Yoga Nidra literally means “Yogic Sleep”. It has also been referred to as dynamic sleep, psychic sleep, or deep relaxation with inner awareness. This experiential process prompts the body to relax while the mind remains awake and aware. In this hypnagogic state (between being awake and being asleep), we are able to access and deactivate default programming that keeps us stuck in unhealthy ways of perceiving and engaging with the world around us.
Yoga Nidra begins with gentle postures to release physical tension from the body. Participants then set up for an extended savasana (resting posture) while being guided through a meditation focusing on sense awareness, body scan for relaxation, and then into various visualizations. One of the great benefits of this practice is that one hour of Yoga Nidra practice is the equivalent of approximately four hours of deep sleep! This is because the practice guides you through multiple levels of brain wave states such as beta, alpha, theta and delta.
Some of the other benefits of Yoga Nidra include promoting physical health and managing stress. Yoga Nidra trains the brain for better focus and concentration, helps to balance strong emotions and activates the body’s natural ability to heal and restore itself. The practice of Yoga Nidra also helps to alleviate Post Traumatic Stress as it detoxifies and reintegrates incomplete experiences, expands consciousness, guides participants to greater levels of evolution and liberation. Clinical research has documented Yoga Nidra as an effective tool for overcoming Substance Abuse, Depression, Chronic Pain, and Insomnia.
A traditional Yoga Nidra practice has 8 distinct stages:
Stage 1 – Preparation, Settling and Initial Relaxation
This first stage is about coming into a comfortable savasana (corpse pose) position lying flat on your back, if possible. Props such as bolsters and blankets are used to help eliminate any discomfort and attain maximum relaxation. At this point the practitioner will use various techniques to guide you to let go of the outside world and turn your attention inward, becoming aware of your body, your breath the present moment and releasing any thoughts of the outside world.
Stage 2 – Sankalpa = Setting an Intention
At this stage you will be guided to listen from within for a message from your Soul and state your positive resolve. You will intuitively know what it is. It is something you secretly desire to achieve. It may be a very simple intention, such as “I am loving and kind to myself and others” or it can be very specific such as “I have $100,000 in my savings account”. You will be asked to repeat your resolve silently to yourself 3 times surrendering to the knowing that this will come to pass, that it will be manifest. The purpose of this is to leave a deep impression in your subconscious mind so repeat it with the full emotion of your heart’s desire.
Stage 3 – Rotation of Consciousness Through the Body
Here you will listen to the practitioner’s voice and follow it with your mind as she names parts of the body and you focus your awareness on those parts. This will jump quickly from part to part so you will be forced to let go of thinking and just follow the voice from part to part. You will remain completely still and the only thing moving will be the awareness. This will cause you to sink deeper into a relaxed state of being and you will completely release all tension in the body.
Stage 4 – Awareness of Breath
In this stage you will be guided deeper into relaxation using various breath awareness techniques which will help to keep you rooted in the present moment so that you don’t drift off into thought, imagination or sleep. These techniques will help to increase your concentration and maintain a witness consciousness state. You will remind yourself; “I am practicing Yoga Nidra, I will not sleep”.
Stage 5 – Sense Awareness, Experiencing Opposites
This stage uses visualization and imagined sensations to experience opposites. The practitioner will guide you to experience extreme heat and immediately after, extreme cold. This will be repeated with opposites like heavy/light, pain/pleasure and then progress into feelings and emotions. Throughout this exercise you are reminded to remain as a witness, not getting involved in the feelings or emotions by judging or reacting. This stimulates opposite hemispheres of the brain and can create new neuropathways and allow the release of pent up emotions. The result of this practice can be enhancement of your ability to resist getting lost in your emotions when triggering events happen in your life.
Stage 6 – Visualization
During this stage the practitioner will guide you through visualization practices that cause you to see what is being mentioned in your minds eye. This can sometimes trigger memories stored deep in the subconscious mind, causing them to come up and be released. These Samskaras, which means impressions, are stored deep in your subconscious and you most likely are not aware that they are there. These Samskaras are released with all of the feelings and emotions that they were stored with, however, due to your state of deep relaxation, you will be able witness these events and experience them from a place of non-reaction. This will ultimately give you a new understanding of these events and relieve your subconscious from being influenced by them.
Stage 7 – Sankalpa = Setting the Intention Deeper
Here we will revisit your Sankalpa in order to plant it deeper into the subconscious. We have made space by releasing the buried emotion and disturbing events. Now we want to reinforce our resolve and seed our subconscious mind with this idea while we are in this hypnagogic state. We are telling our subconscious that its job is to manifest our intention. We are implanting a new program.
Stage 8 – Externalization
The final stage of Yoga Nidra is to bring you slowly from the subconscious back into the state of externalized consciousness. You will be guided back to breath and body awareness and reoriented towards your external surroundings. This will allow you to smoothly come out of the deep brain wave states and slowly come back into a wakeful state of being without any disorientation.
At Villa Kali Ma, you will be guided in this practice every week that you are with us and you will be able to experience some of the above stated benefits during your stay. However, to obtain the full benefits of this practice you should engage in it at least once per week and stick with the same Sankalpa until it has manifested in your life. Then you can move on to your next Sankalpa and continue to practice. The immediate gifts of this practice will be a quiet mind, relaxed body and a deep sense of peace.
Please return to the How We Heal page to read more about the Mind, Body and Spirit healing modalities offered here at Villa Kali Ma!