The term ‘Yoga Nidra’ is mentioned several times in Puranas in different context. Markandeya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Devi Bhagvat and other scriptures highlight the importance of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is very well defined by Adya Sankaracharya in his text Yoga Tadavali. Yoga Nidra means Aware Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go beyond the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. Yoga Nidra is a tool for attenuating, and eliminating habit patterns or samskaras, which are not useful. It prepares the mind for spiritual evolution.
Yoga Nidra Kriya Yoga Meditation Technique is not in the traditional Kriya yoga as popularized by Babaji and Paramhansa Yogandana. It is much different from traditional Kriya yoga. The word “Kriya” means “action or movement.’ These meditations that Yogananda’s Babaji did were mind movement exercises.
There are two kinds of meditations, “Passive and Active.” Most teach “passive” meditations. In true Kriya Yoga and Siddha Yoga and Daoism/Taoism one learns “active meditations”. The reason for this is that, “active meditations” create alot of Chi (qi) energy. It is this activating your body and mind and spirit with Chi (qi) that results in one becoming physically energetic and one having what are called the Siddha abilities. (Nirodhanada)
Eight Steps of Traditional Yoga Nidra:
Yoga nidra should be done in a quiet place where no interruptions can take place. A meditation room is ideal. The practitioner lies down on the floor or a firm bed. The surface should be comfortable but not soft so that sleep comes easily.
Lie flat on your back (Savasana) with the body stretched out, the head in straight line with the body, feet apart, arms besides the body and palms of the hands facing up. Be relaxed and comfortable. Now close your eyes. There should be no movement during yoga nidra. Remember you should not sleep, but remain awake all through the session.
So say to yourself: “I will not sleep; I will remain awake.”
Please follow the voice with full awareness and feeling. If your mind is distracted during the practice, do not worry. Just continue the practice.
2. Physical and Mental Relaxation
Take a deep breath and as you breathe in, feel the coolness and calmness spreading throughout the body. As you breathe out, feel your cares and worries flowing out of you. Become aware of the body and relax completely. Relax your body mentally.
Now be aware of the sounds in the room. Allow your hearing to follow the sounds for a few seconds, going from sound to sound, without trying to identify them. Develop awareness of the room itself… the four walls, the ceiling and the floor, and your body lying on the floor or bed. Visualize your body lying down. Feel your body lying on the floor, feel the sensations of your whole body lying down, your whole body lying on the floor.
Say to yourself mentally, “I am going to practice yoga nidra. I will remain awake all through the session.”
Now it is the time to make Sankalpa (resolve). State your affirmation mentally three times with feeling and awareness.
4. Rotation of Consciousness
During these steps, focus your mind on the parts of your body and not on your breath. Relax each part of the body in turn.
During this exercise it is helpful to see your body as an object and your mind as an instrument of your inner spirit directing the flow of prana into your body. As you go through the step of relaxing a specific part of your body, imagine that the prana, the essence of life, is flowing through this part relaxing and revitalizing the whole part, as you inhale and exhale freely.
We will now rotate our consciousness through different parts of the body. Repeat the part in your mind at the same time become aware of that part of the body. Do not concentrate, but remain alert. Become aware of the right hand.
Right hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, lower right arm, upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the right side of the torso, the right upper leg, the lower leg, the ankle, the right foot, the right toes.
Left hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, palm of the hand, back of the hand, lower left arm, upper arm, the shoulder, the armpit, the left side of the torso, the left upper leg, the lower leg, the ankle, the left foot, the left toes.
Become aware of the right shoulderblade, the left shoulderblade, the right buttock, the left buttock, the spine, the whole back.
Now go the top of the head. Become aware of the top of the head, the forehead, the right eyebrow, the left eyebrow, the space between the eyebrows, the right eye, the left eye, the right ear, the left ear, the nose, the lips, the throat, the right chest, the left chest, the middle of the chest, the navel, the lower belly.
The right leg, the left leg; both legs together. The right arm, the left arm, both arms together. The back of the body, the front of the body, the head, whole body, the whole body, the whole body (repeat one more time).
Are you awake? Repeat to yourself: “I am awake.” Total awareness. Awareness of the whole body. The whole body lying down. See your body lying down. Visualize your body lying down.
Become aware of your breath. Feel the natural rhythm of your breath, feel your natural, spontaneous breath. Do not force the breath; just awareness
5. Awareness of Sensations
Now awaken the feeling of lightness—as if the body is made of cotton.
Your body seems to be floating away from the floor.
Next, Feel the body getting heavy – so heavy, it’s sinking into the floor. Feel the head heavy, the arms, the torso… heavy. Feel the legs heavy and the feet heavy. The whole body is heavy… feel the whole body heavy…sinking into the floor… heavy… heaviness… the whole body is heavy.
Awaken the sensation of heat, the experience of heat.
The whole body is hot.
Now experience bitter cold in the body.
Now feel your body becoming alert… you are so alert. Feel yourself become alert… you are awake…you are awake…you are awake.
Yoga nidra is also augmented by incorporating visualization and mediation
There are many different techniques you can use.
This is the final stage of yoga nidra relates to mental relaxation. Generally such images and symbols are chosen for the visualization that has universal significance. To quote a few: the mountain, river, ocean, temple, church, cross, saint, flower etc.
Use your feeling, awareness, emotion and imagination to develop images in your mind.
Vividly visualize yourself in your favorite place
Stay in that situation for few minuses. You mentally get more more and more relaxed.
Now move to next step.
Once again the resolve or sankalpa is intently thought of or even visualized repeat your affirmation mentally 3 times with feeling and emphasis.
Thus, consciously one tries to direct the unconscious mind about the goal in life. This time the unconscious is very susceptible and therefore may accept the suggestion from the conscious mind with more intensity.
8. Return to Full Awareness
Now start taking normal natural breath, spontaneous breath. Now bring your awareness to your body lying stretched out and relaxed on the floor. Be aware of your physical existence. Become aware of the environment, room… the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and the noises in the room. Let your mind become completely external. Don’t make hurry to open your eyes. Lie quietly until your mind is completely awake and externalized. Start moving yourself slowly, stretching yourself. When you are sure you are awaken, open your eyes.
Yoga Nidra and Kriya Yoga Meditation:
Steps of Kriya yoga Yoga Nidra is many way different from traditional yoga nidra. I know, after doing 15 rounds of nada sanchalana, 50 rounds of pawan sanchalana, 60 rounds of shabda sanchalana and 60 rounds of chakra bhedan you will get tired.
These are not Kriya Yoga. These are to keep the mind busy. True kriya yoga is beyond these activities.
According to my yoga master Sri Amit Ray ji of Himalaya, Uttarkashi, “When Yoga nidra and Kriya yoga goes hand in hand you are in the hand of eternal bliss. Kriya yoga without yoga nidra is not effective. If you really want to transform your Samskars (habit patterns) and burn your bad karmas, you must practice Yoga Nidra and Kriya Yoga together in a systematic manner.”