YOGA NIDRA MEDITATION
THE SECRET OF "YOGIC SLEEP"
[Note: There are many variations of the Yoga Nidra technique which can be found on the Internet and elsewhere, which may detail the initial steps in a different way. Experiment, and trust your intuition to determine which techniques work best for you. Please contact me if you would like personalized advice or clarification of the Yoga Nidra technique.]
THE ESSENCE OF YOGA NIDRA
Yoga Nidra can be loosely translated as "yogic rest". It is not literally "sleep", because one remains completely conscious mentally as the physical body sleeps. The quality of the rest given by Yoga Nidra is superior to that given by meditation or sleep.
Yoga Nidra is a highly relaxed state which is similar in many respects to the state of Samadhi (the ultimate "deathless" or "breathless" state). Like most aspects of Kriya Yoga, it is relatively simple, but It does take persistence and practice. The natural tendency for a person who is in a state of profound relaxation is for them to fall asleep. So the trick to accomplishing Yoga Nidra is to learn how to achieve such a deep state of rest without falling asleep.
I must stress again that the state of Yoga Nidra is in many ways almost identical to the state of Samadhi, yet it is far easier to achieve. It is a valuable stepping stone on the path to Samadhi.
Healing affirmations and self-inquiries made while in the state of Yoga Nidra will be impregnated into the higher mind without the resistance of the restless, "monkey" mind. It is an excellent opportunity to examine and dismiss bad habits. In describing the technique, below, I combine it with a very powerful and effective healing technique which is optional, but HIGHLY recommended.
YOGA NIDRA MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
Lie down on your back with a pillow placed comfortably under your neck and upper back.
Relax each part of the physical body in a continuous wave, progressing upwards from the toes to the crown of the head. Example - Toes, Feet, Ankles, Calves, Thighs, Groin, Stomach, Fingers, Forearms, Upper Arms, Neck, Tongue, Eyes, Head. Take your time. Go into as much detail as you need (Example - Chin, Lips, Tongue, Cheeks, Eyes, Eyebrows).
It is important that your mouth and tongue be COMPLETELY RELAXED.
Now practice the following technique, which is particularly effective at calming the heart:
Inhale very slowly and deeply, counting as you go
At the end of the inhalation, WITHOUT PAUSING, begin slowly and deeply exhaling to the same count as your inhalation
At the end of your exhalation, WITHOUT PAUSING, immediately begin a very slow, deep inhalation, counting as you go.
Example: Inhale to count of 14, exhale to count of 14, inhale to count of 12, exhale to count of 12.
Repeat for a total of 20 breaths.
You may need to maintain the count of 20 repetitions by counting beads, counting on your fingers, etc. If so, relax your counting hand again after the breathing exercise is complete.
After practicing the above Pranayama, visualize yourself lying on a beech, with your feet towards the ocean. As you inhale, the tide approaches you and slowly covers you, beginning with your toes, As you exhale, visualize the tide slowly receding from you.
Continue for 10 to 15 respirations
At this point, you should feel completely relaxed, almost paralyzed.
Your breathing should be fairly shallow, smooth and harmonious, without pauses between inhalation/exhalation or exhalation/inhalation.
Note: This time, here is no counting, and there is no willful effort to make the breath slow or deep.
Focus your consciousness at the Sternum, at the point of the Anahata (Heart) Chakra. Imagine a green saucer shaped disk of energy there, slowly expanding in all directions, filling the room, then spilling out through the walls into the street, then through the neighboring blocks, neighboring towns, and on into Infinity. Picture the healing energy of the entire Universe electrifying your body, and then flowing through you and outward as a healing wave which covers the entire world.
If you fall into Samadhi during Yoga Nidra, the walls of your room will actually shimmer and disappear, then the walls of the houses, etc., just as described by Paramahansa Yogananda in his famous autobiography.
Important Note: If you find yourself at the threshold of sleep, stop and try again another time. Roll over on your side, or otherwise consciously disassociate yourself from the practice before falling asleep. You do not want your mind to develop the habit of associating this technique with falling asleep.
I perfected this technique one week when I had a really bad cold. I had slept so much in the space of a few days that there was just no more sleep left in me. Then I could practice this technique for hours at a time without any fear of getting sleepy or falling asleep.
This discussion of Yoga Nidra is concluded with the poem Old Man, by Arthur Lee.
I once knew a man,
Been everywhere in the world.
Gave me a tiny ivory ball.
Said it would bring me good.
Never believed it would until
I have been loving You.
Dear old man.
He'd seen most everything.
Gave me a piece of good advice.
Said it would do me well.
I couldn't really tell until
I have been loving You.
Now it seems
Things are not so strange.
I can see more clearly.
Suddenly I've found my way.
I know the old man would laugh.
He spoke of love's sweeter days,
And in his eloquent way,
I think he was speaking of You.
You are so lovely,
You didn't have to say a thing.
But I remember that old man,
Telling me he'd seen the Light.
Gave me a small brown leather book.
Insisted that he was right.
I only heard him slightly.
'Til I heard You whisper,
Took You up all in my arms.