Week 4. Our last week.
Drink it in. Let yourself steep in study and practice.
Do you like stories, mythology, metaphor and symbolism? Are you creative? Visual?
This week we begin with a look at Yoga Nidra as represented in Hindu mythology.
Then, we move on to creative adaptations of Yoga Nidra for different purposes in life.
And to complete our study, we dive headlong into Stage 6 of Yoga Nidra– Visualization and Journey.
Our final Practice Audio is a tour of the Chakras– symbolic energy centers visualized in the body that correspond to the body’s actual functions.
What’s on this page?
1. Week 4 Study in text and audio form
2. Exploration. Creating your own visualizations and journey
3. Our last Practice Audio. A tour of the Chakra System, “A River of Pools”
4. References. Including a short video.
Yoga Nidra Week 4 Study (Text Version)
Vishnu (as Narayan) awake on a coiled serpent floating in a sea of milk.
Vishnu asleep on the coiled serpent on the sea of milk.
In Hindu mythology, Vishnu represents all of consciousness in archetypal form. The sea of milk is also consciousness (eternity), but symbolized as an inner terrain.
Notice the difference in the images, particularly the sky and sea and how each conveys waking and sleeping states of consciousness.
Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, beauty, fertility, health, wealth massages his feet, symbolizing how each helps to support as well as “serve” our consciousness.
Brahma, archetype for the unconscious, floats on a lotus attached to the umbilical cord at Vishnu’s navel, symbolizing the mutual connectivity of consciousness and unconsciousness, how they affect (nourish or harm) one another. The umbilical cord works both ways. Brahma is small representing the lesser known/seen aspect of the unconsciousness.
Duration: 5 to 20 minutes Reclined: Sitting up:
Duration: 5 to 20 minutes
I learned the following from a Yoga Nidra teacher who used it in her own recovery and now shares it with others in recovery.
(Please keep in mind that this practice is not meant to be a substitute for treatment. In the case of serious addiction and related illnesses, this practice, as well as all Yoga Nidra practices, are meant to supplement other treatments and/or medical care .)
Yoga Nidra disrupts the pattern of addiction by fine tuning the process of dopamine release via neurotransmitters, opens up the body’s natural pharmacy and brings the body back to homeostasis.
Target craving and addiction with Sankalpa (Stage 2 and 7), “Manifestation of Opposites” (Stage 5) and the Visualization/ Journey (Stage 6, see below) in the following ways:
- Sankalpa should relate to the craving, but, as much as possible in a broad and spiritual sense. (See Week 2 Study for more about creating a meaningful and effective Sankalpa).
Manifestation of Opposites:
- General emotions such as Sad….Happy, Low Self-esteem…..Confidence (always doing the negative first)
- Eventually bring in Craving / Addiction: Re-living the Craving / then the Opposite of the craving, whatever that is to you, such as Freedom, Stability, Willpower, etc.
- Finally, return to emotions, reliving the negative first
- Relax and breath
If reliving the negative states causes agitation or is counterproductive in any way, forego “Manifestation of Opposites” until you are able to maintain deep relaxation and a more detached “witness awareness” during practice.
- Read about this stage below.
- Do the Exploration with your craving/ addiction in mind.
- Practice every day at least once, choosing, if possible, the time of day your cravings are strongest.
- Create a short version of your entire Craving/ Addiction practice to do anytime you feel the craving.
Here’s one of the most common examples of a practice for children that uses the theme of an inner light in various ways.
Duration: 10-15 minutes
1. Create private, somber environment.
2. Help them get comfortable without prolonging this stage, or allowing them to delay.
3. Guide them to breathe in and out through their nose like blowing a bubble up and down in their belly.
4. Shavayatra (Rotation of Consciousness) with movement: Ask them to squeeze and release muscles in each body part.
Slowly lead them through the rotation, Skip individual fingers and toes.
5. Counting Breaths backwards from 20: Choose an easy number to remember, such as 20, 30 or 40 and ask them to count backwards, changing the number on each inhale AND exhale, “Breath in 20, breathe out 19, breath in 18 and so on.
Check in during this process with encouragement, assuring them it’s okay to sleep, lose their place, finish early and no need to hurry. “Just keep counting…”
6. 31 Point Shavayatra: Moving faster this time, pausing for 3–5 seconds between each part of the body. Ask them to see a little blue or golden light on each part.
7. Visualization/ Journey: Ask them to think of all the individual people in the world they love, then to feel the warm feeling in their heart as a pink or golden light. Name some of the people they might be imagining such as, “your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your friends, your teachers…. ”
Then ask them to grow this light out of their heart and to surround all of these people with it. “Feel how they are all with you in your heart.”
Finally, sending all of the world their light and imagine all the world sending light back to them.
8. Externalization / Re-entry: “Breathing the light in, down to the belly and out again through your nose, feeling the light coming in and out.
Praise them and bring them to sitting with eyes closed. “Slowly roll to your side, and take your time to sit up, but keep your eyes closed.”
Ask them to slowly open their eyes over the count of 5.
What is so powerful and important about Stage 6, Visualization and Journey?
- unlocks the stored up contents of the unconscious that normally only unlock during dreams
- “burns away” Samskaras, old habits, beliefs and patterns that are knotted into our consciousness and body
Let’s look deeper into these two functions beginning with dreams. We dream constantly, even when awake. However, we’re not aware of dreams until our senses withdraw from external stimuli and turn inward.
The dreams we have at night are just a glimpse of the vast totality of our unconscious and its workings, which never cease.
The usual state of dreaming functions as:
- the constant build up and release of tensions from the subconscious
- activation and expression of our deeper consciousness, the deepest of which is the unconscious, which holds the secrets to our deepest instincts, drives and reactions
Visualization and Internal Journeying are Yoga Nidra’s version of dreams, which function as:
- a voluntarily induced experience of our subconscious and unconscious
- our conscious awareness, still awake, “witnessing” the release of tension and expression of deeper consciousness
- conscious creation of a dream in accordance with the guidance we are provided or which we train ourselves to use.
It’s easy to see how a healthy and meaningful connection between our conscious mind and our deeper states of consciousness is important to our wellbeing.
Our awakened and sleeping dreamstates must NOT be at odds.
The Visualization and Internal Journeying Stage of Yoga Nidra is a great way to develop, induce and maintain the ongoing relationship between our conscious mind and deeper conscious.
What exactly goes on between conscious mind and our unconscious during visualization sequences?
- The symbols that make up the guided imagery aren’t cathartic, but are catalysts and provoke reactions in our unconscious.
- All the imprints in our consciousness, from all our experiences, including the most mundane, are subject to activation.
- Memories and other latent unconscious content reconnect to conscious mind.
- Some of the past experiences we “remember”, return to conscious mind as a very different version than what actually happened in the original experience, having been transformed by our unconscious. (More about this below)
- The subconscious and unconscious material is activated, released and integrated into consciousness.
- Creative imagination, as distinct from our usual daydreaming and sleeping, is refreshed and nurtured.
Item #4 above mentions that some previously forgotten “memories” return to our conscious awareness completely transformed into a new version quite unlike the original experience. This is the difference between the language of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The original experience is “lost in translation” as it has made its journey from actual experience > the unconscious > back to conscious awareness.
What’s the difference between the languages of our unconscious and conscious mind?
- Our conscious mind speaks a slower, more practical language designed for living life externally, being understood by others, adjusting to the ways of our society, and so forth. Its language is word and gesture based.
- Our unconscious mind speaks a faster, more nuanced language designed for internal life– maintaining mental health, recalibrating our mind-body connections, holding our identity together, basically. Its language is symbol-based.
By invoking this symbolic language of the unconscious through word-based guidance during Yoga Nidra, we bridge the gap between the two.
Our unconscious knows two kinds of symbols.
- Conditioned Symbols- varying in each person according to location, culture, education, etc.
- Universal Symbols- unvarying, forming part of the consciousness of everyone, regardless of race, culture or location, forming what Jung called the “collective unconscious”.
Both of these should be considered when creating a visualization sequence for Yoga Nidra. The first needs to be understandable to the individuals being guided. The second must be truly universal, understandable to all people.
The Process of Release of Samskaras:
- The symbols shared by the guide during visualization or the journey awaken and unlock the latent symbols, instincts, drives stored in the unconscious.
- These latent symbols become active and sometimes reactive to this evocation or provocation induced by the guidance.
- Many of these active and reactive forms are Samskaras, impressions which comprise our ego that manifest as disturbing images, painful memories, unfulfilled desires, inhibitions, fears and neuroses– just to name a few. They’re often at the root of our tensions and anxieties and illnesses.
- If the guidance is good and steady, Samskaras are purged in a way that feels safe, pleasant, even effortless. Good visualization guidance delicately “escorts” our Samskaras out the door of our unconscious mind. They are purged in a gentle, almost invisible way.
- If the practitioner is able to remain relaxed and “witness” this gentle purge, the Samskaras are more likely to be eradicated entirely, forever. The ego is inactive during this type of detached witnessing and no longer identifies with the Samskaras.
- As a result, the energy that had previously been used to keep these Samskaras repressed will begin to be utilized for healthier purposes within our consciousness.
- Over time, the relationship between conscious and unconscious mind is less and less conflicted.
There is so much more to this process, but we’ll stop here for now. See the References below to learn more.
Use these exercises to help you get clear on where you want to go in the Visualization/ Journey Stage of Yoga Nidra.
- Create a “vision board” that depicts the future you wish to create. Be as creative and artistic as you like, but don’t be so perfectionist that you slow the process down. You’ll want to refine it later, anyway. A simple posterboard with magazine cut outs will do. Also include written affirmations on your board. But make the board neat and tidy. Put it in a place that has personal significance to you, such as beside your bed. Look at it in the morning and evenings before and after bed– and of course before each Yoga Nidra practice.
- Translate your goals into stories. For example, if you need assistance embracing change, write a simple story (sometimes even a few sentences are enough) wherein you get literally stuck or your progress is slowed down. I use the image of walking through a very thick jungle with no path, having to pull back branches one by one, every step is a labor unto itself. Then I imagine the jungle gradually getting thinner, eventually opening to a field with a stream. “Get into the water and let the current carry you as you cool down and relax. The current is the River of Life and it carries you where you want to go.”
- What parables, fables, fairy tales, children’s books and myths resonate with you? Create your own version of your favorite stories.
- Your Sankalpa will help inspire your visualizations and journeys and vice versa. Make sure they are in alignment.
Your Journey should have the following elements:
- a segue into the visualization or journey, such as getting lighter and floating is a segue into entering the clouds, as in Audio Practice 1.
- a landscape or some sort of environment (such as outer space)
- a mode of movement at the beginning, such as walking, flying, floating, swimming
- a transformation such as going from seed to sunflower (as in Audio Practice 3) or a transition, going from walking to floating in water (as in my example above)
- a moment of stillness and relaxation, such as resting into the earth after your sunflower self withers (in Audio Practice 3 or resting in Infinite Consciousness as in Audio Practice 1).
- a segue out of Visualization/ Journey
Your journey might also have a conflict, challenge or obstacle– something to overcome– that brings transformation.
Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with A Thousand Faces, in the references below, is a great resource for understanding an inspiring the creation of visualizations and inner journeys.
Record your journey into your phone or a simple recording device and try it out in practice.
Week 4 Study (Audio Version)
Yoga Nidra Practice 4
Please download the Practice Audio using the link below, and, as always, let me know if you need any assistance.
This week our journey is within our body. We experience our deeper self as a “self inside our self” and move up and down our spine as The River of Life, pausing to rest in the parts of the body where the chakras are located.
The Chakra System is symbolic yet corresponds to actual body-mind functions. However, if it doesn’t resonate with you, never mind. (The sequence doesn’t get technical about the Chakras or visualize them per se.)
This completes the Study & Exploration portion of The Yoga Nidra Virtual Experience.
I hope you have enjoyed yourself as much as I have.
My hope is that learning more about the practice, process and state of being that is Yoga Nidra, your use and experience of it will be enhanced.
Keep practicing and journeying toward Self-Mastery. I’ll see you on the road.