Friday, May 18, 2012

Yoga nidra: brain massage!!

The one thing I miss is nidra, being done to me by a teacher. Otherwise I am comfortable practising on my own, but nidra, I miss. It is a brain massage. Very soothing and healing. And I believe very important for yoga teachers to recover from, from teaching! And it is the best healing agent in therapy yoga. Below, my thoughts on this wonderful practice that, I believe, is not done in some stupid yoga classes in Mumbai.. Don't join a yoga class which has no final relaxation -- it is not yoga, at all!!

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Some schools like the Bihar School of Yoga, add the sankalp or resolve-making to yoga nidra. Other purists shun this. Thus, the debate amongst specialists continue. But basically, if we wish to demystify yoga nidra you can say it is a meditative, healing practice which induces a state of deep mental relaxation by giving the brain a staccato, repetitive chore. This involves making the brain focus on different body parts, in a particular order. The brain, stunned into a state of deep relaxation, changes its brain wave patterns, entering a mental state not always reached consciously. This can have a powerful healing effect on the body. The nascent branch of neuroimmunology says the whole body depends on cues from the mind. Perceptions create a cascade of bio-chemical reactions in our body. In yoga, when this bio-chemical gush is negative, it can harm us by becoming ailments. Practices like yoga nidra switch on the positive, bio-chemical cascade throughout the body.


It is true that only intermediate and advanced level practitioners are able to resist the urge to fall asleep during an induced yoga nidra. The brain is lulled completely, yet it retains its awareness and control. But this sort of controlled awareness can only be attained after regular yoga nidra practice. Ordinarily, the brain waves are in the beta wave mode. This mode involves very fast waves. This sort of chaos is necessary for the brain to function. But it also is a very tiring state to be experienced for long. This static also has a biological source. It springs from the reticulating activating system – the chatter box in our brains. But the brain needs to rest from it, and so induces sleep or rest, to help get this chaos in order. But even in normal, biological sleep the reticulating activating system does not shut up fully. However, in yoga nidra, even at the beginner's level, this static is stunned into silence. As explained above, this can have a profound, healing effect.

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Advanced practitioners exploit this subtle, but powerful impact of yoga nidra to reach other mental goals. It is said the Bihar School of Yoga's current head, Swami Niranjanananda, learnt all the ancients scriptures as a child while being induced into yoga nidra, as the scriptures were recited in the background. Similarly, I recall reading of another swami who had learn English, which he had not formally learnt, by employing yoga nidra.


As an instructor I have also found that those who are very ill, or are working towards some sort of serious ailment, display immense restlessness even in the simple corpse position. There seems to be some correlation between the restlessness of the body and their illness. Doing yoga nidra regularly would release them from the traps of their mind that is ruining their body.

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