Yoga nidra (Sanskrit: योग निद्रा, yoga nidrā) or yogic sleep in modern usage is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, typically induced by a guided meditation.

A state called yoga nidra is mentioned in the Upanishads and the Mahabharata, but it offers no precedent for the modern technique. That derives from 19th and 20th century Western "proprioceptive relaxation" as described by practitioners such as Annie Payson Call and Edmund Jacobson.

The modern form of the technique, pioneered by Dennis Boyes in 1973 and popularised by Satyananda Saraswati in 1976, and then by Swami Rama, Richard Miller, and others has spread worldwide. It is applied by the US Army to assist soldiers to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. There is limited scientific evidence that the technique helps relieve stress.

Historical meaningEdit

Mythical originsEdit

 
Vishnu asleep on the eternal waters. 19th century

Something named yoga nidra is mentioned in the Upanishads.[1] Lord Krishna is associated with yoga nidra in the epic Mahabharata:[2]

[The Ocean] becomes the bed of the lotus-naveled Vishnu when at the termination of every Yuga that deity of immeasurable power enjoys yoga-nidra, the deep sleep under the spell of spiritual meditation.

— Mahabharata, Book 1, section XXI

The Devīmāhātmya mentions a goddess whose name is Yoganidrā. The god Brahma asks Yoganidrā to wake up Vishnu to go and fight the Asuras or demigods named Madhu and Kaitabha.[3]

These mentions do not define any yoga technique or practice, but describes the god Vishnu's transcendental sleep in between the Yugas, the cycles of the universe, and the manifestation of the goddess as sleep itself.[3]

Medieval practicesEdit

Yoganidra is first mentioned as something linked to meditation in Buddhist and Shaiva tantras. In the Ciñcinīmatasārasamuccaya (7.164), yoganidra is called "peace beyond words"; in the Mahāmāyātantra (2.19ab) it is named as a state in which perfected Buddhas may access secret knowledge.[3]

In the 11th or 12th centuries, yoganidra is first used in Hatha yoga and Raja yoga texts as a synonym for samadhi, a deep state of meditative consciousness where the yogi no longer thinks, moves, or breathes. The Amanaska (2.64) asserts that "Just as someone who has suddenly arisen from sleep becomes aware of sense objects, so the yogin wakes up from that [world of sense objects] at the end of his yogic sleep."[3]

By the 14th century, the Yogatārāvalī (24–26) gives a more detailed description, stating that yoganidra "removes all thought of the world of multiplicity" in the advanced yogi who has completely uprooted his "network of Karma". he then enters the "fourth state", namely samadhi, beyond the usual states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, "that special thoughtless sleep, which consists of [just] consciousness."[3]

The 15th century Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā goes further, stating (4.49) that "One should practice Khecarī Mudrā until one is asleep in yoga. For one who has achieved Yoganidrā, death never occurs." Khecarī Mudrā is the Hatha yoga practice of folding the tongue back so that it reaches inside the nasal cavity, where it can enable the yogi to reach samadhi.[3]

In the 17th century Haṭha Ratnāvalī (3.70), Yoganidrasana is first described. It is an asana or yoga pose where the legs are wrapped around the back of the neck. The text says that the yogi should sleep in this position, which "bestows bliss".[3]

Modern usageEdit

Western "relaxationism"Edit

The yoga scholar Mark Singleton states that while relaxation is a primary feature of modern Western yoga, its relaxation techniques "have no precedent in the pre-modern yoga tradition", but derive mostly from 19th and 20th century Western "proprioceptive relaxation".[4] This prescriptive approach was described by authors such as the "relaxationist" Annie Payson Call in her 1891 book Power through Repose,[5] and the Chicago psychiatrist Edmund Jacobson, the creator of progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback, in his 1934 book You Must Relax!.[6]

Once on the floor, give way to it as far as possible. Every day you will become more sensitive to tension, and every day you will be better able to drop it. While you are flat on your backs, if you can find some one to "prove" your relaxation, so much the better. Let your friend lift an arm, bending it at the different joints, and then carefully lay it down. See if you can give its weight entirely to the other person, so that it seems to be no part of you, but as separate as if it were three bags of sand, fastened loosely at the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder; it will then be full of life without tension.

— Annie Payson Call, Power through Repose, Chapter 12 "Training for Rest"

Dennis BoyesEdit

In 1973, Dennis Boyes published his book Le Yoga du sommeil éveillé; méthode de relaxation, yoga nidra ("The Yoga of Waking Sleep: method of relaxation, yoga nidra") in Paris, France.[7] This is the first known usage of "yoga nidra" in a modern sense.[3] In the book, Boyes makes use of relaxation techniques including the direction of attention to each part of the body:[8]

Dirigez votre attention dans le front de votre visage... Sentez bien le front... Descendez un peu jusqu'à l’œil droit... Guidez votre attention dans l’œil... Eprouvez la forme sphéroïde du globe oculaire... Essayez de bien sentir, doucement... directement, sans utiliser la pensée ou l'image mentale...

— Dennis Boyes

Direct your attention into your forehead... Feel the forehead well... Go down a little to the right eye... Guide your attention into the eye... Experience the spheroidal shape of the eyeball... Try to feel it well, softly... directly, without using thought or a mental image...

— Translation

The French journal Revue 3e Millénaire, reviewing Boyes's approach in 1984, writes that Boyes proposes relaxation in order to "reach the state of emptiness". The person thus imperceptibly moves to a stage where relaxation becomes meditation, and can remain there once the mind's obsession with external objects or thoughts is removed.[9]

SatyanandaEdit

In modern times, Satyananda Saraswati claimed to have experienced yoga nidra when he was living with his guru Sivananda Saraswati in Rishikesh. In 1976, he constructed a system of relaxation through guided meditation,[10][a] which he popularized in the mid-20th century. He explained yoga nidra as a state of mind between wakefulness and sleep that opened deep phases of the mind, suggesting a connection with the ancient tantric practice called nyasa, whereby Sanskrit mantras are mentally placed within specific body parts, while meditating on each part (of the bodymind). The form of practice taught by Satyananda includes eight stages (internalisation, resolve (sankalpa), rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, manifestation of opposites, creative visualization, sankalpa and externalisation). Satyananda used this technique, along with suggestion, on the child who was to become his successor, Niranjanananda Saraswati, from the age of four. He claimed to have taught him several languages by this method.[12]

Satyananda's multi-stage yoga nidra technique is not found in ancient or medieval texts. However, the yoga scholars Jason Birch and Jacqueline Hargreaves note that there are analogues for several of his yoga nidra activities.[3]

Birch & Hargreaves' analysis of origins of Satyananda's Yoga nidra[3]
Satyananda Earlier practices Notes
1. Preparation Savasana, lying down, was used in Laya yoga in Dattātreyayogaśāstra. It was a meditation technique, not a preparatory stage.[3]
2. Resolve / Sankalpa Sankalpa was intentional thinking. Medieval texts like Amanaska sought to rid the mind of Sankalpa, not to use it. Satyananda was probably following Western relaxation therapies.[3]
3. Rotation of consciousness Nyāsa is described in Mahānirvānatantra and other tantras. Sir John Woodroffe's translation (chapter 3, 39–43) says one should say mantras in turn over six parts of the body. Satyananda could have built up his practice starting from this. The 14th century Yogayājñavalkya (7.6–31ab) describes an 18-point body scan for pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the senses, one of the eight limbs of yoga) but there is no evidence Satyananda knew of this.[3]
4. Awareness of breath ——— The 13th century Vivekamārtaṇḍa names the sounds of inbreath and outbreath, implying awareness of breath.[3]
5. Feelings and sensations The 14th century Yogabīja (90) calls yoga "the union of the multitude of opposites". It is unclear whether Satyananda made use of medieval texts for this activity. The texts speak of transcending opposites, whereas he uses them in meditation.[3]
6. Creative visualisation Visualisations were the characteristic feature of tantric yoga, with dhyāna using complex images of a deity. Satyananda uses other images, such as the cross or golden egg, but his process of concentration, meditation and absorption is like that in yoga texts.[3]
7. Sankalpa, ending See item (2.) Satyananda repeats the Resolve stage and then gradually brings the mind back to wakefulness.[3]

Yoga nidra in this modern sense is a state in which the body is completely relaxed, and the practitioner becomes systematically and increasingly aware of the inner world by following a set of verbal instructions.[13][1] This state of consciousness is different from meditation, in which concentration on a single focus is required.[13] In yoga nidra the practitioner remains in a state of light withdrawal of the 5 senses (pratyahara) with four senses internalised, that is, withdrawn, and only hearing still connects to any instructions given.[13]

Swami RamaEdit

Swami Rama writes that yoga nidra results in conscious awareness of the deep sleep state.[14] He taught a form of yoga nidra (in a broad sense) which involves an exercise called shavayatra, "inner pilgrimage [through the body]", which directs the attention around "61 sacred points of the body" during relaxation in shavasana, corpse pose. A second exercise, shithali karana, is said to induce "a very deep state of relaxation", and is described as a preliminary for yoga nidra (in a narrow sense). It too is performed in shavasana, involving exhalations imagined as directed from the crown of the head to different points around the body, each repeated 5 or 10 times. The yoga nidra exercise itself involves directed breathing lying on the left side, then the right side, then in shavasana. When in shavasana, the attention is directed in turn to the eyebrow, throat, and heart centres or chakras.[15]

Richard MillerEdit

The western pioneer of yoga as therapy, Richard Miller, has developed the use of yoga nidra for rehabilitating soldiers in pain, using the Integrative Restoration (iRest) methodology.[16] Miller worked with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the United States Department of Defense studying the efficacy of the approach.[17][18] According to Yoga Journal, "Miller is responsible for bringing the practice to a remarkable variety of nontraditional settings" which includes "military bases and in veterans' clinics, homeless shelters, Montessori schools, Head Start programs, hospitals, hospices, chemical dependency centers, and jails."[19] The iRest protocol was used with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[20][21][18] Based on this work, the Surgeon General of the United States Army endorsed Yoga Nidra as a complementary alternative medicine (CAM) for chronic pain in 2010.[22]

ReceptionEdit

The Mindful Yoga teacher Anne Cushman states that "This body-sensing journey [that I teach in Mindful Yoga] ... is one variation of the ancient practice of Yoga nidra ... and of the body-scan technique commonly used in the Buddhist Vipassana tradition."[23]

The cultural historian Alistair Shearer writes that the name yoga nidra is an umbrella term for different systems of "progressive relaxation or 'guided meditation'."[24] He comments that Satyananda promoted his version of yoga nidra, claiming it was ancient, when its connections to ancient texts "seem vague at best".[24] Shearer writes that other teachers have defined yoga nidra as "the state of conscious sleep" in which inner awareness is maintained, without reference to Satyananda's method of progressive relaxation by directing attention to different parts of the body. Shearer attributes this "inner lucidity" to the buddhi (intellect, literally "wakefulness") of Sankhya philosophy. He compares buddhi to the "intellect" discussed by Saint Augustine and the Apostolic Fathers at about the same time as Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.[24]

In 2021, the yoga teachers Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Nirlipta Tuli jointly published a "declaration of independence for Yoga Nidrā Shakti". In it they stated that yoga nidra had become commodified and promoted by commercial organisations for profit; that abuse had taken place within those organisations; and that the organisations had propagated origin stories for yoga nidra "that privilege their own founders" and exclude or neglect older roots of the practice. They state their shock at abuses by Satyananda, Swami Rama, Amrit Desai, and Richard Miller. They invite practitioners and teachers to learn about the history of yoga nidra outside organisational boundaries, and to work without "trademarked versions" of the practice.[25]

Scientific evidenceEdit

Scientific evidence for the action of yoga nidra is patchy. Parker (2019) conducted a single-observation study of a famous yogi; in it, Swami Rama demonstrated conscious entry into NREM delta wave sleep through yoga nidra, while a disciple produced delta and theta waves even with eyes open and talking.[26] Datta and colleagues (2022) report a beneficial effect of yoga nidra on the sleep of 45 male athletes, noting that sportsmen often have sleep problems. Their small randomised controlled trial found improvements in subjective sleep onset latency, time in bed, and sleep efficiency with 4 weeks of yoga nidra compared to progressive muscular relaxation[b] (used as the control).[28]

Primary research, sometimes on a small scale, has been conducted on various aspects of yoga nidra. One found an association of yoga nidra meditation with increased endogenous dopamine release in the ventral striatum of the brain.[29] The reduced desire for action in the state is associated with the reduced flow of blood in parts of the brain connected with controlling actions, the prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum and the subcortex.[29] Another study reported that yoga nidra improves heart rate variability, a measure of balance in the autonomic nervous system, whether or not it is preceded by a session of hatha yoga asanas.[30]

Informal studies have suggested possible benefits of yoga nidra, without the large scale or strictly controlled trials that would be required to demonstrate medical benefit. A study suggested that regular practice of yoga relaxation could reduce tension and anxiety, while autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain appeared to respond well. The approach has been used to help soldiers from war cope with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[31] A 2019 study suggests that yoga nidra can alleviate stress and improve self-esteem of university students.[32]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Richard Miller credits Sivananda and several of his disciples - Swamis Satyananda, Satchidananda, and Vishnudevananda as "revitaliz[ing]" yoga nidra in the 20th century; also Boyes, Swami Rama, Swami Veda Bharati, and Brahmananda Sarasvati of Surat Shabd Yoga "among others".[11]
  2. ^ Progressive muscular relaxation is a method to relieve tension by tensing a group of muscles when breathing in, and relaxing it when breathing out; the muscle groups are tensed and relaxed in a prescribed sequence.[27]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Desai, Kamini (2017). Yoga Nidra The Art of Transformational Sleep. Twin Lakes USA: Lotus Press. p. 689. ISBN 978-1-6086-9213-2.
  2. ^ "Mahabharata Book 1 Section XXI". Sacred Texts. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Birch, Jason; Hargreaves, Jacqueline (January 2015). "Yoganidrā". The Luminescent. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  4. ^ Singleton, Mark (2005). "Salvation through Relaxation: Proprioceptive Therapy and its Relationship to Yoga". Journal of Contemporary Religion. 20 (3): 289–304. doi:10.1080/13537900500249780. S2CID 144625589.
  5. ^ Call, Annie Payson (1891). Power through Repose. London: Low, Marston, & Co. OCLC 1068777782.
  6. ^ Jacobson, Edmund (1934). You Must Relax! A Practical Method of Reducing the Strains of Modern Living. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  7. ^ Boyes, Dennis (1973). Le Yoga du sommeil éveillé; méthode de relaxation, yoga nidra. Paris: Épi. OCLC 2283047.
  8. ^ Godefroy, Christian H. (March 2019). "La Dynamique Mentale" (PDF). My réussite (in French). p. 37. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  9. ^ Anon (1984). "Dennis Boyes La relaxation se transforme en méditation" [Dennis Boyes: Relaxation is transformed into meditation]. Revue 3e Millénaire (in French) (15 July-August 1984, Old Series). Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  10. ^ Swami Satyananda Saraswati (2009) [1976]. Yoga Nidra. Munger, Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust. whole book.
  11. ^ Miller, Richard (2022). Yoga Nidra: The iRest Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing. Sounds True. pp. Pt 24. ISBN 978-1683648987. a new edition of this acclaimed guide
  12. ^ Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (1974). Tantra-yoga panorama. International Yoga Fellowship Movement. p. 25.
  13. ^ a b c Ross, Gillian (23 July 2009). "Yoga nidra: deep relaxation practice". ABC. Archived from the original on 29 July 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  14. ^ Swami Rama (1982). Mandukya Upanishad: Enlightenment Without God. ISBN 978-0-89389-084-1.[page needed]
  15. ^ Swami Rama (2016). Practices of the Himalayan Tradition as taught by Swami Rama Volume 2: Yoga Nidra (PDF). Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust. ISBN 978-81-88157-89-1. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  16. ^ Miller, Richard (2005). Yoga Nidra: the meditative heart of yoga. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True. ISBN 978-1-59179-379-3. OCLC 62705943.
  17. ^ "Yoga-based Treatments Beat Stress" (PDF). Let's Talk (Winter 2010): 1–2. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 28, 2010. As a natural alternative to medication, yoga offers tools that mitigate stress and improve quality of life. It can also have a positive effect on blood pressure and heart rate. Practicing yoga postures increase relaxation while the inward focus and meditation enhances calm. Yoga's favorable track record prompted the Department of Defense (DoD) to first pilot, and then adopt a yoga-based Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reduction program utilizing a form of Yoga Nidra. The program, called iRest (Integrative Restoration), utilizes yoga, progressive relaxation, and meditation to manage negative emotions and stress. The iRest program has helped veterans reduce PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and insomnia. There are now iRest programs at Veterans Health Administration (VA) facilities in Miami, Chicago, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. as well as active duty facilities nationwide.
  18. ^ a b Novotney, Amy (November 2009). "Yoga as a practice tool". Monitor on Psychology. 40 (10): 38. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  19. ^ "The Benefits of Yoga Nidra". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  20. ^ Money, Nisha (2009). "Yoga Nidra (iRest): A "New Twist" on Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part I)" (PDF). 5 (4 (Winter 2009)): 12–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 19, 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-22. The iRest military program, based on the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra, is designed to systematically reduce physical, emotional, mental, and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD. Participants are taught to manage disturbing moods and memories with a skill set that enables them to objectively respond to intense emotional experiences through conscious choices rather than unconscious reactions. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ "Walter Reed Using Yoga to Fight PTSD | Danger Room". Wired.com. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
  22. ^ "Pain Management Task Force | Providing a Standardized DoD and VHA Vision and Approach to Pain Management to Optimize the Care for Warriors and their Families | Final Report" (PDF). Office of the Army Surgeon General. May 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2019. [extract from table in Figure 11: Tier I Modalities] Modality: Yoga / Yoga Nidra; Passive: Facility based yoga classes; Active: Self directed with video, exercising
  23. ^ Cushman, Anne (2014). Moving into Meditation: A 12-Week Mindfulness Program for Yoga Practitioners (1st ed.). Shambhala Publications. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-1611800982.
  24. ^ a b c Shearer, Alistair (2020). The Story of Yoga: From Ancient India to the Modern West. London: Hurst Publishers. pp. 270–272. ISBN 978-1-78738-192-6.
  25. ^ Tuli, Nirlipta; Dinsmore-Tuli, Uma (15 May 2021). "In Defence of the Practice of Yoga Nidrā: A joint declaration of independence for Yoga Nidrā Shakti". Yoga Nidra Network. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  26. ^ Parker, S. (2019). "Training attention for conscious non-REM sleep: The yogic practice of yoga-nidrā and its implications for neuroscience research". Progress in Brain Research. 244: 255–272. doi:10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.10.016. ISBN 978-0444642271. PMID 30732840. S2CID 73442387.
  27. ^ Healthwise staff (non-profit) (31 August 2020). "Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation". University of Michigan Health. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  28. ^ Datta, Karuna; Yadav, Narendra; Narawade, Yogita; et al. (4 January 2022). "Sleep Strategies for Sportsmen; What can they be? A Randomised Controlled Trial". Sleep and Vigilance. doi:10.1007/s41782-021-00188-8. S2CID 245653181.
  29. ^ a b Kjaer, Troels W.; Bertelsen, Camilla; Piccini, Paola; Brooks, David; Alving, Jørgen; Lou, Hans C. (2002). "Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness". Cognitive Brain Research. 13 (2): 255–259. doi:10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00106-9. PMID 11958969.
  30. ^ Markil, Nina; Whitehurst, Michael; Jacobs, Patrick L.; Zoeller, Robert F. (2012). "Yoga Nidra Relaxation Increases Heart Rate Variability and is Unaffected by a Prior Bout of Hatha Yoga". The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 18 (10): 953–958. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0331. PMID 22866996.
  31. ^ Rivers, Eileen (6 May 2008). "A Breath of Hope". The Washington Post. p. HE01.
  32. ^ Dol, Kim Sang (May 2019). "Effects of a yoga nidra on the life stress and self-esteem in university students". Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 35: 232–236. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.03.004. ISSN 1873-6947. PMID 31003664. S2CID 88035952.

External linksEdit