Article from Bindu no 11
Meditative Deep Relaxation
Yoga Nidra and consciousness...
Yoga Nidra is probably best known as an efficient form of relaxation, both on a physical and mental level, but it involves a lot more than that. Relaxation is only the first step.
It is easy to practice Yoga Nidra: You lie completely motionless on your back, and listen to the instructions given. The technique is used by many different people; those who need an effective relaxation, those who seek increased mental clarity, those suffering from insomnia or who need it as therapy for various illnesses, and those who are learning to meditate. Many use the CD Experience Yoga Nidra without having any other knowledge of yoga or meditation.
Sometimes a person will come to me and say: " I have tried relaxation and it does not work for me. I just cannot relax." It always turns out that the person has used a form of relaxation where you have to try to imagine that you relax. So instead of deriving benefit from the practice, the person concerned gets irritated and worried from making effort.
In Yoga Nidra you are never asked to relax – and my experience is that even those people who have previously experienced problems relaxing, find benefit in Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is equally popular with school kids and senior citizens, and is highly valued in many work places. For beginners, it is an easy way to experience the meditative state.
Some years ago I taught at a school for young people. The teachers were very surprised when they saw the boys lying completely still on their backs with their eyes closed for twenty minutes.
You can practise Yoga Nidra anytime you want, to improve your concentration, get better rest and renewed energy and, if you sleep poorly at night, to improve your sleep.
Listen to the guidance without making effort or using your willpower. Just follow the instructions with interest and awareness, and let the rest happen by itself.
In the beginning when you practise Yoga Nidra, you may fall asleep – and that is okay, even though the purpose is to stay awake and aware. If for a moment you don't hear the instructions, you may have an experience like you are deeply asleep, but at the same time you know that you are conscious. Generally, falling asleep completely is a transitory stage. You will gradually become increasingly present in the deep state.
When you practise Yoga Nidra, it is best to lie with your head towards the north. Your clothes should not be tight. Do not lie on anything too soft, but preferably on a rug or a thick blanket placed on an even floor, and have a light cover over you.
If you are prone to falling asleep, keep your hands and feet uncovered or lie without a cover altogether. If you still fall asleep, then let your elbows rest on the floor with your forearms pointing upwards. Each time you doze off, your arms will drop down, and you will wake up.
The essence of Yoga Nidra, as with all kinds of real meditation, is awareness – consciousness resting in itself. During the practice, thoughts, states and dreams may surface. You may have impressions of experiences and emotions from that day or from earlier times in your life. All this you experience, but you don't cling to any of it – and you don't judge it (after all, you also experience when you judge). You let the impressions and thoughts come and go without trying to control them, and you reach not only a relaxed state, but a state where the mind empties and frees itself of all that it does not need. You let the thoughts flow by and disappear like clouds in the sky, making room for inspiration again.
If for a moment you forget to follow the instructions, then do not try to remember what happened at that particular place in Yoga Nidra; just follow the now. When you get carried away by a thought, it may easily turn into a dream that leads you into sleep. Because you are in a deep state, it is quite normal for this to happen. As soon as you discover it, then return to the instructions. In this way you get used to staying aware in a deep state.
Yoga Nidra teaches you to consciously experience the different states that you are guided through, eg. heaviness and lightness. You learn to give in to the different emotions and states. Your mind is being trained in this way and becomes more flexible – and you reach a state of deep rest.
It is important to be guided by an experienced teacher in a class or on a recording, especially with the long Yoga Nidra, as the instructions should preferably be the same each time. This way the subconscious feels secure and relaxes more easily. When you have gotten used to the short Yoga Nidra, you can then take yourself through the instructions mentally, before you turn to the long and deep Yoga Nidra.
The name Yoga Nidra actually represents a state of consciousness to which the technique leads you. Both mind and body reach the meditative state. You gain an experience that you can use in other contexts; among other things, it can improve your meditation.
What is most important for all kinds of meditation is regularity, preferably a daily practice. Each time you do it, it will be easier to reach the clarity and peace that support physical health and your presence in everything you do.