Yoga Nidra or Yogic Rest

In this article, I present a technique for yOga nidra (See sanskrit transliteration scheme) which not only produces great relaxation, but also gives other benefits discussed later in the article.

Originally, a technique was taught to me during my kriyA yOga initiations. During my practice, the technique discussed in this article evolved from within, as a modification of the original technique. The technique discussed here is only one of many techniques, just like there there are many meditation “techniques.” The goal is not the technique itself, but entering the state of tUriya (discussed below). Even though the technique itself is called yOga nidra, the name refers to entering the state of tUriya.

Before I go into discussing the technique itself, it is imperative that I discuss some background. There have been several books written on yOga nidra. Since I have not read any of those, I have not recommendation. I will state the theory that was presented to me during my kriyA yOga initiations.

States of Consciousness

Consciousness has four states:

  • Ordinary or Physical consciousness—This is present during daily activities.
  • Dream consciousness—This is present during astral experiences or in waking mental activities.
  • Dreamless deep sleep—Consciousness during this state.
  • Pure consciousness or tUriya—This is the fourth state of consciousness beyond the above three states. This is the source of the above three states. It is eternal, infinite and without any modifications. The name tUriya literally means the fourth.

What is yOga nidra?

By the practice of this technique one arrives at the fourth state of consciousness, i.e., tUriya.

The term yOga nidra, like many other sanskrit terms cannot be translated into English language well, but one may interpret it as yOgic Rest. One cannot use the literal meaning of the expression, “yOgic Sleep,” because one remains completely conscious even if the body sleeps.

yOga nidra is different from sleep because during sleep one withdraws awareness from the physical senses. This is also different from meditation because in meditation the practitioner does not seek to maintain awareness while the body rests in deep sleep.

Since the practitioner seeks to maintain awareness while the body is asleep, in the beginning stages of practice this technique should be practiced when he or she is already well rested—may be right after waking up from a good night’s sleep. This way he or she does not go off to sleep while practicing yOga nidra which defeats the purpose. If during the practice the practitioner realizes that he or she is falling asleep, he or she should discontinue that practice session, get up and try this again some other time.

Benefits of yOga nidra

It is said that only those who have evolved and practiced meditation can arrive at the state of tUriya. Ancient yOgis used this technique to rest and meditate. This is an advanced technique that can help students of yOga or any spiritual discipline to overcome mental obstacles, such as lethargy and inertia, on the path to inner awareness.

The technique of yOga nidra gives rest superior to that given by meditation. This is because during this practice the body-mind complex is completely relaxed and rested including the subconscious mind. The yOga nidra practice also brings vitality to the physical body, the nervous system, the brain and the sense organs.

The practice of yOga nidra supports and reinforces the practice of meditation.

Meditation can be done in any stable position, but yOga nidra is practiced in the recommended “lying prone” position or corpse pose (also known as, SavAsana or Sava SAnti Asana).

Cleansing the Subconscious Mind

Main purpose of the yOga nidra technique is to cleanse, the subconscious mind of, all the vAsanAs (habitual tendencies), and enter the fourth state of tUriya with ease. To cleanse the subconscious, “nEti, nEti” (I am not this, I am not that) technique is used, in the final steps of the technique. Initially, we may only enter the second state of consciousness discussed above, but with practice we may first get glimpses of the tUriya state and after a while we may enter that state for longer periods of time.

Using Affirmations

In the final step of this technique, you may use affirmations that can help you go further in your spiritual practice. For example, if waking up early is a problem for you, you can plant the affirmation like, “I am waking up regularly at 5 am without any difficulty and resistance.” If you are having some mental resistance to your spiritual practice, you can plant an affirmation like, “I am doing my spiritual practices, regularly, without any resistance.”

The Technique

CAUTION: Do the last step in this technique (nEti, nEti) for not more than 5 minutes in the beginning.

Though, looking at the number of steps, it feels like it is a long process, once you are used to the steps, it will only take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Lie down on a yOga mat, on carpet or a blanket.
  3. You may feel a bit cold as you are doing this technique. So, cover yourself with a blanket from neck down to your toes.
  4. You may want to prerecord a tape with the following instructions speaking in a slow, calm voice, so you don’t have to rely on your memory.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Now that you are lying down, spread your legs apart so your feat are a comfortable distance from each other.
  7. Spread your arms a comfortable distance from the body, with palms facing up. Keep the arms straight. The palms should be below the level of your heart.
  8. Now, you will progressively relax the physical body starting from head to toes.
  9. Slowly rotate your head side to side, a few times, to relax your neck. Bring the head back to its normal centered position.
  10. Lift your entire right arm up to a comfortable height from the floor. Tense the whole arm. Release and drop the arm to the floor as if it is limp.
  11. Bend your right arm up at the elbow. Drop it to the floor as if it is limp.
  12. Create a tight fist with your right hand. Release. Repeat a couple of more times.
  13. Lift your entire left arm up to a comfortable height from the floor. Tense the whole arm. Release and drop the arm to the floor as if it is limp.
  14. Bend your left arm up at the elbow. Drop it to the floor as if it is limp.
  15. Create a tight fist with your left hand. Release. Repeat a couple of more times.
  16. Rotate both legs in and out a few times. Release and bring the legs back to their comfortable position.
  17. Fold and squeeze the toes of both feet, by bending and releasing them successively. Repeat a few times.
  18. Lift your entire right leg up to a comfortable height from the floor. Tense the whole leg. Release and drop the leg to the floor as if it is limp.
  19. Lift your entire left leg up to a comfortable height from the floor. Tense the whole leg. Release and drop the leg to the floor as if it is limp.
  20. Use Deep Abdominal Breathing with a 5 count in-breath and a 5 count out breath, for the following steps until otherwise stated.
  21. First exhale to prepare.
  22. Visualize a golden ball touching your top-center of the head (crown cakra).
  23. Breathe in deeply for a count of 5 and at the same time visualize the top of your head filling with golden light from the ball. (In addition, you can, simultaneously, do a mental chant of the seed syllable for the crown cakra: aung.)
  24. While exhaling for a count of 5 move the golden ball to the center of the forehead (third eye or Agnya cakra)
  25. Now, while inhaling for a count of 5, visualize your entire head being filled with golden light. (In addition, you can, simultaneously, do a mental chant of the seed syllable: aum.)
  26. While exhaling for a count of 5 move the ball to the throat region (throat cakra or viSuddha cakra)
  27. While inhaling for a count of 5 visualize the entire throat being filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, do a mental chant of the seed syllable: ham.)
  28. While exhaling for a count of 5 move the ball to the center of the chest, to the center of the line joining the nipples (heart cakra or anAhata cakra.)
  29. While inhaling for a count of 5 visualize the entire upper torso being filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: yam).
  30. Now, split the golden ball into two smaller balls. While exhaling for a count of 5 move the balls down each of the arms and filling them with golden light as the balls pass through them. When the balls reach the center of the palms of your hands, split each of them into smaller balls one for each finger and move them to the tips of fingers.
  31. While inhaling for a count of 5, let both arms glow with golden light.
  32. While exhaling for a count of 5, let the balls come back to the palms, combine into a single ball and move up all the way up to the chest, where the two balls join back to form a single golden ball.
  33. While inhaling for a count of 5 visualize the entire upper torso being filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: yam).
  34. While exhaling for a count of 5 move the ball to the center of the abdomen (solar plexus or manipura cakra).
  35. While inhaling for a count of 5, fill the abdominal region with golden light. You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: ram.)
  36. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the sacral region (sex cakra or svAdhishtAna cakra).
  37. While inhaling for a count of 5, fill the entire lower abdominal (sacral) region with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: vam.)
  38. While exhaling for a count of 5, as we did for the heart cakra, split the golden ball into two halves and send them along the two legs, splitting them into small balls when you reach the toes, with each smaller ball reaching the tip of the toes.
  39. While inhaling for a count of 5, let both the legs glow with golden light.
  40. While exhaling for a count of 5, bring the balls from the tips of the toes to combine at the ball of the feet, then back all the way to the sacral region. Combine the two balls into one.
  41. While inhaling for a count of 5, fill the entire lower abdominal (sacral) region with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: vam.)
  42. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the perineum (root cakra or mUlAdhAra cakra).
  43. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire perineum and the whole of the bottom area glowing with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, want to chant the seed syllable: lam.)
  44. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball along the spine (along the back of your body) to the tailbone.
  45. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire tailbone area and lower back glowing with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: vam.)
  46. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the Lumbar-1 vertebra (solar plexus or manipura cakra).
  47. While inhaling for a count of 5, fill the entire solar plexus and lower back region with golden light. You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: ram.)
  48. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the Thoracic-4 vertebra (heart cakra or anAhata cakra).
  49. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire upper torso being filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: yam).
  50. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the Cervical-7 vertebra (throat cakra or viSuddha cakra).
  51. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire neck and throat being filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable, ham).
  52. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the back of the head.
  53. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire head filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: aum.)
  54. While exhaling for a count of 5, move the ball to the crown of the head.
  55. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the entire crown and head filled with golden light. (You may, simultaneously, chant the seed syllable: aung.)
  56. While exhaling, let the golden ball dissolve into the crown.
  57. Take a couple of deep breaths (inhale and exhale) and visualize the entire body filled with golden light.
  58. Now, visualize your golden body lying on a beach, with feet toward an ocean filled with golden water of consciousness.
  59. While inhaling for a count of 5, visualize the golden water of consciousness approaching you, covering you inside and out, from toes going over your head.
  60. While exhaling for a count of 5, visualize the golden water receding away from your feet.
  61. Do this for 5 breaths.
  62. Now, let go of the visualization and let the breath return to its natural rhythm. By this time, you should feel as if your body disappeared, or at least very heavy.
  63. While keeping your mental focus on the breath as it moves in and out, simultaneously, focus on the center of the chest (anAhata cakra) and practice the “nEti, nEti” technique described below. By keeping the anchor on your breath and the heart cakra, you just watch or witness thoughts, emotions, feelings and/or sensations as they arise. You just watch them without getting involved and carried away. Do this for a couple of minutes—not more than 5 minutes at the beginning.
  64. After you enter this deeper state, you can plant any affirmation that you have prepared before hand. Repeat the affirmation three or more times.

Coming Out of the State and Getting up

You should not get up abruptly.

  1. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  2. Wiggle your toes.
  3. Move your feet and legs.
  4. Move your arms.
  5. Rotate your head from side to side.
  6. Slowly, come back to your body.
  7. Roll to your right side.
  8. Support with your elbows and hands, and sit up.
  9. Rub your palms together vigorously to produce heat. Cup your eyes and slowly rub your eyes and open them.
  10. Before you stand up, let your eyes adjust to the surroundings.

The Technique of nEti, nEti

The word “nEti” refers to “negation.” In this technique, we become just passive witnesses to the thoughts, emotions, feelings and/or sensations without getting involved and creating a story. You can say, “I am not these thoughts. I am not these emotions. I am not these feelings. I am not these sensations. I detach from them and let them go,” as they appear on the conveyor belt of our consciousness. We don’t need to say the whole of the above sentence. We don’t need to identify them as feelings, emotions, etc. We can just say, “Detach and let go” as and when they occur. We negate everything that is not truly who or what we are. This is because who or what we are cannot be captured by our minds.

5 thoughts on “Yoga Nidra or Yogic Rest”

  1. Dear Desica,

    Thanks so much for your article about Nidra Yoga.Technique of Golden Ball and Light you explain is amazing.

    I do practice one of version of Nidra yoga every day for 45 years. Real treasure.
    Technique Of Golden Light deepen significantly my practice , so I would like to show my appreciation and thank you again.

    Kind Regards
    jack

  2. Mulanatha,

    Namaste,

    Very nice article and, what inspires me most, very practical and useful technique. All the best 🙂

    Om Nama Shivaya,
    – Babs

  3. Useful information. Lucky me I found your site accidentally, and I am stunned why this coincidence did not came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

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