Yoga nidra, often called yogic sleep, has all the trimmings of a nice nap: Your teacher guides you through complete relaxation as you relax in savasana. It even offers the benefits of up to four hours of deep sleep.
Therefore, it seems natural to swift away into dreamland, right? Not so fast. “The difference between deep sleep and yoga Nidra is that in yoga Nidra we stay 100 percent alert and awakened,” says Yoga Guru Neeraj Ji, who’s leads the practice of Yoga Nindra at Vedamrita Centre.
After all, you can’t sleep through a practice meant to help you achieve self-realization. According to Guruji Shubham Barwala Ji – “When you fall asleep, you are totally unconscious and unable to learn anything because you cannot see what is going on. A little bit of consciousness must remain in order to witness and experience the lack of activities in the mind and body.”
So, what’s the trick to staying awake? Making the effort to remain alert and pay lots of attention to your guru’s Instructions. Luckily, by design, yoga nidra is a guided exercise, expertly steering your attention throughout your body. The teacher also usually makes some sound, such as the clap of a hand or ringing of the bell, to keep the student awakened.
In spite of mental distractions, observe the pattern of your breath in mindfulness meditation or focus on a mantra in Tantric practices, the heart of yoga nidra is in cultivating that constant awareness—over time.
With constant practice, you’ll never lose your consciousness, or maybe for a few seconds. But you’ll always awaken and enjoy the absence of activity. It’s an amazing state of bliss. “The ability grows slowly as we gradually get closer to our own nature. The mind and body become inactive, but we are a portion of this great universal intelligence. The self never sleeps.”
Read Guruji Shubham Barwala Ji’s step-by-step guide to Prepare for Yoga Nidra.