Traditionally, yogic practices aim to transcend the limiting tendencies of the mind. Various branches of yoga achieve this state of inner spontaneity and freedom through different tools and techniques. In the classical branch of Raja Yoga, there is a stage of meditation called Pratyahara, which induces a state of internalization and inner relaxation. Yoga Nidra – literally translated as psychic or yogic sleep is one of the techniques of Pratyahara. The state of Yoga Nidra is very close to the hypnagogic state. It helps disengage the mind from disturbing cycle of repeated thoughts and emotions and eventually, provides much-needed relaxation to your mind.
Techniques Of Yoga Nidra
Technically, Yoga Nidra is conducted in eight steps. The entire process is very systematic and simple to follow. It is a must-do practice if you are leading a very hectic and stressful life. 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra can give you a relaxation equal to two hours of sleep. Normally, Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation technique. In this entire practice, you need to follow the voice of the instructor and experience the practice on the level of feelings and awareness. Since Yoga Nidra is conducted in Shavasana (corpse pose) in which one lies down on his back in the most relaxed position; therefore, unlike other meditation practices, one can find it very relaxing and rejuvenating.
Stages Of Yoga Nidra
Here are the eight distinct stages of Yoga Nidra:
In the first stage of preparation, the pose of Shavasana (corpse pose) is assumed. This pose – once assumed properly – helps you to eliminate all discomforts of the body and would help to attain maximum physical relaxation. In this state of preparation – through various techniques – your awareness is internalized, which helps you disengage from stress-inducing thoughts. As a result, it immediately connects you with the experiences of the body and mind ‘here and now’.
Once your awareness is internalized, you are asked to take a positive and simply-worded resolve. Once you choose a positive resolve and repeat mentally in Yoga Nidra, it leaves a very deep impression on your subconscious mind. It helps in giving a positive direction to your mental energies.
3. Rotation Of Awareness
In the third stage of Yoga Nidra, you are guided to rotate the awareness through different parts of the body. Normally, the route to rotate the awareness is fixed and very systematic. In this stage, your awareness gets fully grounded in the body. The systematic rotation through body would help to deeply relax not just the body parts, but also your mind. The key to relaxation here is your conscious awareness with body parts which helps to establish a deeper connection with the body and hence, relaxes them.
4. Breath Awareness
In the fourth stage, the awareness of breath is enhanced. It helps to induce a deep physical and mental relaxation. It also provides your mind a support to remain aware and rooted in the present moment. Various techniques of breath awareness are employed in the practice to strengthen your ability to concentrate without creating tensions.
5. Creating Opposite Sensations Or Feelings
In this stage, you are trained to create opposite sensations or feelings that remain non-involved. Initially, it may start with a very simple opposite pair of physical sensations such as heaviness and lightness or hotness and coldness. Later, it may involve more emotionally-laden opposite feelings or emotions. But during the entire stage, you are asked to remain an observer of the manifestations of these sensations or feelings. This stage not only releases the pent-up emotions associated with the feelings but also, enhances your ability to withstand them effectively in real life situations.
In stage six of Yoga Nidra, there are many visualization techniques used. These techniques may range from simple and random objects visualization to healing visualization, story visualization, or daily-routine visualization. The stage of visualization enhances the ability of photographic memory, relaxation of the mind, and healing of the body and helps to improve the learning outcome.
After visualization, the stage of Sankalpa is again repeated. This repetition helps to deepen the impressions of the resolve when you are still in the state of deep relaxation. It is like irrigating the seed of Sankalpa through reaffirmation.
Once you graduate through all these stages explained above, then your senses are guided properly to reorient toward external surroundings. This allows you to come out of deep relaxation without any disorientation.