DEFINITION OF YOGA NIDRA
Yoga Nidra is wonderful. That’s my first definition for you.
You don’t need to know how to meditate or have any previous experience or training. It is accessible and can be done with anyone in your family.
Nidra is a process and a state. The state of Nidra is a state of consciousness which is between waking and sleeping. It is also a set of techniques put together to help you get to this state of consciousness between wake and sleep.
This is a style of meditation usually done lying down, it is easier to access the ‘in-between state’ when we are laying down and comfortable.
Yoga Nidra means ‘yogic sleep’ but it’s not about sleeping – it is actually meant to be the exploration of different states of consciousness. It can be confusing as Yoga Nidra is really about awakening, not sleeping (which is confusing while we are laying down and eyes closed). We are actually occupying a borderline state that exists between waking and sleeping. You’re not fully aware or fully asleep. We begin to open up a new place that exists in this borderline, this new state of consciousness. Things begin to change in the brain and the nervous system, we also begin to connect to our creativity. We can change the way the brain is functioning in a more positive way.
Yoga Nidra was first used in the Mahabharata (one of the ancient Sanskrit epics of ancient India) to describe Vishnu’s sleep between Yugas (ages of time). It is also the name of a goddess who was asked to wake Vishnu up so he could fight enemies.
In Buddhist Tantric texts it was described as a ‘place beyond words’ and a ‘place to receive secret knowledge’.
In medieval texts it is used interchangeably with Samadhi, state of bliss through yoga.
The modern Yoga Nidra generally comes from the Bihar School of Yoga where Satyananda puts his style of nidra into a book that was published in 1976. So the modern practice of Nidra is a relatively new practice.
WHAT IS BORDERLINE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
Nidra happens in the borderline between wake and sleep and this space for a very long time has always been considered special. It is said that the most powerful time to practice yoga or meditation is at dawn or dusk which is the border between night and day. We can all say we feel the magic of sunrise and sunset. Pagan rituals were always at the equinoxes which are the borderlines between the seasons.
When we go to sleep we pass this borderline without noticing or remembering, but in Nidra we are learning to stay here and surf this space.
Normal rules tend to not apply at these places and therefore it can be a place for openings and realisations and new ways of being. Think about breathing. That moment before you change the direction of your breath. The moment between inhale and exhale. Nidra explores the magic of this space.
IS NIDRA MEDITATION?
Meditation is different things to different people. It crosses many cultures and religions. It includes practices that change our relationship to the mind and foster awareness, focus, calm and compassion.
Meditation can include techniques such as mantra, awareness of breath, focus, walking, loving kindness, scanning body and more. It is a process of practicing a technique and developing focus, attention and awareness. Results of meditation can include being mentally clear, emotionally calm, connection, stress relief, less anxiety, depression, pain, increased wellbeing and spiritual awareness.
So if Yoga Nidra helps you in any of these ways or develops any of these skills then yes, you can argue it is meditation.
‘It is more than a nap. It’s a practice that, through a structured and conscious movement through sleep states, takes you to realms beyond the mind and into the fourth state of consciousness beyond waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is us to us to determined how far we want to take the practice and for what purpose. Its beauty is that it addresses the entire spectrum from the concrete to the most subtle’ Kamini Desai
THINGS YOU MIGHT DO IN A NIDRA
- Arrival -settling from your day, getting comfortable and explanations
- Sankalpa -setting a resolve or something you want to manifest in your life
- Rotation of awareness around the body – body scan
- Awareness of breath – watching and focusing on your breathing
- Opposites – recognise the importance of both
- Images – creating strong visualisations
- Free Flow – Teacher adds their own touch
- Sankalpa – repeat and notice changes
- Return – bringing back out of the meditation and grounding