Yoga nidra is best defined as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. Yoga nidra is what yogis experience during meditation and is one of the deepest states of relaxation a human being can experience without falling asleep. Although the concept of yoga nidra has been known for thousands of years in Indian traditions – in the epic Mahabharata Krishna is often associated with this practice – yoga nidra started gaining popularity in the West only recently.
In a typical yoga nidra session which usually lasts from fourty-five minutes to an hour, I use a variety of techniques including visualisation and body scanning to induce full relaxation and reprogram the subconscious mind. Practitioners lie down in Savasana (corpse pose) on a mat, often with props to help the body relax, and covered by a blanket. Unlike the quick practice of savasana at the end of an asana class, yoga nidra is a systematic technique of relaxation that allows sufficient time for practitioners not only to physically sink into it but also to unwind the nervous system.
The ‘hypnagogic state’ that lies between the waking and dreaming states normally lasts only a few minutes and is characterised by the brain emitting alpha waves. In yoga nidra this state is reached quicker and extended in a way that is far more beneficial than conventional sleep. It is said that one session of yoga nidra is the equivalent of four hours of deep sleep. The hypnagogic state is the doorway to higher dimensions of consciousness and is where the subconscious mind can be more easily accessed and tapped into, while the body swiftly repairs and regenerates itself.