Yoga Nidra is a practice that brings consciousness and sleep together. The word yoga has many translations. It's a sanskrit word and in the context that we are talking in it is often said to mean "divine union". The word nidra simply means sleep. Divine union in sleep. So we unite with the divine while we are sleeping. Unity with the divine doesn't just happen by accident, there needs to be some level of conscious awareness. So now we have the state of being consciously aware that we are uniting with divinity during sleep.
Hmmmm......How did all of that settle? Lets dive in a little deeper.
Yoga Nidra is a practice that is done lying down in savasana, corpse pose. Sometimes it may be an extended savasana at the end of a yoga asana class, like a hatha, vinyasa or yin class. Or maybe its just yoga nidra all on it's own. The practice could be anywhere from 12 minutes to over an hour. It's an ancient technique that is referenced in many of the Vedic texts.
The way that I see it, when we are practicing Yoga Nidra we are practicing dying while being consciously aware. Sleep and dying have some similarities, so we could use sleep as a platform to practice for death. Why would one want to practice dying consciously, you ask? Saints and Sages off all times and places tell us that if we can die conscious of God we can break the cycle of death and rebirth, freeing ourselves from sorrow and attaining enlightenment.
But there must be more to it than that? Yes there is! In the process of developing the kind of focus and concentration that it would take to die consciously we also develop the kind of focus and concentration that it takes to be much more effective at navigating this wild world. The kind of focus and concentration that it takes to master our own mind and be in control of our emotions and reactions. Who doesn't want that?
The practice of yoga nidra is a journey through the 5 koshas, the five layers of our existence.
Annamaya Kosha ~ our physical body or sometimes referred to as our food body
Pranamaya Kosha ~ our breath body or sometimes referred to as the life force
Manomaya Kosha ~ our mental body
Vjyanamaya Kosha - our wisdom body
Anandamaya Kosha ~ our bliss body
and then at the center of all this is our Atman ~ our true Self
The practice starts with the expression of a sankalpa or intention (vow of our highest truth). After stating your sankalpa silently you will be guided through a rotation of consciousness, or a journey through the physical body (annamaya kosha). Then there will be some type of recognition of the breath (pranamaya kosha). Next you will be guided through pairs of opposite sensations or emotions, something like hot and cold, or sadness and joy (manomaya kosha). Moving onto the wisdom body, stored memories are released by practicing rapid visualization (vjyanamaya kosha). And then you will be guided through a journey taking you to the bliss body (anandamaya kosha).
Ideally when you are practicing yoga nidra you remain aware during the whole session. The practice itself is very relaxing and it's common for the body to fall asleep. It's also good if the mind is able to settle into sleep, but the goal is for the awareness to remain present. Through consistent and regular practice you will begin to distinguish between you as the body/mind and you as the awareness. This allows you to sit in the seat of the observer (awareness) and watch your body and mind fall asleep or at some point in the far off future to sit in the seat of the observer (awareness) and watch the body and mind die.
If your curios about the practice please come join me for a session. Find the schedule here.