The magic in 'yoga sleep'

lifestyle October 14, 2012 00:00

By Aree Chaisatien
Special to T

11,678 Viewed

Working on a semi-conscious level, yoga nidra can change your life

Nidra, a Sanskrit word, means sleep. Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is not just a form of profound physical and mental relaxation but helps improve consciousness and awareness, says Wararuk Sunonethong, yoga instructor, health and wellness trainer and author of the newly launched book “Palung Hang Yoga Nidra” (“The Power of Yoga Nidra”).

One hour of yoga nidra is believed to equal to four hours of normal sleep, and is the secret of great yogis both today and in past.
“It is a science of conscious relaxation when the state of mind is between wakefulness and dreaming. It opens deep phases of the mind, which allows the evacuation of stress from the unconscious, and can change behaviour, personality and also develop relationships with those you love.”
But yoga nidra is not just another trend, following in the footsteps of Hot Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyenga Yoga, Power Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Yin Yoga.
While it is little known among the yoga community, history indicates that it’s been known to sages of the Himalayas for a long time. It is not a brand name, trademark, nor a proprietary style.” 
Yoga nidra is a technique experienced and developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who died in 2009 at the age of 85. While he was still with his guru, Swami Sivananda, he was assigned to take care of children at a school. His duties involved watching over them at night but the swami usually fell into a slumber around 3am. Before he woke, the children would rise and recite vedic chants. 
At a subsequent festival, the children once again recited their vedic chants and Swami Satyananda Saraswati could not understand why they sounded so familiar. His guru, aware of the younger man’s sleeping, explained he had heard the chants during his slumber and that one can remain conscious and receptive even while sleeping. 
This was tested by Swami Satyananda Sarawati on many disciples. One stubborn lad refused to go to school so the swami chanted the Bhagavad Gita scripture while the youngster slept. After a week, the boy was able to recite the scripture. Swami Satyananda Sarawati continued this technique for two years, reading the Upanishads, the Bible, the Koran, English, Hindi and Sanskrit texts. When the boy grew up, he could speak 11 languages. 
“In Yoga Nidra, you relax fully, awareness can grow, brainwaves are at delta and the mind is powerful, which is very useful. That’s the power of yoga nidra,” says Wararuk, 40, who works as customer relations manager at LM Investment Management, and has a two-year-old daughter. “And when you make a resolution, whether it’s to heal yourself, change your lifestyle or achieve your ambitions, it can be achieved through yoga nidra if you practise it at least three times a week for one month.”
The best time for practising yoga nidra is from 4 to 6am. The room should be dim but not too dark, because the mind will easily fall asleep and not too bright, because the mind will be too stimulated. 
Before practising yoga nidra, which normally takes 60 to 90 minutes, Wararuk suggests preparing the body and mind by doing the nine basic asana yoga poses. These are Pavanmuktasana (wind relieving pose), Shavasana (corpse), Bhujangasana (cobra), Salabhasana (locust), Paschimotanasana (seated forward bend), Sirsasana (headstand), Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Halasana (plough) and Matsyasana (fish). 
The first step, and key to the practice, is setting a resolution (Sankalpa in Sanskrit), a short positive mental statement such as “I will be healthier and happier”, “I will live abundantly and meaningfully” or “I will be better in every way every day.”
“Always use positive words. Don’t set a resolution like ‘I will reduce my weight’, as the word ‘reduce’ is negative,” she explains.
The next step is rotation of awareness through the body followed by breathing awareness, creating opposite sensations and feelings and visualization. The practice finishes with repeating your resolution.
“The technique is to record your own voice and act accordingly without thinking or analysing. For example, say, ‘Now I feel relaxed. I am aware of my whole body. I am aware of my right hand. I am aware of my thumb’, and so on. ‘Now I am practising Yoga Nidra’. 
“I set a resolution. ‘I will live a good life. Now I am aware of breathing in. Now I am aware of breathing out. I feel the heaviness of my body. I feel the lightness of my body. I feel the coolness in my body. I feel the heat in my body. I feel happy. I feel sad.’ Now imagine that I stand peacefully in a garden in the morning. After the visualisation, repeat your resolution three times and slowly return to external awareness.”
Sounds like hypnosis? “As far as I know, in hypnosis, our brain, our thoughts and feeling are shut down and in unconscious state, while in Yoga Nidra, the brain is awake, in a conscious state,” explains Wararuk. “The most important thing is not to fall asleep while practising.” 
Wararuk has practised yoga nidra for three years now and feels her resolutions have become reality. “My resolution was ‘I will be successful in yoga and I will be a writer’. Now my book about yoga is in bookstores. I did that without having any connections with a publishing house,” says Wararuk, adding that her next resolution is “to be a positive force for the world”.
<< Wararuk Sunonethong’s book “Palung Hang Yoga Nidra” (“The Power of Yoga Nidra”), with a CD for practising, published by Amarin Printing, is available at leading bookstores for Bt195.