Yoga Nidra means yoga sleep. It is one of the early Hatha yoga practices and allows one to go from a restful savasana place into deeper levels of consciousness. It is a state of conscious sleep where the body rests, but the mind is awake.
An experienced guide takes you into a deep restful state of pratyahara. Although many first time practitioners will fall asleep easily after reaching a state where the body is totally relaxed, the goal is to guide you into that state while allowing yo to be present and aware of what is going on. As many external distractions as possible should be removed.
At the beginning of the session , the practitioner is asked to set a sankalpa, or a resolve. This can help you to reshape your personality as the resolve is repeated and is absorbed by the subconscious. During the deeper states, samskaras, or old impressions from our past or past lives, arise and we are able to acknowledge them since we are in a state of awareness.
Some people will achieve dream like states as the subconscious arises and they will have experiences and insights that they may not understand. It is a good idea to take notes on this after the session to reflect on later.
These images could be universal archetypes that are so deep we would never be aware of them in most states of consciousness or semi-consciousness. Carl Jung recognized the universal consciousness and his work on archetypes, along with his own experience, has helped to solidify this practice as a valid form of therapy.
I learned Yoga Nidra from Dr. Richard Miller, a yoga and psychotherapist. He brought me into some very intense levels of awareness as well as the other people in my program. He has used his methods to help the homeless, people with depression and people with PTSD.
Transformation happens when we approach these impressions and realize they are manifested in every level of our being. Removing them is difficult, but acknowledging they rest in our psyche, spirit, and body and waking up into being present can allow us to start to move forward out of our traumas, illnesses, disappointments, and anxiety.
Yoga asana is a profound experience because we are exploring them on such a physical basis. And as we explore the feeling body, we experience our former impressions even if we can’t associate them such as: my hips are tight because I didn’t get enough love as a child. It isn’t important to label. As we approach the practice of pratyahara, we learn that we don’t remove sensory impressions but we try to stop reacting to them.
So continue to explore new avenues of yoga. There is so much out there and so much more every day. I love the classic system of yoga, but even Dharma Mittra explains yoga as a practice that is transforming itself every day. It is great we can take a practice like Yoga Nidra and use it to help people now.
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