Yoga nidra is one of the branches of raja yoga, as well as a technique of tantra. It is not just a method for overcoming insomnia or hypertension, or calming down agitation and disease in the body. Neither is its sole purpose to balance emotional and mental problems. All these things do take place, of course - the body becomes purified, the emotions are balanced and the mind is calmed, but these are only the side benefits of practising yoga nidra. The main objective and result is that state of meditation known as samadhi. In yoga nidra we amplify our inner vision and inner awareness. Meditation and samadhi never mean unconsciousness. They are states of the most conscious and amplified awareness.
For practising yoga nidra, any language is fine, even a language which is not your own. It is the tone of voice that is most important. For instance, even if I instruct you in Hindi instead of English, your consciousness will still become more aware. If Swamiji were to teach you in Sanskrit it would be better still, because it is the melody of the language as well as its meaning which penetrates into the interior consciousness.
If an instructor is not available, you can practise the technique by listening to a tape. Just start the tape, lie down and listen to the voice, even if you do not understand the language. The sound of a great person, such as your guru, will have a great impact on your whole physical and psycho emotional structure. Because this voice is not just the voice of an ordinary person; it works more like a grace and blessing.
Now get ready for the practice of yoga nidra. Close the eyes and lie in shavasana, palms facing upwards, feet slightly apart.
Relax yourself as much as possible. Try to relax each and every part of the body.
If you need to adjust your position, please do so now. Once you have made your body steady, you should not have to move at all until the end of the practice. Now, take your awareness inside, and investigate the whole physical body.
Become aware of any part which may be tight, tense or stressed. See that the toes and fingers are completely relaxed, the legs and arms are loose, and the head is straight, facing upwards, not lying to one side. The whole body should be relaxed, but you must not sleep.
Yoga nidra is a technique to make you more aware, to raise the inner, subtle awareness, not the gross, superficial awareness. Let the body remain quiet for some time and try to develop the subtle awareness.
Now become aware of your normal breath going in and out through the nostrils. Watch particularly the process of the breath. The breath seems to rise from the navel to the throat and then descend from the throat to the navel.
Now let your consciousness rotate up and down between the throat and the navel.
The movement of the breath may be felt through the nostrils, but the consciousness must go from the navel to the throat and from the throat to the navel. Continue watching this movement.
Now choose your resolve or sankalpa. The sankalpa should be that which you want to achieve most in your life.
You may make a sankalpa to be rid of a serious disease or an undesirable habit, to serve humanity in a certain way, or to achieve something in life.
But for optimal results, the sankalpa should be an expression of your highest aspiration.
The statement should be short and simple, in a few words only.
Once you have made the sankalpa, repeat it to yourself in the same way each time you practise; the wording should not change.
Remember that the sankalpa made in the beginning and end of yoga nidra is always fulfilled; it never fails.
Now repeat your sankalpa three times mentally.
Next I will guide you through the different parts of your physical body. At the same time you will move your consciousness to each part, visualise it and repeat its name mentally. Just rotate your consciousness; do not move physically.
Now visualise the right hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, all five fingers together. Palm, back of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, armpit, side, waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf, ankle, heel, sole, big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe, all five toes together. Visualise all five right toes together.
Now, the left side, take your consciousness to the left side. Left hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, all five fingers together. Palm, back of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, armpit, side, waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf, ankle, heel, sole, big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe, all five toes together. Visualise all five left toes together.
Now, move your consciousness up through the body from right to left alternately. Right sole, left sole, both soles together, right heel, left heel, both heels together, right ankle, left ankle, both ankles together, right calf, left calf, both calves together, right knee, left knee, both knees together, right thigh, left thigh, both thighs together, right buttock, left buttock, both buttocks together.
Lower abdomen, middle abdomen, upper abdomen, whole abdomen.
Right side of the chest, left side of the chest, centre of the chest, whole chest.
Right shoulder, left shoulder, right arm, left arm, right hand, left hand.
Right hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, all five fingers together. Left hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, all five fingers together. Right collarbone, left collarbone, throat, chin, lower lip, upper lip, both lips together. Right cheek, left cheek, right ear, left ear, right nostril, left nostril, tip of the nose, whole of the nose. Right eye, left eye, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, eyebrow centre. Right temple, left temple, forehead, whole face. Back of the head, crown of the head, whole head.
Now go down the back side. Back of the neck, right shoulder blade, left shoulder blade, right side of the back, left side of the back, upper back, middle back, lower back, whole spinal column, whole back.
Whole right side of the body, whole left side of the body, whole back, whole front. Whole right arm, whole left arm, both arms, whole right leg, whole left leg, both legs, whole body.
Become aware of the whole body, the whole body lying on the floor. Try to feel the points of contact between your physical body and the floor.
Feel the whole back part of your body absorbing prana from the earth; feel the whole front part of your body absorbing prana from the air.
Become aware of the currents of prana moving within your body, creating vibrations and sensations.
The whole body is lying on the floor completely relaxed, peaceful, quiet and harmonised. Now bring a sensation of heat to the body. Try to awaken the feeling of heat exactly as you have experienced it in the past on a hot summer day. Next, reverse the feeling. Try to feel cold, shivering cold, as if you were standing outside in an icy wind wearing only thin clothing. How chilled you would feel! Try to produce the sensation of coldness through conscious effort and experience it.
Now, try to experience heaviness in the physical body. The body is becoming heavier and heavier. It has become so heavy that you are unable to move it. You are not even able to wiggle the toes or fingers, the body has become so heavy.
Now experience the body becoming lighter and lighter. It is as if your body has become weightless, as light as a piece of cotton.
Try to experience the feeling of lightness throughout your physical body.
Once again experience the quietness and calmness of the whole body. At the same time, experience the calmness of the mind and emotions which has come from practising yoga nidra.
You can feel the mind more established and the emotions more settled.
Now see the whole physical body lying on the floor as if you were standing outside the body. Become aware of the other bodies surrounding you, and of yourself following the practice mentally. Experience peace and quiet.
Become aware of the whole environment and your whole body. Whole body, whole body, whole body. Again remember your sankalpa and repeat it mentally. Now get ready to end the practice. Gradually and quietly, without opening your eyes, without stretching or touching anyone, sit up and turn around.
Sit with the head straight, the eyes closed and the palms on the knees. Breathe in deeply. Chant Om three times.