Why we love Yoga Nidra
It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. Yet to define just one aspect is almost impossible. Yoga Nidra is like a gift that keeps on giving. In this complex and busy world that we find ourselves in right now, I think we all need Yoga Nidra!
It is a practice that has remained consistent in my daily sadhana (spiritual practice) for many years. On the days when my energy is low or I know my health isn’t quite as it should, Yoga Nidra has that ability to re-fill the cup. It is also precious time where I am able to connect with myself on a deeper level. If I miss a couple of days, I really notice in it.
In writing this article, I decided to ask my teachers, peers, students and friends the same question.
What is it about Yoga Nidra that we love so much?
Here are the five most common responses.
1. It’s simple and accessible to all.
“It’s the best combination for awesome results and so accessible to everyone,” says Tiff Brown. And she’s right. Yoga Nidra is for everyone. It restores you, brings you back into balance.
I find it amazing how something so simple, can be so effective in restoring your equilibrium. As practitioner Ross Williams points out, “It’s a complete and easy to follow systematic relaxation.”
The basic instruction for Yoga Nidra is to lay in Shavasana (Corpse Pose), close your eyes, make a commitment to remain awake and be still, and then listen to the instructions. And that’s it.
One of my fellow Yoga Studies teacher training friends Kez, loves Yoga Nidra because it’s so easy to practise. In return for this preparation you receive “deep relaxation, transformation, healing and rejuvenation – all part of the yoga miracle,” says Kez.
2. The gratitude for the practice.
The founder of the Satyananda Yoga lineage, Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati introduced the eight-stage system of Yoga Nidra that we teach at Grassroots Yoga and Meditation. It is one of the foundational practices you experience as a student and it was also a key practice, we learnt in theory, practise and then how to teach. It’s important to experience the practice to fully understand it and to be able to share it with others. This is how Ramonet and I were trained in our two-year Yoga studies and Teacher training.
One of the fundamental aspects in the Satyananda or the Bihar system of yoga, is it’s about the individual experience of the practitioner. This is what Vikki Simone enjoys about Yoga Nidra. “The thing that I love most about Yoga Nidra and the whole Satyananda ethos, is it’s your own experience of the practices that matter.”
As a yoga teacher, it’s a beautiful practice to share with students. You can almost feel the expectation from students to receive Yoga Nidra in the class. People love it, because it works. “Giving Yoga Nidra to people who have never practised yoga and seeing them transformed by experiencing deep relaxation with a sense of wonder and relief,” says Swami Shakti Mudra.
For fellow yogi Karen Sutherland, her first encounter with Yoga Nidra was an emotional experience. “My first experience with Yoga Nidra was at Rocklyn Yoga Ashram in Victoria, I was going through a major life upheaval at the time (or so I thought). Tears streamed down my face the entire time. It was like someone had turned on a tap. I had never felt such comfort, peace or relief.”
3. A rejuvenating gift to ourselves
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard myself say, “I need a Yoga Nidra,” and then taken myself off to a quiet place for 30 minutes. I prescribe it to everyone as a way to replenish their battery. It gives us so much; The deep relaxation, an opportunity to restore and heal, a quick, guilt free afternoon siesta!
For Mary, around 4pm is her ultimate time to practise, a time to reset after the intensity of the day. “I relax, release and rest, then move into the remainder of day with renewed energy.” I think those of us who love the practice relate to Mary’s comments.
Kerry Butler agrees, she loves; “the deep, deep, relaxation which I don’t seem to find anywhere else really. “The way the relaxing, calming, levelling effect stays with me for a long time afterwards.”
Yoga Nidra provides deep relaxation on many layers, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is a conscious relaxation. Skye Hennessey finds it hard to experience this level of relaxation with anything else. “I suffer from jaw clenching this is an unconscious tension, yet it doesn’t happen when I consciously relax with Yoga Nidra.”
4. The power of the sankalpa.
The sankalpa is a key component in Satyananda Yoga Nidra. It is described as a resolve or an affirmation and is developed in the form of a short positive statement, often referred to as our heartfelt desire.
The sankalpa is an incredibly powerful tool, it is through the sankalpa that you can re-condition the mind. During the practice of Yoga Nidra we use it to plant the seed for change. Often, it’s something we would like to happen or how we would like to feel e.g. “I will be in good health” or “I am free from addiction,” (ideal if you are looking to give up coffee or smoking!)
The seed of transformation
It is planted into the subconscious mind when it is relaxed, sewing the seed with a positive intension and at the end of the practice it is repeated again, here we are watering the seed. (Saraswati, S 1998)
For Yogendra Kamp, this is the most important aspect of Yoga Nidra, which he believes is often lost in the jargon of ‘relaxation.’ “I think the transformation that is brought about by the Sankalpas which you take twice during the Yoga Nidra are the crucial thing. It is like sowing a seed of a tree which would bear you fruits all your Life. The sowing of Sankalpas especially the second time in your sub-conscious takes you to a new dimension.”
Ahimsadhara has taught Satyananda Yoga Nidra for many years. She has used it extensively in her work with war veterans in Tasmania who were experiencing PTSD. “The sankalpa is a vital part of Raja Yoga, cultivating the opposite feeling; Pratipaksha bhavana (cultivating positive thought). The deep relaxation is the soil that allows the sankalpa to take root connection.
5. Deeper connection with our true nature.
Alison McTaggart (Mantradharma), describes it so beautifully as, “letting go into my deepest self.”
At the beginning of Yoga Nidra, you may hear the teacher say “Yoga Nidra is a practice where the body sleeps, the mind rests yet the awareness remains throughout the whole practice.” From this point onwards, with each verbal cue that is given, our awareness is gradually withdrawn from the external environment.
Surrendering to the experience of Yoga Nidra
One vital part of the practice is the body rotation. It’s also my favourite. With each body part named, I feel myself surrendering to the practice. Feeling and visualising the body consciousness, the Prana (vital energy) begins to flow, clearing out any pathways and preparing us for personal awareness. Here the mind is witnessing the body.
Prem Kranti describes it as a “deep experience of body mind connection.” Connecting with the body with safety and containment.
“Many people cannot sit quietly, and steady for more than five minutes, the monkey mind just wanders, sometimes creating physical and mental tension. To be able to meditate first we have to learn to relax our self physically, mentally and emotionally, so Yoga Nidra is the best to prepare us for meditation practices, it’s the key that opens the door for it. says Ramonet Guilliamon
The state of Pratyahara
We are gradually taken in to a deep, peaceful state between sleep and awake, technically known as ‘pratyahara.’ Chaitanya describes as “The peace, serenity of pratyahara, experiencing something beyond body and mind.”
It’s what I can only describe as being suspended yet being fully aware. “I love how inert, paralysed my body feels when I’m right with it. There’s nothing quite like it,” says Nat Love.
There’s no doubt Yoga Nidra is a powerful practice, and as Alana Smith points out, as well as the total relaxation that is experienced, one becomes embodied and through regular practice psychological transformation can take place.
Let me leave you with a two of my favourite quotes:
“Knowing that next to relaxation, Yoga Nidra can bring a recognition, resetting and healing of old patterns. It works on the core matter in the subconscious mind rather than ‘just’ on the symptoms and signs in the outer experience” Okke Eskes.
“I experienced myself as a beautiful soul … With wonder and relief. Somehow it was immediately about something deep. Many students cry after their first Yoga Nidra, and it isn’t always through relief of tensions, more through having self-connection.” Swami Devamaya.
We’d love to share with you this complementary Yoga Nidra audio recording you can click on the link below.
Discover more about the Yoga Nidra we teach at Grassroots Yoga and Meditation, it’s history and the numerous benefits associated with the practice by following this link.