Yoga Nidra Virtual- week 3- keeper

Week 3. 

Our journey is already over the halfway hump.

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.
Continuing to view Yoga Nidra 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 the threefold tensions we  accumulate:

  1. Bodily—  endocrine system, nervous system, muscles
  2. Emotional– arise from conflicting feelings such as warmth vs. fear, happiness vs. sadness. Emotional tensions are more difficult to ease or release than bodily tensions. Emotional tensions can also be repressed and set into deeper layers of consciousness. 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, then wake up feeling fine, thinking the tension has released, when, in fact, it has only set in deeper, further away from our conscious mind. (“Out of sight, out of mind.”)
  3. Mental– All experiences registered by our consciousness rest on the mental plane. From time to time, they get triggered by something that we may or may not be consciously aware of. Once triggered, these experiences  “act up”– sometimes a little, sometimes 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 because of fatigue, not because of relaxation. When we fall asleep tired but not relaxed,  we enter deeper consciousness with all tensions still active.
  • Sleep is usually 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 deeper consciousness 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? 

The Sanskrit word for old habits and tensions (many originating from infancy and childhood) is Samskara, These tensions and habits, or Samskaras, have become knotted into the physical, emotional, and mental layers of being. During Yoga Nidra, Samskaras are “burned away”. (We’ll talk more about Samskaras next week.)

 

Stress, the Senses, Pratyahara and Yoga Nidra

The stress of modern man is due to the following: 

  • excess stimulation to the sensory channels (visual, auditory, olfactory, for example) creating “sensory overload”
  • depleted sensory channels then deplete the body (looking at computer and TV screens depletes the visual channel and eventually the eyes as well)
  • depleted sensory channels cannot properly process the information coming through the senses, resulting in distorted information (example: when you’re tired and you misunderstand a friend’s words, thinking your friend is being cruel when they really aren’t, resulting in your feelings getting hurt)
  • a depleted body cannot properly process food, toxins and doesn’t sleep well, which creates another layer of tensions

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

Pratyahara is precisely defined as relaxation of these sensory channels– and the parts of the body they connect to. 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 the three following purposes:

  • Leaving the auditory channel open helps keep the practitioner awake.
  • The guidance keeps the interplay between conscious mind “playing nice” with the deeper layers of conscious, so our deep conscious experience is NOT random. We avoid the risk of nightmares, sleep paralysis and other unpleasant experiences.
  • The auditory channel is the very last sense to withdraw during Pratyahara anyway, which is convenient. (The order of sensory withdrawal is: smell, taste, touch, visual, auditory.)

Consciousness divest of the senses becomes total consciousness– which is a state of wholeness, of connecting to our true nature in its 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 as the result of the rest of the body requiring 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 – opposing 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 particular bit of information goes to depends on what’s going on in different places of the body vs. what’s going on in our environment.

These tiny sense organs 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 but alsos blows your creative and intellectual 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 as accurately as possible 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, once you discontinue reliving the song.

In Manifestation of Opposites, you are reliving experiences such as 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. (Skin touched –> message in brain says”skin touched”.
  2. If the neon continues to fires for a longer time, it’s message is eventually decreased, 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 phenomenon is called “habituation”.

With practice, “Manifestation of Opposites” enhances our consciousness’ ability determine and direct what experiences will be felt by the body. Over time, our inner / outer experience becomes more of a conscious choice and we have more control over how we feel.

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 what’s going on in the brain is what really matters…

This practice brings in two simultaneous operational nerve circuits in opposite hemispheres of the brain. Under normal circumstances, these two opposing nerve circuits in each hemisphere of the brain don’t operate the same time.

A new neuronal circuit is created– one which incorporates two previously irreconcilable states 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 (more empowerment and freewill, less fate / luck)

(Studies that demonstrate these theories by photographing the brain are referenced below. Check out the photographs and learn more.)

Exploration
How quickly do you habituate?
  1. Choose a feeling (any at all, besides heavy vs. light) 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. Also notice when habituation starts 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 
Note about this Practice Audio

This week’s Practice Audio is our longest yet and is far too big for most websites. Please download the Practice Audio and, as always, let me know if you have any problems downloading.

Also, this practice isn’t geared for any practical purpose, necessarily. However, it might be especially good for boosting self-confidence, a feeling of inner beauty and creative expression. It also might be a great practice for the experience of the theme birth-death-rebirth.

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.

References
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.
  • Robert Nilsson, “Pictures of the Brain’s Activity During Yoga Nidra”, Bindu Magazine, No. 11
  • Dr. A.K. Ghoshi, “Yoga Nidra – Altered State of Consciousness” included in the book, Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, pp. 246-253 (excellent images of the brain as well as other visual aids)

That’s all for this week. Enjoy.

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