Yoga Nidra is also called Yogic Sleep. As we move from Wakefulness towards Sleep, our awareness of the External environment (conscious mind) fades away. The 8 stages of Yoga Nidra are explained below.
Stage 1: Internalization
Yoga Nidra state occurs once our awareness is withdrawn from the sensory inputs of the external environment. This Internalization is brought about by asking the practitioner to listen to the external sounds. This might seem the opposite of what we want, yet it works. Our mind is like an errant child – it will hanker to do the opposite of what we try to force it to do. If we force ourselves to look within, our minds will run amok to every external experience. Therefore by suggesting to listen to the external sounds, the mind quickly gets tired and becomes ‘internalized.’
Stage 2: Sankalp
If we are to make a change in our life truly, we have to take up a Sankalpa or Resolve. Sankalpa (Sanskrit: संकल्प) means an Intention formed by the heart and mind -A Sankalpa is a tool meant to harness the will and to focus and harmonize mind and body.
The reason we use Sankalpa in Yoga Nidra is that we are accessing our subconscious mind, which is a fertile ground to ‘seed’ our Resolve . so to make a lasting change – we will have to delve deep into our subconscious and plant the ‘seed’ of change. We do this at the start and end of Yoga Nidra practice by stating our Sankalpa to ourselves in a short, positive sentence or with positive affirmation with keeping the intent or goal in our mind.
Stage 3: Rotation of Consciousness of different body parts
While Meditation requires Focus, Yoga Nidra is the opposite – it needs relaxation. Therefore, we move our awareness from one body part to the others (rather than focus our awareness), so that the awareness is constantly flowing. Yoga Nidra works by relaxing the mind through the body.
Stage 4: Breathing Awareness
By becoming a witness to our breathing, we initiate the Sakshi or Witness awareness. This is important, so we relax, but at the same time, we don’t completely sleep off. Maintaining awareness of the hearing of instructions helps us stay aware, and breathing awareness also helps us relax deeper.
Stage 5: Experience of opposite Sensations
This is one of the most fascinating parts of the Yoga Nidra practice! The practitioner is asked to bring their awareness to opposite body sensations such as heaviness/ lightness, heat/ cold, pain/ pleasure. Usually, these experiences will never happen in such a short time. Different parts of the brain are activated when we experience these contrasting sensations. By practicing them immediately after each other, new neuronal circuits are established in the brain. The mark of a truly creative mind is if the body can do what the mind visualizes. We perspire when we bring our awareness to the sensation of heat and shiver when cold and so on.
Stage 6: Visualization
Visualization in Yoga Nidra is done so that samskaras stored in the Unconscious and Subconscious may get triggered and come forth. These archetypes or ‘samskaras’ (impressions) are stored as an image that is not easily understood and, in fact, lies hidden from our conscious minds. Visualizations like that of a full moon may trigger a memory of something beautiful or tragic that happened to you on a full moon.
Stage 7: Sankalp
This time the same Sankalpa is taken when you are in the borderline state. It makes it more effective as it gets planted in the fertile ground of the subconscious.
Stage 8: Externalization
To end the practice, it is important that the awareness is once again externalized. This transition is important so that you move smoothly from the subconscious back to the conscious mind. So you effortlessly come out of the Yoga Nidra state.
This completes all the stages of Yoga Nidra. You need to follow this sequence. Don’t make too many changes as your mind begins to relax effectively once the routine is set. It might take a couple of times of practice.
Affirmation for Stress:
I am feeling more peaceful each day.
I choose to release all negative thoughts.
I use positive thinking to manifest positive outcomes.
I have the power to make positive changes.
Affirmation for Anxiety:
I choose to feel calm day by day.
I release the past, and I choose to look forward to a happy, bright future.
I look forward to a happy bright future.
I inhale the good (energy/light/health) and exhale the bad (negativity/darkness/illness.)
Affirmation for Hypertension:
I choose to live in the present. My life is happy and full of joy.
I appreciate and trust the process of life. All I need is taken care of.
I am safe.
I am capable of doing everything that I set my mind to.
Source: 8 Stages of Yoga Nidra