1) What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is many things, but at its heart, it’s an exploration of different states of consciousness. You could say the aim is to find and stabilize consciousness in the hypnagogic state between waking and sleeping.
It’s a practice during which we have the possibility of experiencing pure consciousness, where the body is deeply relaxed or even asleep and the mind is awake and aware but deeply still.
2) What´s the difference between Yoga Nidra and meditation?
This obviously depends on how you define meditation. I would say Yoga Nidra is one form of meditation. If you define meditation as a set of techniques which aim to have a clarifying effect on our relationship to the mind leading to more peace, compassion and awareness, then Yoga Nidra fits into that category. So you could say Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation we do normally lying down.
3) What happens if my mind is busy?
This is completely normal. Sometimes the mind will be peaceful and sometimes we will have a storm of thoughts. Even if it feels like “it’s not happening” or “I can’t do this” or “I’m just lying here thinking” – something is still happening. There is a process going on – a “cooking”. In meditation the mind thinks – that’s what it does – we can’t stop it. If we try it’s just fighting the mind with the mind – it just makes it worse. So allow the thoughts – observe them – trust the process. It’s not just you.
4) Do I have to stay still?
It is preferable to stay still if that’s possible. But if you absolutely have to move then go ahead and move. It’s always good to observe the first impulse to move – sometimes it can be resistance to going deeper. But sometimes you just have to move to get comfortable – so move. But try to keep your movements as minimal as possible so you don’t disturb yourself or others if it’s in a class situation.
5) What if I get bored?
Rather than thinking “I’m feeling bored and impatient” turn it into: “I observe a feeling of boredom and impatience – but that is not who I am! It won’t be like this forever!” Often boredom is a sign we are in the mind – so try getting into the breath or the body. Boredom can also be resistance. If we are about to see or feel something the mind is uncomfortable with, it can flip into boredom to avoid it. So try staying with the boredom – it could get interesting!
6) What if I can’t concentrate or understand what the teacher is saying?
Yoga Nidra is a place of paradoxes – we hear a voice but can’t understand the words, we feel deeply asleep but fully aware. If you find yourself asleep or not understanding the words -don’t block this – flow with the experience. This is normal and a good sign that you’ve gone deep beyond the conscious mind. The best thing to do is to go with the flow, don’t worry about consciously understanding the words and stay deep.
7) What happens if I fall asleep?
Sometimes you need sleep more than anything else!
However, there are different layers of sleep and sometimes it FEELS like you were asleep during the practice – but you were actually floating in a different state of consciousness than what you are used to in everyday life. Since the teacher “disturbs” you by talking throughout the full practice (with just a few, short pauses) – you most likely won’t fall into DEEP sleep.
If you can hear the teacher when he/she asks you to return from the Nidra – it means you were not in a deep sleep. Although you seemed asleep you were, on some level, aware of the teacher’s voice and still practicing Yoga Nidra.
If Yoga Nidra is an exploration of the state of consciousness in-between waking and sleeping then we have to fall asleep in order to experience that state. At first we will probably pass through the state pretty quickly, often not even noticing it at all. But with time and practice we learn to recognize the falling asleep state and learn to stay there.
/Melanie Cooper 💖