Yoga Nidra and Pratyahara
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Yoga for Complete Relaxation – Yoga Nidra.

Yoga nidra is a methodology that is a part of Raj yoga of the higher stages. It is to all intents and purposes a practice of pratyahara. In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali the process of Ashtang yoga is described to be divided into following stages:

  • Yama (social policy).
  • Niyamas (personal policy).
  • Asanas (postures indicative of the states of life forms).
  • Pranayama (control of vital prana).
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of all the senses).
  • Dharana (concentration).
  • Dhyana (meditation).
  • Samadhi (transcendental consciousness).

Pratyahara is the process of withdrawing the senses. In the practice of yoga nidra the mind is gradually withdrawn by closing down all the senses one by one and it is directed in one direction. The mind is concentrated in the direction of the auditory channel so that complete withdrawal of the mind does not happen, which results in sleep. All the other senses are gradually switched off so that they do not continuously carry the stimuli to the brain. In the scientific language the connection of the senses is disengaged from the cerebral cortex of the brain, which is the centre for response to the external stimuli.

In the above mentioned stages of Ashtang yoga the first four stages are the ones that are in effect performed by the conscious mind. This is the waking state of the mind that is rational and active part of the mind. The initial four processes are basically more physical in essence. The other four stages of the later part are performed by the non-analytical part of the mind. These are stages which are higher in their practice and eventual expression. These stages involve the subconscious mind which keeps all the information about all the experiences stored in it. The subconscious is also the centre of all egos, which is like the gateway to the mind where the filtration of all information is done; and after screening through the ego only the information reaches the mind. This is therefore also the centre for all opinion formation of the brain.

The logic of the science of yoga nidra is different from the other practices. It is based on the state of receptivity of the brain. In the normal state of receptivity when all the senses are working the brain is thought to be most receptive. Most individuals consider this state of mind to be the most aware when they are completely awake. But the fact is that the mind is actually so occupied in so many things that the mind is less receptive and more critical and analytical. During yoga nidra all the channels of receiving external stimuli are switched off except the auditory channel. This is the state of mind that is at its peak receptivity. When this channel is also dissociated from the mind the state becomes absolute. This is the state when there is just no awareness of the self. A state is achieved when the mind is so completely unaware that the mind is not even aware that it is in the state of yoga nidra. This is the total and final state when the mind is extremely powerful. The mind needs to be trained with continuous practice in order to be able to achieve this state of yoga nidra. The involuntary systems of the brain are to be properly trained to attain this state in yoga nidra. This is the state of pratyahara. This state is different from the state of normal sleep because in the state of normal sleep the involuntary receptivity is very low or nil. In the state of yoga nidra the involuntary receptivity is extraordinarily high.

In the state of yoga nidra the consciousness remains intermittently suspended interchangeably between the subconscious and unconscious states. The pratyahara becomes powerful slowly and then there is complete seclusion of the brain. There is another state of deep pratyahara where the brain starts having psychic experiences. But in yoga nidra this state is avoided. So yoga nidra is a borderline phenomenon. Here the person is in the marginal state between psychic level and the conscious level. This is a state of mind which is deeply relaxing and extremely beautiful. This is the state which is called hypnagogic state or hypnopompic state in the scientific language.

Ayurveda believes that there are three important nadis in the physical system called ida nadi, pingala nadi and sushumna nadi. They represent the sympathetic, parasympathetic and central nervous systems respectively. Ida nadi communicates the mental force, pingala communicates the vital force and sushumna communicates the spiritual force.

During hypnosis the ida and pingala nadis are switched off. But in yoga nidra the ida and pingala nadis are switched off and sushumna nadi is awakened. This is the most fundamental difference between hypnosis and yoga nidra. In this state the brain is aroused incomparably. The brain is open to a completely different platform of knowledge and wisdom in this state of super consciousness. The experiences of responsiveness experienced during this time are so completely different from any other time. This is the reason why yoga nidra is so relaxing and completely invigorating and also enhances the sharpness of the brain manifold.

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