The tantric practice of yoga nidra is a simple yet profound technique. When the magic of this practice is unlocked, the practitioner enjoys exploring realms of creativity, deep restoration, and discovers aspects of the self thought to be found only through 20 years of meditation or psychedlic journeys in the forest.
"I just died in yoga class" - student
We've all had that experience. And if you haven't - go practice and find a teacher that is able to bring you to that place. The experience is almost not worth speaking about. The articulation of the results of this ancient practice were traditionally taught discouraging practitioners from speaking idly of their results. It was useless because saying it out loud served to dilute it's potency. We don't want that.
One thing I will say for those interested in trying this practice is - - you know that feeling of redemption, relief, connected-ness and supreme OK-ness you feel after a sweet, sweaty, soulful yoga class and it culminates to the final pose in shavasana. And its like you're body is floating on pink clouds, or your body is so heavy that it could melt straight through the wooden floors and merge with the molten lava center of Gaia herself.
Yoga Nida is kind of like that - except more.
To say yoga nidra is a practice for deep relaxation - to me, is like saying the point of sitting in an airplane is for the spectacular views. Or as a teacher used to say, it's like taxiing an airplane to get from A to B when you could be flying. sort of?
Yoga nidra is a type of tantric practice that has many great benefits such as minimizing tension, relaxing the mind, clearing unconscious thought patterns (samskaras), increase mind-body connection, enhances learning and memory power, awakens creativity, improves the immune system, gives the body deep rest in a short amount of time - or can lead to a deep restful sleep, promotes will power and trains the mind and body’s focus for meditation. One of the most impressive benefits is its ability to melt stress away. It TUNEs you into the sensations in your body in a very real way that you can feel.
Feeling is understanding. Always.
The practice of yoga nidra prevents stress by inducing the body into deeper and deeper levels of rest, emotional and mental relaxation. The various cues, sounds, and visualization cues train and re-wire the mind to remain in a state of calm and serenity by coaxing out any repressed desires, thoughts, events, and memories from the deep recesses of the mind. Yoga nidra helps us process events which are hidden in the realms of the mind and let them go.
Research has shown that as a science, yoga nidra can be used as a therapeutic technique to help treat psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, chronic stress, asthma, hypertension, heart disease and other psychosomatic diseases.
Everything we experience through the senses and even our thoughts leave an imprint on the mind. Past experiences, early childhood, high school, this morning's commute, and of course asana & pranayama are all registered in the unconscious mind.
When you practice meditation and yoga nidra, you will start to remember earlier experiences that you had forgotten about or thought were insignificant. Something that had an impact on you in some way may come back to the forefront of your mind - effortlessly.
This means that the material of the unconscious mind is beginning to manifest. Often times when you recollect an experience it is different from the original experience, and sometimes it will apparently have no resemblance to the original experience at all. It may look and feel different to you.
To understand this, we need to know how the mind processes and stores these impressions or samskaras.
A simple way to illustrate this is by using the example of the transmission of radio waves. I like to illustrate the metaphor that the yoga instructor is like an antenna output signal and the students are antenna receivers.
To transmit radio waves, we require a transmitter to send a signal, and a receiver to pick it up. The signal can be represented by a wave pattern. Normally the whole wave pattern is transmitted and the whole frequency sent, however, another method which can be used instead is to take 'samples' of the wave at regular intervals, and to transmit these samples.
When the receiver is synchronized to the same frequency of the sampling (or tuned in), the original wave pattern can be reconstructed at the receiving end. This means that less energy is required to transmit the signal, and more information can be transmitted at the same time by taking samples of one signal in between the samples of another.
So, we can see that the relayed information will bear no apparent relationship to the original signals or messages, but when reprocessed, it assumes its original form.
The mind processes information in a similar way.
The same can be said that the massive amount of information that we absorb in the unconscious mind is stored in symbolic form.
That is why a symbol represents or contains the implications of a wider range of information. Different symbols in our life’s experiences form the content of our unconscious mind. Symbols then become seeds of information. When we are in our normal state of awareness, we are not tuned into the unconscious mind and thus not tuned into the nature of these symbols. But when we in a deep relaxation, invoking certain symbols can unlock the awareness between our waking state and the unconscious.
Often times in the practice of yoga nidra, the teacher will use guided imagery to unlock a chord of responses and bridge that gap.
In our present society and lifestyle in 2018, we live in an age where distractions are at an all time high, and psychosomatic problems are ever pressing. I believe part of our purpose is to take back our attention and tune it in toward something worthy. Something worthy of our living.