Yoga Nidra: The Art of Sleepless Sleep
Dr. Ladd Koresch, a disciple of Sri Swami Rama
One of the yoga practices that has really impressed me over the years is Yoga Nidra. The words mean “sleepless sleep.”
Now you may ask, ”How can one have sleepless sleep?” I had the same idea, so gaining from this practice was one of my goals. I don’t want to confuse us with a lot of words but I will give you some points of information regarding Yoga Nidra. Just think of your consciousness. It’s normally having three states: sleeping, dreaming, and being awake. Can anyone think of any other state besides that?
Yes, turiya, the fourth state noted by yogis. Our object today is to lead you to that state. It’s very simple; the only need you have is to stay awake. Isn’t that simple? Stay awake! As we lead you down the path of relaxed consciousness you need to stay awake.
What does that mean? Well, you know what sleep is. But this sleep has to deal with the delta state we’re asking you to stay out of. We will take you step-by-step into relaxation and keep your consciousness from going into the delta state. So at the end of the practice, if you get towards the plateau close to delta, we will do some visualizations. That will connect you with a preliminary state of samadhi. Isn’t that simple? My job today is to stay awake as I lead you in this practice and hope that you stay awake too!
There is one good thing about sitting on chairs as we are. We can’t snore very well sitting on chairs, can we? But if you’re all lying on the floor, I’m sure it would be difficult to lead this practice. What we’ll do is go through several states of relaxation. Before we begin the last practice, the states will prepare you to stay awake.
As we go into relaxation, there is a certain physical state for you to be in. Your spine needs to be straight. Your mouth should be closed. You should do all your breathing through your nose. Normally we relax in the corpse posture, shavasana. But here we’re relaxing in our new posture, the chair posture. So while you’re sitting in the chair, be aware that your head, neck, and trunk are erect. Hold your body the same way you sit in meditation. You’re breathing through your nose, not through your mouth. Your hands are on your knees or thighs and they’re comfortable. Your shoulders are relaxed; your neck is relaxed. Your feet are flat on the floor, and you’re aware of your feet touching the floor.
Now close your eyes gently and again check out your physical being to make sure that it is wholly relaxed. You cannot be over-relaxed. If there is a better way of relaxing, find it and do that. The more relaxed you are, the easier this practice is.
Along with relaxation comes the mind’s awareness of being awake. We’re relaxed and aware. First of all we’ll do progressive relaxation. Be aware of your forehead and relax it. Be aware of your eyes, your nose, your face. Be aware of your neck and relax it. Be aware of your shoulders and shoulder joints, and relax them. Relax your upper arms, elbows, and lower arms and let the tension flow out. Relax your wrists and fingers as well as your fingertips and allow the stress to flow out your fingertips as you exhale. Again be aware of relaxing your fingertips, fingers, wrists, lower arms, and upper arms. Now relax your shoulders. Become aware of your chest, the front, the back, and the sides of your torso, and let go of any stress. Become aware of your heart center and let go of stress there. Become aware of your navel center and let go of any stress there. Become aware of your entire abdominal area, and your pelvic area and let go of any stress. Relax your pelvis; relax your thighs. Relax your knees; relax your lower legs. Relax your ankles, feet and toes, all of your toes. Relax and let all the tensions flow out from the bottom of your feet as you exhale and become even more relaxed and awake.
Again relax your toes and your ankles, and your feet, and your lower legs. Relax your knees. Relax your thighs. Relax your pelvis, and hips. Relax your abdominal area. Relax your navel and your heart and your chest. Relax your arms even more. Relax your neck. Relax your face and your tongue and your forehead. As you exhale, let all the stress flow out. Become more relaxed and stay awake, being aware of yourself sitting on a chair or lying on the floor.
Being awake, we’ll go on to the second part of the practice, which is sixty-one points. Again stay awake and conscious.
Now become very aware of the point at your forehead. That point may be a blue color or may be just a feeling. Become aware of the point at your throat, the throat center. Moving to your right side become aware of your shoulder joint. Moving down your right arm become aware of your elbow point. Moving down your arm become aware of your wrist point.
Moving down the arm become aware of your five fingers and become aware of the fingertips. Touch them each with your mind, or the light.
Moving back up the arm become aware of your wrist point, your elbow point, your right shoulder point. With full awareness move over to your throat again and move to left arm. Become aware of the left shoulder point. On your left arm come down to your left elbow point and your left wrist point. Moving into your fingers and fingertips, be aware of each.
Move up to your left wrist point. Then the left elbow point, the left shoulder point, and move back to your throat again, the third time.
Now, with full awareness move down to your heart point. Move over to your right breast with full awareness. Back to your heart point, second time. Over to your left breast. Back to your heart point, third time.
Move down to your navel point, with full awareness and relaxation. Fully aware, move down to the groin.
Move down to your right knee, then your right ankle point. Into the five toes, the toe tip points. With full awareness and wakefulness, go back up to the right ankle point. Then up to the right knee point. Up to the right inner groin.
Now up to your navel point for the second time and down to the groin.
Next go down to your left knee point, your left ankle point, and down into your left foot. Mentally touch each of the five toes with full awareness. Come up to the left ankle point, then up to the left knee point.
Come across to the very bottom of your spine and see your spine as being a hallow tube running from your core bottom to the crown.
From the lowest point of your spine, inhale all the way up to the crown. Exhale down, stopping at the level of the bladder, the second chakra. From there, inhale all the way up to the crown, and exhale down stopping at the level of the third chakra, the navel. There, inhale up to the crown, and exhale down to the level of the heart chakra. Inhale up to the crown and exhale at the level of your throat, sixth chakra. Inhale up to the crown and exhale and stop at the point between your eyebrows.
Inhaling and exhaling at that point, enjoy your relaxation and your consciousness. Stay at the point between your eyebrows.
Keep your mind at that point between your eyebrows and then very gently open your eyes and stretch your body.
Be still and quiet as you relax. Come back to a sitting posture and we’ll go into Yoga Nidra.
Open your eyes if you care to, stretch very quietly as you let go of any stiffness you may have. Keep your mind at the point between your eyebrows. And again remind yourself to stay awake. We’ve prepared ourselves to be relaxed, calm, and awake. Continuing with your wakefulness we begin Yoga Nidra.
From your crown inhale all the way down to your toes with full awareness. Then exhale back up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to your ankles. Exhale back up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to your knees. From your knees inhale gently up to the crown. Smooth even, diaphragmatic breathing. From the crown inhale down your heart. And from your heart inhale back up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to your throat and from your throat inhale up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to the point between the two eyebrows. Exhale back up to the crown and this time stay within and above the crown in space.
Let your mind be in outer space beyond the crown, with no thoughts. Be awake and aware of akasha, space. Bring your mind from the akasha of space into the crown of your head.
Now from there again inhale down to the point between the eyebrows. Exhale back up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to your throat. Exhale back up to the crown. From the crown inhale down to your heart and keep your awareness at the heart chakra.
Keep your mind and your consciousness fully at your heart chakra. Be aware of the wave of beauty and bliss, the waves sweeping over from your head to your toes, and the wave going back to the sea as you exhale. Inhale the wave head to toes.
Exhale the wave from your toes to your head with your mind at the heart chakra. Be awake. The wave sweeps over you as you inhale head to toe and sweeps back from your toe to your crown as you exhale. The wave sweeps over you as you inhale from the ocean and from your feet flows back to the ocean. Keep your mind at your heart chakra, breathing diaphragmatically, and being awake. The wave sweeps over from head to toe on the inhale, and from your toe back up to your head as you exhale.
Your mind, your consciousness, is at your heart chakra. You are breathing diaphragmatically and you are awake, fully aware. You’re fully awake and aware. You’re aware of the wave of beauty and bliss as it flows over from your head to your toes and from your toes to your head.
Now very gently become aware of yourself again. Bring your consciousness back to your feet and toes, to your arms, to the crown of your head. Be aware of the weight of yourself on floor or on the chair.
Wiggle your toes, wiggle the tips of your fingers. Keeping your eyes closed, be aware of your body. With your eyes still closed, bring your hands up to your face and cover your eyes gently with your hands. Very gently blink your eyes as they are covered with the palms of your hands and become aware of the light. In your own time, uncover your eyes and gently come back.