Yoga Nidra – meditation for the soul

I adore Yoga Nidra as the perfect way to take the mental 21st century western mind and give it space to relax, unwind, undo and focus away from incessant thinking.

We are literally taken over by our minds these days. We are stuffed full to the brim with thoughts. Even in dream state our mind is full which means that from a mental health and quality sleep perspective, we are never free of thinking. Stress is the modern day effect of mind over body and we rarely get a break from the monotony of a head full of thoughts. Some people are literally out of control of their minds which has a huge effect on health and well being, long term.

Meditation offers you the chance to take time out, press reset and channel your thoughts using vigilance and focus, diverting the mind to a calmer more peaceful you. Long term the benefits can be literally life changing as you learn to master your mind.

Yoga Nidra is effectively guided meditation, that is, you listen to a calm voice leading you through a sequence of visualisations and sensations that connect you to your body and mental patterns. It is the science of relaxation which enables each of us to dive deep down into the realms of the subconscious mind. Here in the deeper layers of our inner world we can literally break old patterns and undo deep intrinsic tensions in order to establish harmony in all facets of our being. It is perfect for busy heads and those new to meditation.

Nidra means ‘sleep with a trace of awareness’. It is the state of mind in between wakefulness and dreaming. It is known that just 20 minutes of of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep. We all enter the state of meditation as we lie down to sleep each night but this process of mediation attempts to keep you in the ‘awake sleep’ state.

Yoga Nidra follows a sequence of connecting you firstly to your breath, then the body. Various methods of breath connection maybe used and then what is termed the ‘rotation of consciousness’ which is a systematic process, taking your awareness around each body part. From here object focus follows and or a guided visualisation to a calm place like a beach or meadow. The idea of each section is to find an access point or breakthrough point to a deeper layer of the mind. The guiding voice may stop for periods of time for the mind to wander into it’s own visualisation or let each section ‘marinate’ the mind in peace.

Guidance for the best experience

  1. For the best results Yoga Nidra is best done in the evening just before bed or when you feel you are mentally overloaded/overwhelmed.

  2. Lie down on your back or side and make sure you are supported with pillows, cushions and blankets, creating warmth so that your body remains undisturbed during the meditation. As Swami Satyananda said ‘The physical posture of Yoga Nidra should be so comfortable that you forget the existence of the body so that it can almost be regarded as merely a shell or husk of the mind.’ It’s scientifically proven that lying flat is the best place to problem solve and closing the eyes for ‘in-sight.’

  3. Use an eye pillow if you have one. The gentle weight of a soft eye cover really helps the mind to relax deeper.

  4. If you feel a little physically twitchy then tense your whole body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Hold the tension and take a long breath in, then as you exhale, simply relax the whole body. Do this 3-4 times. It greatly helps the physical body to soften and ease.

  5. Listen to the guided Yoga Nidra meditation of your choice. Let go any efforting and be willing to be spontaneously lead by the guiding voice.

  6. The practise of Yoga Nidra is the act of hearing and feeling. These are the only important factors.

  7. Let go of wanting to intellectualise the content of the meditation, that will keep you in your thought space.

  8. You function on the level of awareness; just be aware, without effort.

  9. If your mind wanders, it isn’t wrong, just keeping practising bringing your mind back to the words.

  10. Periodic distraction is ok. It helps in keeping you alert from sleeping.

  11. Any tensions that arise that initiate fidgeting or falling asleep, don’t worry. Make a little adjustment here and there.

  12. Practise a 25 minute Yoga Nidra meditation at least 3 times a week, before bed preferably. It’s the best way to switch off and get a nourishing sleep. I feel much more clear headed and energised the day after.

  13. After the session either drift to bed or keep the rest of the day as peaceful as possible to gain full benefit.

  14. Drink some water to hydrate.

 

What you may experience

  1. Everyone is different. You maybe a visual person so visualise the breath entering or leaving the body or each body part. You maybe a sensory person and therefore lean towards sensing or feeling each body part or your breath. You maybe both. The main thing is to use what works for you. The aim, if there is one, is to bring awareness fully to the body so you can connect deeply to it and to distract the mind towards peaceful visuals with what is suggested.

  2. At first it maybe very tricky to gain any kind of grasp on the incessant thoughts because you are so used to over thinking. The key is not to set up some kind of ‘wrestling down’ the mind to get it to behave. Relax and use the breath as your guiding light at first because of it’s simplicity. As you practise Yoga Nidra each time, you offer your mind a little more training which will set a new neural pathway in the brain. You have to do anything at least 21 days in a row to begin to change the patterns of the brain. Now there is a challenge for you!

  3. You may find you can’t settle and feel restless. This can be your mind feeling uncomfortable with the stillness that is created and an avoidance to slip into the psyche. The mind can be a tricky B! Just notice and be aware and be gentle with yourself. Stay with it. You will find peace.

  4. You may drift quickly to sleep. This is common if you feel tired. I can fall asleep quicker than usual when listening to guided meditation. The meditation is still working and the guiding voice will still be able access the deeper layers of your mind.

  5. You may find you come to just as the meditation is finishing. This is also very common.

  6. You may drift in and out of sleep which again is normal. It’s a tricky balance to remain awake but in that space before sleeping which is like dusk before night. It’s a very lucid place when you are just aware but not asleep.

  7. You may have profound insights about your life or find yourself just knowing the answer to something that you have needed guidance with. I believe Yoga Nidra helps you find clarity on so many things. In this space there is no noise of random thoughts. It’s pretty amazing and something that comes and goes quite frequently. The key is to allow this ‘dusk’ state of mind to arise rather than chase it.

Post meditation

You may feel exhausted after Yoga Nidra if you live life in the fast lane, or you may feel emotional and feel like crying. You can feel any number of things as you progress with meditation. It’s effects can be to push up and release your history if it has fragmented or disturbed your mental/emotional or physical harmony. This is the way of meditation. To restore balance this will often happen. Go with it and try to observe what is coming through releasing the associated emotions safely.

If you are meditating during the day, take some time to reflect on anything that arose. I find if helpful to write things down if they are particularly poignant or profound.

Most of all allow yourself to dance with and practise Yoga Nidra with a light heart. It is a beautiful balm for a hectic or troubled mind and it can change your mind health and life if you let it.

Namaste x

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Gina
Yoga teacher at Gina Hardy Yoga

I am a Yoga guide, relationship coach and therapist. I focus on teaching Yoga these days and love to teach in class, on retreat and in a 1:1 setting with clients. My motto for life is ‘Live, Learn, Love, Pay it Foward’ Pay your wisdom forward, tread lightly on this earth and leave footprints of love. Thank you, you are always loved no matter what. Gx


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