The powerful practice of Yoga Nidra
Nidra is Sanskrit for “yogic sleep” and is also called “psychic sleep.” Yoga Nidra is a state of being. A state of consciousness between sleeping and waking.
‘Yoga’ meaning to experience interconnectedness or a wholeness of consciousness and ‘Nidra’ meaning sleep, implies the idea of conscious sleep. Most of you probably have some experience with meditation and some of you have experience with Yoga Nidra.
Meditation is about transcending reality. Yoga Nidra is about mastering reality. To understand this better, we need to think about consciousness and sleep as a whole.
Something happens in the brain when we go to sleep and there are actually a few stages in between being awake and falling into deep restful sleep. What we can see on a physical level with ECG brain scanning equipment is different brain wave patterns during different states of consciousness. In agent Hindu religion as far back as 3500 years ago, some of these brain wave states were documented and were actually incorporated into the AUM Symbol, as shown below.
It is only recently that western psychology has started to study what they call “brain wave entraining” which is a hybrid Yoga Nidra practice supported by peer reviewed studies.
The history of Yoga Nidra can be broken down into three main parts.
Around 1415BC - Vedas and Upanishad
Yoga Nidra as first written about in the Manduka Upanishad which is a collection of traditional Indian scripture from around 3300 years ago. It was also mentioned in one of the Vedas, in a poem which was written down long after it had been passed down verbally. In this poem Yoga Nidra is referred to as “The space from which everything was created” and is a metaphor for the creative void.
From 600AD - 1800s
Then in Medieval India since 600AD Hatha Yoga and meditation became widely popular across most of India. During this time Yoga Nidra was taught and documented with plenty of teacher training manuals available with information we still teach and learn today. This is when they first start to also write about all other states of consciousness.
1800s - now
Was adopted by the Western world and influenced by western psychology. Steps to Yoga Nidra in English were documented, creating a pathway. Influenced by positive thinking and autogenic training - which is moving awareness around body. This was actually adopted by Yoga Nidra practitioners in India. Current Yoga Nidra practice is a bit of a hybrid between the ancient practice and western psychology.
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