Although it may be trendy at the moment, the practice of Yoga nidrâ is not new.
“Relying on old tantric rituals more or less fallen into oblivion, the discipline was popularized in the West in the 1960s by the Indian Swami Satyananda Saraswati”, says Aurélie Joron, founder of the Samsara Yoga France school*.
The principle ? Embark on a still journey and access a state of consciousness amended thanks to breathing techniques and visualization. The goal is to free yourself from all tensions – whether physical, emotional or mental – while remaining aware of the path you are on.
If the practice may seem complex at first glance, it is actually very accessible and rather easy to tame.
No need to be an experienced yogi to get started, everyone can try the experience regardless of physical level. “We feel the benefits fairly quickly (better sleep, better stress managementeasier to let go, renewed self-confidence, etc.), ensures Caroline Lugand, WW coach and Yoga nidrâ expert. But to really manage to experience the different levels of consciousness and reap all the benefits, you have to practice regularly for a month or two”.
The six instruments of Yoga Nidra
The practice of Yoga nidra requires six tools, which have nothing to do with material:
– The body : a Yoga nidrâ session takes place lying down. “At first, the position can be uncomfortable: you feel your body on the ground, you are not straight, you are tense… You gradually feel the areas of blockage and that is precisely what is interesting because it will allow you to learn to explore and understand your body”, develops Caroline Lugand.
– Floor : “Yoga nidrâ makes no difference between the body and the ground, continues our expert. It is a whole, as if the two were one”. And to add: “as the whole body weighs on the ground, we realize that this body exists, that it is there. One of the challenges of the practice will be to reclaim the sensations of the body”.
– Gravity : this is what will link the body and the ground. “Gravity acts on the body: it spreads it out, it presses on certain places, it relaxes the lumbar curves, the cervical ones, adds Caroline Lugand. Even without moving, it will restructure the spine. At first, it may be uncomfortable or even unpleasant, but if you play the game and let go, this kind of struggle between the body, the ground and gravity will allow you to find a new way to restructure your body. ”.
– Breathing : “the tool for not dwelling on your pain is breathing, assures Caroline Lugand. A good Yoga Nidrâ instructor guides his students constantly and always brings them back to the breath, this breath that binds people together and makes them aware of life”.
– Consciousness : it is the consciousness of all the previous instruments: the body, the ground, the gravity and the breath.
– The determination : it is symbolized by the “sankalpa”, that is to say a deep intention, a strong will to accomplish something.
The “sankalpa”, the key to Yoga Nidra
“In Sanskrit, ‘san’ means ‘the highest truth’ and ‘kalpa’ means ‘wish’”, explains Aurélie Joron. It is a positive intention, a resolution based on the will, which is formulated in very simple language during the session.
specific to each, the sankalpa is practiced according to very precise rules: “you pronounce it three times in a row during the session, in your head, without telling anyone, then it is something that you cultivate, a seed that you plant and that you have to water afterwards, repeating this sankalpa three times in the morning and three times in the evening,” explains Aurélie Joron.
Another requirement: sankalpa is something personal that begins with an “I”, which never uses negative wording or wording.
This intention can concern all areas, be very specific or more global. For example ? “I arrive on time for my appointments”, “I pass my exams”, “I am perfectly calm in all circumstances”, “I am fully fulfilled in my job”, “I curb my food compulsions”, “I appease my couple”…
The sankalpa can also be directed to a third person: “I accompany my child as well as possible during his period of adolescence” or even “I accompany my sick parent as well as possible, with patience and joy”.
“The goal is to help practitioners achieve self-fulfillment and feel good in their sneakers,” emphasizes Aurélie Joron. Particularly benevolent, Yoga nidrâ always takes place in a very positive energy..
A Yoga nidrâ session takes place in several stages and may differ slightly depending on the instructors. It can be more or less long depending on the schedule but the ideal duration of a session is generally between 1h and 1h30.
As for the pace at which to practice, “once a week, but not every day because it must remain a precious moment in which we invest 100%”, recommends Aurélie Joron.
Most often, the session begins with a physical practice similar to a warm-up: we turn the wrists, the ankles, we perform some yoga postures and breathing openings.
It then continues with the corpse pose (savasana) : on the ground, we lie on our back, the instructor explains to us how to find our ideal position. “We ask the students to take a blanket and put on socks, because the hands and feet get cold quite quickly during practice, explains Aurélie Joron. It can make you think of a preparation for falling asleep, but that’s not the goal because you have to remain an actor in what is going to happen”.
Then comes “the rotation of consciousness”, a phase during which the work around breathing begins. “Students are invited to concentrate and scan each part of their body by breathing with awareness”, explains Caroline Lugand. The famous sankalpa can be pronounced at this time, during the first passages between conscious and subconscious.
The journey to a waking dream state continues with guided visualization. “It can be a question of visualizing colors which go for example in the order of those of the chakras, it can also be sounds, smells, or even places: attacking a hill on the edge of sea or other, explains Caroline Lugand. The body is in a dream state, but each student experiences this daydream following the words of the instructor. It’s not no hypnosisbecause we continue to be fully in our body and to keep in our field of consciousness, the breath, the gravity, the body, the alignment, the asymmetry… The instructor continues to guide us and to remind us to all that”.
This guided visualization is generally followed by a phase of silence. “This is where you develop your ability to open your consciousness: you will feel the breath better, feel the pleasant and painful sensations better, as if you were an observer”, continues Caroline Lugand. At that time the sankalpa can be uttered again.
Finally, the return to a waking state can take place in two ways: either the instructor lets the students wake up on their own, or he rings bells or Tibetan bowls. “If we wish, we can have a moment of exchange, testify to our experience, to what we have experienced and felt”, specifies Caroline Lugand.
Yoga nidra: what contraindications?
“In case of respiratory problems, the practice of Yoga Nidra can lead to a feeling of suffocation because of the great work done around breathing”, warns Caroline Lugand.
Moreover, “Yoga nidra is not intended for people who suffer from mental or psychological disorders because the goal is to explore one’s interior. When there is a great inner malaise, coming face to face with yourself does not necessarily help you feel better”, underlines Aurélie Joron.
When the suffering is too great, it is important to ask for help around you and to consult a health professional (general practitioner, psychologist, psychiatrist).
*Samsara Yoga Academy provides certified training in Yoga nidrâ. Lasting 40 hours, it is intended for yoga teachers and benefits from the recognition of Yoga Alliance. Discover the training and reserve a place.
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Yoga nidrâ, finding peace between waking and sleeping
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