When you think of relaxing, what comes to mind? Many people think of lying on a comfortable sofa and watching television, or sitting back to read a book or newspaper with a cup of coffee. These kinds of activities can be beneficial in that they can bring us comfort and contentment, but they do not bring us to a state of true relaxation.
True relaxation requires awareness. It requires turning our awareness inwards, away from external stimuli, and bringing it to bear on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Doing this gives us the opportunity to recognize the tensions that we hold in all of these areas. Once we have recognized them, we can work to resolve them, and only once these tensions have been resolved can we experience a state of true relaxation and the revitalization that can come with it.
Yoga nidra is a technique used to achieve such a state of conscious awareness and relaxation. In Sanskrit, yoga refers to union or one-pointed awareness, and nidra refers to sleep. Thus, yoga nidra is a technique where one practices a form of conscious “sleep”. Really, you are not sleeping, even if it may appear that way; your consciousness continues to function on a deeper level.
Typically in yoga nidra, you lie in a comfortable position on the floor and listen to instructions given that help you move into this deeper state of awareness. Your consciousness is turned inwards, away from external experiences and away from sleep. In more advanced applications, this sort of deep state of consciousness is said to allow for reprogramming of the mind to enhance its faculties or change one’s nature.
Yoga nidra can be learned and practiced from a recording, which is what I am providing here. This recording is simply an introduction to yoga nidra, focusing on relaxation and revitalization. It can be used as an aid for sleep, as a restful activity if you find yourself unable to sleep, as a way to help manage stress, or as a substitute for a nap when you need to recharge partway through the day.
Advice for When You Practice
- This session will take about 25 minutes. Try to choose a time when you will not be interrupted.
- Yoga nidra is ideally practiced on an empty stomach. Allow 2-3 hours after your last meal before practicing yoga nidra.
- Traditionally yoga nidra is practiced lying on the floor in shavasana, but you can also practice on a bed. If you do, try to use a low pillow, or ideally no pillow at all.
- Practice in a quiet, dimly-lit room free of bugs and drafts, not too hot or too cold. Use a light blanket if needed.
- It’s ideal to listen to the recording using headphones, to immerse yourself and not disturb others.
- Try not to fall asleep during the session, but it is okay if you do. Your mind will still retain the information, and you can keep practicing this way.
- Practice patiently and without judgement. It may take a couple of sessions to really achieve the level of deep relaxation it is aiming for, depending on your own personal state. Give it some time. Just observe yourself and gently try to bring your mind and body into a relaxed state. Don’t be upset with yourself if it seems like it is taking too long or that you’re not able to relax or concentrate, and don’t strain your mind trying to follow the instructions.
Choosing a Resolve
During the practice, you will be asked to make a resolve. When choosing a resolve, make it simple, precise, and clear. Some potential examples include:
- I will be a positive force for the evolution of others
- I will be successful in all that I undertake
- I will be more aware and efficient
- I will achieve total health
- I will awaken my spiritual potential
Using Yoga Nidra as a Sleep Aid
Yoga nidra can be used as preparation for sleep also. You do basically the same but in bed with the lights off, and you can choose not to fully awaken at the end. If you are still awake, you can repeat some of the practice (rotation of consciousness, breath counting) until sleep comes.