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Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep. But, it’s a sort of sleepless sleep. You are awake and at the same time you are sleeping. The scriptures call it “jagrat sushupti,” awakened sleep. You sleep, but you don’t sleep. During regular sleep, you sleep but you don’t know that you’re sleeping. Only after you wake up do you realize that you were sleeping. But in Yoga Nidra you are sleeping and you know that you are sleeping and that is what is called  “samadhi,” sleepless sleep. One of the great South Indian saints sang, “When am I going to find the joy of sleeping without sleep?”

In samadhi you experience yourself as the Knower, as Consciousness, and you become aware of your mind sleeping, while you are awake. In Yoga Nidra you more or less go very close to that. You relax your body, relax your mind, and you just be. Who are you being? You are not being somebody; you are being the real you, the Self. When you are there like that during Yoga Nidra, you know that your body is relaxed, you know that your mind is relaxed, you recognize yourself as the Knower of everything. That is why Yoga Nidra essentially becomes a meditation. In your regular meditation practice, this should happen also—you become aware that you are Awareness, you are the Self. And that experience is what is called samadhi.

The process of Yoga Nidra can help you become aware of changes in the body and fluctuations in the mind, without your identifying with these. If you want to be peaceful always, identify yourself as the ever-peaceful witness within: You are not the body, not the mind, not the senses, not the ego. You can simply watch them as you recognize that you are the Seer, the Knower. That is what you call, knowing your Self and this is the goal of Yoga.

During Yoga Nidra, you become the observer of what’s happening within you. As you systematically relax your body you also observe this process. You are cultivating awareness and attuning yourself to that awareness. You then begin to watch your breath, bringing awareness to each inhalation and exhalation. And then, at a certain point, you become the observer of your own thoughts. By doing so, you begin to separate yourself from the thoughts. Then, you can rest in this awareness for a while.

What you experience during Yoga Nidra is something you are supposed to experience throughout your daily life. For example, during the day you can become aware of the movements of your body and mind: “Now I am observing my body waking up, now I am observing my mind getting agitated, now I am observing my mind is thinking of my job, now I am observing my mind is thinking of the afternoon plan, now I am observing my stomach is complaining that it hasn’t eaten anything.”

And then, “Now I am observing that my body is walking toward the restaurant. Now I am observing my hand is picking up the food. Now I am observing my hand is putting the food into my mouth, and I am observing my mouth chewing the food.” See? You can still do the same Yoga Nidra. Yes. As you were observing the relaxing process during your formal practice, now you are observing the acting process throughout your day.

That’s what we are supposed to do. But, unfortunately, it seems it is only there when we formally practice Yoga. By the practice of Yoga Nidra, we learn to be relaxed all through our lives—all through the day and in whatever we do. Then, we will be in constant communion with God. It is this communion that is called Yoga. So, Yoga helps us in being in constant touch with God, even during your daily activities. That’s why I say we have to practice Yoga always.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda