Yoga Nidra (“Yoga sleep”), is an expression widely used to denote the highest state of consciousness. Although Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep, it is actually a wakeful state of deep introversion. Some contemporary Yoga authorities employ the phrase Yoga Nidra to designate a state of deep relaxation. In the initial stages, the process involves relaxing the body, part by part, and harmonizing the mind. In this aspect, it has some similarity with the progressive relaxation of Jacobson. Yoga Nidra, however, is an inner awareness, a movement of consciousness, rather than a deliberate auto-suggestion. You cannot relax by trying to relax. You need to feel relaxed. Yogis also believe that you cannot relax your body unless your mind is relaxed. So, Yoga relaxation is a complete package that involves relaxing the mind, body and spirit.
After relaxing your body and calming your mind, you can plant a few intentions, sankalpas, or assertions in your subconscious, before detaching your mind and experiencing the final stage of deep relaxation. Yoga Nidra goes well with visualizations and meditation.
Yoga Nidra: In Depth
“Yoga Nidra: Yogic Conscious Deep Sleep” by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati, a disciple of Swami Rama (Himalayan Institute) is a very in-depth article (actually, a booklet that is reprinted in its entirety) on all aspects of Yoga Nidra including illustrations, tables, brain wave theory and other information pertaining to the practice and state of Yoga Nidra.
“Yoga Nidra means Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. While Yoga Nidra is very relaxing, it is also used by Yogis to purify the Samskaras, the deep impressions that are the driving force behind Karma. The form of Yoga Nidra described in this article can be called Advanced Yoga Nidra. Unfortunately, almost any guided practice that brings a modicum of relaxation is now called Yoga Nidra. Therefore, it is now virtually essential that we use another term, such as Authentic Yoga Nidra, Traditional Yoga Nidra, or Advanced Yoga Nidra.” –Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
Watch an introduction to Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati’s Yoga Nidra CD
Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati’s comprehensive “Yoga relaxation Before Meditation” instructions