Yoga Nidra is a Sanskrit term, which is literally translated to Yoga sleep. According to a more comprehensive explanation, it is the deep form of sleep induced by the profoundly meditative nature of Yoga. Now, before you think of it as some 60’s ‘flower power’ technique, the Yoga Nidra has been mentioned in its different forms (like the Prajna) in two thousand year old Sanskrit scriptures like the Upanishads. In fact, in some of these ancient texts, the true essence of a Nidra has been expounded wonderfully.
According to the sages and wise men of the Vedic period, the person going through this deep sleep should have total awareness of his self induced state. This ultimate form of meditation can only be attained after traversing through our waking as well as dreaming state. So, it is more like being willfully awake in your deep sleep.
The legacy of Yoga Nidra has passed down to our modern times through some venerable Yoga gurus of the 20th Century. As a matter of fact, it was Swami Satyananda Saraswati (the founder of Bihar School of Yoga) who patronized and popularized the modernistic version of Yoga Nidra. He started off by studying the various forms of Hindu tantric scriptures, and after sessions of hard practicing perfected this ultimate state of relaxation. According to the Guru’s view, the Yoga Nidra is a state of mind between wakefulness and dream. This advanced state helps in opening up new avenues of deep consciousness hitherto unknown to us.
This fascinating idea was further developed by celebrated practitioners like Osho and Anandmurti Guruma. According to them, the state of Yoga Nidra is equal to the state of conscious deep sleep. In a more elaborate from, this state switches on our deeper yet subtle levels of subconscious and unconscious mind. This allows us to completely relax and also makes us feel this dim state of relaxation, totally unbound from the material world. In fact, many times the adherents do recall their airy, ethereal experience after awaking from the ‘deep sleep’.
The first conclusive experiment to test the credibility of Yoga Nidra was undertaken at the Menninger Foundation in Kansas, United Sates in 1971. The scientists used an electroencephalograph to record the brainwave activity of an Indian yogi, Swami Rama. The results were nigh astounding, as the scientists successfully mapped his various states of consciousness through the variable electrical activity of Swami Rama’s brain. More importantly, the scientists witnessed the ultimate state of deep sleep attained by the still conscious yogi, as his brain activity corresponded to slow rhythm delta waves.
Other creditable experiments were also envisaged that did prove the ultimate relaxing quality of our deeply conscious mind. In fact, most cases demonstrated the fluctuating patterns of our consciousness finally giving way to more controlled output. And, this is where the conventional barriers between waking, dreaming and deep sleep are finally broken to attain that exclusively serene experience.