If there’s too much commotion in your life these days, try a little lying down meditation. If you fall asleep, that’s OK. Just try again! I’ve heard that twenty minutes of yogic sleep can be as restorative as eight hours of regular sleep.
Introduction to Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a form of guided relaxation practiced while lying down. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who also founded the Bihar School of Yoga, first developed the practice in the 1940s in India. While listening to the naming of fifty-four body parts, the practitioner enters a state of deep relaxation– the body enters a state similar to sleep, but the mind remains aware.
Since you will spend from thirty to forty-five minutes lying on the floor, it’s important to find a comfortable position. A blanket on top of a yoga mat helps cushion the surface area. A rolled up blanket under the knees can ease any discomfort felt in the low back. Once you find a comfortable position, try not to move. If you feel you absolutely have to move, make your movement as minimal as possible, keeping in mind that the intention is to allow the body to completely relax.
If lying down is not an option for you, it’s fine to practice Yoga Nidra while sitting. Assume the Egyptian God posture, with the feet flat on the floor, hands and forearms resting on the thighs, palms facing up. Feel your sitting bones grounded on the chair, with your spine upright and supported. Allow your head to rest by gently tilting the chin toward the chest.
Yoga Nidra is typically practiced on the floor, not in bed. The room temperature should be comfortable. If you’re cold, cover up with a blanket. The idea is to stay aware, not to fall into the oblivion of sleep. If you do fall asleep, or if you get lost in thought, try not to be hard on yourself. With practice you will remain more focused.
• Yoga Nidra: This term originated with Satyananda Saraswati. Yoga means union in English, and Nidra translates as sleep. Yoga Nidra has also been translated as the sleep of the yogis. During the practice, the mind is conscious, but the body relaxes. It is the conscious relaxation of the body that brings about the deep-seated rest enjoyed when practicing Yoga Nidra.
• Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses in order to focus the mind inwardly; one of the eight limbs of raja yoga outlined in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, a second-century Indian sage.
• Sankalpa: a seed of thought the practitioner plants in his or her own mind; a resolve; an intention; directing the mind toward a desired outcome.
Yoga Nidra, by Swami Satyananda Sarawsati, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India.
Yoga Nidra, by Richard Miller, Sounds True, 2005, Boulder, Colorado
The Living Yoga Program, Donna Belk, Charles MacInerney, and Ellen B. Smith.