The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word nidra is ‘sleep’. Thus, yoga-nidra means ‘yogic sleep’. But in reality, the person who practices yoga-nidra avoids sleep in the whole process. He is awake in the process, although his awareness is different from the normal state of wakefulness. His state of consciousness in yoga-nidra occupies a stage which is in between the usual state of wakefulness and that of sleep. The basic Yoga Nidra steps are mentioned below (along with its Sanskrit name) in the sequence of its techniques:
- Preparation (prastuti)
- Relaxation (sithilikarana)
- Resolve (sankalpa)
- External shifting of consciousness (cetana-sancarana)
- Mental Channel-Purification through reverse counting (Saviloma-Gnana Manasika Nadi-Shodhana)
- Moving visualization of scenarios (kalpanika caladdrsya-darsana)
- Resolve (sankalpa)
- Finish (samapti)
Lie down in savasana. Be aware of your physical environment – your room, the mat or the folded blanket on which you lie. Do not use any pillow under your head. Fix your consciousness on the objective of your Yoga-Nidra.
In this introductory step, you have to serve two admonitions to yourself. They are:
- “No parts of my body will move during Yoga-Nidra”, or, in other words, “I will be motionless”.
- “I will not sleep during Yoga-Nidra“.
In this initial state, remove all worries, tensions, and conflicting thoughts (rather all thoughts other than yoga-nidra) from your mind. Let the mind be still.
Make all parts of your body, from feet to head, relaxed. While you are in savasana, with closed eyes and relaxed body, do ujjayi pranayama, variety-1 (the basic form with awareness on the inhalations and exhalations), or variety-2 (with ajapa japa), or variety-3 (with silent pranava japa). In variety 2 or 3, the silent repetition of the mantra should be in synchronization with the inhalations and exhalations.
A minimum period of five minutes is recommended for this second limb of yoga-nidra.
Mentally repeat your resolve (sankalpa) three times.
External shifting of consciousness (Bahirnyasa)
Shift your awareness from location to location in your external body. This is ksipra calad-dharana (ksipra meaning ‘fast’ and calad meaning ‘moving’). Follow a definite sequence. Rapidly shift. While you momentarily fix your awareness on a location, mentally utter the name of that part of your body, and, for a moment, concentrate on that part (not for more than a moment). This is ksanika dhyana (ksana meaning ‘moment’). The following sequence is suggested.
Right Side: Right thumb tip, index finger tip, middle finger tip, ring finger tip, little finger tip, thumb root, index finger root, middle finger root, ring finger root, little finger root, right palm, the back of the right hand, right wrist, right forearm, right elbow, right upper arm, right shoulder joint, right side of the chest, right side of the abdomen, right side of the hip, right thigh, right knee, right shank, right ankle, right heel, right sole, the top of the right foot, the right big toe, the second toe, the third toe, the fourth toe, the fifth one.
Left Side: Follow the same sequences as in the right side.
Front Side: The top of the head, the forehead, the right eye, the left eye, the spot between the two eyebrows, the right ear, the left ear, the right nostril, the left nostril, the right cheek, the left cheek, the upper lip, the lower lip,the upper line of teeth, the lower line of teeth, the roof of the mouth, the tip of the tongue, the chin, the front part of the neck or the throat, the right collar-bone, the left collar-bone, the right chest, the left chest, the middle depressed part of the chest, the upper abdomen, the lower abdomen, the right groin, the left groin, the genital.
The Back Side: The occipital (extreme back) head, the backside of the neck, the right shoulder, the left shoulder, the right shoulder-blade, the left shoulder-blade, the hump region between the two shoulders, the upper back, the middle back, the lower back, the right buttock, the left buttock, the anus.
Mental Channel-Purification through Reverse Counting (Saviloma-Gnana Manasika Nadi-Shodhana)
Here, the nadi-shodhana pranayama is done mentally, without the nostril control and without the actual alternate flow of the inhaling or the exhaling air through one or the other nostril. It is imagined that breathing is done through alternate nostrils: inhalation through the left nostril (ida puraka) exhalation through the right nostril (pingala recaka) inhalation through the right nostril (pingala puraka) exhalation through the left nostril (ida recaka).
While doing the reverse counting, one number is counted twice for puraka (inhalation) and for recaka (exhalation) combinedly for one breath. The total number of breaths to be counted may be 108, or 54, or 27, depending upon the time one can afford to spare.
Follow the procedure outlined.
Focus your attention on your natural and quiet breath through both nostrils. Let your breath be spontaneous. After a while, imagine that you are breathing through alternate nostrils. Maintain your awareness and start counting each inhalation and exhalation. Count in the reverse order. Say, you decide to count 27 times.
Count as follows: Left inhalation (ida puraka) 27, right exhalation (pingala recaka) 27, right inhalation (pingala puraka) 26, left exhalation (ida recaka) 26, left inhalation (ida puraka) 25, right exhalation (pingala recaka) 25, and so on up to one. After you finish counting, remain aware of your natural and spontaneous breathing through both nostrils.
This completes your mental channel-purification (manasika nadi shodhna). Next, you may go for rotating visualization.
Moving visualization of scenarios (kalpanika caladdrsya-darsana)
Visualize scenes and scenarios in your mind. Rapidly shift your awareness from one scene to the other in succession.
- Peepal tree (Ficus religiosa tree)
- Neem tree (Azadirachta indica tree)
- Mango tree (Mangifera Indica tree)
- Jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus tree)
You may adopt trees of your locality and familiarity.
You may adopt flowers of your locality and familiarity.
You may adopt animals of your locality and familiarity.
Day and Night Scenario
- River in spate
- Winter snowfall; snow-covered mountain
- Summer heat; dry landscape: desert sands
Mountains on three sides; Valley expanding to one side
- A vast, dense, green forest
- Autumnal green crop field spreading all around
- A green park
- A cactus garden
Repeat your resolve three times.
Relax and maintain your awareness of your natural breathing.
Visualize your surroundings – the room in which you lie and its setting, the physical existence of your body lying on the floor. Become aware of the fact that you were practicing yoga-nidra. Keep on closing your eyes for some more time. See that your consciousness is now externalized.
You may now move your limbs and stretch yourself. When you are fully awake, sit up slowly and open your eyes.
The practice of yoga-nidra is now complete.
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