Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Why it is so important to find deep rest and relaxation
The yogic texts all unequivocally state that peace can only be found within, never without. Therefore, if we wish to create a more peaceful world, we must first learn how to relax and harmonize our own body and mind.
Researchers wanted to measure awareness! But how do you do that?
They did! for the first time, and have succeeded in taking pictures of the brain during a meditative deep-relaxation, with as short a scanning time as one minute per image. The pictures were taken by one of the most advanced medical research instruments, the PET scanner, at The State University Hospital in Copenhagen. The initiators were researchers, Dr. Hans Lou and Dr. Troels Kjær from the Kennedy Institute in Copenhagen. Published in 1999.
The PET scanner’s pictures show that the subjects were not in a drowsy or unconscious state during the relaxation, as one would expect of a person in such a deep state. The participants remained considerably aware of what was happening. It is clearly visible how specific regions of the brain were activated sequentially, according to where the subject was in yoga nidra, also called yogic sleep. What happens in the brain during a nidra nap or where it happens is not a matter of chance. The results confirm the experience of the yogi: Concentration is a spontaneous state, which comes of its own accord when a method is used that removes whatever is hindering it.
Consciousness during yoga nidra is in a very deep and stable state.
The measurements show, for the first time, that one can be completely aware in such a deep state – that one can consciously experience and control the brain’s activity simultaneously. This confirms that meditation is the fourth major state, equal to dreaming, sleeping and wakefulness.
Why is yoga nidra more effective?
Research found that yogic sleep had a more thorough effect than the relaxations based on suggestion or hypnosis. During yoga nidra, the Alpha waves covered the whole brain and were constant throughout the practice, while they occurred only partially and irregularly during the other relaxations. Furthermore, the level of Alpha waves was constant throughout the entire yoga nidra, while it was irregular during the other relaxations. The balance between the EEG in the two brain halves was also improved in yoga nidra, which means that the two brain halves communicated better. These results were again confirmed in 1997 in another research.
In yoga nidra, the consciousness is in a state between waking and sleep, but it is subject to neither. In modern psychology this has been termed 'the hypnagogic state'. But the best name of all is 'yoga nidra'. In this state the mind is exceptionally receptive. Languages and other subjects can be learned rapidly. Suggestions given at this time are successful in removing unwanted habits and tendencies. In fact, yoga nidra can be used for directing the mind to accomplish anything. This is the secret of the extraordinary accomplishments of great yogis and swamis.
The practice of yoga nidra enables one to receive intuitions from the unconscious mind. This state is the fount of artistic and poetic inspiration.
It is also the source of the most creative scientific discoveries. Wolfgang von Goethe used the inspirations and intuitions from this state to solve problems arising in his work. Noble laureate Niels Bohr saw the planetary structure of the atom, and Einstein accelerated his awareness to the speed of light in the famous 'thought experiments' which led to the theory of relativity.
The intuitions received in yoga nidra enable one to find within himself the answers to problems. One's true nature and integrity manifest, enabling him to live a meaningful and peaceful life in any environment. This is the opening of the 'third eye', which takes the consciousness beyond the conditioned personality with its tensions and complexes. No longer emotionally identified with the mind and body, one's entire being is pervaded with divine consciousness.
Resting more efficiently
Most people think that relaxation is very simple; just recline and close your eyes. Yet, excepting the scientists, nobody understands what relaxation really means. You are tired so you go to bed and think that is relaxation. But unless you are free from muscular, mental and emotional tensions, you are never relaxed. Despite a superficial sense of wellbeing, most people are full of tensions all the time. In order
to relax completely, the inner tensions of the body, emotions and mind must be released. Then the actual state of relaxation dawns.
Yoga nidra is a more efficient and effective form of psychic and physiological rest and rejuvenation than conventional sleep. Those who adopt this technique in their daily routine soon experience profound changes in their sleeping habits. The total systematic relaxation of a yoga nidra session is equivalent to hours of ordinary sleep without awareness.
A single hour of yoga nidra is as restful
as 3-4 hours of conventional sleep
The nature of your mind can be changed
It can be weakening depending merely on intellect and the information of the senses. But once you open the doors of the deeper mind and you repose in yoga nidra, you are at the root of creativity.
In Hindu mythology the symbol of yoga nidra is Lord Narayana reposing on the ocean of milk. He is lying on a large serpent with many hoods, and the beautiful Lakshmi is massaging his feet. From his navel a lotus flower springs, and seated in the pericarp is Lord Brahma, symbol of the unconscious. This means that in yoga nidra, your unconscious manifests. Lord Narayana is in repose; your blanket is the serpent, and the floor is the milk ocean. Therefore, when you practise yoga nidra, you must completely relax, because this is not a practice in concentration. If you keep following the instructions of the person who is guiding you in yoga nidra, it is possible to open the doors of your personality. However, if you happen to miss a few instructions it does not matter; what is important is that you keep on listening to the voice.
Relaxing the mind by relaxing the body
This is where we make the connection between the latest neurosurgery and the meditation technique of yoga nidra. If you have ever practised this technique, you will recognize the sign posts on the sensory-motor cortex as precisely those parts of the body through which your awareness passes during rotation of consciousness.
It systematically changes and cycles through brain wave states, lowering beta and increasing alpha, theta and delta for the better.
Yoga nidra literally changes the ‘fluctuations of the mind’
by slowing down brain wave frequencies
Biological sleep only refreshes the body-mind and cannot promote self-realization like yoga nidra can. Feelings of meditative expansiveness are objective biological facts that can be measured in DNA, neurotransmitters, brain waves and more. The physical body changes as the mind changes.
Impressing the mind
When the relaxation is complete, the receptivity is greater.
It is highly beneficial to practise Yoga Nidra when we are exhausted from work, family, from any demands or daily pressures. It's as though a door opens and stagnant energy has a way out—to allow for a fresh understanding of the inherent order of things to emerge.
There are distinct levels of mind.
Some are very hard soil; some are very tender soil.
The conscious mind is like hard soil because it has intellect and logic in operation.
Intellect is a process of analyzing things. It does not accept everything; it rejects as well.
But the deeper consciousness is not like that.
Whatever impression you plant within the subconscious mind cannot be rejected.
It will grow and the fruits will enrich every aspect of your life.
When best to practice?
Studies conducted by the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School have shown that Yoga Nidra can improve sleep, especially when practiced during the day. However, it can also be done at bedtime.
Benefits of yoga nidra
· Promotes better sleep and helps with insomnia
· Decreases anxiety, stress and pain
· Improves memory, focus and concentration
· Promotes healing on a cellular level
· Promotes self-realisation
· Strengthens immune system
· Balances emotions
· Offers deep relaxation and rest
· Stimulates creativity
The practice of yogic sleep gives the body time to rest, recover and restore, which thereby brings down inflammation and improves the function of the immune system.
Yoga nidra improves sleep and reduces insomnia. The work done in yoga nidra with a sankalpa (an intention or positive affirmation) can facilitate life altering changes in one’s thought patterns, relationships and achievements. It is a powerful tool that yogis have been using for many many years.
Transform your life, especially your sleep, energy and emotions.
As you learn the basics of yoga nidra, you align with your true desires, feel grounded, relaxed, and safe in your body, and call your scattered energy back. As your practice deepens, your mind releases habits of worry and negative chatter, the voice of your inner wisdom is amplified, and you sink into a blissful trust that everything is okay.
Long-term integration of rest in your daily life leads you to greater love and approval of yourself, a restoration of your wholeness, and a lifestyle that truly supports your biggest dreams.
The first scientific study; “A 15O‐H2O PET study of meditation and the resting state of normal consciousness” (Hans C. Lou, Troels W. Kjaer et al.), done in Copenhagen, is published in the magazine: Human Brain Mapping , Volume 7 Issue 2, pages 98-105, February 1999.
The second study; “Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness” (Troels W Kjaer, Camilla Bertelsen et al.), done in London and Denmark,
is published in Cognitive Brain Research, Volume 13, Issue 2, April 2002, Pages 255-259. Unfortunately in this abstract the writers have not clarified that, what they call the “meditation”, is actually the Yoga Nidra. However, this is clear in the paper itself.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Nidra, free pdf download
Karen Brody, Daring to Rest
Mind to Matter by Dawson Church, PhD. Hay House, 2018