Yoga nidra is an ancient technique for relaxing. The word “nidra” is Sanskrit for “sleep”.
When you participate in a yoga nidra session you enter yogic sleep. This state of consciousness is between waking and sleeping. It’s that stage before sleep. You will have that “going to sleep” feeling. It is a state in which all muscles are totally relaxed. Then, the “sleeper” starts to become aware of the inner self by following verbal instructions.
At no point should you actually fall asleep and lose your awareness. You may find it difficult to stay awake during your first few sessions. This is normal and to be expected. However, you should try to maintain “relaxed awareness” so you do not drift off to dreamland.
Other beginners complain about not being able to stay still. Being in a completely relaxed state is essential to a good yoga nidra experience. To achieve stillness we recommend laying on a padded mattress or doubling-up your yoga mat. You may also get cold laying still during the length of the session. Bring a sweater or blanket you can pull on quickly if you get too cold.
Yoga nidra is just one small part of a larger category of therapies referred to as yoga chikitsa.
Chikitsa is an Ayurvedic term that refers to healing. The word is Sanskrit for “therapy, cure, medicinal application, and treatment”. What a mouthful.
However, chikitsa is not like Western medicine. It’s not a pill.
An experienced teacher guides a chikitsa healing session. Once you learn the techniques you can self-administer.
Like most yoga terms chikitsa has a different meaning in the ashtanga world. No need to worry about that right now. We are not referring to chikitsa as it’s defined in asthanga, but you should know it may be interpreted differently.
At Shanti Yoga teacher trainings we practice chikitsa for 2 hours every day. We do this not only heal ourselves personally. But also to teach others how to relax and heal.
Here are the techniques we practice during a chikitsa session: