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Yoga Nidra: Yogic Conscious Deep Sleep

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Excerpted from the approximately 19-page article: http://www.swamij.com/yoga-nidra.htm See also: Five Methods of Yoga Nidra:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2005
      Excerpted from the approximately 19-page article:
      See also:
      Five Methods of Yoga Nidra:


      MEANING 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. Yoga Nidra is
      a state that is very relaxing, but is also used by Yogis to purify
      the Samskaras, the deep impressions that are the driving force behind

      SEE ALSO the Karma article:

      MEDITATION: Imagine that you are in the WAKING state, with all of its
      distractions of mind. You systematically do this and that with
      directing your attention. You are practicing concentration and
      letting go, leading you towards meditation. The thoughts and pictures
      of the DREAMING state start to come to the surface, even though you
      are still in the WAKING state. Gradually, the distractions fade away,
      your mind becomes focused, and you are having a nice meditation. You
      are deeply relaxed. You are still in the WAKING state of
      consciousness, which is the nature of meditation.

      YOGA NIDRA: Now, imagine that at some point you DROP or FALL or EMPTY
      (or other such words) into the STATE of DEEP SLEEP, much like you
      would normally do at bedtime (when not dreaming). However, this time,
      you fell all the way THROUGH the dreaming state, and came to rest in
      the DEEP SLEEP state, though, paradoxically, you remained aware and
      alert. This is the level UNDERNEATH both the WAKING and DREAMING
      states, and all of the thoughts and impressions that go along with
      those two states. Now you are in the STATE of CONSCIOUS DEEP SLEEP.
      This state is the state of YOGA NIDRA (Yoga Nidra refers to a state
      of consciousness, not just the methods that lead you there). Nidra
      means sleep (not dreaming), and Yoga means union, where all of those
      other thoughts and impressions have receded back into the unified
      field from which they arose.

      SEE ALSO the article:
      Bindu: Pinnacle of Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra

      COMPANIONS TO THE HIGHER GOAL: This is not yet the higher goal of
      sadhana (spiritual practices), which is to experience consciousness
      itself, independent of any grosser false identification, etc. (one
      might call this purusha, atman, or the experience of the state of
      turiya, the fourth, but that's a different thing, which is just
      beyond the level of conscious deep sleep, the goal of Yoga Nidra).
      However, Meditation and Yoga Nidra work together, as companion
      practices, in preparing one for such higher experience.

      SEE ALSO these articles on the Levels of Consciousness:
      OM and the Seven Levels of Consciousness
      4 Levels and 3 Domains of Consciousness


      WAKING STATE: In the Waking state of consciousness, all three levels
      are active and being used. The Conscious mind is obviously being
      used. The Unconscious mind is also processing, though typically out
      of view, much like the active microprocessor of a computer (during
      Meditation, this comes into view). The Subconscious is also active,
      in that it its data is available when needed, much like the data on
      the hard disk of a computer. [Note that sometimes people reverse the
      names for the Unconscious and Subconscious. The choice of words in
      not important; the meaning behind them is what counts.]

      DREAMING STATE: In the Dreaming state of consciousness, the level we
      call Conscious functioning has receded back into the field of mind
      from which it arose. Only the Unconscious processing is still there,
      along with the storage source of the Subconscious. The impressions
      from the Subconscious stir and become part of the dream process that
      is going on in the Unconscious level of mind.

      DEEP SLEEP: In the Deep Sleep state of consciousness, both the
      Conscious and Unconscious levels have receded back into the field of
      mind from which they arose, where memories are stored. Only the
      Subconscious level is still active. At this Subconscious level the
      memories are in a formless form, and there are therefore no pictures
      or images as in the dream state. Rather, this is the level that gives
      birth to those images. At this level there is also no playing out of
      thoughts and actions in the Conscious state either. This deep
      stillness is the domain of Yoga Nidra, when experienced consciously
      rather than inertly, as in typical sleep.

      RECEDING PROCESS: The significance of this receding process cannot be
      overstated. It has become very common in modern Yoga circles to think
      that Yoga Nidra is merely another terminology for relaxation
      exercises. This is not the case. Almost all relaxation exercises
      operate when one is in the Waking State or in the reverie between
      Waking and Dreaming. Some modern practitioners consciously dream, a
      process which has become known as Lucid Dreaming. While this may be a
      useful exercise as a Meditation exercise, particularly if used to
      cultivate non-attachment (vairagya), this too is not Yoga Nidra. (Non-
      attachment or vairagya is one of the two core principles of Yoga. See
      Yoga Sutras 1.12-1.16)

      FORMLESS THOUGHTS: To understand Yoga Nidra, it is imperative to
      understand that thoughts are in a formless form. There are literally
      no pictures and no words (as there are in the Waking and Dreaming
      states). There is no visual awareness of any form whatsoever,
      including the physical aspects of your own body, or of any dream
      sequence. Yet, there is a truer, deeper knowledge than any of the
      knowledge that is of pictures and words. This level has been called
      the infinite storehouse or knowledge, or the infinite library (Deep
      Sleep, Prajna).

      BIRTH OF DREAMS: While there are no pictures at this level, attention
      may drift slightly outward (thus, starting to leave Yoga Nidra),
      through the transition stage between the Deep Sleep state and the
      Dreaming state. Here, the birth of images leading to dream sequences
      and mental processing is experienced. In Yoga Meditation science,
      this transition stage is called Aladani, somewhat like the story of
      Aladin's lamp, where the genie who was in latent form (like in Deep
      Sleep) goes through a transition stage of being like a wispy cloud
      before taking the human like form.

      BEYOND ARCHETYPES: Some schools of psychology refer to deep
      impressions of archetypes. However, these archetypes are referred to
      as having form. In the context of these archetypes, Yoga Nidra is
      touching the causal level that is prior to, or underneath the
      archetypes. It is the seed or bija level out of which the archetypes
      and subsequent dramas arise. It is because of the access to the seed
      or bija level that one is able to directly attenuate the samskaras,
      or deep impressions that drive karma, or actions.

      CONSCIOUSNESS IS THERE 24-HOURS: Another way to view this process is
      that the consciousness at the subtler level is existent 24-hours per
      day. Sometimes that consciousness comes outward, expressing into the
      subtle, psychic, or astral level, which we commonly know as Dreaming
      state. At other times consciousness comes even further outward,
      expressing into the gross, external world through the physical body.
      Viewed this way, it is also easier to see how it is that the sages
      have said that death, Deep Sleep, and samadhi are very similar, or
      related like siblings.


      NOT MERELY RELAXATION: It has become popular to use the term Yoga
      Nidra for any method that might help induce relaxation. Yoga Nidra is
      not mere relaxation, as very useful as relaxation exercises might be.
      Yoga Nidra is a specific state of consciousness, which has to do with
      the conscious experience of dreamless, Deep Sleep. This may seem
      unimportant, but if one does not discern the difference between
      relaxation and Yoga Nidra, the greater depth of Yoga Nidra might be
      completely missed. Better that one see the difference, enjoy
      relaxation for its own value, and then pursue the depths of Yoga
      Nidra when he or she is ready for this deeper practice.

      NOT GUIDED IMAGERY: If one is in the process of guided imagery, that
      is not Yoga Nidra. Guided imagery may be a very useful practice, and
      may be used as preparation leading up to Yoga Nidra, but it is not,
      itself, Yoga Nidra. In the depth of Yoga Nidra, the aspects of mind
      used for visualizing have receded, as described in the last section.

      NOT AFFIRMATIONS OR AUTOSUGGESTION: Yoga Nidra is also not a practice
      of autosuggestion or verbal affirmations, whether affirming desired
      personal qualities or worldly objects that are desired. It is also
      not a process of verbally affirming that you are in Yoga Nidra. If
      you are still in such a conscious level that you are still making
      oral affirmations of any kind, then you are definitely not in the
      subtle state of Yoga Nidra. In such a case, the conscious, Waking
      state mind has not yet receded into the cause from which it arose.

      NOT MUSIC: Yoga Nidra is also not music, as relaxing as music might
      be to the conscious mind. It is not that music is a bad thing to
      experience. It might be very pleasant, but it is simply not Yoga
      Nidra. No amount of pretending that it is will make it so. Yoga Nidra
      is the experience of conscious Deep Sleep (Prajna), and that does not
      occur while you are listening to music.

      NOT NEW: Yoga Nidra is an ancient most, universal process that has
      neither been invented nor rediscovered in recent years, as is claimed
      by some. This practice has been known to the sages of the Himalayas
      for a very long time. With some reflection on the nature of Yoga
      Nidra as conscious Deep Sleep (Prajna), it is self evident that this
      is a universal process.

      DEPTH COMES IN TIME: What if you are practicing Yoga Nidra, but not
      yet attaining the state of Yoga Nidra? The practices leading up to
      Yoga Nidra are very useful. It is good to enjoy that relaxation and
      training of the mind. At some point, the practice deepens, maybe just
      for a moment, like a flash, when one experiences the depth of Yoga
      Nidra. It may come soon, or it may come later, but it will definitely
      come with patience and practice.

      RELAXATION MAY COME FIRST: When first practicing Yoga Nidra, there is
      a good chance that one might not experience Yoga Nidra itself. The
      practices might be very relaxing, with brain waves slowing from Beta
      to Alpha or Theta, but not slowing to the Delta level. Or, the other
      possibility that often happens initially, is that one falls asleep
      into the Delta level, losing conscious awareness, and thus not
      experiencing true Yoga Nidra.

      BE PATIENT: It is important to be very patient over time in
      practicing Yoga Nidra. The relaxation that comes with the Alpha and
      Theta levels can be extremely useful for mental, emotional, and
      physical health. It is not bad that one does not initially experience
      the depth of Yoga Nidra by consciously entering Deep Sleep and Delta.
      These relaxing experiences are a very nice part of life, and also
      prepare one for the later experience of the depth of Yoga Nidra.

      DELTA BRAINWAVES, NOT ALPHA: There has been some degree of confusion
      circulating about Yoga Nidra and brain waves. Possibly due to the
      fact that many experience only the Alpha level of brain waves
      initially, many teach that Alpha is the goal of Yoga Nidra. While the
      Alpha or Theta levels can be very useful steps along the way, the
      ultimate goal of Yoga Nidra is the experience of conscious Deep Sleep
      (Prajna), which correlates with Delta brain waves.

      YOGIC SLEEP, NOT YOGIC DREAMING: Remember, the aspirant wants to
      reach Yoga Nidra, conscious Deep Sleep, so that the samskaras, which
      are the driving force behind karma, can be purified in their latent,
      formless form. And this process happens beyond, or underneath all of
      the activity in the Waking and Dreaming states of mind. Yoga Nidra
      means Yogic Sleep, not Yogic Dreaming.


      EXAMINING: While Yoga Nidra is very relaxing, it is also an extremely
      useful state for spiritual practices. The yogis use Yoga Nidra to
      examine thought patterns in their latent, non-active form.

      SAMSKARAS: This level of consciousness is the place where thoughts,
      emotions, images, and sensations go when they recede from their
      actions in the Waking and Dreaming states. These formless forms, or
      deep habit patterns are called samskaras, which are the driving force
      of actions, or karma.

      REDUCING DEEP HABITS: Thus, Yoga Nidra is a tool for examining,
      attenuating, and eliminating habit patterns or samskaras, which are
      not useful. Habitual negative actions, normally arising from these
      deep impressions can thus be reduced and eliminated through the
      practice of Yoga Nidra.

      UNDISTRACTED BY THE FORMLESS: In the Waking state, thought patterns
      can be troubling. In the Dreaming state, they can form trains of
      thoughts that seem to drag you around. However, imagine that you
      could observe your thought patterns when they were not active, when
      they were in a latent, sleeping form, while you were awake. Then they
      would not disturb or distract you. This is what happens in Yoga
      Nidra. The paradox is that while they are not in active form, they
      are still there. This can be frustrating to try to conceptualize, but
      this is as close as we can get, to just say they are in a formless

      SUBTLE THOUGHTS WITH LITTLE CHARGE: Imagine a photo on the screen of
      your computer. It might be a picture you find pleasing or offensive.
      However, imagine that you saw a print of the binary numbers, all of
      the zeros and ones, that mathematically formed those pictures in the
      memory of the hard disk. There would be no reaction whatsoever. There
      would just be a bunch of numbers, without any emotional charge to
      them. This is what happens when witnessing samskaras (deep
      impressions that drive karma, or actions) while you are in Yoga
      Nidra. There may be subtle traces of emotions, but they are very,
      very subtle, and do not seem to have the charge of active desires,
      wants, wishes, dislikes, or aversions.

      TRANSFORMATION OF SAMSKARAS: By witnessing the samskaras in the state
      of Yoga Nidra, a certain transformation happens. They start to lose
      their coloring of attraction and aversion. They start to weaken, and
      are less and less able to later control our thoughts and actions. In
      this way, we use Yoga Nidra to reduce or soften the impact of our
      samskaras that play out as karma.

      WHO I AM: Through Yoga Nidra, there is an ever increasing awareness
      that, "Who I am is different from my thoughts!" In Yoga Nidra, you
      experience consciousness underneath, or prior to all of the active
      mental process, both conscious and that which is normally
      unconscious. Being awake in this place, underneath or behind the
      thinking process can seem quite strange, bewildering at first.
      Gradually, it brings increasing peace of mind and insight about the
      nature of who we truly are.

      DOORWAY BEYOND: In Yoga Nidra one touches the doorway to the
      awareness that still operates beyond all of the levels of mind, that
      leads to realization of the center of consciousness, or Self.

      IT COMES IN TIME: Once again, you may or may not reach the state of
      Yoga Nidra in the beginning. It does not matter. The deeper
      experience of Yoga Nidra may come soon, or it may come later, but it
      will definitely come with practice. In any case, you will surely find
      Yoga Nidra to be a very relaxing part of your life.

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