Yoga Nidra brings an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. Yoga Nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations, leading awareness through many levels of mental process to a state of supreme stillness and insight. Yoga Nidra is far beyond just relaxation. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it takes thousands of words to get the inner "aha" of the meaning. Most important of all, it is the persistent practice that brings the real joy of the practice of Yoga Nidra, as with all useful practices in life and Yoga.
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Yoga Nidra means Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. While Yoga Nidra is a state that is very relaxing, it is also used by Yogis to purify the Samskaras, the deep impressions that are the driving force behind Karma
Yoga Nidra has been known for thousands of years by the sages and yogis. Of the three states of consciousness of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep, as expounded in the Upanishads, particularly the Mandukya Upanishad, Yoga Nidra refers to the conscious awareness of the Deep Sleep state, referred to as prajna in Mandukya Upanishad. This is the third of the four levels of consciousness of AUM mantra, relating to the state represented by the M of AUM. The four states are Waking, Dreaming, sleep, and turiya, the fourth state. The state of Yoga Nidra, conscious Deep Sleep, is beyond or subtler than the imagery and mental process of the Waking and Dreaming states. As a state of conscious Deep Sleep, Yoga Nidra is a universal principle.
The 8 stages of Yoga Nidra are:
Stage 1: Internalization
Yoga Nidra state occurs once our awareness is withdrawn from the sensory inputs of the external environment. This Internalization is brought about by asking the practitioner to listen to the external sounds.
Stage 2: Sankalp
If we are to make a change in our life truly, we have to take up a Sankalpa or Resolve. Sankalpa (Sanskrit: संकल्प) means an Intention formed by the heart and mind.
Stage 3: Rotation of Consciousness of different body parts
While Meditation requires Focus, Yoga Nidra is the opposite – it needs relaxation. Therefore, we move our awareness from one body part to the others (rather than focus our awareness), so that the awareness is constantly flowing. Yoga Nidra works by relaxing the mind through the body.
Stage 4: Breathing Awareness
By becoming a witness to our breathing, we initiate the Sakshi or Witness awareness. This is important, so we relax, but at the same time, we don’t completely sleep off.
Stage 5: Experience of opposite Sensations
This is one of the most fascinating parts of the Yoga Nidra practice! The practitioner is asked to bring their awareness to opposite body sensations such as heaviness/ lightness, heat/ cold, pain/ pleasure.
Stage 6: Visualization
Visualization in Yoga Nidra is done so that samskaras stored in the Unconscious and Subconscious may get triggered and come forth. Visualizations like that of a full moon may trigger a memory of something beautiful or tragic that happened to you on a full moon.
Stage 7: Sankalp
This time the same Sankalpa is taken when you are in the borderline state. It makes it more effective as it gets planted in the fertile ground of the subconscious.
Stage 8: Externalization
To end the practice, it is important that the awareness is once again externalized. This transition is important so that you move smoothly from the subconscious back to the conscious mind. So you effortlessly come out of the Yoga Nidra state.
This completes all the stages of Yoga Nidra. You need to follow this sequence. Don’t make too many changes as your mind begins to relax effectively once the routine is set. It might take a couple of times of practice.
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