yoga nidraBy Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500

In the deep sleep state known as “prajna” or wisdom, the Yoga practitioner may experience Yoga nidra. This state of understanding is where one can come to perceive the universal flux of being. In a state of prajna or Yoga nidra, the Yogi is able to eliminate afflictions.

The meditative sound of “aum” is composed of three letters—a, u and m. The “a” is the state of wakefulness, and external awareness through the mind and sense organs. The “u” represents the dream state, composed of internal experiences. The “m” represents the Yoga nidra state of deep, lucid sleep, being the third of four levels of consciousness. (The fourth level—absolute emptiness—is that of no sound with neither inward nor outward consciousness. This fourth level lies beneath the other three states.)

In the depictions of Vishnu reclining on the naga (snake), Sesha or Ananta, he is in a state of Yoga nidra, creating the phenomenal world, and taking part in it, similar to the sense of lucid dreaming.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati developed this system of relaxation in the mid 20th century, after studying and practicing the tantric scriptures. His explanation of Yoga nidra was as a state of mind between wakefulness and dream, wherein deep constructs of the mind become opened.

He defined a practice of eight stages to bring the practitioner to a pure state of Yoga nidra. The eight stages are:

• Internalization

• Sankalpa—a resolution made during the practice by the individual to clearly define and focus on a particular goal, effectively awakening willpower by uniting conscious awareness with unconscious, dormant energies

• Rotation of One’s Consciousness

• Breath Awareness

• Manifestation of Opposites

• Creative Visualization

• Sankalpa—understanding one’s resolution at a yet deeper level

• Externalization

Yoga nidra is similar to a state of lucid dreaming where an internal lucidity is maintained. Experiences are directed and manifested in the sleeping-waking dream state that are not only directed within the altered state of consciousness, but are brought back to conscious awareness to inform the individual of progress with the sankalpa, or lessons, and other information to improve, heal and otherwise evolve the initiate.

Creative visualization is, therefore, a central technique of Yoga nidra. As a “sadhana,” or spiritual path, it prepares the Yogi for spiritual, emotional, mental and physical awareness of self and the phenomenal world surrounding the self. It additionally informs the yogi the means by which to work through karma—the consequences of one’s deed, while clearing consciousness and purifying the unconscious mind.

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