Yoga Nidra is a practice whereby we remain in a conscious state in the shadowlands between waking and sleep. Effectivley the body is in a state of complete rest while the mind remains focused and alert. The lack of movement and sensory stimulation combined with a high degree of alertness allow us to journey into the sub-conscious, as we do during normal sleep, the difference being that here we remain conscious of where and who we are. This is at once deeply relaxing and emotionally healing. Brain scans of people performing Yoga Nidra at the Kennedy Instsitute in Copenhagen demonstrate sequential stimulation of all brain areas as opposed to only specific limted areas during normal consciousness. Yoga Nidra is a universally accessible form of meditation , especiallyrecommended to those who have difficulty holding seated postures. Therapeautically it is used to treat insomnia and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Twenty minutes of correct practice is said to equate to three hours of regular sleep.
Unlike other yogic practices, we can practice Nidra at any time of day and also after a meal. It is however essential to be in a quiet place where we will not be disturbed during the entire session - a session typically lasts between fifteen minutes and one hour. Turn offyour mobile and any other media devices. When you are ready lie in Savasana. Keeping in mind that you wish to remain completely motionless for the entire session, place any props (pillows, bolsters etc) to ensure your comfort. It is also recommended to dress in warm comfortable clothes and cover yourself with a blanket as your core temperature is likely to drop, as in regular sleep.
Once situated the technique is simple. We draw our awareness away from the outside world, i.e. away from the senses and bring it entirely inside (known in Yoga as Pratyahara), keeping it there for the duration of the practice. Alert and lying completely still we bring our awareness first to the breath and then to the sensations present inside the body. It is important that we move our awareness through the whole body, feeling the sensations present in every part. Here we are not trying to generate any particular sensations, but simply paying full attention to whatever is present. After scanning the whole body, if you have a particular part that is painful or requires healing, you can focus your attention there for a little longer, attempting to dissect the sensation to its root cause. If you are experienced in Yoga Nidra, you may also add some visuaizations at this point. Trynot to drift into sleep if possible. Paradoxically falling asleep will diminish the restorative properties of the session.
This process is easier when guided by an instructor. If you cannot attend a sesion there are many recording available. You may use the following session recorded at Akasha Wellness Retreat in Romania.