You’ve finished an enlivening practice that’s strengthed your core, opened your chest and lengthened every muscle of your body. The practice is about to close with yoga nidra. You stretch out on your mat and let everything relax much like you would in savasana but yoga nidra is not quite the same, is it?
The clue is in their names – savasana comes from the Sanskrit words Shiva and asana meaning ‘death’ and ‘posture’ respectively, a near literal translation of what we in the west call ‘corpse pose.’ However, yoga nidra means yogic sleep. To the casual beholder these practices might seem similar but to practitioners the difference is vast yet subtle. Savasana silently mimics the absence of life whilst allowing the practise to re-align the energies of the body and mind of the practicioner. Yoga Nidra (also referred to as psychic sleep), is a led practise and draws the mind, body and soul to actively rest.
Yoga nidra differs from savasana in that it is lead by a spiritual teacher who gently and verbally encourages yogis and yoginis to be mindful of breathing; release tension from each part of the body in turn; form a sankalpa, (positive affirmation); and to internalise focus by withdrawing from the senses in order to observe the inner, present self. The suggestion is that the inner self, in the absence of our external circumstances, is the ‘true’ self; that is to say, instead of a human reacting, one is a human simply ‘being.’
Initial attempts at yoga nidra may be confronting since our minds may be predisposed to drifting towards less present and sometimes more stressful aspects of life. This is unsurprising but an add-on effect is that we may feel like we’ve failed in our practice because the western mind is so strongly influenced towards the ideal of getting it 100% right, 100% of the time.
Be kind to yourself. An important part of yoga nidra is observing that which presents itself in the absence of external stimuli. Don’t fight the thoughts that arise during your practice but rather, notice them as an observer and observe them without attachment. If you find yourself holding on to a particular thought, gently unhook your mind from it and return to the present. If it doesn’t serve you in that moment when you’re there on your mat, by all means let that thought come but then let it pass. Whatever it is, the idea will still be there for you to pick up once more at the end of yoga nidra, if you feel the need. Alternatively, perhaps the thought is something you have been conditioned to accept as a part of life but if it no longer serves you, (or perhaps never had), yoga nidra is your opportunity to recognise this and let it go.
The Light Within Me Recognises and Honours the Light Within You All.
Donovan Stender and Sarah Howes