The method of Yoga Nidra that I teach comes from the tradition of Swami Rama. I learned it while at a 3 week intensive self transformation program at Swami Rama’s Ashram in Rishikesh. I will make no claims that this method is the true or real method of yoga nidra, there are many different forms and styles of yoga nidra that are commonly taught. I myself have practiced many other forms and have received great benefit from them, although from my own personal experience this method has been the most profound and transformative. I was actually very surprised when we started to practice it since it was so different than all the other yoga nidra experiences i have had. The emphasis here was to do some preparatory exercises that lead the practitioner into the state of deep formless sleep while remaining conscious of the journey. The experience that i had doing this practice has been the most profound of all other practice i have done to that point, including meditation.
The reason I found it so intriguing is that it created yet another bridge between Yogic and Buddhist practices. I have been following the teachings of Alan Wallace on Shamatha, Lucid dreaming and Dream Yoga ( from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition) for some time. Alan speaks of the alaya and alaya vijnana which he translates as the substrate and the substrate conscious which is the destination of Shamatha ( concentration / calm abiding) meditation. It is the ground state of the mind when all appearances have settled into their natural state. It has the three qualities of Bliss, Luminosity and Non conceptuality. What he often likes to call a “stem consciousness” that is unconfigured and what is postulated that actually goes from life to life and becomes configured by the form of rebirth taken. This state is accessed in three ways, through mediation, deep sleep and at the time of death. We access this state every night when we fall deep asleep, but are unaware of it. The Tibetan practice of dream yoga has many aims but one of them is to access this state of deep sleep but remain awake and aware. I find this form of Yoga Nidra a complementary practice that provides a straight forward and simple method to achieve the same goal. Bringing the yogi to the very ground state of the mind, the most fundamental basis of who we think we are, allowing us then to break through even that to something that transcends all states of consciousness.
In brief the practice involves:
A systematic relaxation of the entire body and mind.
The Shava Yantra (Pilgrimage of the corpse ) also know as the 61 points exercise.
Shithali karana point to point spinal breathing.
Side to Side expansive and contractive breathing.
Guiding the awareness to the eyebrow center (seat of the waking state), throat (seat of the dreaming state), heart (seat of the deep sleep state) and finally the cave of the heart (seat of yoga nidra). Resting there for up to 10 minutes.
“There is a method called yoga nidra in which you can have conscious sleep. Yoga nidra is a state between sleep and samadhi.
The aspirant learns to analyze or resolve all his desires, thoughts, and feelings through the practice of yoga nidra. He attains a state in which he consciously learns to place his mind in deep rest. Yoga nidra cannot be translated into any other language, but for the convenience of modern students it is called “yogic sleep” or “sleepless sleep.” This is a state of conscious sleep in which the student is in deep sleep and yet remains fully conscious. The yogis use this technique for both sleep and meditation. The quality of rest one receives through this method is entirely different from that which is derived through ordinary sleep.
Yoga nidra is a revitalizing exercise that gives total rest to the mind, brain, nervous system, senses, and body. Except through meditation and yoga nidra, one cannot give rest to the totality of the mind. There is no drug and no scientific or physical technique so far discovered that gives rest to the unconscious part of the mind, except the technique of yoga nidra.” Swami Rama
“Yoga Nidra brings an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. Yoga Nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations, leading awareness through many levels of mental process to a state of supreme stillness and insight.
Yoga Nidra means Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. While Yoga Nidra is a state that is very relaxing, it is also used by Yogis to purify the Samskaras, the deep impressions that are the driving force behind Karma.
Yoga Nidra brings access to the to latent, or subconscious level of mind, that is underneath even the processing, fantasizing, imaging level of mind. It is the doorway to the causal level of reality, out of which springs the subtle, psychic, astral plane of reality, which in turn brings forth the gross level.” Swami J
“There is a cave in the heart, the interior cave of the heart … and that cave is absolutely silent and absolutely dark. Darkness so thick you cannot cut it with a knife. That is the one into which all senses dissolve. Remember then that yoga nidra and laya, dissolution of the universe, are very closely linked. When there is no thought, no light, no sound, no stir, no movement, then you are there. It feels as though that darkness is breathing. Then in that absolute stillness you are not unconscious, you are conscious of being there. You are not unconscious the way people are unconscious in sleep. You are conscious in that cave, and you are observing the fact of being there without any words, without any sound, without any light, without any movement, without any memory, without any samskaras arising; then it is yoga nidra. Then out of that laya state you can create a whole universe. You can write poetry, you can write an epic, you can have the vision of any subject in a flash.” Swami Veda Bharati