Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra
By Swami Rama

The aspirant learns to analyze or resolve all his desires, thoughts, and feelings through the practice of yoga nidra. He attains a state in which he consciously learns to place his mind in deep rest. Yoga nidra cannot be translated into any other language, but for the convenience of modern students it is called “yogic sleep” or “sleepless sleep.” This is a state of conscious sleep in which the student is in deep sleep and yet remains fully conscious. The yogis use this technique for both sleep and meditation. The quality of rest one receives through this method is entirely different from that which is derived through ordinary sleep.

Yoga nidra is a revitalizing exercise that gives total rest to the mind, brain, nervous system, senses, and body. Except through meditation and yoga nidra, one cannot give rest to the totality of the mind. There is no drug and no scientific or physical technique so far discovered that gives rest to the unconscious part of the mind, except the technique of yoga nidra.

Yoga nidra is unlike meditation because in meditation one does not seek conscious awareness of the state of deep sleep. During meditation, one learns to practice a steady and comfortable pose, but in yoga nidra, the corpse posture alone is recommended. Yoga nidra supports and strengthens the meditational technique. Deep meditation helps the mind attain one-pointedness, while contemplation leads one to the state of constant awareness.

Yoga nidra has immense benefits and can be used for learning the subtleties of life. Only by yoga nidra can one study how the mind slips to dreaming and then goes to deep sleep, how the conscious mind withdraws itself and goes to the lap of the unconscious. The yogis recall all their samskaras, watch them, examine, and even select and reject them according to their need. Those thought patterns that are disturbing are rejected, and those that are helpful are strengthened. With the help and practice of yoga nidra, one can go beyond all the levels of the unconscious.

In the state of dreamless sleep one experiences unity, in contrast to the diversity of the objects experienced in the waking state. Yogis describe this as a void or a state of purely subjective consciousness that has a blissful quality. The sleeper ordinarily enters this blissful state a few times each night and replenishes oneself, but unfortunately, one is not able to be consciously aware of being in that state, so one does not fully experience its blissful quality.

Yogis, therefore, practice methods for extending self-consciousness into this state. They state that the task of the human being is to become consciously aware of the state of deep sleep, which is the unifier of all manifest states and experiences.

But unless the conscious mind is trained to do so, it cannot recall in the waking state memories from the experience of deep sleep. To progress beyond the three manifest states of consciousness of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, the student must learn to consciously gain access to all those states at will and to realize all three states simultane¬ously, as well as their unity within himself and the universe. To accomplish this, yogis learn to go into a deep state of voluntary sleep, called yoga nidra, and yet remain fully aware of the environment.

In yoga nidra the clarity of mind is more profound than in the waking state. Often, due to lack of coordination of the functions of mind, the mind is clouded and does not remain fully attentive, but in the state of yogic sleep, the mind remains one-pointed and clear. But the highest joy and perennial happiness is realized when one attains the state beyond, turiya.

The finest time to practice yoga nidra is early in the morning before the sun rises, or in the evening around sunset. It should be done when it is dark and there is no strain, stimuli, distraction or noise from outside. In the daytime it is difficult to practice well, but if you want to practice it, then you should make your room dark. Usually yoga nidra is not done before three o’clock in the afternoon. The best time to do yoga nidra is right after meditation if you are not tired and do not fall asleep easily. This practice should not be used for sleep or for relaxation. It should only be done for yoga nidra. To learn this method you need to have a definite time set aside so that you can practice at the same time every day. See that you are protected from noise; a little bit of sound can agitate your nervous system and injure your brain fibers, so that is why the quiet time of night is preferred.

In the beginning, you should use ten minutes for this exercise. If you are doing it for more than ten minutes in the beginning, then surely you are not doing yoga nidra but are only sleeping, because the normal capacity of brain wave relaxation is only ten minutes. Your own mind will remind you of your capacity.

The human personality is composed of habit patterns. If yoga nidra is practiced regularly like the practice of meditation, habit will lead you spontaneously to this state. Otherwise to remain fighting mentally—because you are only practicing occasionally—brings frustration. When you think that it is difficult to practice, then it really becomes difficult. But when you decide and determine to practice, your willpower and determina¬tion will lead you to achieve what you want to do. 

Yogis reduce the amount of sleep to two and a half hours, and finally to no sleep. Using “sleepless sleep,” they go to a state of deep meditation instead of sleep. When meditation becomes your whole life this change naturally occurs.

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of Swami Rama of the Himalayas