By Dr. Rita Khanna
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra? In the modern scenario, human life has become very fast, hectic and demanding. The present lifestyle demands adjustment on the part of the individual. Each of us, as per our coping resources, tries to adjust in this changing world. Some adjust by becoming overactive and others by withdrawing from the situation. When we fail to make a proper adjustment according to the demands of the situation, a state of negative stress or distress develops in our personality, which gives rise to mental or psychological problems. In most people the mind always remains in a state of arousal and tension. Yoga nidra, as a technique of Pratyahara, not only provides relaxation to the body and mind but also has a number of other benefits.
BENEFITS OF YOGA NIDRA
Minimizes tension: In the modern world the major international problems are not poverty, drugs or fear of war; it is tension and only tension. A high percentage of people remain in a state of tension and frustration. This continuous level of tension in the body, mind and emotions predisposes the individual towards psychological and psychosomatic disorders. Modern psychology as well as Yogic philosophy believes in three kinds of tension – muscular tensions, emotional tensions and mental tensions – which can be progressively released through the systematic and regular practice of Yoga nidra.
Muscular tension results from nervous and endocrinal imbalances. It manifests in the form of stiffness and rigidity in the physical body. In the practice of Yoga nidra the body is progressively relaxed, which in turn releases the accumulated muscular tensions.
In day to day life individuals fail to express their emotions freely and openly. As a result, the emotions are repressed and manifest in the form of emotional tension. In the practice of Yoga nidra, the practitioner slowly moves towards the deeper realms of the mind where he or she confronts the deep-rooted emotional tensions. When the practitioner recognizes these emotional tensions with full awareness and a witnessing attitude, then repressed emotions are released and the practitioner becomes calm and tranquil.
Due to excessive activity on the mental plane, the mind always remains in a state of arousal, which results in mental tension. Throughout life the mind is fed with negative data. In the practice, especially in rotation of consciousness and breath awareness, the mind is relaxed, thereby releasing the mental tensions and the benefits of Yoga Nidra are realised.
In this way, through the regular and sincere practice of Yoga nidra, tensions at the physical, emotional and mental level can be minimized. According to Swami Sivananda, “A single hour of Yoga nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleep.”
Trains the mind: The Sankalpa taken in each session of Yoga nidra is perhaps the most effective technique for training the mind. Anything in life can fail you, but not the Sankalpa made during Yoga nidra. The Sankalpa is taken and sowed in the subconscious mind when it is relaxed and receptive. The subconscious mind is very obedient and hence carries out the orders immediately. In Yoga nidra, the Sankalpa trains the subconscious mind, and then the ordinary mind follows the path automatically. The Sankalpa helps in training the mind because it is planted when the mind is relaxed and ready to absorb and accept it. The essential thing is that the resolve should be planted with strong willpower and feeling.
Many people make conscious resolves guided by intellect, which rarely bring results. The Sankalpa taken at the beginning of Yoga nidra is like sowing a seed, and the Sankalpa at the end is like irrigating it. So, the resolve taken in Yoga nidra always brings result, if it is taken sincerely.
Relaxes the mind: The brain is the linking mediator between the mind, body and emotions. In Yoga nidra, intensifying the awareness of the body stimulates the brain. When the awareness is rotated on the different body parts, it not only induces physical relaxation but also clears the nerve pathways to the brain. Each of the body parts has an existing centre in the cerebral white matter, named by researchers as ‘motor homunculus’ or ‘little man’. The sequence of rotation of awareness in Yoga nidra is in accordance with the map in the cerebral white matter of the brain. When the awareness is rotated in the same sequence again and again, it induces a flow of Pranic energy within the neuronal circuit of the motor homunculus of the brain. This Pranic flow brings in a subjective experience of relaxation in the brain.
The state where the brain is completely relaxed results in mental relaxation. The practice and benefits of Yoga Nidra bring alpha dominance in the brain, which is characterized by mental relaxation.
Clears up the unconscious: From early childhood, we tend to repress many wishes, desires and conflicts. Whenever a situation threatens the ego, the defense mechanisms are called upon and the conflicting situation is repressed or suppressed to the unconscious. All the traumatic experiences, unfulfilled desires and threatening situations are suppressed by the ego to the subconscious and unconscious realms of the mind. In the deeper realms of the mind, this conflicting and frustrating matter does not die but remains alive and later manifests in the form of various pathological symptoms. The repressed desires, wishes and situations remain in the form of symbols in the unconscious mind. During the practice of Yoga nidra, the instructor asks the practitioner to visualize certain symbols and images with a witnessing attitude. If the symbols and images are selected properly, then they are in accordance with the symbols of the unconscious. An abstract association is created between the guided imagery and the associated repressed experiences of the unconscious.
Awakens creativity: Several examples from the past indicate that creativity is a characteristic of a relaxed and calm mind. When the mind is totally relaxed, the awareness slowly enters the deeper realms (subconscious and unconscious) of the mind and the person becomes aware of the creative and intuitive faculties. Whether it be Newton or Einstein or Mozart, all made significant and vital contributions in the field of creativity when they allowed themselves to relax deeply enough for the images and forms of their unconscious mind to manifest as solutions to their particular pr