More on Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra is sometimes called yoga sleep or yoga relaxation. It is a very powerful mindfulness technique that allows one to relax the body and limbic brain area, while holding mental control for deeper relaxation and projective practices without falling asleep. For some it may be like lucid dreaming, but a state that remains focused on the physical, energetic, and psychic body. In mindfulness terms, this is a state of deep relaxed awareness. Advanced practices use projective techniques outside the body. One asset of this practice is that it allows us to retain cognitive awareness as the body and brain waves shift into more subtle states. Once we are in the subtle energy field, the body-mind may be altered with relative ease. The ancient practice helps practitioners to improve physical conditions, injuries, energy homeostasis, and to awaken dormant energies.
Ideally this practice is done in a laying down position, so the body can conserve energy. Laying on your back is called savasana, the course pose – being very still like a corpse. The use of blankets and cushions may improve comfort. It may also be done in a comfortable sitting position. During practice it is important not to move the body in any way; this is a goal even if uncomfortable sensations arise. Our job is to observe the movement of inner energies without physical or mental reactions, thus allowing a more expansive meditation experience.
Stages of Yoga Nidra
In the first stage of practice, we engage in a progressive body scan to relax and harmonize the physical body. This allows gross or non-subtle energy to move out of the body so the physical body is completely relaxed. We may feel the tension leaving our mind and body. This alone may enable one to experience waves of deep relaxation and peace of mind. However, this first stage is simply preparation for other yoga nidra techniques. If practice time is extended, sometimes people experience a drop in body temperature.
In the second stage, the practitioner will be guided into other subtle energy experiences. These may include sensory awareness and manipulation, chakra awareness, visualizations, awakening energy techniques, and projective experiences. In the more advanced yoga nidra techniques, it is important that the teacher possesses ample experience in doing these practices. A good reason for this is that while being in deeper energetic systems of the body, a person’s stored tensions, memories, and perhaps karma may be released. Participant safety is a priority, so the teacher must observe closely to notice signs the practice is going beyond the practitioner’s capacity.
Yoga nidra is a powerful body-based technique that may improve access to subtle energy as well as cognitive and physical functioning. It can be a very powerful, healing meditation.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC & Brian Tobin
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness