In this technique we will aim to move from normal waking consciousness into a state of deep relaxation where the nervous system and analytical mind is gradually released and becomes dormant.
Avoid intake of artificial chemicals and foods containing strong stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, salt and so on – obviously they will not help much. As this is a Yoga practice, strong relaxants such as alcohol or prescription tranquilizers should also be avoided – we are aiming for voluntary control of our physical system.
The best time to practice this relaxation is between 2 and 5 AM. Make sure you have had at least 4 to 5 hours of sleep already. The best strategy is to wake up, get up and make a small cup of refreshing and calming herbal tea. I find South African Rooibos or Honeybush excellent. Chamomile tea is also a great natural, herbal quietner that is good for our bodies. Sit quietly and sip the tea slowly with a sense of meditative contemplation. Avoid falling into thought about anything at all. Keep the mind and feelings blank and neutral.
One of the biggest hindrances to proper relaxation is our mind. We could be relaxing quite nicely and then just the wrong kind of stray thought coming into our heads can ruin the whole thing and we find we are all keyed up again. So basically the main ways approaching this issue are to practice regularly – both formal Meditation and Relaxation, and then work on developing a great relationship with ourselves. W\Many folks are their own worst enemies as the saying goes, and need to change this. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of the contents of our famous ‘monkey mind’ arise from our views of the world. So a a great practice to do regularly is to gently put aside all views. This implies we become ‘empty’ in a sense of judgements and beliefs, both towards ourselves and towards others. This really does help when we come to the meditation seat or relaxation mat.
Now prepare for a standard Savasana session allowing at least 45 minutes. I am assuming here we all practice Savasana regularly, and so are familiar with this technique. If not, please refer to our Relaxation ‘Initial’ Guided Audio. Make sure you are comfortable and warm. You may find it difficult at first not to just fall back asleep, but perseverance will overcome this.
Lie down, placing the body in a relaxed manner and spend a short time simply being in the moment in your body, right here right now with no overt agendas in your mind. If you feel it may be helpful, gently stretch your limbs for a few moments. A simple stretching and tensing of each limb, your trunk, shoulders and neck should be sufficient. Avoid stimulating the body too much so keep it very short, simple and light.
If it helps you, you can do a breathing section to help calm the body. Keep this on the short side and remember our breathing needs to become ever-more gentle and subtle, so aim for as natural and quiet a breath pattern as possible.
Keep your mind field and feelings simple and neutral. This may be difficult in the beginning but simply staying focused in the moment as it passes with a light and gentle awareness will help a lot. An on-going and well-established Meditation Practice improves our efforts enormously. Also, a gentle inner smile is very helpful. Catch just the feeling of the smile and spread this feeling into your body and soul.
Section 1 – first stage induction
Now place your attention lightly onto your left shoulder. Hold this focus just a few moments and then move to the left elbow again just a few moments and then move on to the wrist. Keep the same short focus span and move to right shoulder, elbow and wrist. Now focus on the centre chest and check your gentle smile.
As we let go and relax, smile and move attention gently, feel a sense of easy enjoyment in the process. We need to see the practice as a valuable technique that we are using to become more familiar with our own states of consciousness and as a spiritual tool we are using to develop ourselves.
As you focus lightly on the centre chest, say a short, silent affirmation to your-self. “I am perfectly relaxed therefore my body is perfectly relaxed” Just for a moment allow the feeling of this statement to spread through your soul being – our feelings and sense of our-self non-physically, and through your body.
Move on now placing your attention on your left thumb, then index finger, middle, ring, small fingers and then the palm. Now breathe very softly and gently from your palm up through your arm to the shoulder and then back down again to the palm. Do this twice.
Repeat this whole strategy with the right arm.
Move attention back to the centre chest and dwell here a moment checking your smile and also check the level of release of the nervous system. If the body still feels at all ‘keyed up’ the nervous system is still engaged. In reality the nerves release gradually, so we experience a sense of ‘levels’ of relaxation. This could be seen as a range from tense to comfortable and mildly relaxed and then moving on to deeper relaxation and finally the ‘body asleep, consciousness alert state’ which is where we are aiming.
Now do each leg exactly the same way as you did the arms, obviously focusing on the toes and the sole of the foot instead of the fingers and palms.
Return after completing the leg circuits to the centre chest.
One more affirmation can now be silently stated, slowly and deliberately – “I exist within the field of all potential therefore I actualise this silence here and now” Silence here is encompasses our bodies, our emotions and feelings and our thoughts. Further and most importantly, this silence encompasses a peace and equanimity beyond our daily struggles and joys, issues and fears, all our views of the world, beliefs and in short, our entire psychological palette.
This point is a good time to check in how your relaxation is progressing. Once the nervous system is properly released, a sense of heaviness quickly spreads over the physical body and we rapidly lose the feeling of the body. There comes a sense that the boundaries and solidity of the body is dissolving.
If this is not happening, continue with the next section. If this is occurring either proceed to the ‘depth of the heart’ section or the ‘inhabiting the second body’ section.
Section 2 – Second stage induction
The body may be partially relaxed at this stage and you may benefit from extra techniques.
Continue the inner smile practice in a gentle way, almost as a sense of background for your consciousness. Remember we are looking to move towards greater inner stillness. So our inner work should aim to become ever-more gentle and even a bit vague. Another way of saying this is that we become lighter in our engagement.
We can now introduce simple colour visualisation. Begin by sensing the entire body feet to head and open your visual sense to colour. Now do a fairly superficial run through of the colours in the sections of the body – base of spine/perineum is Red, lower abdomen is Orange, solar plexus is Yellow, chest is Green, Throat area is Blue, centre head is Purple and forehead and the crown area is deep Violet. One or more of these colours may appear brighter than others. Focus for a while on the brighter colours and engage their stronger vibrations then move to the less bright shades but without trying to overly change them. Just keep noticing them gently, either singly or in groups. Avoid thought or feeling, maintaining a neutral inner frame-set. Work with this colour practice for a while and try to be ever-more gentle with the engagement.
Once you sense the boundaries of the physical body becoming less well defined, actively encourage this sensation by gently picking the feeling up with your awareness. Use the imaginative faculty to expand this feeling, always gentle, casual and slow.
Often at this point we seem to almost lose our sense of the body, and all that remains is our ‘head’. The head and face can be quite stubbornly resistive to our efforts.
If this is the case a technique I have found helpful is as follows: once again using your feeling awareness, circle about the head a few times, slowly, moving anti-clockwise. This seems to once again help to break down our habitual impressions. If the strategy works well you can incorporate it into the other sections of the practice. The slow movement may also be useful when working with our limbs or trunk. Try to move slower and slower, eventually coming to rest at a slight angle to your normal centre front level of focus. Holding our attention to either side or angled can also be useful, especially if we can succeed in losing our original point of reference (to the centre front).
It is always the rational or analytical part of our perception that seems to demand supreme dominance of our consciousness. Know that whatever technique we choose to use we always have to be gradually moving away from this left brain mind frame. Letting it go without falling asleep is the eventual goal.
Depth of the heart
If you have been successful to this point, the body will probably be now ready to slip into a true sleeping state. Provided all your points of normal reference (body, thoughts, feelings etc) are now dormant we will effectively have arrived at ‘Yoga Nidra” the sleep of the yogis – body asleep, mind awake.
From this level we can now centre our awareness very gently into our Heart Cakra. Since you will probably have lost sense of where your chest is, use the feeling of this centre of energy and possibly a very gentle visualisation of deep emerald green. Regular Cakra meditation helps greatly to be in touch with the various levels of our electro-magnetic being. (See Sacred Spiral Cakra meditation)
Dwell with your consciousness in the depth of this energy centre for a while. Experience the condition of total inner silence on all levels including our physical body. After some time, slowly and carefully return to your physical body.
Initially quite a degree of apprehension or downright fear may be present. This feeling usually drives us immediately back into our familiar references of the body, mind and feelings. Look out for this tendency and you will have to actively oppose it with a gentle level of intent until the issue is overcome.
Traditionally the ‘Yoga Nidra’ state of awareness is used to examine with completely detached impartiality, the roots of our individual Samskaras, which become apparent in this state. Complete detachment is absolutely necessary otherwise we will be emotionally moved and our Yoga Nidra will be lost.
Sometime before the body actually falls asleep, usually when we are still in contact with the feeling of our limbs, we have the opportunity to develop awareness of our second body, sometimes called the Etheric Template. Breathing through the limbs as described above is a very helpful practice since it seems to awaken the subtle energy of the arm or leg you are working with. You can do this anytime you have a moment and are feeling relaxed. Even a few minutes at a time is helpful.
After breathing through a limb a few times focus your awareness on an area just outside of the actual physical limb – just above or to the side. Look for a feeling similar to the one you felt when breathing and concentrating on the ‘real’ limb. If you can pick this up, move the ‘second limb’ as if it were the actual physical digit. With practice we can gain quite a high level of ability with this seemingly phantom body, increasing awareness until we can sense the entire Etheric Body.
Yoga and Tai Chi practitioners can now perform Asanas or Forms with the physical body in a state of deep relaxation.
Once Yoga Nidra is attained the typical sensations of so-called astral travel or out-of-body state can be accessed. A sense of ‘floating’ or ‘rolling out’ of the normal body is often experienced.
This is not a dream state at all since we are in lucid control of our perception. A ‘lucid’ dream, if genuinely lucid, would probably amount to the same thing – the habitation of our second body.
Return to normal consciousness
Return to the normal physical sense will probably happen naturally after a suitable time duration has occured. Conscious return is always an option and should be cultivated.
As with any deep relaxation, our manner of return is important. Avoid sudden or jerky return to normal waking consciousness. First awareness of our breath can be very helpful. The breath will probably be extremely soft and quiet. Notice this gentle flow in and out for a good while before gently exploring into your limbs and energising them with simple stretching. Taking some time to return is a good thing and also giving a moment to acknowledge your-self on all levels – mental, physical and emotional, spiritual and material.
Let all links be made with love and care.