This is the second part of the series- “Complete guide to Yoga Nidra”
For Part 1 – click here
Eight Stages of Yoga Nidra
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the founder of Bihar School of Yoga, devised the modern Yoga Nidra concept and codified the practice in eight stages. Let us guide you through these eight stages of Satyananda Yoga Nidra practice.
Stage 1: Preparation
To begin with the process, you must relax your body and create a suitable surrounding, calm and serene. Select a space where you can lie down in Shavasana. Make enough room on the floor so that your body doesn’t make contact with any object. Lie down on the floor, cover yourself with a blanket, and assume Shavasana position, limbs stretched out in a relaxed position with no tension at the joints.
Stage 2: Sankalpa – The Resolution
When you begin Yoga Nidra, you need a Sankalpa, a resolution, a determination to focus upon. It’s not like that you are doing Yoga Nidra to fulfill a wish or a dream. Taking a Sankalpa is a way of strengthening your will power. It’s a way of training your conscious and subconscious mind to work towards fulfilling your goals.
So when you begin Yoga Nidra, you take a Sankalpa, and when the session is about to end, you repeat the Sankalpa. You are planting the seed in your subconscious mind. As you keep on practicing Yoga Nidra every day, you nourish the seed so that it grows into a healthy plant. The process continues till the time your Sankalpa comes true.
Stage 3: Rotation of Consciousness
There are two sections in this stage – rotation of sound awareness and rotation of body awareness.
The rotation of sound awareness begins with the process of internalization. You start by focusing on external sounds. You will hear all types of sounds – insects creaking, wind blowing, footsteps in the alley, horn blowing, and so on. Gradually, your focus on the external sounds diminishes, and instead, it shifts inside you. You start becoming aware of your presence. This is the point where the process of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) comes in.
The rotation of body awareness makes you realize the “wholeness” of your body, not just individual parts. The instructor guides you through the process of internal awareness of the body parts. He or she names the body part, you think about the part, and you become aware of it. As soon as the instructor names another body part, you become detached from the previous body part and your awareness shifts to this particular part. The process continues until you become aware, and at the same time, detached of the whole body.
Stage 4: Breath Awareness
Once your body becomes still, the internal processes also calm down. Your breath and heart rate slows down. You enter a relaxed state. In this stage, you watch and observe your breath. You DO NOT control it. Just let it flow through different channels and become aware of its movement. The process will further open the door to consciousness within you.
The breath is the link between physical and mental aspects. It is the Prana (the life force). The relaxed breathing calms your mind and body. Eventually, it removes the psychological blocks, revealing your suppressed thoughts and emotions. You observe your thoughts and let them pass by, without holding on to them. Ultimately, relieving yourself of the unnecessary weight that you have been carrying for a long time.
Stage 5: Manifestation of Opposites
In this stage, the practitioner learns to deal with the emotions and the emotional states. The instructor arouses opposite emotions or feelings at the physical and emotional level. The opposite feelings can be love/hate, heat/cold, pain/pleasure, and so on. As a practitioner, you experience these opposite emotions, let them fade away after some time, and finally enter into a relaxed state, unaffected by the emotions.
This stage activates the limbic system of the brain that deals with three key functions: emotions, memories, and arousal. The ultimate aim of this practice is to develop will power, emotional control, and composure.
Stage 6: Creative Visualization
This stage will invoke the power of visualization within you. This practice aims to visualize imagery and use this visualization to construct or recall emotions and experiences. These experiences may be from the past, present, or the future. Since you are in a relaxed state, these visualizations don’t influence you. You are aware of the nature of these visualizations. But you will analyze them, use your creativity to paint a complete picture, and let it pass by without holding on to them.
Stage 7: Sankalpa
Remember the Sankalpa you took in Stage 2? It’s time to repeat the same Sankalpa and let the subconscious mind know what it needs to do. Since you are completely relaxed and aware of the cosmic consciousness within you, it’s the perfect moment to focus on your resolution. Your mind is receptive to the instructions, and therefore, you should recall the Sankalpa at this particular moment.
The Infinite Consciousness…
Before you proceed to the last stage, you experience the infinite consciousness within you. The seven stages of Yoga Nidra stimulate the consciousness within you. You are aware of the ‘inner spaces of consciousness’ within you. Chidakash, or the ‘space of mind consciousness’ manifest inside your forehead or behind your eyes. Hridayakash or the ‘space of heart consciousness’ exists at the center of your chest.
Yoga Nidra practice activates these inner spaces of consciousness within you where you can watch your thoughts, feelings, samskaras, and experiences. You watch them, but they don’t affect you. They appear, and they go, and you experience them, with complete detachment.
Stage 8: Externalization
The last stage brings back the practitioner from the internal world of psychic sleep to the external world. The process of externalization should be gradual because if it’s too quick, the practitioner may feel disoriented and the serenity after a Yoga Nidra session may disappear abruptly.
The instructor guides you through a series of steps, comprising of breath awareness, body awareness, and familiarization to the external surroundings. Finally, the transition takes place from sleep to wakefulness.
Learn Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is an ancient art devised by the Yogis and excelled by the Yoga experts. Whether you want to live a stress-free life or you want to open the door to opportunities, Yoga Nidra can assist you in both cases.
You need an instructor who can guide you through the complete process of Yoga Nidra, and help you in exploring the depths of consciousness within you. Get in touch with a Yoga Nidra expert to embark on the journey of self-awareness.
Learn Yoga Nidra at Jeevmoksha Yoga Gurukul Rishikesh.