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What Is Yoga Nidra?

What Is Yoga Nidra?

What is Yoga Nidra?

If you’ve attended a yoga class, you would know that every session ends with a guided relaxation, where all you have to do is lie down in Shavasana (the corpse pose) and listen to instructions. For years this technique has been popularly misunderstood as a type of sleep (no, it’s not a power nap after a yoga session!). This 5-10 minute relaxation is part of a more impactful and powerful practice of conscious relaxation called Yoga Nidra.

A systematic way of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, the art of Yoga Nidra has profound effects. During the practice, while we appear to be asleep (‘Nidra’ means sleep), in actuality, our consciousness is functioning at a much deeper level of awareness. This state of relaxation is achieved by turning inwards, withdrawing from the senses or Pratyahara (the 5th limb of Patajali’s Ashtanga Yoga).

Yoga Nidra

How does Yoga Nidra work?

Let’s understand the process of Pratyahara first.Yoga Nidra is a part of the process of Pratyahara, the doorway to reaching our highest potential. We slowly withdraw our senses from the external world, the body, the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and eventually the unconscious mind. Yoga Nidra is a practice that gradually tunes us into withdrawing from everything around us. Sight, taste, smell, touch...are all closed off. This withdrawal is the state when Pratyahara takes place.

There is always a chance of falling asleep during Yoga Nidra. To avoid this, practicing under guidance, with our auditory channel active, is important. When our consciousness is operating with one sense organ, it is far more receptive and awake. During Yoga Nidra, we take a resolve not to fall asleep, to simply relax and let go. While we are doing this physically, the mind is alert and aware, and there comes a point when the mind is also beyond knowing we are in a relaxation state. This profound state is when the mind dissociates itself from the sense organs and is at its most powerful.

What are the different parts of Yoga Nidra? 

A guided Yoga Nidra practice takes our attention to different parts of our body. Starting from the right thumb, one by one, we fix our attention on each body part. We visualize this part as if it were outside of us. This attention and awareness actually activate and monitors the higher centers of the brain, thus maintaining complete awareness despite the withdrawal of the senses. An important part of Yoga Nidra is the resolve. A resolution (Sankalpa) is taken based on what we are planning to achieve - ideally this is a life purpose but it could be as simple as peace and balance, or it could be for a health concern such as stress, anxiety, migraines, addictions, etc. Yoga Nidra works greatly on our subconscious mind, and with regular practice, we see immense progress towards anything we aim to achieve during this period of time.

Are there scientific studies behind Yoga Nidra?

Scientifically, the practice stimulates the brain and helps reach these heightened parts of the control center. A study also found that incorporated PET scans observed an increase in dopamine levels in the ventral striatum of participants during the practice of Yoga Nidra, Dopamine being a neurotransmitter that is commonly associated with reward-motivated behaviour and social anxiety.

It sure sounds more complex than it really is. The guidance of a teacher is important to ensure you get the complete experience and full effects of the practice.

Have you practiced real Yoga Nidra? Tell us about your experience or join a Shvasa yoga class to experience this.

What Does it Involve?

The process of Yoga Nidra is simple and usually does not take more than 30-minutes. The teacher will ask you to lie down in Shavasana, with your feet pointing outwards, and arms slightly away from the body. 

Slowly, you will be asked to let go of sounds in your environment. Then comes the Sankalpa or resolve. Your resolve can be as simple as promising yourself not to fall asleep or being peaceful and balanced. A teacher will guide you through this.

Then comes taking your attention to different body parts in a sequential manner and becoming aware of your breath. Breath awareness is succeeded by pairs of opposites and visualisation.

Finally, after the visualization stage, is where the teacher will ask you to repeat your Sankalpa (resolution). This stage works deeply on your subconscious, making sure you remember what you are guided through as well as your resolve. The powerful words used in this stage are what works on your subconscious mind.

Slowly and gradually, the teacher will bring your attention back to your body and surroundings.

Have you practiced real Yoga Nidra? Tell us about your experience or join a Shvasa yoga class to experience this.

What Is Yoga Nidra?
Shvasa Editorial Team

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