What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a sleep-based meditation technique that is done lying down. Many of us find it hard to meditate, but Yoga Nidra takes that struggle out of the equation. Yoga Nidra is composed of a guided series of body, breath and awareness techniques that progressively lead into a state where meditation, relaxation and deep restoration happen simultaneously and effortlessly. Instead of struggling to observe your thoughts you enter a space between waking and sleeping – a space of gentle awareness, where meditation happens naturally.
The end result is that you emerge from the practice relieved from daily pressures – with greater relaxation and a more easeful approach to life. If you have trouble falling asleep, Yoga Nidra is one of the best natural remedies to help make sleepless nights a thing of the past, or at the very least make up for sleep loss.
In this article we’ll look at Yoga Nidra and how it can be used as a tool to “clean out” your mind and keep it functioning at its best.
Our Senses are Inundated
Today we live in a world where our senses are over-stimulated. Our eyes and ears are constantly taking in information day and night. Impressions, images, sounds, tastes and smells must all be processed within the brain. Though we may not recognize it, this constant barrage of input acts as a stressor on the nervous system.
The Mental Body
According to the teachings of Yoga, the body is more than what we see. The body-mind complex is made up of five interconnected layers of energy which are called the Koshas or sheaths. One of these sheaths is called the mental body and is associated with the data processing functions of the mind. Sensory overload is said to primarily affect the mental body, which is responsible for registering incoming information through the senses.
The Eyes Are an Extension of the Brain
Not surprisingly, the mental body is most associated with the eyes, the primary gateway through which we interact with the world. It could also be said that the eyes are actually an externalized part of the brain. Through the eyes, there is a direct and immediate interaction between the brain and the outside world. For this reason, the eyes are the predominant means by which we collect information, and therefore the primary means by which our senses can become overwhelmed.
Effects of an Overwhelmed Mental Body
As we are barraged with information coming in through the eyes and other senses, the mental body begins to tire. Here’s some of what we might see:
1. We begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed
2. It is harder to concentrate
3. We are quicker to be irritated, reactive and emotional
4. We are thrown off more easily by events happening around us
Yoga Nidra is Designed to Offload Sensory Overload
If you recognize any of the above, the problem might be that your nervous system is simply overstimulated. Yoga Nidra clears accumulated impressions in the mental body which are clogging the system. Think of it as clearing the cache (temporary files) on your computer. When you clear the cache on your computer it helps the system run faster and frees up disk space. The same is true of the mental body. Once cleared, the mental body is better able to operate and eventually, functions more quickly and with greater capacity to take in new information.
Signs of Clearing
During a Yoga Nidra exercise, some people experience dreamlike sequences, or random images of places they have been and things they have seen. These are signs that the mental body is taking the opportunity to clear itself of the impressions it has collected.
The uncluttering of the mental body is similar to what dreams do at night. The only difference is that in Yoga Nidra, we deliberately enhance and magnify this natural clearing effect.
After about 20 to 40 minutes of practicing Yoga Nidra regularly you will find the following benefits:
1. Less edgy and more mentally & emotionally balanced
2. Greater concentration and ability to focus
3. Enhanced capacity to learn, retain information and carry out detailed tasks
4. New perspectives, insights, ideas and solutions
5. Feeling rested and renewed
6. Releases the effects of the day and resets us back to neutral
For more on this, check out my article about Yoga Nidra and burnout here.
How Does it Work?
Yoga Nidra techniques themselves progressively withdraw us from an outward focus thereby allowing us to shift to an inward focus. This profound internalization of attention gives the mental body a chance to clear the “cache.” Withdrawing for a while from all the senses, gives the mind a deep rest and rejuvenates our mental fire. It clears us from the effects and stresses of our day and keeps them from lingering for too long in our consciousness. This supercharged meditation can provide the same mental clarity as one would gain from a few hours of sleep. It is said that 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra is as restorative as three hours of sleep.
Because Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down, it is widely considered to be an excellent choice for the novice meditator. It is a great way to enter deep states of meditation from the very first time you try it. Even experienced meditators find that after practicing Yoga Nidra, their seated meditation practice is easier and more profound.
You can find guided Yoga Nidra experiences on YouTube or on a convenient app such as this one: I AM Yoga Nidra for Apple and Android. To learn more, take an online course.
· Yoga Nidra is meditation made easy
· The mental body tires with excess stimulation
· Yoga Nidra helps clear the effects of sensory overload from the Mental body
· After practicing Yoga Nidra you will find your concentration, attention and inner balance has been restored.
· Yoga Nidra promotes quality of life and well-being by giving you a simple and easy way to keep your mind fresh and balanced.
Kamini Desai PhD is the author of: Yoga Nidra The Art of Transformational Sleep, Life Lessons Love Lessons and developer of the I AM Yoga Nidra app. For the past 30 years Kamini has taught worldwide, helping people master the inner dimension of their lives uniquely combining ancient wisdom with science and psychology. Her corporate clients have included SONY and Mars candy company, and The Netherlands Department of Revenue. For more information visit www.iameducation.org OR www.kaminidesai.com. Online Yoga Nidra courses are available here.