Importance of Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep) By Latha Ramanan
(Photo Courtesy: Carol Trevor)
Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep) is a way to rejuvenate, repair, heal and balance energy, body and mind. It is sometimes compared to power nap; power nap is short sleep that rests body and mind that leaves the person refreshed afterwards, whereas yogic sleep is a deep state of rest that heals the body and mind.
Yogic sleep can be practised on its own or usually, at the end of a yoga session to gain maximum benefit. It has a meditative quality of rest where the person experiences a stage between awareness and sleep.
Duration of Yoga Nidra can be 5 minutes to as long as one hour depending on the need or choice. For example, during bodily weakness one may not be able to practice physical yoga (hatha yoga) and may have to stick to pranayama and or yoga nidra on the bed. At another instant, a 5 -10 minutes of yogic sleep is sufficient at the end of yoga class, after practising all the yoga asanas (poses).
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
It improves sleep and other metabolic activities such as digestion, excretion, etc.
It helps in balance of energy through the system
It aids in speedy recovery from illness.
It creates mental peace and refreshes the body to come out of lethargy.
It boosts immunity.
It removes mental blocks such as fears or traumas that were deep rooted or suppressed.
It relaxes the nervous system.
(Photo Courtesy:Zen Mountain Monastery)
How Yoga Nidra can be practised
Best practice would be to attend a yoga nidra session under a yoga teacher but if that is not possible the method can be studied from books or other audios by experienced yoga instructors. There are many techniques of yoga nidra practice.
Yogic sleep is usually practised by resting in savasana (relaxation by lying on the back) with a relaxed body and closed eyes. In yogic texts it is mentioned that we are made of pancha koshas(5 sheaths/ layers) that is,1. physical layer/annamaya kosha, 2. Pranamaya kosha/energy layer, 3.mental layer/manomaya kosha , 4. Intellectual or wisdom layer/vijnanamaya kosha and 5.divine layer/anandamaya kosha. Yogic sleep guides to rest the physical layer and sink deeper into consciousness of other sheaths, sometimes dip into all sheathes/layers or sometimes one or two of them and return to the awareness of physical body.
Practise starts with moving the awareness from toes to head, relaxing each part of the body, becoming aware of breath and consequently the mind, with an attitude of a witness- not getting involved in any process or judging anything, be it sensation or a thought or an outside sound. There is a possibility of slumping into sleep that is also all right if you have enough time on hand although the purpose of yoga nidra is to be in awareness state between wakefulness and sleep.
A positive affirmation or a sankalpa(a short resolve) can be said silently in the mind, at the beginning and end of the yogic sleep so that it becomes a sub-conscious guide/ seed to give purpose to life and move towards life goals in an accelerated pace.
Coming out of yoga nidra is done as gently as possible, moving the toes and fingers and deepening breath to come back to body consciousness and if yoga nidra is practised in lying down posture, slowly turning to one side from lying down position to sit up with minimum movements.
Happiness, high energy, balance in energy and peace of mind felt after an effective yoga nidra is beyond words, it has to be experienced!