Yoga Nidra - Learn to Meditate
There are many forms of Meditation which you can try; It’s sort of like finding the sport that resonates and works for you. For me this has been Yoga Nidra. You can read my own personal journey into Yoga Nidra here but for now I would like to elaborate a little more on my understanding of what exactly Yoga Nidra is.
Unlike many other forms of Meditation where the main focus is primarily on concentration, Yoga Nidra centers on the act of surrendering. The more you can let go and relax, the deeper you go. The other obvious difference is that Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down on your back while covered in a blanket, completely relaxed versus the more traditional seated posture.
When we practice Yoga Nidra we are trying to transcend the behavior of the external mind. It can relax the whole system, awaken the psychic body, give one experiences of the astral plane, shift pressures from the coronary system and also exert an influence on the physical matter in the brain.
** Excerpt taken from book ‘Yoga Nidra’ by Swami Satyananda Sarawswati
Yoga Nidra is the art of relaxation. In today’s society we carry so much stress in the body, much of which we aren’t even aware of and as a result can show itself in several different Psychosomatic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension, migraine, asthma, ulcers, digestive issues, skin diseases – all of which can arise from tension in the body and mind. Yoga Nidra releases the 3 main tensions: muscular tensions, emotional tensions and mental tensions
How it works is that you are guided through different stages or levels, in sequential order allowing both the body and mind fall asleep, so that you can reach a state of deep relaxation, allowing you access to your intuitive mind - your subconscious mind, where real and profound change can happen. It is from this place, in this state, that you get to rewire and change the inner workings of your mind, changing the programming which is running day to day without you even being conscious of it. You release Trauma from the body and your allow yourself to be so fully present in the moment that a deep feeling of acceptance and ease washes over your entire body and this is where the real magic begins!.
On some level, we all know that we are more than our physical body. In the practice of Yoga Nidra you are guided through the 5 different layers of the body. Some people only reach layer one or two, before falling asleep or finding a place of deep rest, for others they can get all the way through until they reach the place of expansiveness, losing all sense of time and the material world. It varies person to person, day to day.
The 5 layers of the body include:
1. The Physical Food Body
2. The Energy Body
3. The Mental Emotional Body
4. The Creative Intuitive body
5. The Bliss Body
You can read more here on exactly what is involved when guided through each of the 5 layers.
Because you are allowing yourself fall so deep into this relaxed hypnogogic state it is really important that you do this practice with a trained professional who understands the lineage and the process. I have trained under the Bihar lineage with my teacher Jana Roemer in a 60 hour teacher training over a week long intensive, as well as my own daily practice for the past year, to truly gain perspective and experience on these teachings. I respect and honor the teachings passed down to me and I share my work within the safety and guidelines by honoring these teachings.
I understand that the body scan is guided in a way that allows the nervous system relax entirely. There is a reason it is guided in a methodically manner. Different parts of the body occupy greater parts of the brain tissue in the brain and by following the flow of these parts in a particular sequence it induces flow of the pranic energy in the neuronal circuit. Starting with the right side of the body (the analytical mind) and moving across to the left. This is why we give so much attention to the hands, and the face, as they occupy more grey matter in the brain.
What I really love about this practice is how accessible it is everyone. Absolutely no experience is required and people can experience a profound shift in just one session. We know that when we experience Anxiety it means we are living in the future, and when we experience Depression we are caught up retelling stories of the past, with regular practice of Yoga Nidra it shows you how to stay present more often and helps you catch yourself when you are not.
The practice itself usually takes 35 minutes, allowing enough time to move through each layer. It is encouraged that you stay awake and aware throughout the duration of the practice and once it is completed you will be guided to a seated position where you allow the shift that happened to integrate within your system.
The reason one hour of Yoga Nidra is believed to be the same as 4 hours of sleep is because your allow your body and mind to reach a place of ‘real relaxation’. Sometimes we think when we sit down and watch Netflix, or go for a run, or lay down and close our eyes – that we are relaxing, but despite this superficial sense of wellbeing, we are still not releasing muscular, mental and emotional tension, like we do in Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is like my secret superpower!!!. Only last week, I was processing some upsetting news and I could not get to sleep, and I am a person who falls asleep the minute my head hits the pillow. So I grabbed my earphones, and put on Insight timer App (free meditation app, if you haven’t downloaded it, do it now!) on my phone and listened to 3 Yoga Nidras back to back. The next day with less than 2 hours of actual sleep, I felt good. I was energized and I was able move through my day as I normally would. This obviously is not something I would advocate but my point is that by allowing my body to fall asleep, my analytical mind to fall asleep, even though my awareness was still awake, I received the rest I needed. This is an extreme case but for a society that lives for completing to-do lists, achieving and succeeding I think we can all agree we need a lot more rest.
If you are interested in trying this out and happen to be based in Vancouver, I am hosting a Yoga Nidra workshop on Friday 16th August 2019 at 11am-12pm in the YWCA on Hornby Street. I would love to have you there. Please do send me a message if you would like to come along, or non-members of the club can pay directly at the reception.