Yoga Nidra is a technique included in Yoga to relax consciously. Yoga Nidra is a systematic method of inducing complete Physical, Mental and Emotional relaxation with awareness. Through systematic practice of Yoga Nidra, Pranic body which includes Nadis and Chakras, Mental body and Physical body gets energized. Those who receives treatments, through regular practice of Yoga Nidra, the energy received will be utilized for healing Physical, Pranic and Mental dimensions.
In Yoga nidra, the state of relaxation is reached by turning inwards away from distractions which disturbs deeper connection with individual consciousness.
In the Rajayoga of Maharshi Pathanjali, there is state called “Pratyahara” were the mind and mental awareness are dissociated from the sensory channels. Yoga nidra is one aspect of Pratyahara which leads to higher state of consciousness and stabilized state of harmony called Samadhi.
Benefits of Yoga nidra
The practice of Yoga nidra has a number of benefits. Important among them are as follows.
Minimizes tension: In the modern world the major problem is not poverty, drugs or fear of war; it is tension and only tension. A high percentage of people remain in a state of tension and frustration. This continuous level of tension in the body, mind and emotions predisposes the individual towards psychological and psychosomatic disorders. Modern psychology as well as Yogic philosophy believes in three kinds of tension – muscular tensions, emotional tensions and mental tensions – which can be progressively released through the systematic and regular practice of Yoga nidra. Muscular tension results from nervous and endocrinal imbalances. It manifests in the form of stiffness and rigidity in the physical body. In the practice of Yoga nidra the body is progressively relaxed, which in turn releases the accumulated muscular tensions.
In day to day life individuals fail to express their emotions freely and openly. As a result, the emotions are repressed and manifest in the form of emotional tension. In the practice of Yoga nidra, the practitioner slowly moves towards the deeper realms of the mind where he or she confronts the deep-rooted emotional tensions. When the practitioner recognizes these emotional tensions with full awareness and a witnessing attitude, then repressed emotions are released and the practitioner becomes calm and tranquil.
Due to excessive activity on the mental plane, the mind always remains in a state of arousal, which results in mental tension. Throughout life the mind is fed with negative data. In the practice of Yoga nidra, especially in rotation of consciousness and breath awareness, the mind is relaxed, thereby releasing the mental tensions. In this way, through the regular and sincere practice of Yoga nidra, tensions at the physical, emotional and mental level can be minimized.
Trains the mind: The sankalpa taken in each session of Yoga nidra is perhaps the most effective technique for training the mind. “Anything in life can fail you, but not the sankalpa made during Yoga nidra”. The sankalpa is taken and sowed in the subconscious mind when it is relaxed and receptive. The subconscious mind is very obedient and hence carries out the orders immediately. In Yoga nidra, the sankalpa trains the subconscious mind, and then the ordinary mind follows the path automatically. The sankalpa helps in training the mind because it is planted when the mind is relaxed and ready to absorb and accept it. The essential thing is that the resolve should be planted with strong willpower and feeling. Many people make conscious resolves guided by intellect, which rarely bring results. “The sankalpa taken at the beginning of Yoga nidra is like sowing a seed, and the sankalpa at the end is like irrigating it. So, the resolve taken in Yoga nidra always brings result, if it is taken sincerely”.
Relaxes the mind: The brain is the linking mediator between the mind, body and emotions. In Yoga nidra intensifying the awareness of the body stimulates the brain. When the awareness is rotated on the different body parts, it not only induces physical relaxation but also clears the nerve pathways to the brain. Each of the body parts has an existing centre in the cerebral white matter, named by researchers as ‘motor homunculus’ or ‘little man’. The sequence of rotation of awareness in Yoga nidra is in accordance with the map in the cerebral white matter of the brain. When the awareness is rotated in the same sequence again and again, it induces a flow of pranic energy within the neuronal circuit of the motor homunculus of the brain. This pranic flow brings in a subjective experience of relaxation in the brain.
In one of the stages of Yoga nidra a pair of opposite feelings or sensations is intensified again and again in the practitioner. This continuous invocation of opposite feelings or sensations is in accordance with the elecetrophysiological operating principles of the brain. When a neuron fires, it produces a nerve impulse which is relayed and registered in the brain. But if the same neuron keeps on firing again and again, then its relayed impulse is no longer registered by the brain. Researchers have called this ‘phenomenon habituation’. When the brain becomes accustomed to the stimulus, then gradually it becomes relaxed. The state where the brain is completely relaxed results in mental relaxation.
Clears up the unconscious: From early childhood, we tend to repress many wishes, desires and conflicts. Whenever a situation threatens the ego, the defence mechanisms are called upon and the conflicting situation is repressed or suppressed to the unconscious. All the traumatic experiences, unfulfilled desires and threatening situations are suppressed by the ego to the subconscious and unconscious realms of the mind. In the deeper realms of the mind this conflicting and frustrating matter does not die but remains alive and later manifests in the form of various pathological symptoms. The repressed desires, wishes and situations remain in the form of symbols in the unconscious mind. During the practice of Yoga nidra, the instructor asks the practitioner to visualize certain symbols and images with a witnessing attitude. If the symbols and images are selected properly, then they are in accordance with the symbols of the unconscious. An abstract association is created between the guided imagery and the associated repressed experiences of the unconscious. The practitioner observes this associated painful experience with a witnessing attitude, which helps in cutting off the personal identification with the experience. When the personal identification ceases to be cut off, the painful experience is repressed again. 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. As a result, the unconscious is cleared up.
Awakens creativity: Several examples from the past indicate that creativity is a characteristic of a relaxed and calm mind. When the mind is totally relaxed, the awareness slowly enters the deeper realms (subconscious and unconscious) of the mind and the person becomes aware of the creative and intuitive faculties. Regular practice of Yoga nidra helps in making a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind. Slowly one becomes tuned with the unconscious workings and then the power of creativity automatically awakens.
Enhances memory and learning capacity: The present popular method of teaching is classroom teaching using rewards and punishments. This method may be good for the intelligent students but is not beneficial for the dull students because the conscious brain or intellect of these students is incapable of receiving the information directly. The technique of Yoga nidra can be used as an educational tool for such dull children, where the knowledge is transmitted directly into the subconscious mind. The technique of Yoga nidra is helpful in increasing learning and memory capacity. When Yoga nidra is used in education, both hemispheres of the student’s brain are involved in learning the subject, whereas in classroom teaching the left hemisphere functions more. In this way, the practice of Yoga nidra involves the total mind in learning.
Counteracts stress: Stress is a cognitive or emotional response made by the individual towards any situation, which demands adjustment. When the demands of the situation exceed the ability of the individual then distress results, which may manifest in mental and physical symptoms of abnormality. The practice of Yoga nidra helps in building up the coping ability. The practitioner of Yoga nidra slowly becomes aware of the inherent dormant potentialities and thus prevents himself from becoming a victim of distress. Stress-related disorders evolve gradually through four stages. In the first stage, psychological symptoms like anxiety and irritability arise due to overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. The second stage is characterized by related physical symptoms like high blood pressure, increased heart rate etc. In the third stage, the abnormalities manifest clinically in the organ systems. In the last stage, severe symptoms in particular organs result which need long-term medical management.
During stress the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated due to which the organism adopts the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. In normal circumstances, the parasympathetic system takes over after the emergency goes. But mostly it has been seen that the sympathetic system remains active most of the time resulting in the experience of distress . In Yoga nidra an attempt is made to activate the parasympathetic system, and slowly a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is achieved by inducing complete physical, emotional and mental relaxation. In this way the practice of Yoga nidra counteracts stress. Yoga nidra has its most widespread application as a preventive measure to be practised by healthy, active people as a means of relieving accumulated tensions, increasing stress resistance and overall efficiency, and preventing the development of stress-related diseases.
Manages psychological disorders: When the individual fails to adjust to the situation, then distress results. Some individuals are prone to developing distress due to their unconscious urge to remain tense. When distress continues for a long period, it may result in psychological disorders like neuroses or even psychoses. In the practice of Yoga nidra, the inherent tendency to become tense is rooted out and the individual starts viewing the situation as less demanding. Practice of Yoga nidra significantly reduces the anxiety and hostility level of the practicing subjects. Yoga nidra is a successful treatment for insomnia.
Manages psychosomatic diseases: When the tensions, conflicts and frustrations of the mind manifest in the form of physical symptoms, those diseases are termed as psychosomatic diseases. Yoga nidra aims at releasing the suppressed and repressed conflicts from the unconscious, thereby relaxing the mind. When the potent cause (tense mind) of psychosomatic disorders is managed, the disease could also be cured. The practice of various stages of Yoga nidra, like sankalpa, muscular relaxation, breath awareness and guided imagery, have been found to be a significant and effective mode of therapy for asthmatics.
Cancer and Yoga nidra: As a technique of meditation, Yoga nidra can be adopted as a therapeutic model in the treatment of cancer. In cancer therapy Yoga nidra works at four different levels:
By releasing repressed matter: Researches on cancer have brought out the fact that the repressed and suppressed material of the subconscious and unconscious mind reinforces the multiplication of anarchic tumour cells, resulting in cancer. In Yoga nidra, cancer patients are taught to relax in a true sense. In the state of complete relaxation patients practise the technique of visualization, which helps in bringing up the repressed unconscious matter to the present area of awareness. When these repressions are observed with a witnessing attitude, the ego identity is cut off and no more repression or suppression takes place. In this way, slowly the reinforcing factor of cancer is rooted out.
By pranic healing: In the practice of Yoga nidra, the subtle bioplasmic energy, prana, is awakened and mobilized throughout the body. The practitioner is asked to consciously imagine the flow of light or energy within healing the infected area of the body. Slowly this conscious imagination activates the dormant self-healing capacity and actual healing takes place in the patient. This kind of healing is termed pranic healing.
By mental healing: In Yoga nidra, healing can also be initiated on the mental plane through the technique of visualization. Here the cancer is visualized shrinking in size; an army of white blood cells is visualized fighting the cancer cells. This results in the activation of dormant mental power i.e. the power of the unconscious to heal the infected part. When the body is visualized to be in perfect health again and again, the inherent potency of the mind actually starts healing the cancer.
By promoting willpower: In most cases of cancer the patients become devoid of hope and give up the fight against the disease, which further worsens the situation. To overcome cancer, enormous willpower and sustained endurance is needed. For this purpose, sankalpa is practised in Yoga nidra. The sankalpa helps in building up willpower and optimism in the patient because it is sowed in the subconscious and unconscious mind again and again.
In this way, by developing confidence, willpower and optimism, by clearing up the unconscious repression, and by healing the cancer site at the pranic and mental levels, Yoga nidra may help to cure cancer.