What is Yoga Nidra, How is it Different from Meditation, and What Does It Do?
Yoga nidra is a state of profound, conscious relaxation. It means yogic sleep – a state of conscious, deep sleep. In meditation, you remain in the waking state of consciousness and focus the mind. However, in yoga nidra you leave the waking state of consciousness and enter the deep sleep state, while remaining fully awake and alert.
This may seem impossible, yet this is what happens in yoga nidra, where all levels, including the conscious and unconscious mind, are deeply relaxed. In fact the mind is more relaxed in this state than in typical deep sleep.
Most of us have experienced the reverie between waking and dreaming sleep states, which has a brainwave frequency known as alpha. In yoga nidra the brainwave frequency is delta, slower and more subtle than alpha. In the waking state, our minds are normally active, even if in a relaxed way; likewise in the dreaming sleep state, our minds are still very active.
But in the deep sleep state, the activity of the mind recedes into the silent space from where our thought patterns arise, and where memories are stored. In deep sleep, our senses and our lower mind also recede back into that silent space. Yoga nidra is not only deeply relaxing, it is also an important state for spiritual practices, used by yogis to examine thought patterns in their latent, non-active form.
These deep habit patterns, known as (samskaras), are the driving force of all our actions, or karma. Yoga nidra is a tool for examining, reducing and eventually eliminating our habitual negative responses and actions that may inhibit our development.
In yoga nidra we sense the awareness that is beyond the activity of our minds. At first, we may not reach the state of yoga nidra itself. It doesn’t matter. The experience of yoga nidra may come soon, it may come later, but it will come with practice. The nature of our sleep will change and become more conscious when we want it to be thus; on going to sleep, it becomes easier to quickly go into a very deep sleep state. The quality of our sleep will improve, providing deep rest.
Yoga nidra is a state of consciousness, it is not the practices or methods that lead us to this state. Our practice of these methods will gently lead our attention inward, allowing the activity of the mind to still as you approach the state of conscious deep sleep.
In practice you will systematically explore your body, then move through 61 specific points within your body, and then move to breath awareness. Finally your attention comes to the heart center, where attention rests during deep sleep. You will then be invited to go deep into the stillness and silence, completely letting go of thoughts, words, images and impressions in the mind. This process of emptying leads to the state of yoga nidra, conscious deep sleep. There will be a period of complete silence as you rest in deep stillness.
Participants will need only a mat (or even a mattress), a small blanket for under the head and perhaps a bolster for placement under the knees (you get the idea: we’re going for complete, maximum comfort). This session will be provided at no cost.