YOGA NIDRA

  • This piece has four parts ie introduction by Ravimohan Dixit, Video links on Yoga Nidra by Swami Sarvapriyananda of Vedanta Society New York and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Brief excerpts from book on Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Link from where you can download PDF file of ‘Yoga Nidra’ by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

1. Introduction by Ravimohan Dixit

Yoga Nidra literally means yogic sleep. It is an ancient practice taken from the classical text going as early as the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Mandukya Upanishad, and Bhagavad Gita.

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra (55th technique of meditation)

अनागतायांवनद्रायांप्रणष्टेिाह्यगोचरे।

सािस्था मनसा गम्या ऩरा दिेी प्रकाशते॥ ७५

At the point of sleep, when the sleep had not yet come and the external wake fullness vanishes, at this point, being is revealed.

Mandukya Upanishad (the third level in four levels of consciousness)

सुषुप्तस्थानः प्राज्ञो मकारस्तृतीया मात्रा मितेरपीतेर्वा मिनोति वा इद्ँ सर्वमपीतिश्च भवति एवं वेद ।। 1.1.11 ।।

Yatra supto na kancana kamam kamayate na kancana svapnam pasyati tat sushuptam. Sushupta-asthāna ekibhutah prajnanaghana evanandamayo hyanandabhuk chetomukhah prajnastrityah padah.

Third is Deep Sleep / Causal: The third aspect of Atman is the Self operating in the Deep Sleep state, Prajna. In this third state, there is neither the desire for any gross or subtle object, nor any dream sequences. In deep sleep, all such experiences have receded or merged into the ground of undifferentiated consciousness. Here, one is filled with the experience of bliss, and can also find the way to clearer knowledge of the two preceding states.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 20

अहं आत्मा गुडाकेश सर्व भूतस्य स्थितः अहं अदिश्च् मध्यंच भूतानांन्त एव

aham atma gudakesa sarva-bhutasaya-sthitah aham adis ca madhyam ca bhutanam anta eva ca

I am the Self, O Guḍākeśa, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.

Lord Khrisna referred Arjuna as 'Gudakesha', meaning one who has conquered sleep. He implied that Arjuna has overcome sleep, signifying darkness or ignorance.

Scientific Research on Yoga Nidra

Using medical research instruments, the PET scanner, at The State University Hospital in Copenhagen, pictures of the brain was taken during Yoga Nidra practice. The measurements of the brain’s activity (EEG) indicated that the subjects were in a deeply relaxed state, similar to that of sleep, during the whole Yoga Nidra. The theta activity rose significantly (11%) on all the twenty-one electrodes. The reduction of the alpha activity (2% NS) was insignificant, showing that this meditative state is altogether different from that of the sleeping state and comprises conscious awareness. Furthermore, the state was constant and evenly distributed over the entire brain for the forty-five minutes the relaxation lasted. It had also showed increased dopamine production, up to 65%. The results confirm the experience of the yogi: Concentration is a spontaneous state, which comes of its own accord when a method is used that removes whatever is hindering it, effortlessly.

Another study from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, C.S.M. Medical University (erstwhile KGMU), Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India suggests that patients with menstrual irregularities having psychological problems improved significantly in the areas of their wellbeing, anxiety and depression by learning and applying a program based on Yogic intervention (Yoga Nidra).

Summary

Yoga Nidra is an ancient scientific technique in health and wellbeing. It is mentioned in the texts and practiced as meditation technique to take us beyond.

It becomes more and more relevant each day as we are mostly leading a very stressful and competitive life each day.

Top leading causes of death are mostly non-infectious diseases. Not to mention if we have a good immune system we can be avoided from infection itself.

Scientific researches on Yoga Nidra have shown positive results and benefits to overall health and wellbeing, adding more proof to the significance of the practice. The author believes everyone can benefit from a better relaxation, meditative state, effortless happiness, stable concentration, less anxiety, less depression, and increased wellbeing coming from a regular practice of Yoga in general and in this case specifically from Yoga Nidra.

As practice makes perfect, the author recommends regular practice with experienced and certified yoga teacher for optimum results.

Author is Joint Director, Kaivalyadhama, Mumbai. He is also Honorary Therapist to Governor of Maharashtra and was deputed by the Government of India to Indonesia as a Yoga teacher.     

2. Videos

a. Guided Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep) by Swami Sarvapriyananda 23 minutes.  

b. Yoga Nidra - Guided Meditation and Relaxation by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 20 minutes

3. Excerpts from book Yoga Nidra written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati and published by Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India. Extracts from Introduction taken by the Editor. It is courtesy and copyright Yoga Publications Trust Munger.

“Yoga nidra, which is derived from the tantras, is a powerful technique in which you learn to relax consciously. For absolute relaxation you must remain aware. This is yoga nidra, the state of dynamic sleep. It is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. During the practice of yoga nidra, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning a deeper level of awareness.

In yoga nidra, the state of relaxation is reached by turning inwards, away from outer experiences. If the consciousness can be separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many ways for example, to develop the memory, increase knowledge and creativity, or transform one’s nature.

In the raja yoga of Patanjali there is a state called pratyahara where the mind and mental awareness are disassociated from the sensory channels. Yoga nidra is one aspect of pratyahara which leads to the higher states of concentration and Samadhi.

The characteristic feature of yoga nidra was the systematic rotation of consciousness in the body, which originated from the tantric practice of nyasa (meaning ‘to place’ or ‘to take the mind to that point’). Nyasa was practiced in a sitting posture and involved the use of specific mantras which were placed, felt or experienced at different parts of the body. First the name of the part was recited, then it was visualized or touched, and the mantra was placed there. Nyasa was a means of concentrating the physical body by instilling higher awareness or divine consciousness into various parts during tantric ritual practices (as heard in above video).”

Another excerpt from the introduction. “You can learn more when you are sleeping than when you are awake, and this is how we are utilizing yoga nidra for the evolution of the mind.

How does this happen? The answer is simple. When the relaxation is complete, the receptivity is greater. This is the secret of yoga nidra. When you withdraw the mind a little bit, and enter into a state where you are neither in deep sleep not completely awake, whatever impressions enter the mind as that time become powerful, and they remain there.

In yoga nidra, the consciousness is in a state between waking and sleep, but it is subject to neither. In modern psychology this has been ‘the hypnagogic state’ but I prefer to call it the ‘hypnayogic state’. But the best name of all is ‘yoga nidra’. In this state the mind is exceptionally receptive. Languages and other subjects can be learned rapidly. In fact, yogic nidra can be used for directing the mind to accomplish anything.

The practice of yoga nidra enables one to receive intuitions from the unconscious mind. The intuitions received in yoga nidra enable one to find within himself the answers to all problems. One’s true nature and integrity manifest, enabling him to live a meaningful and peaceful life in any environment. This is the opening of the ‘third eye’, which takes the consciousness beyond the conditioned personality with its tensions and complexes.”

Swami Satyananda Saraswati wrote, Yoga Nidra – The Blissful Relaxation

Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,

This is termed nidra.

Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,

But yoga nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens,

It is of a blissful, higher quality together.

When awareness is separate and distinct from the vrittis,

When waking, dream and deep sleep pass like clouds,

Yet awareness of atma remains

This is the experience of total relaxation.

Relaxation does not mean sleep.

Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,

It has no end.

I call bliss absolute relaxation;

Sleep is a different matter.

Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.

Bliss relaxes the atma, the inner self;

That is why, in tantra,

Yoga nidra is the doorway to Samadhi. 

4. Click on link, see right PDF text to download ‘Yoga Nidra’ by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.