Laying down, distraction runs through my body. I take one deep breath, then a second. With each breath, I begin to feel a subtle layer of light surround me as I embark on another yoga nidra practice. It is like entering into another zone. I begin to settle and then move my awareness to the first body part. After staying briefly on my thumb, I then move to the other fingers on my hand. One by one, it is like observing my fingers not as physical matter, but as energy. As I move from my fingers, I then move to the palm, noticing that palpable difference in tension between the areas of the body that I have observed and the areas where I have not yet arrived. Each body part changes with each observation. Each body part sinks deeply into the surface below me. Each body part is almost gifted light. I perceive an almost subtle glow in each body part. As my entire body moves into a deep state of relaxation, I sink even more deeply into the surface below me. My consciousness is fully present, but it is as if I am observing every detail from above. As I lie in this deep state of relaxation, I shift to visualize myself in my ideal state, to visualize what I deeply want to create and manifest in my life. This inner smile permeates my body, like every cell knows what is possible within me. This is my yoga nidra experience and each person may experience something different. Whatever the experience, the act of bringing our awareness within provides a doorway for transformation.
Yoga nidra is not a technique. Yoga nidra is not savasana/final relaxation pose. Yoga nidra is a state of consciousness. Yoga nidra, “yogic sleep”, is a state of complete awareness in a deep relaxation state. I practice and teach a method of progressive relaxation that brings you into what can be called a yoga nidra state. There is no scientific test that can measure if someone goes into a yoga nidra state. Measuring brain waves through an EEG can give some insight, but ultimately the knowing that we have experienced a yoga nidra state is through direct experience.
The great yogi, Adi Shankaracharya, wrote - “When mind has transcended maya (delusion), when ego has become static, when senses are no more functioning, and when all communication between the mind and the senses has been cut, when I and you no longer exist for a period of time, Yoga Nidra exists.” What does this feel like in terms of an actual experience? In the classes I’ve taught over the years, these are some frequently shared experiences:
Observing the body and its corresponding sensations without any need to act or react.
Feeling that time has stopped.
Experiencing both not being confined to the body, but being so deeply relaxed in the body that you are aware of even the smallest movement.
Having these experiences strengthens inner tools that can change your life, like having muscles that you rarely use which are getting stronger with each practice. Some of these inner tools include:
Accessing your deep relaxation state. - Stress impacts our personal and professional lives and our overall society. Knowing that you can access a deep relaxation state at any time is powerful.
Learning to master your actions and reactions. When you lay in this state of stillness and experience sensations without reacting, you are increasing your internal ability to master your actions and reactions in everyday life.
Reducing Judgment in Our Lives - A regular practice of observing sensations in our body without judgment increases our capacity to move through experiences in life with more ease.
Through a yoga nidra “practice”, we are making a commitment not to the experience, but to our transformation,to strengthen these inner tools. A yoga nidra practice can bring you immediate benefits, but it creates long term shifts that may surprise you.