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Yoga Nidra

“There is no greater feeling than finding yourself again.” 

Yoga Nidra is an ancient type of meditation. It can often be defined as the return to the self. “Nidra” means sleep in Sanskrit, so Yoga Nidra literally means “yogic sleep.” Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation and is practiced lying or sitting down, and does not involve moving through physical poses like other forms of yoga. It can be a powerful adjunctive practice to psychotherapy and can help with insomnia, depression, and anxiety. 

Yoga Nidra means to sleep consciously. It brings us to a state of deep relaxation, verging on sleep, where our senses, intellect, and mind can completely let go and rest. In this deep state of relaxation, the subconscious mind changes accumulated patterns or "grooves" in our minds. These mental grooves, called "Samskaras" are individual impressions, ideas, or actions. Over our lifetimes, repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating deeper grooves.

Yoga Nidra is a powerful form of meditation practice intended to induce physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. Many modern-day therapies, such as CBT, ACT, and Internal Family Systems therapy have similar concepts to it, such as being to step back and see our thoughts and stories without reacting to them. The practice of Yoga Nidra is designed to create new neuropathways in our minds and bodies and provides deep healing. It helps to turn off the brain’s “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) response and turn on the “rest and relaxation” (parasympathetic nervous system) response. Yoga Nidra can be a powerful, transformative practice that helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress. It can be a powerful adjunct to modern psychotherapies.

How is Yoga Nidra a return to the self?

Yoga Nidra meditation peels away layers of our being called “The Koshas” in Sanskrit. Koshas are like sheaths or layers of our being. They are like veils that get denser and separate us from ourselves. This practice of Yoga Nidra, moving through the koshas, layer by layer, helps to return to our normal, natural selves. 

In Yoga Nidra we practice "witness awareness" which refers to the process of developing observing awareness. To witness is the ability to observe our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and deep relaxation states without reacting. In doing so this practice helps you to witness your self more.

There are five koshas

Annamaya Kosha (the physical layer). This outermost layer represents the physical body, including body sensations. In Yoga Nidra, practitioners initially relax this layer through progressive muscle relaxation. People cultivate a deeper connection with their physical form, laying the foundation for relaxation and restoration.

Pranamaya Kosha (the energy layer). Beyond the physical body lies the energetic layer, which encompasses the vital life force of breath or “prana.” Through breath awareness techniques, Yoga Nidra practitioners harmonize and balance the flow of prana through the body. By attuning to prana, people awaken to the interconnectedness of breath, vitality, and relaxation.

Manomaya Kosha (the mental/thinking layer). This layer corresponds to the mind, emotions, and thoughts. In Yoga Nidra, practitioners explore the landscape of the mind by observing thoughts without attachment or judgment. This helps us to become less reactive to our thoughts as we can see them as mental energy and let them pass by.

Vijnanamaya Kosha (the wisdom layer). This layer has to do with the power of judgment or discernment. This is the higher self that can make decisions not based on reactions. This is the higher mind that operates as discriminating intellect. In this practice, individuals learn to navigate the realm of the subconscious, releasing mental chatter and cultivating a state of inner calmness and clarity.

Anandamaya Kosha (the bliss layer). At the core of our being resides the bliss body, the essence of our self, or “Atman.” In Yoga Nidra, we practice journeying though the outer layers towards this innermost layer by letting go of identification with our stories, thoughts, and physical reactions.