More than any other practice, Yoga Nidra has radically transformed the quality of my life. If you are not familiar with it, Yoga Nidra is an ancient meditation tradition. “Yoga” means union or integration and “Nidra” translates as sleep. Before you throw in the towel on meditation, try Yoga Nidra and here’s why:
Unlike many forms of meditation which are done while sitting upright with crossed legs, the practice of Yoga Nidra is typically done laying down comfortably on your back. Adjustments can be made if this position is uncomfortable, and it is also possible to do it sitting back in a comfortable chair. Yoga Nidra uses the biological process of sleep (which we all know how to do) to help us disengage from our thoughts.
Although there are instructions given by the facilitator during a Yoga Nidra practice, you can’t “do” it wrong. Yoga Nidra is accessible to virtually everyone, as long as they are willing to listen to the instructions and experience any sounds or sensations that come into awareness.
A sequence of mindfulness techniques is used during the practice which begin at the physical level (using conscious tension and relaxation of the muscles for example) and progress to affect more subtle levels of the body (the mind and energy field). Through using a specific sequence of mindfulness techniques, Yoga Nidra progressively relaxes the body and quiets the mind. The mindfulness techniques alter the brainwaves so that we descend into sleep-like states, where we can easily disengage from our thoughts. In my experience, I take deep breaths during the entire practice and often my muscles “twitch” as tension is released. If you haven’t experienced this yet, it is like a mini vacation!
Once the body is relaxed and the mind is quiet, we can begin to recognize that we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts come and go, unbidden, though we tend to identify with them. Yoga Nidra provides an opportunity to relate to yourself as the sky or the ocean, through which clouds, waves, and weather patterns move through. You begin to realize that you are the container (or ocean or sky) through which experiences and thoughts move. When you experience this realization and know it, it has the potential to transform your life.
Yoga Nidra has been found to be effective in treating many of the physical symptoms of stress, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. It is also helpful in the treatment of PTSD and addictions. To learn more about this valuable practice, read Kamini Desai’s book, Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep. In the meantime, look up Yoga Nidra recordings on YouTube and experience it for yourself.