Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Defining Yoga Nidra
‘Bestowing Love upon oneself’, is the meaning of Nidra, the Sanskrit word for Sleep, broken down to its Dhatu, or elemental meaning. Good people truly have reason to bestow such love unto themselves and bad people do not. That is why the Good sleep the undisturbed sleep of the virtuous and the bad may hunt hither, thither and all over, but never find soulful sleep.
Yoga Nidra has an additional, more specific meaning. The Love that arises from the Heart of the Deity and is Bestowed unto oneself, is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra, as in all forms of Deity yoga, does suggest some archetypes as Deities, specific to different emotional types. But we are free to choose any Deity that appeals to us, or even any object of reality or imagination that we hold to be pure or absolute. What we choose as our Deity of Desire, Ishta Devata, is of crucial importance, because in the deep Tantric process of Yoga Nidra, we become the Deity.
In the experience of Yoga Nidra, the Deity, the Love, the Self and All else is One with the experiencer, never separate. In fact the experience within Yoga Nidra is the most effortless way to achieve the Heart of Compassion, the Mahakaruna, and Mahakaruna being felt even for a moment, all our efforts then move towards generating happiness skilfully for those around us.
For we understand that the mind is a mirror, its experience is in reflecting what it projects. The more holistic the projection, the more holistic is the reflection and thus more joyful the experience of holistic cognition.
Yoga Nidra-The Technique and its Practice
The 4 states of brain waves which were known till recent times, were the Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta which correspond to the waking, the dreaming, the twilight-state between dream and waking and the deep sleep states respectively. These four states are the 4 states of consciousness. The 5th state which has been discovered recently, the Gamma brain waves, points to the Singularity state of Turiya or the Fourth State of Consciousness.
Yoga Nidra, in brief, works to enter the Theta state from the Beta state. Once the Theta state is entered, the process involves the practice of standing at Theta, and from there trying to ‘see’ the Alpha and the Beta states simultaneously. The second that this co-simultaneity is achieved between the 3 states, the mind immediately shifts into Gamma brain waves and the Yogic 4th or Turiya state.
Yoga Nidra can be used for the below 3 purposes, depending on the level of the practitioner, whether a Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced :
Deep relaxation and release from anxiety, depression,etc.
Re-programming of the mind and body complex.
Unitary experience of Higher Consciousness states.
Through the process of:
a.) Body control, Asanas,
b.) vital energy channel purification, Nadi Shodhana,
c.) & d.) vital energy amplification and sealing, Pranayama and Mudras, the mind-body complex is prepared for the practice of Yoga Nidra.
Vulnerability & Sleep
Sleep is vulnerablility. That is why humans feel personal space to be of absolute necessity, to rest undisturbed for a while-to sleep in secure peace. We all understand that in order to face vulnerabilities one must be strong and calm. And that equanimous strength is generated from the preparatory practices to the actual Yoga Nidra as mentioned afore. The pleasure experienced by the hormonal secretions during the preparatory process, is the reason why the all important mental suggestibility factor increases at will, in the Yoga Nidra process. The preparatory practices are essential for the succesful practice of Yoga Nidra.
Having completed the 5 element based Asanas and the other preparatory techniques, the body is then made to assume the Shavasana, the Dead Body Posture. At this stage, the mind should ideally be in a hyper-flexible state where by the merest suggestion, it is able to wake, dream, sleep or stay suspended in-between states.
A short delve into Shavasana, the posture is appropriate here. Shavasana as a posture is the most vulnerable natural position, requiring zero muscular effort. As soon as the inherent vulnerablity of this position is assumed, accepted and then internalised, the body goes through total relaxation mode, with the brain waves now tending to emanate in the alpha-delta range indicating dream or deep sleep. Body awareness is easily minimised in the Shavasana due to zero muscular effort. Breathing is natural and relaxed and the Ujjaiyi breathing and Uddiyana bandha can be performed effortlessly.
Then begin the Power practices of Quick Entry into the states of a) internalised senses, termed pratyahara, followed by b) clear experience of The Self Becoming ‘that which is visualised’, termed dharana. This is the Tantric essence of the practice of Yoga Nidra. The experience of this high station of blissful dharana is only possible for those who are able to generate the Bhava, the Passion required to actualise the mirage-like mental vision.
The mirage-like visualization is intensified through passion, for the benefit of the internalised senses, which now become completely and wondertrsuck by the inner experiences. The senses can now feel, see, touch, taste and smell that which is imagined within, with crystal clarity. And all these senses are experienced as One Unitary experience, termed Eka Rasa.
Now comes the stage of becoming one with that which is Seen within. This is the mystic Tantric process, an intrinsic part of the Yoga Nidra, called Nyasa and functions through the mental placing of Mantras, or Sound Phenomes. This is the self-transformational level of Yoga Nidra. This is actual self-willed metamorphosis taking place.
Having assumed a Deity form, now the purified Sense-essences are mapped back to the individual mind, now transformed. Going through a reverse process, coming down from the awareness of the subtle energy body to the physical body, is a process in which a lot of care has to be taken.
As the mind has just gone through a transformative process and therefore a lot of memory associations in the brain and nervous system are in a state of re-programming and there is suggestibility to new change. So any change must be performed with absolute control, clarity and in an orderly fashion.
It is important also that there should be no disturbances during the practice and for a period of 20-30 minutes after the practice. Any disturbance can cause unsettled layering of the prana-body-mind complex and can lead to physical or mental issues in the future.
Once the process is completed correctly, the practitioner wakes up to a new world, and truly the one who wakes from the practice is not the one who began it.