At Sadhana, we’re dedicated to all aspects of yoga.
Bringing asana (postures), chanting, meditation, and breath awareness together offers a clear path for enhancing health, wellbeing, and spiritual growth. We offer the rich history, philosophy, and teachings of the yoga tradition to students and teachers alike.
Sadhana, from the Sanskrit, means "conscious spiritual practice". Our teachings reflect a philosophy that views oneself from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, cultivating fearlessness, awe and delight in the world around us.
April: Yoga Nidra
This month we will delve into the fascinating world of Yoga Nidra. This practice, often called yogic sleep, or psychic sleep, has ancient roots in Indian traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Yoga nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, and is among the deepest states of relaxation while still maintaining consciousness.
Satyananda Saraswati constructed this system of relaxation, which he popularized in the mid-twentieth century. He explained yoga nidra as a state of mind between wakefulness and sleep that opened deep phases of the mind, suggesting a connection with the ancient tantric practice called nyasa, whereby Sanskrit mantras are mentally placed within specific body parts, while meditating on each part (of the bodymind). The form of practice taught by Satyananda includes eight stages (internalization, sankalpa, rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, manifestation of opposites, creative visualization, sankalpa and externalization).
My first contact with yoga nidra was reading about the groundbreaking scientific experiments with an Indian yogi, Swami Rama, at the Menninger Foundation, in Kansas, in 1971. Under the direction of Dr. Elmer Green, researchers used an electroencephalograph to record the brainwave activity of Swami Rama, while he progressively relaxed his entire physical, mental and emotional structure through the practice of yoga nidra. What they recorded was a revelation to the scientific community. The swami demonstrated the capacity to enter the various states of consciousness at will, as evidenced by remarkable changes in the electrical activity of his brain.
The practice of yoga relaxation has been found to lessen tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating, and abdominal pain respond well to the practice. It has been used to help soldiers from war cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as people struggling with addiction. Other benefits include: awakened creativity, enhanced memory and learning capacity, reduced stress and stress-related disorders.
The yoga nidra practice starts by developing an intention for your life and for the practice. Then you learn to focus your awareness on your breath, bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Throughout, you are encouraged to tap into an underlying sense of peace that is always present and to cultivate “witness consciousness,” observing and welcoming whatever is present without getting caught up in it.
Learning to observe and welcome all of the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that arise in deep rest can lead a person to become less identified with the individual self. In this experience it is possible to lose the sense that one is separate from others and to tap into an unshakable sense of interconnectedness to all of life.
Yoga nidra is a practice that everyone, from children to seniors, can do. All you’ll need to do is to lie down in savasana and follow the voice instructions. Falling asleep is okay, too, as you will still receive benefits while the unconscious mind is absorbing the practice. Done with consistency and awareness, the practice of yoga nidra will give you a good amount of peace in a short amount of time.
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