Hi Yogis and Yoginis,
In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of mediation classes available. Mindfulness is now something which is common knowledge, with a plethora of mindfulness colouring books everywhere you go, and guided meditations at our fingertips on Spotify and Youtube. But why is this? Buddhist monks have known the benefits of deep meditation for thousands of years, and we are only just catching up. Neurologists are making connections and mapping out the surface of our brain, and seeing some amazing results.
Yoga Nidra takes advantage of the way the brain works, to bring stillness and peace. During the early stages of a Yoga Nidra practice, you will be asked to shift your awareness to certain parts of the body. This isn’t just a way to guide you to meditate, but actually stimulates the sensory-motor cortex within the brain. This heightens the awareness of the body in order to stimulate the brain, which contrary to suggestion, actually helps you to relax, cleaning the nerve pathways concerned with incoming sensory information. So in Yoga Nidra, we are literally clearing the mind. As each part of the body is mentioned, we are moving across the surface of the brain, resetting the nerve pathways and drifting deeper into meditation.
Further into our practice, we begin to involve memory and understanding, calling to mind feelings (for example, the feeling of heaviness, or coolness). This part of the practice draws on whole-body sensations – with deep muscular-skeletal relaxation to help release deep-seated tensions. Invoking opposite sensations triggers different neurones within the brain. This is important for relaxation, as when the same neurone is constantly firing, our brain begins to no longer acknowledge the signal (a process known as habituation) – essentially the signal becomes background noise. By triggering the opposite feeling (hot and cold, lightness and heaviness) we are ‘clearing’ that backlog of information from the brain. The result? Rather than our physical body dictating how we feel and shaping our consciousness, our consciousness is then able to determine our current state.
Lastly, we focus on emotions and memory. This part of our practice is often the most difficult when we start, recalling memories which make us happy or sad can be difficult at times, but this is helping us to establish new neural pathways. With repeated practice, we can then begin to call on these emotions as needed, resting in a new awareness of the world – being aware of our emotions rather than allowing them to rule us. With modern life being unavoidably frantic and busy, it’s important to notice the calming effects of Yoga Nidra practice. Through using the sensory channels within the brain to our advantage, we can alleviate some to the sensory overload our brains are dealing with in day to day life. This is reflected in our day to day life through perceptual awareness, emotional control and increasing consciousness of self.
If that’s not a reason to try Yoga Nidra, I don’t know what is!