In our modern lifestyle we are often in the sympathetic nervous system: fight or flight. The place where anxiety and depression seem to overwhelm us. Yoga Nidra brings us to a space between sleep and consciousness, where the body deeply relaxes to “re-boot and restore”, activating the parasympathetic nervous system of rest and digest. Anyone can do Yoga Nidra. It cannot be done incorrectly; even if one falls asleep the unconscious mind still absorbs the practice. Consciousness during Yoga Nidra is a very deep and stable state.
Nidra helps improve sleep and increase energy. The visualization portion of Yoga Nidra is meant to help “weed out” painful memories, habits, fears, and conflicts. In the deeply relaxed meditative yet awake state, there is potential to treat post traumatic stress, addiction, blood glucose levels, anxiety, and depression by accessing areas of the unconscious mind. Old neuropathways in the brain are disengaged, making way for new healthy neuropathways.
We use visualization and affirmation to create an environment in which healing can occur. Yoga Nidra restores a balanced state of mind and deeply rested body by relieving tension and stress at their root, and is done lying down. It is a powerful practice that allows us to effortlessly enter deep levels of meditation and plant the seed of our intention, or sankalpa.
A sankalpa is a personal and empowering statement. By distilling your heart’s deepest desires into an intention, you create your individual mission statement. The sankalpa is repeated throughout the Yoga Nidra practice. After the initial declaration of the sankalpa, you are guided through the koshas, or “sheaths of being”. We can examine what is happening in the brain as we move through the koshas.
Yoga Nidra relaxation balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, shifting the brain to alpha state. In alpha state you release more serotonin (calming hormone), which decreases anxiety.
After alpha you deepen to theta brain wave state. This is the dream state/REM sleep. Thoughts slow to 4-8 thoughts per second. In theta state super learning can occur, emotional integration and release, structures in the brain change. People can have random thoughts, see images, hear a person talking yet at the same time not hear the voice. The gap of ‘nothingness’ begins to open.
From theta you enter delta brain wave state. This is the most restorative state. Thoughts occur at 1-4 per second. Very few people in our culture today enter deep sleep of theta or the delta state, with depressed persons being even more compromised. In delta state organs regenerate and the stress hormone cortisol is removed from the system. In essence, the body is powered down to restore itself.
What is remarkable about guided Nidra it takes you even deeper than delta brain wave state, which cannot be reached through conventional sleep. You have no thought, almost a loss of consciousness, but you areawake. It is not guaranteed everyone will reach this deep state, the deep surrender. Through consistent practice you may receive more and more instances of this remarkable state.