July 5, 2013


More on sleep and relaxation, and Yoga Nidra

The recordings of the scripts that I’ve linked to in my last post are all versions of a practice called Yoga Nidra. This practice was brought to the West by Swami Satyananda Sarasvati in the year of my birth, 1953.

The teacher who introduced me to this practise described it as a “milk, blood, and bone practise”, meaning that it is suitable for beginners and advanced students alike, with no change in form or content. My introduction to the experience of deep relaxation came via self hypnosis, which I learned in Japan many years ago. So when I came across this practice of Yoga Nidra, parts of it were already very familiar to me experientially. My reworking of this practice is the introduction of the conscious experience of creating physical tension and the further experience of the letting go of the same physical tension. For me and for many of the students I have shared this practice with, the addition of the tension aspect has deepened the experience of the practice tangibly, and produces a notably faster and deeper relaxation.

Now to the point of today’s post. If you really want to get the most out of of this practice with respect to improving the quality of your sleep long term (rather than solving a momentary problem) the practice is best done on the floor next to your bed or in another room where you can guarantee that you will not be disturbed. By this I mean please ask your partner that you not be disturbed, by phone calls or children! Cover yourself with a blanket or a duvet because if you are successful in letting tension go you will definitely feel cooler or even colder than you do now (muscular tension is one of the main mechanisms the body uses to keep itself warm).

Listen to these scripts using headphones on in-ear listening devices. The reason for this is that headphones or in-ear devices have the additional benefit of reducing outside sounds substantially. As an aside, one of those scripts on the Forums explicitly is about how to experience sounds moving through you and leaving not a trace, and that is the script to use if you find that your sleep is being disturbed by outside sounds.

The reasons for recommending that you do the practice lying on the floor with a blanket or a duvet rather than doing the practice in bed are a little more complicated. For people who have problems sleeping (or at least experience their sleep as ‘problematic’), it can be beneficial to separate this relaxation practice from the experience of lying in bed. Once you have practised these techniques sufficiently often (and this takes two weeks or so of daily practice) you will find that doing the practice on the floor will give you the best night’s sleep you have ever had. Experiencing deep relaxation on the floor will allow you to climb into bed and immediately relax further and fall asleep in the way we assume nature intended.

What is perhaps not obvious is that there is a one-to-one relationship between levels of physical tension in the body (muscle tonus) and intensity of mental activity. Reduce the physical tension and the mental activity always reduces too. As well, the specificity of the practices themselves are an excellent distraction to whatever the mind is fixating on in the moment. The last reason for suggesting doing the practice on the floor is that the floor is normally hard and this is (perhaps paradoxically) will help your spine to straighten out a little. Now, if you were to spend all night on the floor your back would probably be quite stiff in the morning but to spend 15 or 20 minutes (and assuming a carpeted floor) lying on your back for the practise will only be useful to you.

So, for clarification, yesterday’s post practices can be done perfectly well in bed. But if you want to approach your sleep problems with a longer term perspective and with a view to actually transforming the experience of sleep then doing these practices on the floor and being completely isolated from all of the things around you that normally disturb you is unquestionably the best way.

All the recorded scrips (some done on a retreat in Govinda Valley; some on workshops around the world) can be found on THIS PART of the Forums. You do not need to become a member to download the recordings.

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