DEFINITION OF YOGA NIDRA
Like Yoga itself, Yoga Nidra is a process and a state. You can be in the “state of Yoga Nidra” which is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Yoga Nidra is also a set of techniques put together to help you get into that state. There are many techniques in the Yoga Nidra “tool box”, so you can design a practice to suit different purposes from simple relaxation to getting to sleep at night to unlocking creativity.
Since Yoga Nidra first became popular there have been huge advances in our understanding of what happens in the brain in situations such as stress, insomnia and creativity (to name just a few) and Yoga Nidra has evolved to become an incredibly rich diverse set of practices that can have a positive impact on many levels. It’s so important not to be dogmatic about yogic practices but to let them evolve to include new knowledge and so become richer and deeper.
Yoga Nidra can help with many things such as enhanced memory, creativity, sleeping well, enhanced connection to the body and many many more.
Its main contra-indications are Schizophrenia and Psychosis. Anxiety and trauma are cautions. Yoga Nidra can be fantastic for these groups as well but the practice needs to be tailored and as a teacher, you need specialised training and knowledge for it.
It’s a form of meditation we normally do lying down. When we are lying down it’s easier to access that ‘in between’ state between waking and sleeping. There are times when lying down is not possible or comfortable so then it can be done supported in a comfortable seated position.
Yoga Nidra literally means “Yogic Sleep” but it’s not about sleeping – it’s about exploring different states of consciousness so we can wake up. You could say this is the first paradox relating to Yoga Nidra. As in Yoga in general there are many paradoxes when talking about Yoga Nidra – when one statement is true but the opposite is also true. So Yogic Sleep is about awakening.
Yoga Nidra is a state that occupies the borderline between waking and sleeping (hypnagogia) – not fully awake or fully asleep. And here comes the second paradox, although Yoga Nidra is a borderline state, at the same time it is a state in its own right.
When we become able to stay in this place we can experience a new state of consciousness, and in this state of consciousness things change in the brain and the nervous system; we can rest deeply and connect to our creativity.