The practice of Yoga Nidra can be challenging for beginners. To encourage any beginner I share below what it felt like and will, most likely, feel like for you should you begin to explore this Art of Transformational Sleep.
Strange as it might seem I was drawn to write this blog post on a Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Nidra after completing the related posts:
This Beginners Guide to Yoga Nidra is written from personal experience. I have been practicing this wonderful, yet challenging, grounding and embodiment practice for around six months now. I find it easy to committ to doing it because it is so easy to fit into my daily schedule. You will find in this website that I make this practice foundational to living a Yoga Lifestyle.
As with my other two blog posts listed above I start with a List of Contents so that you can decide which parts of this Beginners Guide to Yoga Nidra interest you most.
Here’s the list of aspects of Yoga Nidra that will, in all likelihood be part of the experience of Yoga Nidra when you begin to practice it for the first three months. This is a daily practice and not something you do at the weekend.
List of Content
- Challenge 01 – Staying Awake
- Challenge 02 – Nothing is happening
- Challennge 03 – I keep being distracted by thoughts
- Challenge 04 – I can’t find my heart’s desire
- Challenge 05 – I can’t keep up a regular practice
- Challenge 06 – I can’t find a teacher
If I were to initially try and sell you the practice of Yoga Nidra on the basis of the above, you would probably suggest that I offer something more inviting. This, however, is the reality. The benefits really do come with practice but this is how you are likely to experience Yoga Nidra in the beginning.
Issue 01 – Staying Awake
You are likely to fall asleep, particularly if you practice before bedtime and at times when you need rest or desire relief from stress. Know that this is OK. Many people use Yoga Nidra for just this express purpose alone because they find it difficult to sleep and have gotten into the habit of medicating themselves with sleeping pills.
Take it as a given that much of the Western world is sleep deprived. Sleep is essential to the proper maintenance of the body/mind. In my experience, as you practice Yoga Nidra you may well feel very sleepy for a long period. This is what I found.
Yoga nidra is the yoga of aware sleep. In this lies the secret of self healing. – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
It is almost as if you have to go through the sleepy stage before, better rested, you enter another stage where the desire to sleep falls away and you enter what might be called the Relaxation Response.
The problem here is that Western training tends to expect an instant response.
You want the benefits of Yoga Nidra NOW without the need to go through stages of practice.
Would you expect to become a weight lifter after a week or two of gym training? With Yoga Nidra you are learning the art of letting go and letting be. Sometimes that will feel absolutely like being sleepy.
Issue 02 – The Nothing is Happening Experience
The journey of Yoga Nidra is a very subtle one. It is an invitation to Being and flow. This is a different way of moving in the world. It is not the do-do of everyday activity.
It is a more feminine allowing rather than the more active masculine emphasis on productivity (the do-do.) This other kind of feminine energy is rarely celebrated in the West in a culture of over-achievers. And those who do not over-achieve are often labelled as losers.
So you are absolutely right.
Nothing is happening! Except that No-Thing is happening. Everything that is manifested in this world of time and space and form arises from the Unmanifest, aka the No-Thing.
This No-Thing is not the same as nothing. No-Thing is infinite potential that has not yet appeared either as a thought or a form. Don’t try and understand this with your intellect. It can only be known through direct personal experience.
Tao invariably takes no action, and yet nothing is left undone. If the lords can keep to this, all things will transform with spontaneity. – Lzo Tzu (32).
Yoga Nidra is an invitation to allowing this Source Energy to express through you. You, as the over-thinking personal mind are the very thing that keeps you separate from this infinite potential. By you I really meanthat voice in your head which you falsely identify with.
That voice in your head is also the cause of most of your unnecessary suffering, as well as the collective suffering of humanity.
Issue 03 – Mental Distraction
You will absolutely get distracted by thoughts. Welcome to the Matrix! Welcome to The Emperor Who is Wearing No Clothes! Welcome to the Ghost in the Machine! Welcome to what the modern mystic Eckhart Tolle calls “normal insanity.”
You are now being introduced to the servant that has taken over the Palace of Presence (Chang Z)
This running riot of the personal mind is symbolised in many fairy tales. You go asleep for one hundred years locked in a tower (intellectual thought) until the Prince (awareness) comes to kiss you awake (enlightenment.) You finally have your happily ever after (experience eternity.)
This is the fairy tale story of The Sleeping Beauty. You are that Sleeping Beauty. To awaken you need to recognise the briars that cut off accesses to the transcendent mind.
Stop thinking, and end your problems.” ― Lao Tzu
The briars are your incessant thoughts that get in your way. They are generated in your head. That are forever on. Those who experience depression find there is rarely an ‘off’ switch.
To reference another folk tale, your never ending thoughts result in you living like Brer Rabbit fighting with The Tar Baby. You get more and more stuck the more you try to fight your way out.
Noticing thisnever ending mental distraction is an essential part of theYoga Nidra practice. You cannot get away from it.
It is the response of the reptile mind in the brain.
What you do at this stage is simply observe the thought and come back to sensing your body or your breath. It might not be terribly exciting, but you have to trust that it will become the doorway to magical transformation.
Issue 04 – Finding Your Sankalpa
This is another term for finding your heart’s desire. Finding yourSankalpa is a journey of trust and allowing.
How much of your life have you spent engaging with that energy? There are going to be many false starts. This is not to be judged as wrong or as failure or losing.
San, he says, refers to a connection with the highest truth. Sankalpa, then, is a vow and commitment we make to support our highest truth. “By definition, a sankalpa should honor the deeper meaning of our life. A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma—our overriding purpose for being here. – From How to Create a Sankapala – Yoga International
View it as an adventure. View it as a magical mystery tour.
You think that your mind is going to give you the answer when your Sambalpa is a state within your heart’s connection to Source. How often have you felt this connection? Do you know how to recognise it?
This is not entirely your fault. You have been taught the superiority of logical thinking and the intellect.
René Descartes, a leading philosopher of the Enlightenment, declared “I think, therefore I am.” No one mentioned to him that he might have it the wrong way round. “I am, therefore I choose to think.”
Your Sambalpa is really thought through you.
You feel creative, inspired, uplifted. This is not to say that it is all easy. Very often your heart’s desire will ask you to become all you are created to become. You will have to put your head above the parapet. You will have to stop playing small.
You may find that you become more isolated. The choice is to follow or not follow your true heart’s desire. This will in all liklihood lead to a period of not knowing. The Western mind is not comfortable with this state. It is unflattering to the ego.
I Can’t Stick to the Practice
This happens. You have to be honest with yourself. Are you willing to not know, not achieve in the usual way that you measure getting results?
You might be a Type A personality who thrives on constant doing and achieving gold stars. It may be that Yoga Nidra is too much of a challenge. You won’t earn any gold stars for doing this practice.
Or maybe you are in the 1st Stage of Life and everything is about “I, me, my and mine.” Life may not have yet turned you over and asked you the big existential questions about who you are and why you are.
The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it ― Carl Jung
Life might not be stressful. You may not be looking for meaning and purpose. The world of the material is very comfortable, thank you, and you may feel that other things are more important.
You may not be ready or you may just be making excuses.
At least you will learn what is of value to you at this given point in your life. There are other ways to begin the very important practice of embodiment. You might experiment with Five Rhythms Dance or Dynamic Meditation, or Sufi Dancing.
You might simply begin a yoga practice in a style that suits your personality and over time this may draw you into exploring the path of Yoga Nidra at a later time. Only you can decide what is of REAL value.
Issue No 06 – Finding a Teacher
While it can be good to have an experienced Yoga Nidra teacher available to you, this might not be an option. It isn’t really an option for me because I live in a very rural part of Ireland where such teachers don’t presently exist.
Yoga Nidra is not like other types or styles of yoga. With Hatha Yoga you can be taught the poses and how to align in the body in the right way.
Yoga Nidra is an internal experience. You know about your internal experience better than anyone, but you do need direction. This direction is available over YouTube or on a CD or via an mp3 download.
The challenge is to stay with the practice when practicing on your own.
The guided scripts are great, but they don’t really help you to move through the challenges of sleepiness, distraction, pushing the river and discouragement.
This is why I think reading books on Yoga Nidra is especially helpful. I recommend you read Yoga Nidra – The Art of Transfunctional Sleep by Kamini Desai. It is so valuable. It gives you a much wider view of what is on offer from the wonderful practice that is Yoga Nidra.
Every night when we sleep, we must do one thing; let go of our thoughts. In Yoga Nidra we consciously enter the twilight zone between waking and sleeping, enabling us to rest more and more as the space of being beyond the mind, and less and less as the mind itself. This unlocks the mystical, integrative powers of the subconscious, as well as your higher centers of consciousness, to effortlessly erase your most tenacious, self-destructive habits and behavior patterns. It is said by yogis that 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra is as restorative as three hours of sleep. https://www.kaminidesai.com/yoga-nidra
I find this so encouraging when it all feels like, “I can’t do this on my own!”.
Are You Ready to Find Purpose, Passion and Prosperity?
So beginning Yoga Nidra and keeping to the practice can be a real challenge for those starting out and going it alone. It is a turning around of awareness that explores unfamiliar territory most people have neglected since early childhood.
One can only sell the future benefits in the hope that these promise enough for the student to continue.
It is easier if you do it in a group, but often such a group is hard to find. Even if you do find a group it may only be a brief bolt on to an existing yoga class or a half-day workshop.
Then you are on your own, even when you have taken a few online courses and read some books. This might sound discouraging, but to me Yoga Nidra challenges me to trust and have faith in what the Sufi mystic Hafiz calls “the astonishing light of your own Being”
It has, in a very short time made it very clear to me what my purpose in life is. This was a challenge in itself, but more than worthwhile both energetically and financially.
Would I drop the practice? I might, but it is really very unlikely. It is challenging to trust the unknown that holds such potential for Purpose, Passion and Prosperity. I hope you take up this challenge.