Yoga Nidra is one of the most powerful practices for self-healing. Only recently has the Western World discovered its transformative medicine. Today, this Ancient Yogic technique of relaxation is used to remedy suffering across the board: from anxiety, stress and PTSD to insomnia and cancer – these are just a fraction of the conditions healed. So what is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a holistic system of healing through every layer of our being. In Sanskrit Yoga means “Oneness or union” and Nidra means “Sleep.” Often you’ll hear it referred to as “Yogic sleep,” but it is far from simply that. Often when we are asleep our consciousness falls dormant. During the practice of Yoga Nidra you remain awake and aware. Your body lies flat, surrendered to the Earth so you relinquish all need to control, hold or support yourself – think Savasana or Corpse pose. Perhaps you have a pillow, a blanket, anything that lends itself to divine comfort. Some use an eye mask to shut off sense of sight, for it is not needed. During this practice you see with your mind’s eye. The next 45 minutes you are guided through a systematic technique of directing awareness to each part of the body. You scan for areas of tension, holding or control from gross to subtle and allow your body to release into relaxation. Moving from the fingers, through the arms, the shoulders, down to your toes, up to the back, the chest, and everywhere to the heart. As you dive into the healing of your heart you envision a “sankalpa” or a positive intention for your journey. See yourself fully healed and realizing your true potential. Visualize your reality and you begin to create it. Manifest it. As the Dalai Lama said, “True change is within.”
Throughout the journey you visualize healing. Often times when our bodies ache, that pain is rooted in a memory, emotion or experience. Some of this tension is surface level while other forms can live on a deeper layer of consciousness. This is the part where Yoga Nidra takes on a profound depth. Yoga Nidra is a methodology that was created to cure every layer of our being – the physical body, energy body and unconscious. Classical Yogic psychology would explain this medicine through the koshas – energetic layers of our body, from the outermost physical plane to our subtle spiritual core.
We are born into this life with “samskaras” that ultimately shape how we experience life. Some call “samskaras” psychological imprints or karmic tendencies; others deem it genetics or DNA. Despite one’s belief of reincarnation, we can agree that in life you have experiences – and these experiences color the way you engage with the world around you. It is through the practice of Yoga Nidra that we can heal our scar tissue.
The prominent example that comes to mind is the use of Yoga Nidra to alleviate suffering from PTSD. Veterans and others who experienced traumatic events are challenged by reliving the memory with heightened sensitivity. They often witness negative changes in perspective and emotions. Several studies have emerged exhibiting the profound benefits of Yoga Nidra on the psyche of returning soldiers. Today, this practice is incorporated into weekly treatment programs for soldiers all over the country. Beyond healing PTSD, findings suggest that…
Yoga Nidra has many benefits
- Eases symptoms of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, anger and hostility
- Reduces levels of stress
- Helps with insomnia
- Reduces blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol
- Reduces activity in the craving-related area of the brain
- Improves pain related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Enhances immune system function
So much more may be expounded upon in this journey of transformation, but for now, consider this a glimpse into the powerful healing practice of Yoga Nidra. If you are new it, perhaps purchase a Yoga Nidra CD so that you may be guided through this meditative adventure. If you fall asleep, try again and again. Speaking from experience, when you are able to travel this journey completely awake and aware, the transformation is profound.