Yoga Nidra, the concept, is adopted from the ancient science of Tantra. It is a powerful practice for achieving deep relaxation while being conscious and aware. Nidra as a word stands for sleep, but the application here is totally different from what we generally understand sleep as. To understand this we need to log onto some basic insight into the different states of consciousness as explained in the yogic system.
There are three states in which our consciousness keep oscillating at regular intervals, through the agency of mind. These intervals are predetermined most of the times which is referred as the Bio Rhythms.
- Jaagrut awastha or normal wakeful state (conscious): This is outer most dimension in which consciousness is in contact with the external material dimension through the agency of sensory organs. We have five sensory organs viz. sight, smell, audition, taste and touch. This is where most of worldly communications takes place. Consciousness exists in an extroverted state relying on sensory organs to relay the information from surroundings.
- Swapna awastha or dream state (sub conscious): This is a totally different dimension where consciousness experiences a reality in forms of dreams.
- Sushupti awashta or deep sleep (unconscious): State of deep sleep when even dreams don’t appear to the consciousness and an absolute state is experienced which is mostly untraceable by common mind.
While we enter into ordinary sleep, the consciousness drifts from conscious plane to other two without an awareness of this transition. In yoga nidra, we train our mind to retain the awareness not just of this transition but of the actual experience it receives while being in each state.
During the practice, consciousness moves to a threshold state between sleep and wakefulness, thereby connecting with the sub conscious and unconscious dimensions.
This awareness is the actual scientific definition of relaxation which is in contrast to popular beliefs. As we generally observe by relaxation we often mean lying on a couch, having a cup of coffee or a drink or reading our favorite author or genre. All these are simply sensory diversions that change the direction in which our sense organs are engaged. They have very less to do with actual relaxation that occurs only when we are aware and unattached; in this reference it’s better to say un-indulged.
The matrix of Tension
Action, in general, leads to tension. This is natural physics. Two forces operating simultaneously at the same time will create tension. As we go through doing small and big things in life with body, mind or heart, we produce tension. And that tension operates on us. Whatever we do as part of routine, from eating to sleeping, to walking to running to catching a train to managing projects at work, each activity results in tension. These tensions are stored at several planes of our personality.
These accumulated tensions manifest in several form via our psyche. Imbalances, disorders and conflicts within an individual or societies or nations.
Yoga straightforwardly identifies these tensions at the source of suffering. We are not aware of them directly and only see their symptoms. This condition is known as Klesha in Yoga and they are the root of all human problems. Avidya or ignorance is where they all are rooted. This ignorance is the realm of our personalities about which we are not really aware of.
We can categorize three basic types of tension:
Yoga Nidra is an effective method of achieving physical, emotional and mental rest and release. It’s a systematic tool of transiting between different states of consciousness. This has got powerful and profound impacts on the overall personality. We are able to let go of stored tensions, burn sanskaras or to say break older habitual conditioning in order to have a fresh and conscious experience overall. It also increases the receptivity of mind and thus enhances learning and gaining knowledge.
Creativity and Sankalp
Also it allows for a creative expression of our mind as it get free from fears, phobias and several neurosis. This helps in concentrating the energy of mind and giving it a channeled expression. Opting for a resolution or Sankalp, during the practise provides for that channeling of the energy. This Sankalp is a very positive and virtuous idea that you might be aspired towards having as a part of you. It is chosen and repeated constantly each time you practise until it is realized.
Our brain emits different types of wave patterns while we drift from one state of mind to the other. Mapping these waves through specific instruments has been a milestone in the studies conducted in several places. This has made more and more scientific brains interested and attracted towards exploring and researching the probable implications of Yoga Nidra as a tool to overcome several issues that modern civilization is struggling with.
The table below shows a scientific explanatory values for the states of consciousness and the values for brain waves emitted in each of these states. Also mentioned is the correlated field of experiencing with each state.
||State of consciousness
|Sensory awareness, external knowledge
||Border line between awake and sleep
|Deep relaxation, conscious dreaming
(4 – 7 cps)
|Release of emotions, fears and desires
|Awakening of instincts and primitive drives
The popular format of Yoga Nidra was designed by Shri Swami Satyananda Saraswti, the founder of one of the most authentic and popular institution of yoga study in our times called Bihar School of Yoga. He was a realized yogi who reformed many concepts and principles of yoga so as to be understood by the modern mind easily.
For more information on the technique and practice of yoga nidra, we will soon publish another post with further details.
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