By the Bihar School of Yoga
Founded in 1963 by Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the Bihar School of Yoga celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. One of the best-known yoga schools, it is recognised across India and abroad for the quality of its teaching and is also known as the home of yoga nidra.
This article introduces the practice of yoga nidra as it was devised by Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati and reveals its powerful potential to restore health, develop memory, increase creativity and inspire transformation.
“Release of tension, relaxation and peace of mind are the secret of transformation. When one is under tension, one’s behaviour is influenced, and when one relaxes, one becomes natural. Knowledge of truth only comes when one is free of tension.” – Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Yoga nidra is a powerful technique for deep relaxation, peace of mind and profound transformation, in which one learns to relax consciously. It is of particular importance in today’s world where the modern lifestyle leads to the accumulation of stress and tension, causing imbalance and disharmony at all levels and leading to disorders of the body and mind.
People may think that they are relaxing when they collapse onto a couch with a drink or cigarette and switch on their TV, mobile phone or electronic tablet, but these are only sensory diversions. Nor is sleep relaxation. True relaxation is an experience far beyond all this. For absolute relaxation, one must remain aware and this is yoga nidra, the state of dynamic sleep.
Yoga nidra is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Step by step, awareness is turned inwards away from outer experiences. During the practice one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. Yoga nidra is often referred to as psychic sleep, or deep relaxation with inner awareness. In this threshold state between sleep and wakefulness, contact with the subconscious and unconscious dimensions occurs spontaneously.
When consciousness is separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many ways, for example to restore health, develop memory, increase knowledge and creativity, or to transform one’s nature. Yoga nidra can be used to direct the mind to accomplish anything. Sri Swami Satyananda said, “Anything in life can fail you, but not the sankalpa, resolve, made during yoga nidra.” The intuitions received in yoga nidra enable one to find within oneself the answers to all problems and difficulties.
In the raja yoga of Sage Patanjali there is a state called pratyahara where the mind and mental awareness are separated from the sensory channels. Yoga nidra is an important practice of pratyahara, which leads to higher states of concentration and samadhi (the culmination of meditation).
Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati devised the practice of yoga nidra after personal experiences during which he realised that he had gained knowledge, not in the familiar way through the senses and conscious mind, but during the state of deep sleep. In this way, Sri Swamiji adapted the essence of the ancient tantric practice of nyasa into a simple yet powerful and effective form that anyone can practise today.
Visit the Bihar School of Yoga’s website for more information about and its courses, programs and publications.
Photographs by Coni Hörler.