Yoga nidra is the practice of psychic sleep. It’s not an asana, but a conscious state that flirts on the border of sleep. Deep transformation can happen in yoga nidra because you can set a resolve that permeates into the subconscious through the practice, bringing powerful potential for healing and self-growth.
Yoga nidra is sort of like a very long Savasana (Corpse pose). Here, you lie on your back, get comfortable, close your eyes, and settle in. However, yoga nidra is a much longer practice and can sometimes last for an hour. And you are not left in silence, but guided through the practice by a teacher who directs your awareness throughout your body, breath, senses, emotions, and to archetypal imagery.
7 stages of yoga nidra
- 1) Make a resolve or affirmation.
- 2) Rotate your consciousness throughout the annamaya kosha (physical body).
- 3) Bring attention to the breath to connect to the pranamaya kosha (pranic body).
- 4) Become aware of sensory input to tap into the manomaya kosha (mind body).
- 5) Direct your attention to the chakras and psychic symbols to connect to the vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual body).
- 6) Repeat your resolve to connect to the anandamaya kosha (bliss body).
- 7) Gradually return to your normal level of consciousness, concluding the practice.
Making an affirmation
The affirmation used in yoga nidra goes far beyond positive thinking. It should be a resolve for your betterment and a short sentence that you want and believe will surely come true. It should be the same each time you practice, too. Something like “my body is healthy” would be great for someone who’s sick, or “I am lovable” for someone who’d like to improve their self-love. And it should be in the present tense. Our resolve settles into the subconscious through the practice of yoga nidra, enabling deep and profound changes in your self-perception and the body.
Why practice yoga nidra?
Practicing yoga nidra provides the following health benefits.
- Brings deep relaxation
- Withdraws the senses (pratyahara)
- Resolves bad habits
- Releases body tension
- Helps you fall asleep
- Brings connection to the inner self
- Taps into the subconscious
- Can aid in physical healing
Yoga nidra can be practiced at any time, except right after eating, as you may be more inclined to fall asleep then. You may consider practicing in the morning, after asana or meditation, or before you go to sleep. It makes a nice prelude to sleep by relaxing the body and unwinding the mind for deeper, more restful slumber.
Step by step
Yoga nidra is typically a guided practice. Below you’ll find the skeleton of a full yoga nidra session. Repeat instructions and elaborate as needed.
Use a chanting-like tone that is smooth and affectionate. Give a pause between each instruction and don’t be afraid to repeat. Your students will drift in and out of consciousness. When directing their awareness around the physical body, do so quickly—just long enough for them redirect their attention and mentally recite the body part name.
Guided yoga nidra
- 1) Lie down on your back for the practice of yoga nidra. Bring your feet as wide as your mat. Rest your arms by your sides, away from your body, and palms facing the sky. Get completely comfortable. Adjust yourself so that you are comfortable on the floor. Close your eyes. Now find stillness. Do not move throughout the practice of yoga nidra. Keep your body still and relaxed. Release any tension from your body and find complete relaxation.
- 2) Stay awake throughout the practice of yoga nidra. Tell yourself, “I will not sleep. I will remain awake.” Simply follow my voice throughout the practice but do not try to intellectualize my words. Kindly follow my voice as I guide your consciousness throughout your body.
- 3) Now decide upon a resolve. Find a simple resolve, an affirmation. Find a resolve for yourself. Choose a resolve in the present tense. It should be clear, direct, and simple. This resolve will surely come true in your real life. It is bound to happen in your own life. Fix your resolve and use this resolve now and at the end of the yoga nidra practice. Now mentally repeat your resolve, knowing that it will most certainly fructify.
- 4) Bring your awareness to your physical body and become aware of your physical body. Remind yourself, “I am listening to the instructions, I am awake.” Follow my voice as I guide your awareness to different parts of the body and bring your full awareness to each specific area. Do not concentrate too much but move your mind quickly. If I move too quickly, don’t worry, direct your awareness where you next hear my voice.
After I say a body part, mentally repeat the name of that body part. Right thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf muscle, ankle, heel, sole of the foot, right big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe. (Then repeat on the left side.)
- 5) Feel your body get very heavy. Awaken the feeling of heaviness throughout your body. Become aware of your whole body heavy on the floor. Now awaken the feeling of lightness. Feel your body being very light. Feel each part of the body very light. Repeat to yourself, “I am not sleeping.”
- 6) Bring your attention to the chakras. Become aware of the chakras. First chakra, second chakra, third chakra, fourth chakra, fifth chakra, sixth chakra, seventh chakra (and then the reverse). Concentrate on the psychic symbols of these chakras. (Guide them through the chakras once more, naming the symbol for each.) Now visualize these images as I say them. Imagine each of these images: a starlit sky, a blue lotus, a burning candle, and the moon. (Guide them throughout imagery.)
- 7) Now become aware of your physical body. Your physical body, your physical body, your physical body. Bring your awareness to your physical body. Repeat your resolve, the same resolve from the beginning of your practice, three times. Know that it will surely come true. The practice of yoga nidra is complete.
Explain the importance of the resolve. You might give your students a couple of examples so that they understand it should be simple, short, and in the present tense. Guide them toward repeating the resolve at the end of the practice and reflecting upon it just before coming out of yoga nidra.
As they’re lying down and deeply relaxed, some students may fall asleep. This isn’t ideal—yoga nidra is meant to be a state of “sleepless” sleep. Counter this by reminding them throughout the practice to remain awake with intermittent instructions, such as “remain alert,” “do not sleep,” and “tell yourself ‘I am awake.’”
Educate your students on the benefits of yoga nidra. Let them know that it’s more than a long Savasana but brings profound physical and spiritual relaxation and heals the subconscious.
- Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Meditations from the Tantras. Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust, 1983.
- Stiles, Mukunda. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2007.