Yoga Nidra Virtual–Week 3 draft

Week 3.

We’re already over the halfway hump of this journey.

So, last week we entered our imaginary laboratory to began to look deeper into the practice of Yoga Nidra.
In Week 3, we continue peeling back the layers of  Yoga Nidra to reveal its inner workings–  as a practice, a process and a state of being– while continuing to view all three through the lenses of yogic, psychological and scientific theory. And the technique we look into this week is “Manifestation of Opposites”.

 

What’s on this page?

1. Week 3 Study in text and audio form

2. Exploration.  You might need the resource attached to last week’s email (“31 Point Shavayatra”) to prepare you for this week’s exploration in “Manifestation of Opposites”.

3. Our third Practice Audio, good for general purposes, but perhaps especially good for self-confidence, inner beauty and creativity.

4. Reference to the text used to explain “Manifestation of Opposites”

Yoga Nidra Week 3 Study (Text Version)
The Threefold Tensions

No matter what a person does or doesn’t do, they accumulate tensions– different ones into the different layers of being. Yogic, psychological and scientific theories are in harmony about where these layers of tensions accumulate:

  1. Body—  endocrine system, nervous system, muscles
  2. Emotional– arise from conflicting feelings such as love/hate, gain/loss. Emotional tensions are more difficult to ease or release than bodily tensions. They also can be repressed and “set in” deeper. It’s  impossible to relax these tensions through ordinary sleep or relaxation. Sleep might give us a break, but only erases the most frivolous emotional tensions. We might go to sleep emotionally tense and wake up feeling fine., thinking the tension has released, when, in fact, it has set in deeper, further away from conscious mind. (“Out of sight, out of mind.”)
  3. Mental– all experiences registered by our consciousness rest on the mental plane and from time to time, they get triggered by something that we may or may not consciously sense or be aware of in any way. Once triggered, these experiences  “act up”– a little or a lot.

Because Yoga Nidra harmonizes the conscious mind with the subconscious and unconscious, it can help free these tensions in a way that sleep cannot.

Why? The two main reasons are:

  • We often fall asleep out of fatigue– without relaxing at all. We enter deeper consciousness with all tensions still active.
  • Sleep is either entirely unconscious, or interrupted at random moments– falling in and out of consciousness– due to the interplay of tensions within our consciousness.

In Yoga Nidra, however, these threefold layers of tension can be released:

  • We enter sleep (whether “yogic sleep” of Yoga Nidra or involuntary falling into unconscious sleep) in a very relaxed state.
  • There is a harmony between our conscious awareness and deeper layers of consciousness.

Approximately one hour of Yoga Nidra relieves as much tension as four hours of sleep. (Numerous tests have shown this. The numbers are slightly different each time, but generally fall within a 1-to-4 hour ratio.

What does the process of releasing threefold tensions look like through a yogic lens? 

Samskaras, which are old habits and tensions (many from infancy and childhood) that have become knotted into the physical, emotional, mental body are “burned away” during Yoga Nidra. (We’ll talk more about Samskaras later.)

 

Stress, the Senses, Pratyahara and Yoga Nidra

The stress of modern man is due to: 

  • excess stimulation to the sensory channels (visual, auditory, olfactory, for example) creates “sensory overload” which depletes the sensory channels
  • compounded effect: depleted sensory channels deplete the body (looking at computer and TV screens effect on eyes) and the effect of overeating on digestive organs)
  • depleted sensory channels cannot properly process the information coming through the senses (example: misunderstanding a friend’s words and getting your feelings hurt when tired)
  • depleted body cannot properly process food, toxins and doesn’t sleep well

Remember from last week’s study that the turning inward, or withdrawal of the sensory channels (Pratyahara) during Yoga Nidra?

Pratyahara is precisely the kind of relaxation that allows these sensory channels– and the parts of the body they connect to– time to rest. During this rest period, psychosomatic imbalances (many of which tend to lead to illness) are spontaneously restored.

During Yoga Nidra, one sensory channel, the auditory channel, remains open. This serves two purposes:

  • Leaving the auditory channel open helps keep the practitioner awake, but also keeps the interplay between conscious mind and the deeper layers from from becoming random– which can cause nightmares and sleep paralysis, for example.
  • The auditory channel is the very last sense to withdraw during Pratyahara anyway, which is convenient. (The order of sensory withdrawal is smell, taste, vision, touch, auditory.)

Consciousness divest of senses becomes total consciousness, which is a state of wholeness wherein one can connect to their true nature in its complete, pure form.

So in Yoga Nidra, our conscious awareness gets to look in on our deeper consciousness / our True Nature in an almost complete state of purity. This is very, very profound, no?

What is going on through a scientific lens during Pratyahara?

  • All sensory channels are disassociated from the cerebral cortex of the brain.
  • No messages are being transmitted to the motor organs.
  • Cerebral fluid which flows around the brain underneath the skull is charged with a high level of energy because the rest of the body requires very little energy.
  • Practitioners are neither on the psychic or conscious plane of awareness, but are resting on the borderline, which is like the “theta” state in neuroscience and the “hypnogogic state” in psychology. (See Week 2 for more about these two states).

Reminder: The 8 Stages of Yoga Nidra

The 8 stages of the Yoga Nidra Practice:

1) Internalization / Relaxation – preliminary preparation of the mind-body

2) Sankalpa (Affirmation/Resolve) – a broad spiritual goal previously decided upon, declared silently

3) Shavayatra (Rotation of Consciousness) – the consciousness is guided through the whole body in a systematic way

4) Breath and Energy Awareness – a period of awareness of breath/energy in certain parts of the body or as clearly defined experiences

5) Manifestations of Opposites – oppositional pairs of feelings and emotions are experienced

6) Creative Visualization and Journey – Various Archetypal images are visualized or sensed mentally.

7) Sankalpa (Affirmation) is repeated and, now in a highly suggestible state of consciousness, is programmed into the subconscious mind

8.) Externalization / Return to Full Awareness – a gentle and gradual return to a normal waking state

5th Stage: Manifestation of Opposites
The Manifestation of Opposites, Stage 5 of Yoga Nidra. involves the arousal of feelings and experiences such as hot-cold, heavy/ light.
Here’s what’s going on in the body when we do this practice.
Our feelings have a corresponding connection to the physical body. Throughout the body tissues and structures are numerous specially adapted sensory nerve terminals that respond to specific types of stimuli.
Some of these stimuli are:
  • being touched
  • change of body position
  • temperature
  • pain
  • pleasure

Some of these tiny sense organs that respond to stimuli are: 

  • proprioceptors in the joints
  • pacinian corpuscles beneath the skin
  • pain and pleasure receptors
These sense organs gather and relay information to specific sites in the brain. Which part of the brain a message goes to dependson what’s going on at / in different places of the body vs. what’s going on in our environment.
These sites are reciprocal centers for balancing our basic drives and are responsible for maintaining harmony between our inner and outer environments.
When we practice Manifestation of Opposites, we stimulate these reciprocal centers.
Most of these centers are located at the brain’s base. The most relevant involve:
  • food and water intake
  • temperature regulation
  • experiences of pain and pleasure
Manifestation of Opposites helps maintain the homeostatic balance and even strengthens and evolves it by bringing normal involuntary unconscious functions under control.
Let’s use our imagination to get a felt sense of the relationship between Manifestation of Opposites and homeostatic balance:
You hear an incredibly beautiful song that gives you so much pleasure as well as blows your mind with its structure and lyricism. Afterwards, you more than remember the song, you can fully imagine it and even feel it in your body.
But if you go further, and close your eyes and relive the experience of the song with 100% accuracy through all your layers of mind and body, the whole short-term structure of your mind and body are drastically changed by the time you’re done. The changes won’t last, of course, if you discontinue reliving the song.
In Manifestation of Opposites, you are reliving experiences of hot-cold, heavy/ light to your full capacity, not merely remembering them.
Often heaviness is first because the experience of heaviness lends itself to deep musculoskeletal relaxation.  It’s also often done last for the same reason, depending on the specific intention.
Now. Why does the opposite comes next?
Reliving the opposite experience is in accordance with the electrophysiological operating principles of the brain.
Here’s how that operation occurs:
  1. A neuron fires and transmits an impulse which registers in the brain.
  2. If it fires for a longer time, it’s message is eventually ignored or becomes unacknowledged by the brain. Example, you walk into a room and are hit with a strong smell. You remain in the room. After awhile, you can no longer detect the smell. This is called “habituation”.
In “Manifestation of Opposites”, our consciousness, with practice, can determine and direct what experiences will be felt by the body. Over time, our inner / outer experience becomes more sophisticated.
How has this practice helped people?
It helps to heal trauma, addiction and an array of psychosomatic disorders.
There is also enhanced emotional control.
For most people, negative feelings are harder to control than positive ones.
In Manifestion of Opposites, we can also submit voluntarily to threatening emotions such as fear, sadness and anger by reliving them. While doing so, we maintain a state of deep relaxation and “witness awareness” to the whole process.
Now here’s where opposites really matter…
This practice brings in two simultaneous operation nerves circuits in the opposite hemispheres of the brain, which, under normal circumstances never operate the same time.
A new neuronal  circuit is created which incorporates to previously irreconcilable state of awareness simultaneously.
This must be done with repeated practice in order to have a lasting effect.
Evolutionary advancement includes:
  • increased perceptual awareness
  • increased emotional control
  • an increasingly conscious destiny of our own choosing

 

Exploration
How quickly do you habituate?
  1. Choose a feeling that’s especially easy for you to relive.
  2. Lie down, get comfortable and relax.
  3. Practice a few rounds of the “31 Point Shavayatra” form Week 2’s Exploration.
  4. Then, relive “heavy, heavy, heavy….” followed by “light, light, light….”
  5. Then relive your feeling of choice, noticing how long it takes you to “peak” the feeling, and then when habituation shares to kick in and your ability to relive the feeling decreases despite your best effort.

Week 3 Study (Audio Version)
Yoga Nidra Practice 3, Practice for General Purposes
Read Before Practicing: A Few Things this Practice Might be Especially Good For

This week’s Practice Audio isn’t geared for any practical purpose. However, it might be especially good for boosting self-confidence, a feeling of inner beauty and expression of creativity.

DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN COPY OF THIS PRACTICE
Need directions for downloading?

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 12.15.44 PM

To download, select the file name and click download at the bottom of the page. On a phone or tablet, there might be a box to check in the upper right corner before selecting the file. Please let me know of any technical issues. Thanks.

Reference
Use these resources to learn more

Explanation of “Manifestation of Opposites” was drawn from the book, Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, pp. 38-42.

That’s all for this week. Sweet dreams and discoveries.

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COPYRIGHT © 2014 Tina Foster, Meditation for Non-Meditators. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.