An ancient yogic method ‘Yoga Nidra’ could be America’s answer to removing stress from everyday life. The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 30% of Americans are affected by extreme levels of stress. Work, health and money top the list of causes which also includes sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and media overload.
Stress can affect various aspects of a human being on the physical, emotional and psychological levels. While the causes of stress may be real or perceived, bringing balance to emotions is key to handling it and this is where yoga nidra comes into the picture.
Origin of Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra is an ancient technique which was revived in the mid 1900s by Swami Satyananda. When Swami Satyananda was a young student he happened to fall asleep near a group of monks who were chanting. Upon waking up he realized that he was able to recall the mantras which he had never heard before that.
It was explained to him that his subtle body was still conscious and had recorded all that was heard. This episode triggered his intrigue and set Swami Satyananda on his journey to revive yoga nidra and offer it in a relevant form to modern society.
What is Yoga NidraThe Practice
The name yoga nidra literally translates to ‘yogic sleep’. But this is misleading since it does not just indicate a type of sleep but rather a state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep. It is a state when the body is completely and totally relaxed. The intrinsic intelligence within every human being is awakened in this state of deep relaxation. Yoga nidra is practiced by withdrawing the senses except hearing to internalize one’s focus.
The practitioner is guided through different multiple stages to induce deep relaxation. As one moves through the various levels,a gradual transition occurs from the state of wakefulness to a state of deep sleep with awareness. Although effective as an insomnia cure, yoga nidra is far more than a sleep remedy. It provides all round benefits to physical and mental health.
The meditator is then directed to focus awareness on specific parts of the body. As the awareness is rotated through the body, the subtle energy present in deeper aspects of the physical matter is awakened. In this state of deep relaxation, it becomes possible to access higher levels of consciousness.
Yoga Nidra stages
In this state a resolution is made which becomes deeply embedded in one’s being.
Rotation of Consciousness
This is followed by bringing awareness to one’s breath.
Manifestation of Opposites
Opposite emotions are consciously experienced.
A process of guided imagery.
Positive affirmations are planted and repeated in the subconscious.
Return to Awareness
A gentle and gradual transition to the normal state of wakefulness.
The Levels of Yoga Nidra and Impact on the Brain
As one moves through the various stages the practice transitions through four levels.
Level 1: Deep Relaxation
The brain produces alpha waves which is useful for self-healing
Level 2: Creativity
The brain produces theta waves which affects creativity, invention, decision making etc
The brain produces theta waves and the participant experiences deep non-Rem sleep.
During this state the brain alternates between theta and delta waves.
Research Studies on Yoga Nidra
A series of studies were conducted at the Cherring Cross Medical School in London to observe the effects of yoga nidra. It was found that one was able to alter the states of consciousness by inducing alpha brain waves in both hemispheres. This brings simultaneous relaxation to the system.
One study found that the practice of yoga nidra significantly lowered levels of serum cholesterol in cardiac patients. The role of yoga nidra in the future of coronary heart disease is very promising.
This was proved through a series of study done at Cherring Cross Medical School London that it is a technique in which one can alter the states of consciousness from beta to alpha and then to delta. Therefore, subject enjoys the different state of consciousness, knowingly.
One study states that, the future role of yoga nidra in coronary care and management regimes appears to be a major one. The value of the practice of yogic relaxation in prevention of cardiovascular disease has been fairly well recognised and accepted. Another study demonstrates that the drop in blood pressure induced by daily Yoga nidra practice has a far reaching effect, extending throughout the day, and is not merely a transient effect coincident with the practice session. Another study found that practicing yoga nidra improved anxiety, depression and well-being for women experiencing psychological issues and menstrual irregularities.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra on Stress and Anxiety
Yoga nidra is so effective that it has been used to cure post-traumatic stress disorder in recovering addicts, veterans and anyone who has an above average stress level.
Veterans returning from war often suffer from physical, psychological and emotional distress require more than just medication. Yoga nidra provides a way to heal holistically. If yoga nidra can provide such significant relief to severe cases, what it can do for the average individual is truly remarkable. It hold tremendous potential for the future.
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