Yoga Nidra is a systematic method of guided relaxation that has a profound effect on the body, mind and emotions. During the practice, you lie down in a comfortable position and are asked to remain awake and relaxed. The instructor will guide you through various stages of deeper relaxation where you turn your awareness to the inner landscape, away from external experiences.
During yoga nidra, you will enter the hypnagogic state between wakefulness and dreaming which we usually only spend a few minutes in daily as we are drift off to sleep at night. Here, the effect on the mind can be very powerful because as the mind becomes more relaxed, it also becomes more receptive. The practice can help us to increase our creativity, aid in memory retention, reduce stress, overcome past traumas, release our samskaras (mental impressions), and more fully embody our true nature.
It is best to practice yoga nidra in a quiet, comfortable room in your home where you can rest undisturbed for 20-30 minutes. Unplug your telephone, turn off your mobile phone, television and radio. Some amount of background noise is to be expected for those of us living in an urban environment so absolute quiet is NOT necessary. Make yourself as comfortable as possible lying on your back. Support your head with a cushion and the backs of the knees with a rolled up blanket, if your back feels uncomfortable. You may want to cover your eyes with an eye-bag. Also, make sure that you are warm, the body temperature will drop a few degrees due to the stillness of the practice, so a light blanket is a nice addition to your yoga nidra set-up.
The most important part in preparing for yoga nidra is the physical set-up of your space, but you also need to be in the mood to find deep relaxation. Sometimes the brain will be a whirlwind of thoughts and the emotions will be in turmoil. At these times, take a few minutes to practice some gentle asana warm-ups, or grounding mudras to be sure that you are present for the practice. Do not worry if you fall asleep or miss some of what is said, just continue to listen to my voice which will help to anchor you into the practice.
This practice can be used by itself as a tool to alleviate insomnia and find deep relaxation. As you are lying in bed, recite the different parts of your body systematically so that the brain focuses on the body and not on the swirling thoughts in the mind.