Yoga Nidra


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Satyananda Yoga Nidra™

This is Part 1 of the teaching notes from our workshop of the same name. If you would like to know more about this or other workshops please contact us.


On the night when you cross the street
From your shop and your house
To the cemetery

You'll hear me hailing you from inside
The open grave, and you'll realize
How we've always been together.

I am the clear consciousness-core
Of your being, the same in
Ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.

That night, when you escape your fear of snakebite
And all irritations with the ants, you'll hear
My familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
Smell the incense, the surprise meal fixed
By the lover inside all your other lovers.


Part 1

Yoga nidra or the yoga of aware sleep, is a systematic method of inducing complete mental, physical and emotional relaxation. It can be practised anywhere and any time once the system is understood. It can be done sitting in a bus or going to sleep. It can take as little as 10 minutes and as long an hour, depending on how deep into your body/mind you are prepared to go. The whole system is particularly valuable for those wishing to deeply relax physically, deepen their meditation or clear emotional obstacles. The healing of relaxation is ideal for those who are convalescing or are out of balance emotionally or are gravely ill. We naturally slip into this in between state as we prepare to die and to be born.

This is one of the best known and most widely used yoga practices, with probably more tapes, CD's and commentary than any other single yoga practice from the Satyananda tradition. As a result, over the years it will become, if it has not already become diluted of the original tantric intent, culture and perceptions of its discoverers. It is most easily misidentified with trance states.

This is to be expected and again turns the student into her own teacher as she reaches for the truth in the practice rather than in what she has read or been told. Thankfully, the technique is as simple as the truth embedded in it. I hope our comments below will take you towards this grace, and that you will throw out what is of no use to you.

Yoga nidra originated in the experiments of Swami Satyananda Saraswati as a way of releasing tension in the conscious mind and accessing the semi-conscious levels of the mind. It is a form of meditation, which works organically, following the natural workings of the mind. Our minds are naturally active, so it gives us activities for the mind, which guide it into the states beyond external stimulation.

Swami Satyananda describes yoga nidra as: 'Relaxation by one-pointedness of the mind for one hour ... in which all emotions are brought to the surface and whatever type they are, throw them out. Complete relaxation is brought to every part of the body ... through will power. In this lies the secret of self healing. In Yoga Nidra we deal with the underlying causes (of tension).' pages 132 -133 'From Shore to Shore' Swami Satyananda 1974.

In the quote above, Satyananda refers to 'all emotions'. They are expressed in body sensations and body symptoms as well as thought. They are the underlying physical expression of emotion. Emotion is an outcome and expression of individual perceptions, dialogue and thought, of sensations and of bodily symptoms.

Emotions also occur in a cultural context, which in turn effects our experience and expression of feelings. The location of feeling is also culturally constructed just as is the meaning of 'body'. Where do you feel love, where the divine and where do you feel nothing? How do you know that? The assumed location of these experiences has evolved over centuries. In the middle ages, the body was described as a porous vehicle of the holy spirit, which could be entered by the devil via our orifices and make us have evil thoughts. We maintain this idea with each blessing after a sneeze Now we are told that we are genetically programmed and our preferences, even our attitudes are those predisposed by our genes. Read about identical twins separated at birth. Some believe a God spot in the brain has been found. That's a typically modern location for religious experience. Perhaps an electrode placed there could awaken one.

In yoga nidra we go underneath these comfortable assumptions and are lead to the truth of our body/mind beneath these cultural and historical stereotypes. It leads to our own truth and reality, which may not fit into easy categories. However, if we don't face the underlying causes of our lives, we will have to live them in our outer existence, driven by the unrecognized and the un-examined. All of us have preferred the trance to the reality at some time in our lives. Paradoxically, the yoga of sleep is awakening to what is asleep in us.

Yoga nidra begins in the dead body pose or shavasana, lying on your back with your arms by your side. It is not only the most congenial way to practise it but also, it is a promise that you will meet the truth of who you are at death no matter what your mind believes or how your experience has shaped you. We begin in a pose in which we will be awakened to our indwelling spirit at death, near death or in a coma.

This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don't fuss with the shroud
And the graveyard dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
In the music of our final meeting.

And don't look for me in human shape,
I am inside your looking. No room
For form with love this strong.

Beat the drum and let the poets speak.
This is the day of purification for those who
Are already mature and initiated into what love is.

No need to wait until we die!
There's more to want here than money
And being famous and bites of roasted meat.

Now, what shall we call this new sort of gazing house
That has opened in our town where people sit
Quietly and pour out their glancing
Like light, like answering?

'No room for form' by Jelaluddin Rumi page 138 'The 'Essential Rumi' translations by Coleman Barks. Harper Collins 1995

Yoga nidra is a sneak preview and an opportunity to practise dying. It is also a chance to practise getting beneath the senses into the interconnecting energy where synaesthesia [eg seeing a sound] happens without drugs. This is the same place from which we can sense our loved ones on the other side of the world and know what they are doing or thinking. We can send our blessings on this psychic level when we have released our engagement with our personal tension. We can access the psychic capacity that lies within us connecting us all in one interdependent, reciprocal and continuous link. We can have access to our teachers and their lineage without the limitation of speech.

Hence, it is a great practice for students of yoga and meditation who wish to become authorities in their own lives, masters of their own destiny. It is an experiment in concentration and awareness that gives an outlet for all the crap we've carried around for days and even years. It can float to the surface and be acknowledged and processed in waking time, rather than in our dreams or through our unaware doing and non-doing. We aim for a kind of lucid dreaming where our mind has volition whilst our body sleeps or dies comatosed. It is like a soft focused, embodied, second sight that slips us into a fourth world between sleep and dreaming and wakefulness.

You can get an excellent Yoga Nidra CD from the Satyananda Yoga Australia