are totally comfortable as ideally you don’t want to be moving during the session. Typically, you could be lying still from twenty minutes to an hour depending on the length of the practice.
The session is always guided, so you are encouraged to listen to the voice of your teacher and nothing else. By tuning into the voice, this helps with the awareness as you are directed to explore sensations within your body, particularly opposing feelings such as hot and cold. Generally, you are taken on a journey around your body checking in with the right side, the left, the front and back of the body. Yoga nidra can take on many forms dependent on how much time is allocated but essentially the benefits will be based on relaxation, healing, rejuvenation and of course your silent Sankalpa.
Check out You Tube for your at-home yoga nidra practice, there a number to choose from, so try them out and see what resonates with you. (This is my favorite.)
Relaxation does not mean sleep. Relaxation means to be blissfully happy; it has no end. I call bliss absolute relaxation; sleep is a different matter. Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation. Bliss relaxes the ātma, the inner self; that is why, in tantra, yoga nidra is the doorway to Samādhi.”
– Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Nidra, pub. Bihar School of Yoga, 1976.
A few other articles to support your yoga practice:
- Five essential oils to empower your yoga practice.
- A yoga sequence to help you fall (and stay) asleep at night.
- The meaning of mala beads.
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