Yoga Nidra – relaxing mind and body therapy

Picture credit: windyschneider from Pixabay

Often people claim that their favourite pose is Shavasana or corpse pose, which usually ends yoga asana class to cool down and relax after a range of asana practice, be it strenuous or gentle. Shavasana feels nice because it allows us to rebound, to rest and be still.

Now, how about an hour session fully in Shavasana with no other asanas? How wonderful would that be?

That is what we do in Yoga Nidra session, a practice that is not without challenges and yet has many benefits.

Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice of Yoga, which is not as popular and widely practised as asana. In the practice of Yoga Nidra, the body sleeps but the mind remains awake listening to the instructions. It is a systematic form of guided relaxation that typically is performed for anything between 35-60 minutes at a time. Both a form of meditation and mind-body therapy, the mind is in a state between sleep and wakefulness.

Many people remain in a state of tension and frustration. In day to day life, individuals fail to express their emotions freely and openly. As a result, the emotions are repressed and manifested in the form of tensions. This continuous level of tension in the body, mind and emotions predisposes the individual towards psychological and psychosomatic disorders. In the practice of Yoga Nidra, the body is progressively relaxed, which in turn releases the accumulated tensions.

In the practice, the practitioner also moves slowly towards the deeper realms of the mind where he or she confronts the deep-rooted emotional tensions. In this way, with regular practice, tensions at the physical, emotional and mental level can be minimized.

Another benefit of Yoga Nidra is clearing up the unconscious. From early childhood, we tend to repress many wishes, desires and conflicts. All the traumatic experiences, unfulfilled desires and threatening situations are usually suppressed to the subconscious mind level. During the practice of yoga nidra, the instructor asks the practitioner to visualize certain symbols and images with a witnessing attitude, which helps in cutting off the personal identification with the experience. In this way, the practice of visualization brings the unconscious repressed desires, experiences, conflicts and frustrations to the conscious level and then cuts off the personal identification with those experiences. The unconscious is then cleared up and we can walk with less unnecessary baggage in our mind.

Yoga Nidra is one of the practices of pratyahara where the awareness is internalized. Practitioners often report that they find the practice bringing immediate physical benefits, such as reduced stress and better sleep, and that it has the potential to heal psychological wounds. As a meditation practice, it can engender a profound sense of joy and well-being.

According to Swami Satyananda (1998), “a single hour of yoga nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleep”.

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