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SPECIAL FEATURE: Yoga Nidra



Mission

The purpose of this web page is to provide accurate information regarding yoga nidra to all seekers and to help promote the practice of yoga nidra.

(It is unfortunate to find inaccurate, incomplete and vague information about yoga nidra on the Internet, in books, on CD packaging, etc.. Such information can easily discourage or misguide people from practicing yoga nidra and/or benefitting from the full use of yoga nidra.)



Definition

Yoga nidra is a state of both sleep and consciousness. There is complete (or nearly complete) physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Yoga nidra includes the systematic methods used in its practice. With the use of these methods, yoga nidra may be regarded as a meditative technique.



Induction Methods and Benefits of Yoga Nidra

There are various induction methods and practices that are characteristic features of yoga nidra. For those who are familar with the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Yoga nidra is also one aspect of pratyahara, in which the senses are blocked from mental awareness.

One characteristic feature of yoga nidra is from the tantric practice of Nyasa, which involves a systematic rotation of consciousness through various parts of the human body. This practice can improve health by balancing prana (or chi or ki), a form of energy.

Yoga nidra offers many potential benefits including relaxation, faster learning, memory improvement and spiritual development (especially, in communicating with the inner self or unconscious mind). According to the book Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005, page 14), "A single hour of yoga nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleep."

By heightening awareness of the body, one can better control input from the sense organs. Also, one can better control emotions. With advanced practice of yoga nidra, it becomes possible to hear oneself snore, wake oneself up at any desired time and witness oneself dreaming.

In addition, there can be contact and interaction with the subconscious and/or unconscious mind via yoga nidra. This includes extrasensory and psychic experiences.

The ability to visualize can be improved with yoga nidra and the practice of visualization (of symbols and images) can help a person deal with karma and release samskaras or archetypes (the term used in psychology) from the unconscious mind. There is also the potential to heal oneself of specific health problems by intention and/or visualization.

Another important use of yoga nidra is to change and improve oneself (in any way desired) via the use of a sankalpa (or intention or resolve). The sankalpa is normally repeated at the beginning and end of each yoga nidra practice.

Furthermore, yoga nidra can be extremely useful for working on the chakras and kundalini. Based my personal experiences, it is much easier to do this in the yoga nidra state rather than in waking state, as the sense of energy in the body is dramatically heightened with yoga nidra.



NOTE: Yoga nidra is a trademark of Satyananda Yoga/Bihar Yoga tradition.



Learn How to do Yoga Nidra

While yoga nidra is very simple to do, many people may find it difficult to do initially. They either do not get deep enough or they fall asleep. So, it is advisable for the student to get some initial training with an instructor. Note that even with an instructor, it is common to hear people snore in yoga nidra classes.

In particular, I recommend any instructor teaching the "Amrit Method (TM) of Yoga Nidra" (if available in your area). The Amrit method nicely ties yoga nidra with spiritual development.

In case an instructor is not available, the best alternative to learn how to do yoga nidra is by using specific books and/or CD's about yoga nidra. See my section on recommended books and CD's.



History

Yoga nidra was constructed (or rediscovered, developed and documented in modern times) as a specialized yoga practice without any prerequisites (or prior yoga experience) by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. After researching sleep learning, Swami Satyananda Saraswati derived yoga nidra from little known practices in the Tantras, which are ancient scriptures from India.

Satyananda also coined the term "yoga nidra" and applied for a trademark for the term in India. However, at this point in time (5/2006), most writers have not acknowledged the fact that yoga nidra was developed and named "yoga nidra" by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

(NOTE: I am acknowledging Satyananda's ownership of the trademark for "yoga nidra". However, a trademark generally offers protection only in the very limited territory that it is filed for with proper payment of fee(s). In the U.S.A., trademarks are issued by individual states. So, these state-issued trademarks only offer protection against other entities from using the trademarks in the particular state(s) that it is filed with.

In order for a trademark to be honored by all entities around the world, it usually needs to be filed for in every territory around the world that offers trademark protection. However, a trademark does effectively restrict companies that does business in all 50 states of the U.S.A. from using the trademark that is registered in any of the 50 states.)



Controversies

[ Alpha or Delta - Is yoga nidra associated with Alpha or Delta brain wave frequencies? ]

The scientific community has defined four levels of brainwave frequencies:

beta ( 13 to 30 cycles per second ) in the waking state
alpha ( 8 to 13 cycles per second ) in the borderline state
theta ( 4 to 8 cycles per second ) in the dream sleep state
delta ( 0.1 to 4 cycles per second ) in the dreamless deep sleep state

In Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005, page 6), Satyananda states: "In yoga nidra, the consciousness is in a state between waking and sleep, but is subject to neither."

In Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005, page 14), Satyananda states: "In fact, the capacity to sleep and dream consciously in yoga nidra is an evolutionary process which has been utilized by many exceptional people throughout history..."

In Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005, pages 171 and 247), it states yoga nidra is associated with the superconscious mind; borderline between awake and asleep; "Alpha brain wave pattern" from 8 to 12 cycles per second.

However, in the Introduction tract of Yoga Nidra Meditation CD: Extreme Relaxation of Conscious Deep Sleep (Audio CD) by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (October 2003), Jnaneshvara states that yoga nidra brings you into deep sleep at "Delta" brain wave frequency. Also, note that the words "Deep Sleep" are in the title of this CD. Also, in Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga" by Richard Miller, Ph.D. (Sounds True, Inc. 2005, page 18), Dr. Miller writes "YOGA NIDRA TAKES YOU BEYOND WAKING AND SLEEPING" and discusses how "yoga nidra teaches you how to consciously live in and as this natural state" of dreamless sleep.

In 1970, researchers at the Menniger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, U.S.A. recorded the brainwaves of yogi Swami Rama using an encephalograph with astounding findings. The researchers recorded alpha, theta and delta brainwaves, while Swami Rama was still aware of what transpired. Swami Rama was able to recall questions that were asked of him, while he was snoring with delta brainwaves that are characteristic of the dreamless deep sleep state. (For more information about Swami Rama, see http://swamiramafoundation.us/SwamiRama.html and http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=30494 )

Therefore, there are actually three different states of yoga nidra:

1) a "yoga nidra alpha state",

2) an advanced "yoga nidra theta state"

3) a much more advanced "yoga nidra delta state".

To avoid confusion and misinterpretation of these three states of yoga nidra, I propose that everyone now refer to these three yoga nidra states using these terms. Also, by default, the "yoga nidra state" should be equated to the more common and easily attainable "yoga nidra alpha state".

(As for my personal experiences, I believe that I have experienced the yoga nidra theta state with dream sleep on more than one occasion. However, I do not know if I have ever experienced the yoga nidra delta state of dreamless sleep. I wonder how can one distinguish the yoga nidra alpha state from the yoga nidra delta state?)



[ Yoga Nidra versus Hypnosis ]

Some people have compared yoga nidra to hypnosis. There is even a website that FALSELY states (without providing any evidence) that Swami Satyananda Saraswati developed yoga nidra from hypnosis. This contradicts everything that Swami Satyananda Saraswati wrote in his books regarding yoga nidra and hypnosis.

In Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005, pages 31-33), Satyananda states: "During yoga nidra the brain is completely awake. ... However, in hypnosis, the subject is led into a deep sleep in which the brain is completely shut down. The consciousness is confined to a small area and the capacities are limited."

In a later book titled Sure Ways to Self-Realization by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1980, reprinted in 2004, page 120), it states: "Yoga nidra has been compared to hypnosis, but the two have little in common. In hypnosis, one becomes extremely sensitized to the external suggestions for therapeutic or other purposes, whereas yoga nidra is a means of heightening self-awareness to witness one's own psychic awakening."

In Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga by Richard Miller, Ph.D. (Sounds True, Inc. 2005, page ), Dr. Miller writes "Please understand that yoga nidra is not hypnosis, but rather the deeper and most profound but very natural state of meditation."

There are distinct differences between yoga nidra and hypnosis. The most important difference is that it is absolutely crucial to "STAY AWAKE" and "STAY CONSCIOUS" in yoga nidra. If you are not conscious, then you are not doing yoga nidra.

The terms "STAY AWAKE" and "STAY CONSCIOUS" are not normally found in any hypnosis script. Also, in my personal experiences, a professor with a Ph.D. was unable to hypnotize me and said that I was "too self-conscious".



[ Are the induction methods part of yoga nidra or not?]

Throughout the book titled Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Publications Trust 1976, reprinted in 2005), Satyananda clearly includes the systematic methods and practices of yoga nidra as part of yoga nidra.

However, in the Introduction tract of Yoga Nidra Meditation CD: Extreme Relaxation of Conscious Deep Sleep (Audio CD) by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (October 2003), Jnaneshvara states that yoga nidra is not any of the methods used to get into the yoga nidra state of consciousness.

In my opinion, the induction methods of yoga nidra are clearly integral parts of yoga nidra. Without first learning and using some of these methods, it would be unlikely for anyone to be intentionally doing yoga nidra or be experiencing the yoga nidra state of conscious sleep. Therefore, it is reasonable to include the induction methods (and other practices associated with yoga nidra) as part of yoga nidra.

However, whether the induction methods are included as part of the definition of yoga nidra or not included is really unimportant, as it makes no difference to the art and practice of yoga nidra. So, it should be fine to exclude the induction methods from the definition of yoga nidra, if desired.



Recommended Books

Yoga Nidra
by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Paperback: 261 pages
Publisher: Yoga Pubulications Trust; (1976, 6th edition - October 1, 2001)
ISBN: 8185787123

This book is the Bible for yoga nidra as it was written by the modern founder and developer of yoga nidra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 1976. This book should be essential reading for all serious students of yoga nidra.



Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga
by Richard Miller, Ph.D.
Hardcover: 91 pages
Publisher: Sounds True; Book & CD edition (November 28, 2005)
ISBN: 1591793793

This book serves as an excellent supplement to the book Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. It offers the reader a different viewpoint of yoga nidra from a clinical psychologist, whose interest is in having you discover your "true nature".

It may also be possible to use this book without any other resources to learn how to do yoga nidra. In back of the book, there is a CD containing some guided yoga nidra practices. (Unfortunately, my CD came with bits of glue on the recorded side causing horrible sound.)



The Five Tibetans
by Christopher S. Kilham
Paperback: 84 pages
Publisher: Healing Arts Press (1994)
ISBN: 1591793793 ISBN: 0892814500

This book contains a chapter on yoga nidra with some information that is not mentioned in the two books that are titled Yoga Nidra. The information is in regards to self-healing and exploring the unknown.



There are also other books about yoga that include a chapter on yoga nidra. Unfortunately, most of these books concentrate on the relaxation aspect of yoga nidra only. Some of these books even leave the reader with the impression that that's all yoga nidra is.



Recommended Audio CD's

Experience Yoga Nidra: Guided deep relaxation
by Swami Janakananda Saraswati
Publisher: Bindu Publishers; Audio CD edition (May 1997)
ISBN: 9163094886

Pro's -

Contains a short yoga nidra meditation (21:03) and a long yoga nidra meditation (45:17) as well. The short session includes exercises dealing with awareness of sensation, alternate nostril breathing and visualization. The long session includes exercises involving attention to body parts, awareness of opposites, energizing the chakras and visualization. Contains a spiritual music track (7:06) played on a swara-mandala harp. In the yoga nidra state, I literally felt the music. Includes a small descriptive booklet.

Con's -

The long yoga nidra meditation contains some instructions regarding chakras (or energy centers) and uses a red-lotus for Sahasrara or the Crown Chakra. In my personal opinion, it would be better to use any of the traditional colors of white, purple or gold for the Sahasrara chakra.

Swami Janakananda Saraswati was a student of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (the modern day founder and developer of yoga nidra), who also assigned a red lotus to Sahasrara. However, in his own book Kundalini Tantra (published in 1984 and reprinted in 2004), Swami Satyananda Saraswati wrote the following (on page 116):

"So each of the principal chakras can be visualized as a lotus flower with a specific colour and number of petals:

1. Mooladhara - four-petalled deep red lotus
2. Swadhisdhana - six-petalled vermillion lotus
3. Manipura - ten-petalled bright yellow lotus
4. Anahata - twelve-petalled blue lotus
5. Vishuddhi - sixteen-petalled violet lotus
6. Ajna - two-petalled silver-grey lotus
7. Sahasrara - one thousand-petalled multicolored or red lotus"

and then, wrote "Your experiences are just as valid as mine, but one thing is definite: as you move up through the chakras, the frequencies of the colors become more subtle and more powerful."

After making his later statement, how could Swami Satyananda Saraswati have assigned deep-red to the first chakra, blue to fourth chakra and red (again) to the seventh chakra? There appears to be a contradiction with his assignment of colors and his statement regarding the frequencies of colors.

Note that the real color of Sahasrara may be indescribable so that any color(s) could be used to represent it including red, gold, purple and white. Also, note that it may be possible to circumvent this color problem by copying its contents to another CD or tape and then, editing the red lotus to any desired color(s).

However, even with this one problem, the CD is still an excellent yoga nidra CD to have and use. I used it and continue to use it.



Yoga Nidra Meditation CD: Extreme Relaxation of Conscious Deep Sleep (Audio CD)
by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
Publisher: Tranquility Productions (October 2003)
ISBN: 0972471901

Pro's

The material on the CD is well organized. Its contains separate tracks in regards to three different induction methods: a Body Scan method, a 61 Point method and a Breathing method. This CD also contains a 10 minute silent period while one is in the yoga nidra state. This is an important exercise to do, but is not found on any other yoga nidra CD.

Con's

There is no explanation for the symbols (golden egg, moon, point of light like blue star) that are to be visualized at various parts of the body. (NOTE: I know the symbolic meanings for golden egg and moon from my study of yantras, but I am not sure of the symbolic meaning for blue star.) However, even with this one problem, the CD is still an excellent yoga nidra CD to have and use. I used it and continue to use it.



Amrit Method (TM) of Yoga Nidra CD's by Yogi Amrit Desai including:

Introduction to the Alpha State

Journey through the Body : 61 Point Yoga Nidra

Rapid Journey : 61 Point Yoga Nidra

Shavayatra : 61 Point Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Healing and Rejuvenation

Chakra Balancing & Realignment

Meditation of the Divine Mother (NOTE: While this is not a yoga nidra CD, it can be used by anyone who knows how to get into the yoga nidra state to help activate Anahata - the Heart chakra.)

NOTES:

I will not be reviewing or critiquing the contents of these particular CD's because I am a student of Amrit Yoga and do not want to appear as biased. However, I have used and continue to use these CD's, which are available at the Amrit Kala Store at http://www.amritkala.com/



Feedback

Hi there,

I'm new to Yoga Nidra (only tried it once so far) and have had a very powerful experience, so much so that I felt physically sick at one point during the 40 minute session, perhaps because I was unfamiliar with the ability to release and let go of the gunk that was coming up--I was trying to grasp onto it and analyse it but I now know that "allowing" is better than "analysing". Anyway, it all kind of freaked me out so I've done some research into the science behind the practice and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the fact that this operates on the subconscious--I am normally a bit of a control freak and like to have power over what is happening in my mind. (I don't like drinking alcohol to excess either for this same reason). Now that I've read your website, amongst others, what I am wondering is .....is it possible to "accidentally" awaken kundalini by going deep into the practice of yoga nidra? Can you control how deep you actually go or does the subconscious just sort of take over? It's just that my first experience with yoga nidra was pretty mindblowing, like a mini acid trip, (I haven't used hallucinogenic drugs in 12-15 years)and quite frankly I don't want to go there--I don't want some full on experience, just relaxation and to get back to my true self. Should I avoid yoga nidra and stick to seated meditation?

Any insight you can provide would be very greatly appreciated. There are definitely changes happening for me already (like I've started on a personal journey and can't turn back now) and I'm having trouble processing it all.

Kind regards
Stacy - 12 October 2008



<< is it possible to "accidentally" awaken kundalini by going deep into the practice of yoga nidra? >>

No. There are no exercises in yoga nidra that specifically deal with kundalini. Unless you are born with kundalini already awakened, most people get kundalini awakened via "shaktipat" (from a yoga master, who will know if you are ready or not) or via (very serious) "chakra meditation".

In cases where kundalini is "accidentally" awakened, kundalini will usually go back to sleep. Remember that kundalini is more advanced than chakras. In order for kundalini to function, the person needs to be at a specific point in his/her spiritual evolution and the major chakras from the root up to the crown must be opened (to some degree).



<< Can you control how deep you actually go or does the subconscious just sort of take over? >>

Not all exercises in Yoga Nidra deal with the subconscious. (e.g., the 61 points and the body scan). In exercises that may deal with the subconscious, the subconscious does not take over. Also, in Yoga Nidra, your aim is to always remain conscious.

Many people use the word "deep" in yoga nidra as with any other type of meditation. However, it is really how well you "relax", "silence/quiet" your mind and then, simply see and listen. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Furthermore, you can awaken yourself at any time for whatever reason. For example, imagine your alarm clock or telephone ringing. However, that can shock the body a little bit. A better way is to develop and have trigger to awaken yourself instantly in an orderly manner. In his CD titled Experience Yoga Nidra: Guided deep relaxation, Swami Janakananda Saraswati uses the mantra "OM TAT SAT" to end the yoga nidra session and tell you that you are now wide awake. So, you can simply think or think that you hear "OM TAT SAT".



<< Should I avoid yoga nidra and stick to seated meditation? >>

It is wise to try any of the various ways to meditate that seem interesting to you and then, regularly practice the ones that you like best.




About the Author

John Chin read about yoga nidra in a local newspaper that reported on a "Yoga Nidra Meditation Course" at the Yoga Way in Wappingers Falls, New York. He enrolled in that course that met on Mondays over an eight week period beginning in January 2006. Then, he repeated the course for a second and third time. During that time, one of his primary intentions used during yoga nidra practice was "I am a Master of Yoga Nidra." One of the results of that intention is this web page. He also attended a yoga nidra intensive workshop in Florida.

To contact, send email to: admin@religion-info.com   IMPORTANT: Be sure to include the characters "YN" in the SUBJECT. Otherwise, the email will be treated as spam and deleted.



Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Diana Mira Formisano, a senior instructor of Amrit Yoga, of the Yoga Way in Wappingers Falls, New York and to her teacher Yogi Amrit Desai of Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida for teaching me yoga nidra. Without them, I would not know about yoga nidra and this web page would not exist.



Awakening your PRANA, CHAKRAS and KUNDALINI

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