June 06, 2017
How about a simple relaxation method that’s effective, accessible to all, and has the power to recharge body and soul on a deep level?
Let me introduce you to the practice of Yoga Nidra; a complete, super-charged relaxation technique in which you learn to relax consciously for outstanding results.
But hang on a minute - you already know how to relax, right? Think again! Activities we might readily associate with chilling-out, such as lazing on the beach, reading or catching up with friends certainly can be relaxing, but do require our internal systems to be switched ‘on’. Likely, the heart rate is elevated, muscles are firing and the mind is engaged while enjoying such pursuits.
Yoga nidra is relaxation, only better
Deep, soul-nurturing relaxation, like that achieved in yoga nidra, is quite different. Yoga nidra allows everything to take a break - it quiets the brain waves, slows the heart rate, smoothes out the breath, and softens physical tensions and mental chatter. The practice can be used to manage stress, physical and mental tension, pain, anxiety and even insomnia.
Yoga nidra is easy
If you can lie still in Savasana and listen for 20-40 minutes, you can do the practice! As a bonus, practitioners report that the relaxation achieved in a typical session is as refreshing as 4 hours sleep!
Achieve your heartfelt desires
In fact, yoga nidra is sometimes called ‘sleep with awareness’ because the practice brings us to the very edge of sleep - where we are deeply relaxed, yet awake and aware. This allows us to get in touch with a profound state of awareness that is inherent in all of us. In this state we are connected to an accutely intuitive part of our being. When we are in this state it’s a perfect opportunity to silently set a sankalpa, or heartfelt intention; because from this space, our words are permeated with our inmost truth. A sankalpa should be phrased as a positive statement as if it were already true. Some examples of a sankalpa include:
‘I am loving.’
‘I am living my true purpose.’
‘I am healthy and strong.’
Many yogis say that if you water this seed, or sankalpa, frequently, it is bound to blossom into reality.
The first step in a yoga nidra session is to get completely settled in savasana, ensuring you are warm and comfortable. Then, your instructor may invite you to mentally repeat your sankalpa. Her voice then guides your awareness around different body parts, following a set sequence. When you hear the name of that part, the idea is to simply notice it and feel into it, as if touching it from the inside-out. There is no physical movement during yoga nidra, just awareness.
Science behind the sequence
The sequence followed mirrors a neuronal map of the physical body in the brain, known as the motor homunculus or ‘the little man’. Mentally sweeping awareness around this map facilitates a turning inwards, away from sensory distractions of our wakened state, creating a circuit of energy while simultaneously dissolving tensions. Aahhhh…!
Moving to the breath
After the rotation of awareness, and making sure you are still awake (falling asleep is not uncommon!) you may be guided to shift your awareness from body parts to the breath. Observing the breath serves to focus the mind and further calm the nervous system.
Some yoga nidra practices will also include visualisation exercises designed to access and unpack contents of the unconscious mind. It is here that any unhelpful patterns or samskaras can be brought to the surface and observed.
Back to reality
To round-out the yoga nidra practice, you’ll be invited to revisit your sankalpa, and regain awareness of the physical body. After a few deep, waking-up breathes and gentle stretches, it’s time to sit up and re-enter your usual state of consciousness.
Ready to try Yoga Nidra?
Many studio yoga classes include a yoga nidra practice, and you can also use a recorded version at home, whenever you like. Check out Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief
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