The Yoga Nidra Advantage

The Yoga Nidra Advantage

In today’s fast-paced and demanding world, human life has become increasingly hectic and stressful. The pressures of modern living often require individuals to constantly adapt and adjust to their surroundings. Some may respond by becoming hyperactive, while others may withdraw from the challenges they face. However, when we struggle to effectively cope with these demands, it can lead to negative stress or distress, resulting in mental or psychological issues. For many people, the mind remains in a perpetual state of arousal and tension, contributing to feelings of unease and discomfort. Yoga nidra, a practice rooted in pratyahara, offers a valuable solution by providing deep relaxation for both the body and mind, along with a myriad of other benefits.

Yoga nidra, translated as “psychic sleep,” is a form of pratyahara where awareness is turned inward. Unlike traditional sleep, yoga nidra involves maintaining full consciousness while the body enters a state of deep relaxation. This unique practice allows the mind to stay alert and receptive to instructions, creating a state often referred to in psychology as the hypnagogic state—a state that exists between wakefulness and sleep. Originating from the ancient tantric tradition of nyasa, yoga nidra was further developed and systematized by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the 1960s, presenting it in a structured and scientifically grounded manner.

Yoga nidra unfolds in a series of carefully structured stages, each designed to guide practitioners into deeper states of relaxation and self-awareness:

  1. Preparation: The practice begins with the practitioner lying down in shavasana, the corpse pose, with eyes closed. Here, initial relaxation of both body and mind is facilitated by bringing awareness to stillness, comfort, posture, breath, and the sounds present in the environment. The practitioner adopts the role of a witness, observing without attachment.
  2. Sankalpa: Once a state of relaxation is achieved, the practitioner is guided to formulate a sankalpa, or resolve, based on their deepest desires or intentions. This sankalpa is stated in a concise, positive, and affirmative manner, repeated mentally three times with unwavering conviction and confidence.
  3. Rotation of Consciousness: In this stage, awareness is systematically guided through different parts of the body without physical movement. The practitioner mentally traverses the right side of the body, from the thumb of the right hand to the little toe of the right foot, then the left side in a similar manner, followed by the back and front of the body. This rotation of awareness promotes deep relaxation and heightened sensory perception.
  4. Breath Awareness: Here, attention is directed towards observing the natural rhythm of the breath without attempting to alter it. Practitioners may focus on sensations in the nostrils, chest, abdomen, or the passage between the navel and throat. Each inhalation and exhalation is observed and counted mentally, fostering a state of mindfulness and inner stillness.
  5. Opposite Feelings and Sensations: This stage involves recalling and intensifying pairs of opposite physical or emotional sensations, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, or pain and pleasure. By fully experiencing these sensations, practitioners develop greater awareness and acceptance of the body’s responses.
  6. Visualization: The practitioner’s awareness is directed to the dark space behind closed eyes, known as chidakasha. Here, they are guided to visualize specific objects, stories, or scenarios, engaging the power of imagination to evoke feelings of relaxation, healing, or transformation.
  7. Sankalpa (Reiteration): The sankalpa formulated earlier is revisited in this stage, reaffirming it with the same dedication, faith, and optimism as before. The repetition of the resolve strengthens its imprint on the subconscious mind, aligning the practitioner’s actions with their deepest intentions.
  8. Ending the Practice: As the session draws to a close, awareness is gradually brought back to the external environment by focusing on sounds, objects, and people present in the surroundings. Practitioners are encouraged to slowly awaken their bodies through gentle movements and stretches, integrating the benefits of yoga nidra into their waking consciousness.

Benefits Of Yoga Nidra

Stress Relief

Yoga Nidra serves as a potent antidote to the pervasive issue of tension that plagues the modern world. Amidst the complex web of global challenges, from poverty to war, it is tension—both physical and psychological—that emerges as the primary concern. A significant portion of the global population finds itself ensnared in a perpetual state of tension and frustration, a condition that not only diminishes quality of life but also predisposes individuals to a myriad of psychological and psychosomatic disorders. Both modern psychology and ancient yogic philosophy acknowledge the existence of three distinct types of tension—muscular, emotional, and mental—all of which find solace in the systematic practice of yoga nidra.

Muscular tension, often stemming from imbalances in the nervous and endocrine systems, manifests as stiffness and rigidity in the physical body. Through the gentle yet systematic relaxation techniques employed in yoga nidra, practitioners are able to gradually release the accumulated tension stored within their muscles, paving the way for a profound sense of physical ease and comfort.

Emotional tension, on the other hand, arises from the suppression and repression of feelings and emotions in everyday life. As individuals navigate the complexities of interpersonal relationships and societal expectations, many find themselves unable to freely express their emotions, leading to their accumulation within the psyche. Within the practice of yoga nidra, practitioners are encouraged to journey into the depths of their subconscious mind, where they can confront and acknowledge these deep-rooted emotional tensions with unwavering awareness and acceptance. Through this process of introspection and release, emotional burdens are gradually lifted, leaving practitioners feeling calm, balanced, and emotionally resilient.

Stress Relief

Finally, the relentless activity of the modern mind perpetuates a state of perpetual arousal, resulting in mental tension and fatigue. Constant exposure to negative stimuli further exacerbates this mental unrest. However, within the structured framework of yoga nidra, particularly during stages such as rotation of consciousness and breath awareness, the mind is gently guided into a state of deep relaxation and stillness. Here, amidst the tranquil expanse of the inner landscape, mental tensions begin to dissolve, allowing practitioners to experience profound states of clarity, peace, and mental rejuvenation.

As emphasized by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a pioneer in the field of yoga nidra, even a single hour of this transformative practice can offer restorative benefits equivalent to three hours of conventional sleep. Through regular and sincere engagement with yoga nidra, individuals can effectively minimize tensions at all levels—physical, emotional, and mental—unlocking a pathway to greater well-being, resilience, and inner peace.

Mental Training With A Sankalpa

The sankalpa, or resolve, undertaken during each session of yoga nidra emerges as a profoundly transformative tool for harnessing the power of the mind. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a revered authority in the realm of yoga, extols its potency, asserting that while many facets of life may falter, the sankalpa made during yoga nidra remains steadfast and unwavering. This assertion underscores the profound impact of the sankalpa, which is implanted into the receptive substrate of the subconscious mind during moments of deep relaxation.

Indeed, the subconscious mind, characterized by its unwavering obedience, swiftly internalizes and acts upon the sankalpa once it is implanted. Within the cocoon of yoga nidra, where the mind is in a state of profound relaxation and receptivity, the sankalpa serves as a beacon, guiding the subconscious mind along a predetermined path. As the subconscious mind assimilates and internalizes the resolve, the conscious mind inevitably follows suit, effortlessly aligning itself with the trajectory set forth by the sankalpa.

Critical to the efficacy of the sankalpa is the depth of sincerity and willpower with which it is imbued. Unlike conscious resolutions, which often falter in the face of intellectual scrutiny, the sankalpa thrives on the fervent intensity of the practitioner’s resolve. Swami Satyananda emphasizes the importance of infusing the sankalpa with profound feeling and unwavering determination, likening the process to the sowing of a seed and subsequent irrigation. In this analogy, the initial planting of the seed represents the sankalpa undertaken at the beginning of yoga nidra, while the subsequent nourishment symbolizes the reinforcement provided by the concluding sankalpa.

Ultimately, the resolve undertaken during yoga nidra unfailingly yields results, provided it is approached with sincerity and dedication. Through the symbiotic interplay of relaxation, receptivity, and resolute intention, the sankalpa emerges as a potent catalyst for personal transformation and self-realization, guiding practitioners along the path towards their deepest aspirations and highest potentials.

Mental Relaxation

The intricate network of the brain serves as the vital intermediary, seamlessly connecting the realms of mind, body, and emotions. Within the practice of yoga nidra, the heightened awareness directed towards the body serves as a potent stimulant for the brain’s activity. As attention is systematically directed towards different body parts during the rotation of awareness, not only does physical relaxation ensue, but the neural pathways leading to the brain are also cleared and invigorated.

Remarkably, each body part possesses a corresponding center within the cerebral white matter, a discovery elucidated by researchers and aptly named the ‘motor homunculus’ or ‘little man’. The meticulously structured sequence of awareness rotation in yoga nidra mirrors the arrangement of this map within the cerebral white matter. Through repetitive cycles of awareness rotation, a dynamic flow of pranic energy is stimulated within the neuronal circuitry of the brain’s motor homunculus. This influx of pranic energy engenders a profound subjective experience of relaxation within the brain itself.

Another pivotal stage of yoga nidra involves the deliberate intensification of a pair of opposite feelings or sensations within the practitioner. This strategic approach is aligned with the electro-physiological principles governing the brain’s operation. Initially, when a neuron fires, it generates a nerve impulse that is relayed and registered within the brain. However, through repeated stimulation, a phenomenon known as habituation occurs, wherein the brain gradually becomes desensitized to the stimulus. As the brain acclimates to the repeated stimuli, a state of relaxation gradually ensues, culminating in mental relaxation.

Sannyasi Mangalteertham’s (1998) research further corroborates the transformative effects of yoga nidra on brain function. His findings suggest that the practice induces alpha dominance within the brain, a state characterized by profound mental relaxation. Thus, through the synergistic interplay of heightened body awareness and strategic stimulation of neuronal pathways, yoga nidra emerges as a powerful modality for promoting relaxation and fostering mental well-being.

Psychological Purification

Since childhood, we tend to suppress numerous desires, conflicts, and wishes, particularly when they threaten our ego. When faced with such situations, our defense mechanisms kick in, leading us to repress or suppress the conflicting emotions or experiences into the unconscious mind. These unresolved traumas, unfulfilled desires, and threatening situations continue to simmer beneath the surface, manifesting later as various pathological symptoms.

In the depths of the subconscious and unconscious mind, these repressed matters linger, unresolved yet potent. They often take on symbolic forms, serving as cryptic representations of the underlying experiences. During the practice of yoga nidra, instructors guide practitioners to visualize specific symbols and images, encouraging them to adopt a witnessing attitude. When chosen thoughtfully, these symbols resonate with the deeper symbols of the unconscious, forging an abstract association between guided imagery and repressed experiences.

For instance, if a practitioner is instructed to visualize a dog, it may evoke a past traumatic experience from childhood where the practitioner was bitten by a dog. Through observing this associated painful experience with detachment, the practitioner begins to disentangle their personal identification from the experience. As the personal identification loosens its grip, the painful memory associated with the dog is no longer held tightly.

In this manner, the practice of visualization serves as a conduit for bringing unconscious desires, experiences, conflicts, and frustrations to the surface of consciousness. By fostering a sense of detachment from these experiences, practitioners gradually release their hold on them. As a result, the unconscious mind is cleared of its burdens, paving the way for healing and resolution. Through this transformative process, individuals can find greater freedom from the shackles of their past traumas and experiences.

Stimulation Of Creativity

Numerous historical examples underscore the connection between creativity and a tranquil, undisturbed mind. It’s evident that when the mind is in a state of deep relaxation, awareness naturally delves into the deeper realms of the subconscious and unconscious. In this state, individuals often experience heightened access to their creative and intuitive faculties.

The stories of luminaries like Newton, Einstein, and Mozart provide compelling evidence of this phenomenon. These remarkable figures made groundbreaking contributions to their respective fields precisely when they allowed themselves to relax deeply enough for the insights and inspirations of their unconscious minds to emerge. Through moments of profound relaxation, they were able to tap into a wellspring of creative potential, yielding innovative solutions to complex problems.

The regular practice of yoga nidra serves as a conduit for establishing a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind. As individuals engage in this practice consistently, they gradually attune themselves to the subtle workings of the unconscious mind. With continued practice, the latent power of creativity within begins to stir and awaken spontaneously.

By fostering a state of deep relaxation and receptivity, yoga nidra enables practitioners to access the untapped reservoirs of their subconscious minds. Through this process, individuals may experience a profound expansion of their creative capacities, leading to greater innovation, insight, and problem-solving abilities in various aspects of their lives.

Memory Improvement

The conventional approach to teaching, often characterized by classroom instruction and the use of rewards and punishments, may cater well to intellectually inclined students. However, it proves to be less effective for students who may struggle with traditional learning methods due to limitations in their conscious brain or intellect. These “dull” students often find it challenging to absorb information directly through conventional teaching techniques.

Yoga nidra emerges as a promising educational tool for addressing the needs of such students. This technique facilitates the direct transmission of knowledge into the subconscious mind, bypassing the limitations of the conscious intellect. By engaging in yoga nidra, students experience enhanced learning and memory capacity, as the information is imprinted directly into the subconscious realms.

Moreover, the practice of yoga nidra fosters holistic learning by involving both hemispheres of the brain, unlike traditional classroom teaching, which predominantly stimulates the left hemisphere. By engaging the entire mind in the learning process, yoga nidra promotes comprehensive understanding and retention of the subject matter.

Remarkably, studies and anecdotal evidence highlight the remarkable efficacy of yoga nidra in educational settings. Ostrander (1973) noted that utilizing yoga nidra techniques significantly accelerated language learning, reducing the time required to master a foreign language to a fraction of conventional methods. Furthermore, educators worldwide are increasingly integrating yoga nidra into their teaching practices to enhance students’ receptivity, attention, and enthusiasm for learning.

Studies, such as the one conducted by Flak (1978), underscore the positive impact of yoga nidra techniques, such as rotation of awareness and visualization, in cultivating relaxation and stimulating interest among schoolchildren. By incorporating these techniques into classroom activities, educators can create an environment conducive to deep learning and foster a sense of joy and engagement in students’ educational journey.



The multifaceted benefits of yoga nidra underscore its significance as a holistic practice with preventive, promotive, and curative properties. Firstly, as a preventive measure, yoga nidra acts as a potent shield against stress and stress-related ailments. By inducing profound physical, emotional, and mental relaxation, it helps individuals combat the detrimental effects of stressors in their lives. Moreover, through the cultivation of a calm and tranquil mind, yoga nidra assists in averting the accumulation of tension and the onset of stress-related disorders. Additionally, by delving into the deeper recesses of the subconscious mind, yoga nidra aids in uprooting repressed desires and thoughts, thereby fostering emotional well-being and resilience.

Furthermore, yoga nidra serves as a promotive science, unlocking the innate creativity and enhancing the learning and memory capacities of practitioners. By facilitating a connection between the conscious and unconscious mind, it taps into the reservoir of creative potential within individuals, fostering innovation and intellectual growth. Research studies also highlight the positive impact of yoga nidra on cognitive functions, suggesting its efficacy in promoting optimal learning and memory retention.

Importantly, yoga nidra emerges as a therapeutic modality for addressing a myriad of psychological disorders and psychosomatic ailments. Clinical research indicates its effectiveness in alleviating conditions such as anxiety, hostility, and insomnia, offering individuals a path to psychological well-being and inner peace. Moreover, yoga nidra has shown promise in treating various psychosomatic diseases, including asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer, and hypertension, by addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to these conditions.

In today’s fast-paced and stress-laden modern lifestyle, where psychological and psychosomatic afflictions are rampant, the practice of yoga nidra emerges as a beacon of hope for humanity. Its holistic approach to health and well-being, encompassing prevention, promotion, and cure, positions it as a valuable tool for navigating the challenges of contemporary existence. As individuals increasingly seek holistic solutions to enhance their quality of life, yoga nidra stands poised to emerge as a transformative practice with profound benefits for the mind, body, and spirit.

With my ascendant lord in the ninth house you can see that I have always been inclined towards spiritual interests. My first major spiritual awakening occurred at seventeen in which I had visions of past lives as a yogi and saw the ultimate mission and purpose of my soul (my sankalpa) during this life. About seven years later I met my guruji and my Kundalini Shakti was awakened through shaktipat diksha when I was twenty-four. The intense inner awakening that followed led me on many extended journeys through India and South East Asia studying with several great masters, whom trained me in the esoteric teachings of Yoga, Tantra, and Vedanta. With Jupiter in my tenth house (while bringing the strength of five planets from Sagittarius) I have always had a propensity towards teaching. To share these invaluable ancient traditional techniques with you is a tremendous blessing and honor. Hari Om, ~Devatma Saraswati

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