In a recent newspaper article, I was reading that stress can affect us in different ways including making us feel ‘wired’, short of patience and irritable, particularly if we are subjecting our nervous systems to constant stimulation from sounds, sights and light from information which we are connected to 24/7.
Nowadays we are on permanent alert and in a state of mind where we are constantly ‘doing’ rather than just ‘being’.
The antidote for our jangled nerves is relaxation, but in this state of mind it can be almost impossible to wind down. If we can chanel our energy in more productive activities which benefit our health and well being such as going for a walk, swimming, the gym, yoga -whatever exercise we enjoy- then once we have used up some energy we might be able to rest, relax and calm the mind.
One important relaxation practice which yogis are aware of is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra -or yogic or psychic sleep- is deep relaxation with awareness. It’s an ancient method which was reintroduced in the 1960’s by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. The body becomes completely relaxed, the breathing becomes quiet and steady but the consciousness remains active and alert-so you maintain awareness and don’t actually fall sleep.
You are usually talked through the practice which can last around 30-35 minutes.
You start off by lying comfortably and peacefully; later there is a rotation of consciousness where you take your awareness to different parts of the body and later still you are asked to imagine different sensations and visualise different things or places. An important part is the Sankalpa which is a short, positive statement you say to yourself at the start and end of the practice – to remind yourself of your true nature and to guide your choices in life.
The Sankalpa should be simple and straightforward enough for you to connect with it in an uncomplicated way, but also needs to be meaningful to you, who you are and your situation.
Julie Friedeberger in her book ‘The Healing Power of Yoga’ describes it as a ‘seed that you plant in the root of your consciousness’ which helps you focus your mind and be aware of what you want. It may be that you keep the same sankalpa for a long time but once you feel it has served its purpose you may be ready to find another one.
If you are interested in Yoga Nidra there are various books, CDs and down loads you can get hold of. However like any other practice it’s important to set some time aside to try it out -undisturbed- and to be open minded and stick with it for a little while to see if it’s for you.