Yoga Nidra: Art of Conscious Relaxation and Transformation

Posted on by Teo Siew Yong

A few days ago, I was doing some research for my up and coming workshop on Yoga Nidra, during this exploration one thing that dawned on me was the degradation of human consciousness we experience today is highly linked to the immense tensions in the body-mind system.

You may think that relaxation is very simple, just recline your body and shut your eyes! Not really! Others use many sensory diversions such as drinking a cup of coffee or tea, light a cigarette or read newspaper, a book or watch television in the disguise of relaxation. But these will never suffice as a scientific definition of relaxation because true relaxation is actually an experience where you must remain in awareness. Modern men have forgotten how to relax consciously.

If we trace back in the last century or so, we have seen a huge shift in the way of life throughout the world. The rise of industrialisation, consumerism, digitalisation and globalisation had brought about a dispersion of human energies at all levels. We have become so engrossed in material pursuits and pleasures of the senses that we are not aware of what has been happening to our body-mind and consciousness. The mind of man has completely lost the point of balance and harmony in every sphere of existence.

As a result, we are seeing many new diseases, which are unheard of a century ago, are becoming a health and economic burden to families and countries. Even the Medical Science are not able to cope with this rise of new epidemic of stress-related disorders caused by our inability to adapt to the highly fast pace of modern lifestyle.

Psychosomatic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, migraine, asthma, ulcers, digestive disorders and skin diseases arise from tensions in the body and mind. The leading causes of death in many developed countries are cancer and heart disease which both stem from tension. The modern medical science had failed miserably to deliver a holistic health solution to man because the real problem does not lie in the body, it originates in man’s changing ideals, in his way of thinking and feeling. Plagued by a dissipation of energy and a dispersion of ideals, how can we expect to experience harmony in our body and mind?! It is the tension, hypertension and total tensions that are causing all the body-mind disturbances. Unless as a human race, we learn how to free ourselves from tensions, we will not be able to solve many of our problems in life.

In Singapore, over the last 5 years we’ve seen an increase in the number of sudden death after a rigorous exercise like a marathon run or physical fitness test. These people exercised regularly but they dropped dead out of sudden! Although the medical science has yet to establish the real cause of the sudden death, as a yogi, intuitively I know that it is due to a highly tensed nervous system from a stressful lifestyle.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati is one great yoga teacher who had contributed so much in the field of yoga during his 86 years of lifespan. He founded the Bihar School of Yoga in 1963 and had done many researches, written many books and delivered discourses based on Vedic Sciences. He devised Yoga Nidra from traditional Tantric practices and has created a major impact on the world of yoga. He left the body in December 2009 in Samadhi. I bow down to him in deep gratitude for opening my mind to this great Science of Yoga Nidra and allow me to share this gift with the world.

He said that “Whether you think too much or you don’t think at all, you work physically or not, you accumulate tensions. Whether you sleep too much or lose sleep, you accumulate tensions. Whether you indulge in unhealthy diet or eat vegetarian diet, you accumulate tensions. Tensions culminate in the different layers of the human personality such as the muscular, emotional and mental systems. These inner tensions of the individual contribute to collective psychological tensions which can manifest in unhappy family life, chaos and disorders in social life and aggression, perversions and warfare between communities and nations.”

The ancient yogis, sages and masters who had worked on human consciousness, they developed different yogic science to tackle human being’s challenges of the past, present and future. All yogic texts unequivocally state that peace can only be found within, never outside. Hence, to create a more peaceful world, we must first learn how to relax and harmonise our own body and mind system. These inner world scientists discovered the powerful Tantric science of Yoga Nidra (also known as yogic sleep or psychic sleep).

Yogic psychology and modern psychology states the three basic types of tension which are responsible for all the agonies and sufferings of modern life. They are:

  • Muscular tensions are related to body itself, the nervous system and endocrinal imbalances. These are easily removed by the deep physical relaxation attained in the state of Yoga Nidra.
  • Emotional tensions stem from various dualities such as love/hate, gain/loss, success/failure, happiness/sadness, are more difficult to erase. This is because we are unable to express our emotions freely and openly. Often we refuse to recognize them, so they are repressed and the resulting tensions become more and more deeply rooted. It is not possible to relax these tensions through ordinary sleep or relaxation, only a method like Yoga Nidra can tranquilize the entire emotional structure of the mind.
  • Mental tensions are the result of excessive mental activity. The mind is a whirlpool of fantasies, confusions and oscillations. Throughout our life, the experiences registered by our consciousness are accumulated in the mental body. From time to time, these explode and affect our body, mind, behaviour and reactions. The underlying cause behind man’s abnormal behaviour lies in the accumulated tensions on the mental plane. Yoga Nidra is the science of true relaxation which enables each one of us to dive deep down into the realms of the subconscious mind, thereby releasing and relaxing mental tensions and establishing harmony in all facets of our being.

Unless we are free from these 3 tensions: muscular, mental and emotional tensions, we are never relaxed. In order to relax completely, the inner tensions of the body, emotions and mind must be released. Then the actual state of relaxation dawns. The practice of Yoga Nidra is the scientific method of removing these tensions.

Yoga Nidra is a systematic technique in which you learn to relax consciously at the physical, mental and emotional levels. You appear to be asleep but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness.  In this threshold state between sleep and wakefulness, contact with the subconscious and unconscious dimensions occurs spontaneously in the process. The subconscious and unconscious mind are the most powerful forces in the human being. It has the capacity to penetrate into the depths of the human mind. When you practice Yoga Nidra you are opening the deeper layers of your mind. At this moment, your intellectual mind is operating, but when you are able to relax, the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind open. This state of deep relaxation is attained by turning one’s awareness inwards, away from the outer sensorial experiences. If the consciousness can be separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many transformative expansion in life such as to train the mind to develop greater memory power, to increase knowledge like a new language and creativity or to transform one’s negative tendencies by reprogramming our whole personality, even cure diseases.

Currently, I am doing an experiment for the next 2 months using Yoga Nidra to improve my son’s Mandarin by reading a passage to him every night after he falls asleep and then he reads the same passage to me the next morning.  Through Yoga Nidra, one can gain new knowledge and learn new languages.

My personal experience with Yoga Nidra is that it is a more efficient and effective form of psychic and physiological rest and rejuvenation than conventional sleep. I apply this technique in my yoga classes, private sessions and healing workshops. Those who adopt this technique in their daily routine soon experience profound changes in their sleeping habits. Do you know that a single hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful as 4-hrs of conventional sleep? This is one of the secrets of many great yogis who have managed to achieve so much in one short lifetime.

In essence, it is time we revive this powerful Vedic Science of conscious relaxation and self-transformation which is time–tested and yields reliable and permanent results with no side-effects. Yoga Nidra is one such powerful science that you have to experience it yourself to know its full benefits and miraculous power. Namaste 🙂

Note: I shall be conducting a 4-part Yoga Nidra workshop starting 5th of March 2015. For more details please visit the “workshops” tab at the top navigation bar.  

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About Teo Siew Yong

Teo Siew Yong draws from over a decade's worth of experience in the Vedic healing arts of Yoga and Mediation to share the sacred knowledge and experiences of self healing and self discovery with people who are ready to look within.