Yoga Nidra: A Traditional Stress Buster Technique

by Uttam,
Contributing Author, Conscious Reminder

Traditionally yogic practices aim to transcend the limiting tendencies of the mind. Various branches of yoga achieve this state of inner spontaneity and freedom through different tools and techniques.

In the classical branch of Raja Yoga, there is a stage of meditation called Pratyahara which induces a state of internalization and inner relaxation. Yoga Nidra; literally translated as psychic or yogic sleep is one of the techniques of Pratyahara.

The state of Yoga Nidra is very close to hypnagogic state. It helps disengage the mind from disturbing cycle of repeated thoughts and emotions and eventually provides much needed relaxation to your mind.

Technically, Yoga Nidra is conducted in eight steps. The entire process is very systematic and simple to follow. It is a must do practice if you are leading a very hectic and stressful life.

30 minutes of Yoga Nidra can give you a relaxation equal to two hours of sleep. Normally Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation technique. In this entire practice you need to follow the voice of the instructor and experience the practice on the level of feelings and awareness.

Since Yoga Nidra is conducted in Shavasana (corpse pose) in which one lies down on the back in the most relaxed position; therefore unlike other meditation practices one can find it very relaxing and rejuvenating. 

Stages of Yoga Nidra

Here are the eight distinct stages of Yoga Nidra:

  • Preparation

In the first stage of preparation pose of shavasana (corpse pose) is assumed. This pose once assumed properly then it helps you to eliminate all discomforts of the body and would help to attain maximum physical relaxation. In this state of preparation, through various techniques, your awareness is internalized, which helps you disengaging from stress inducing thoughts. As a result it immediately connects you with the experiences of the body and mind ‘here and now’.

  • Sankalpa (Resolution)

Once your awareness is internalized then you are asked to take a positive and simply worded resolve. Once you choose a positive resolve and repeat mentally in Yoga Nidra, it leaves a very deep impression on your subconscious mind. It helps giving a positive direction to your mental energies. 

  • Rotation of Awareness

In the third stage of Yoga Nidra, you are guided to rotate the awareness through different parts of the body. Normally route to rotate the awareness is fixed and very systematic. In this stage, your awareness gets fully grounded in the body and systematic rotation through body would help to deeply relax not just the body parts but also your mind. Key to relaxation here is your conscious awareness with body parts which helps to establish a deeper connection with the body and hence relaxes it.

  • Breath Awareness

In the fourth stage, awareness of breath is enhanced. It helps to induce a deep physical and mental relaxation. It also provides your mind a support to remain aware and rooted in the present moment. Various techniques of breath awareness are employed in the practice to strengthen your ability to concentrate without creating tensions.

  • Creating opposite sensations/feelings

In this stage you are trained to create opposite sensations or feeling which remaining non-involved. Initially it may start with very simple opposite pair of physical sensations such as heaviness and light or heat and cold. Later it may involve more emotionally laden opposite feelings or emotions. But during the entire stage you are asked to remain an observer of the manifestations of these sensations or feelings. This stage not only releases the pent up emotions associated with the feelings but also enhances your ability to withstand them effectively in real life situations.

  • Visualization

In stage six of Yoga Nidra, there are many visualization techniques used. These techniques may range from simple and random objects visualization to healing visualization, story visualization or daily routine visualization. The stage of visualization enhances the ability of photographic memory, relaxation of the mind, healing of the body and helps improve the learning outcome.

  • Sankalpa

After visualization, the stage of Sankalpa is again repeated. This repetition helps to deepen the impressions of resolve when you are still in a state of deep relaxation. It is like irrigating the seed of Sankalpa through reaffirmation.

  • Externalization

Once you graduate through all these stages explained above, then your senses are guided properly to reorient towards external surroundings. This allows you to come out of deep relaxation without any disorientation.

About the Author: Uttam is born and brought up in Rishikesh, India which is the yoga capital of the world. He is passionate about yoga since childhood and learns many yoga practices. Currently, he is running a yoga school in Rishikesh, which provide Yoga Alliance Certified 100, and 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India.

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