Describing Yoga Nidra is a bit like reading a description of honey before you’ve ever tasted honey. The actual taste experience is beyond words. Nevertheless, understanding how yoga nidra works helps the mind relax and allows a much deeper experience.
Yoga Nidra is a most profound and natural state of meditation. Through the process of being guided into being conscious of different sensations throughout your body, and of opposing experiences such as warmth & coolness, agitation & calmness, fear & equanimity, sorrow & joy, separation & oneness – you are invited to rotate your attention through these different changing sensations, through pairs of opposites, until you embody these opposing experiences and sensations with neither attachment nor aversion, and with complete awareness.
The outcome or benefits that can be derived from this deep meditative process include:
Many of us know of the fragile peace that’s easily disturbed by the onslaught of daily life. Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation that can assist you to cultivate or remember that space of pure awareness – that unshakable steadiness that exists in each one of us, and that is present in all circumstances and situations, bearing in mind, that the true test of inner peace or consciousness is not in the meditation hall or studio, but in our daily life.
At the core of Yoga Nidra and all yoga and mediation practices – is NOT a dogma, but rather, a system that blends with many universal principles that are concerned with knowing one thing – WHO WE TRULY ARE.
At its minimum, Yoga Nidra will lead you to experience profound relaxation, the release of chronic stress, restful sleep, and a greater sense of harmony in your daily life and relationships
At it’s ULTIMATE – Yoga Nidra points to your True Nature – a peaceful countenance and steadiness that is available to you, to every person, right now.
The Process – Yoga Nidra mimics sleep, however, you want to remain alert throughout the practice. Hence, if you do decide to do it at home, practice in a room other than where you sleep in, and definitely not on your bed – there’s a subconscious connection between your bed and falling asleep.
The Process – Yoga Nidra approximates sleep, but unlike sleep where the mind unconsciously identifies with the dream, during Yoga Nidra you WITNESS these dream-like fragments. You remain observing and aware without falling into unconscious identification with the different sensations and images.
Yoga Nidra is not hypnosis. It is a form of meditation that goes through the different layers to your being – your physical body, emotional sheath, the mind, the ego, etc. Going through these different layers is like visiting a new destination – being in this new place without attachment to the many changing factors – you are completely present, observing – you are completely WITH these various sensations
How to Set-up for Yoga Nidra
Lie down flat, put a bolster under your knees, a blanket over the body, and an eye pillow. Now RELAX THE BODY….
Step 1: Set an intention to give the practice your wholehearted attention. Silently say to yourself, “I give this practice my whole-hearted attention.” Acknowledge your desire to remain focused, to remain aware, to get in touch with the witnessing part of you.
Step 2: is to choose a Sancalpa or intention, or AFFIRMATION – Let this affirmation be a heartfelt prayer in the present tense – instead of a future possibility. Meditation encourages us to acknowledge the NOW.
Finish the line, “I am ________” (whole, healed and healthy). OR “My true nature is _________” . Silently say this to yourself once again to acknowledge your affirmation. Then set your affirmation aside gently – you will visit them again at the end of your practice.
We have available MP3 meditation classes for you to download:
Written by experienced yoga teacher James Bryan from Knoff Yoga School in Cairns, Queensland
For those of us who practice Hatha Yoga (asana, pranayama and meditation), when we are pressed for time, meditation often gets set aside – we want to do it, but how to fit it in our busy day? To get the full benefit that Hatha Yoga offers, we do need to meditate and in this article, we will look at a few reasons for setting up a daily routine to include it.
Patanjali, the father of Yoga, recommends an 8-step program which includes the practice of:
This is based upon:
… or, moving from the gross to the subtle. Another way of looking at the intent of Patanjali’s traditional sequence is comparing to a child’s developmental stages of crawling, walking, running. You need to learn how to control the energies of the physical body, which is tangible, before we will have success with the less tangible breath and the ephemeral mind.
The effects of yoga practice are cumulative, this is, they build upon each other and overall it is greater than what would be achieved from doing the asana, pranayama and meditation separately – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Because the body and breath have already been awakened by the time we are ready to meditate (with traditional sequencing), the meditation can be more powerful and effective. Keep in mind that 10 minutes of focus is more beneficial than 30 minutes of fuzz. No part of yoga practice is about chronological time; it is always about the awareness/consciousness we attain.
“A slack spine equals a dull mind”. When meditating, it is vital to sit correctly with a properly activated and elongated spine. To do this we need to slightly flatten out the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) curves. Internally we balance along the median plane by aligning the soft palate of the mouth over the perineum – then pressing down into the sitting bones and lengthening through the crown of the head. When sitting properly, the mind is energized and meditation will be more successful, i.e. alert and attentive to whatever meditation technique we are using. With correct posture and technique, the spine should be longer after the finish of meditation than when we started.
In Vipassana Meditation it is recommended to sit for 2 hours per day, 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening. Because we encourage the practice of Hatha Yoga for 1 to 2 hours per day, as well as meditation, the overall time commitment is impractical for those with work, family and life responsibilities. We found that when meditating for 2 hours (in addition to asana and pranayama), some of the time we would be mentally drifting off because we were tired, i.e. non productive time. This experience taught us to adjust the Vipassana ‘chronological’ recommendation (doing time) and focus on the quality/clarity – “quality vs. quantity”, that is, making the best use of our limited time.
Meditation is highly beneficial BUT ONLY when we are awake, alert and attentive. If you are tired and falling asleep, go to bed!
Regardless of the type or style of yoga we practice, the ultimate goal is the same – Samadhi, which is super-consciousness or experiencing a profound sense of belonging in the universe, of oneness with the life-force sustaining all of nature. We require a strong body and nervous system in order to achieve this desirable goal. We obtain a strong body and nervous system from practising asana and pranayama. The Buddha did 6 years of austerities (yogic practices) before reaching enlightenment. By his example, we see the importance of asana and pranayama in any meditation practice.
In Patanjali’s teachings, we see that all of the 8 Limbs of Yoga are equally important, and with experience in practice it is obvious that they are all spokes in the same wheel – each contributing to the overall integrity and strength of the whole.
Once students are competent with the Beginner Level syllabus (Knoff Yoga) they should easily be able to complete it in 45 minutes (including relaxation and pranayama) in order to fit in 5 minutes of meditation – for a total daily investment of 50 minutes. This is not too much to ask for health and well-being. It is possible to get up an hour earlier to make space in your life for yoga.
Once students are competent with the Foundation Level syllabus (Knoff Yoga) they should easily be able to complete it in 1 hour and 10 minutes (including relaxation and pranayama), in order to fit in 20 minutes of meditation – for a total daily investment of 1 and 1/2 hours. Yes, this is a considerable slice out of the day, but it can be done by getting up earlier and dedicating yourself to becoming the best person you can be.
Make sure with your meditation, you are focusing on quality and not quantity. 5 minutes of sitting with a dull mind is 5 minutes wasted.
Experiment with the practice and see what works best for you.
Yours in Yoga,
James has a range of products available for you – from Chair Yoga for all levels to Pranayama for beginners and intermediate:
Written by experienced yoga teacher James Bryan from Knoff Yoga School in Cairns, Queensland
If we use the metaphor of hiking in the wilderness as an example of our yogic adventures, then we understand that a relatively small amount of time is spent on the mountain tops – the ah-ha moments, and the majority of the time we are down in the valleys – on the mat slogging away. Becoming clearer on the yogic path and dropping social and mental limitation is comparable to reducing the weight of our backpack – lightening the load!
Physically we take the uplifting path (light/vibrant body), but mentally we must descend through the beta, alpha, theta and delta mental states. As we learn to focus the mind more and more to illuminate the hidden parts of ourselves, we start to release the suppressed contents of our sub-conscious and eventually approach the threshold of the unconscious and eventually the super-conscious mind.
This spiritual evolution is not linear and contains both steps forward and partial retreats. We are told by the ancient yogis that any effort extended is never wasted. Obvious signs of progress are increasing feelings of compassion and clarity.
Feelings of isolation and separation are signs of experiencing the world through the predominance of one cerebral hemisphere; in our culture normally the left (analytical, linear, fight or flight activation, etc.). As we progress and learn how to access and activate both hemispheres simultaneously, not only do we access more brain power, but we also experience profound feelings of unity and harmony – because we are no longer divided within ourselves. Moving from beta… alpha… theta… and finally to delta brain waves… results in complete co-operation and utilization of our separate selves and is the end game of yoga = Samadhi.
When we designed the Knoff Yoga program of 5 levels: Beginner, Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced and Master, we wanted a clear path for our students to follow. Our experiences taught us that most students (and teachers for that matter) are stumbling along in the dark and are very lucky not to trip and fall. One of the pitfalls of the Western approach to yoga is to make asana the total focus and omit the synergistic tools of the rest of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Another is the window shopping approach, i.e., yoga this week and pilates the next. We designed our program to include 5 elements: Meditation, Pranayama, Asana, Relaxation and Philosophy. If any of these integral and essential parts of the yogic path are missing, then our students will not receive the promised benefits they read about in yoga books.
In feudal Japan, the Samurai warriors had only 8 sword movements to fight with. Their techniques had to be totally practical because their lives depended upon it. Today in Kendo there are 100’s of sword movements – what has happened? We kept this in mind when designing the Knoff Yoga program and see great value in the K.I.S.S. (keeping it straightforward and simple) approach to yoga – providing it works of course.
Our passion is to share the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of yoga. Our goal is to offer training that is transformational, and imparts the techniques and philosophy of yoga as well as the enthusiasm to make yoga a life-long choice. We understand that Knoff Yoga will grow and prosper in direct relation to the positive impact it has upon the lives of our teachers and students.
The path of yoga is not easy, nor is it always fun, but it is always worthwhile. 95% of the effort required is in just getting on the mat with no compromises and no excuses. You will always be glad you made the small effort for a substantial return of good health and well-being.
James has a range of products available for you – from Chair Yoga for all levels to Pranayama for beginners and intermediate:
Written by GuruJivan Goodman
Kundalini Yoga is a technology to awaken your awareness and bring you in touch with your original Self. It is a process that allows the natural unfolding of your inner-nature.
“Kundalini yoga classes are a dynamic blend of postures, pranayam, mantra, music and meditation, which teach you the art of relaxation, self-healing and elevation. Balancing body and mind enables you to experience the clarity and beauty of your soul. No previous experience in yoga is required for you to achieve results with your very first class.”
– Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher
The practice of Kundalini Yoga balances the glandular system, strengthens the nervous system and enables us to harness the energy of the mind and the emotions, so we can be in control of ourselves, rather than being controlled by our thoughts and feelings.
There is nothing more powerful than to awaken your consciousness, confront your ego and drop your fears. There is nothing more elegant than building the strength of your nervous system and character. There is nothing more effective than developing your capacity to be happy in the midst of challenges, grateful for each moment of your life. And there is nothing more profound than getting in touch with the core of your being – listening deeply and hearing the pulse of the creator in all people and all things.
The main difference between kundalini yoga and other forms is a matter of time. Kundalini yoga is yoga for householders, for people who have to cope with the daily challenges and stresses of holding jobs, raising families, managing businesses. It gives results in the shortest possible time. It does not require you to leave your home, become an ascetic or sit in a cave. Kundalini Yoga is for everyone who wants the skills to cope successfully with the challenges of living in this day and age.
Kundalini and the Breath
“The main problem in the world is stress. It is not going to decrease – it is going to increase. If through pranayam the shock can be harnessed, the entire stress and disease can be eliminated.”
– Yogi Bhajan
The breath is a fundamental tool to Kundalini yoga, it:
The quantity, quality and circulation of breath creates the foundation of a vital and creative life.
Most people do not breathe correctly. When we consciously lower the frequency of breaths per minute, we encourage great benefits. Normally we find that men breathe between 16-18 breaths per minute, women generally breathe 18-20 breaths per minute.
8 Breaths per minute
If we can consciously breathe 8 breaths per minute we begin to feel more relaxed. The parasympathetic nervous system begins to be influenced and the healing processes of the body are elevated we also get relief from stress and increased mental awareness.
4 Breaths per minute
At this rate the Pituitary & Pineal glands begin to coordinate at an enhanced level thereby producing a meditative state. Positive shifts in mental function begin; we tend to experience intense feelings of awareness, increased visual clarity and sometimes heightened body sensitivity.
1 Breath per minute (Not recommended for Beginners)
Advanced yogi’s who have had a lot of practice can achieve 1 breath per minute. They experience a stronger connection between brain hemispheres, relief from anxiety and fear, increased intuition and the presence of spirit.
The Natural Breath
Many people have learned to breathe backwards, they inhale pulling the belly in, which makes the space for the breath to enter less instead of more. People who are anxious or smoke tend to breathe in this manner.
A natural breath uses the nose, which filters, warms and humidifies the air. There are many different breathing techniques used in Kundalini Yoga and many of these techniques are incorporated into the Kriya and meditations used while practicing Kundalini yoga.
Kriyas (Asana / Posture) in Kundalini
The word Kriya means complete action, in kundalini yoga it is a sequence of postures, breath and sound that are integrated together to allow the manifestation of a particular state. i.e. to remove blocks, anger or fear, eliminate disease, and create elevation just to name a few.
Postures are used to isolate specific muscles to pressurize specific points or areas in the body that act as reflex triggers to enhance the functions of the glands, organs and to re-direct, flush or increase circulation.
In the beginning you may feel awkward or uncomfortable adjusting to a posture. As you hold it, it starts to feel better. It starts to find a natural place in you. Your body adjusts, your shoulders relax, together with tense muscle groups you didn’t need to use.
You will observe, at some point, a relationship building between you and yourself. There starts to be a bridge of communication between the conscious and the unconscious. This then starts to realign the body and the mind.
Kriya is the spontaneous fulfilment of action by using posture (Asana) that links the infinite Self of you to this finite moment. It tears away at your old attachments and starts to reform you gradually. Postures make you conscious of areas in the body. As you hold the posture you find yourself self-conscious initiall, then you become conscious of Yourself. And if you really put yourself into it you become a conscious self.
There are many Kriyas in Kundalini Yoga that support just about every area of life. Kundalini yoga has many manuals available that focus on Kriyas for a specific purpose, outcome or even, time of day. These manuals contain a wealth of information about the postures sequences, breathing exercises, and types of meditation in each particular kriya.
Kundalini and Relaxation
“Total harmonious relaxation cures the body. To achieve this there must be a coordination between the three facets of ourselves: body, mind and soul.”
– Yoga Bhajan
The ability to relax is essential for physical and mental wellbeing but it something surprisingly difficult for many people to do in today’s world.
After completing a Kriya, the student’s physiological and neural is elevated. At this point, it is then important to relax and allow the physiology of awakening and awareness to begin. During this relaxation phase the following benefits may occur:
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
Corpse Pose is the best position for deep relaxation, after a Kriya, a hard day or even a stressful situation. Lie on your back, arms by your sides with the palms facing up and the legs uncrossed and relaxed. The feet normally fall to the side for most people and the arms are usually approximately at a 45 degree angle from the body.
Kundalini and Meditation
Meditation is the process of controlling and transcending the waves of the mind. Meditation creates a communion between you and your mind and between your mind and your body. It is beneficial for everyone.
Some of the benefits that you may experience while practicing meditation are:
Meditation is a personal and private experience even when you are meditating in large groups.
When you sit quietly and focus your attention inwards you become very aware of what is going on in your mind and all the thoughts that you are thinking (or even thoughts you didn’t think you were thinking!).
By not reacting to or judging the thoughts, and processing them with mantra, breath or mudra you can create a stillness and calmness that will serve you through your daily life.
There are many types of meditation in Kundalini Yoga that can help you stay focused and quiet. There are actually hundreds of these meditations – ranging from group, healing, couples or children’s mediations through to meditations that work on addictions, increasing vitality, clearing chakras or simply just trying to improve mental clarity.
The term Sadhana means daily practice; it is a practice in self – discipline that enables one to express the infinite within one’s self. It is a self – discipline by which we energise and balance the body and clear the mind and the subconscious. It is generally practiced between the hours of 4am – 7am during the Ambrosial Hours. To exercise before sunrise is important because of the angle of the sun to the earth, which makes it very conducive to meditation.
Sadhana is a test of self – grit and refines and develops the characteristics of our consciousness as human beings.
Sadhana benefits us by:
You can choose a Sadhana that suits you or ask your teacher to choose one for you. Start small if you are just beginning or are new to yoga, even if you just do 3 minutes per day for 40 days. Commit to that, it is good a start and you can slowly increase the time as you feel you are ready.
Yoga Off the Mat Book Launch
Is yoga really more than stretching?
You may be able to tie yourself in knots, but does that really count as yoga? Perhaps not, at least according to Sydney-based author and yoga school director, Katie Spiers.
In her latest book, Yoga Off the Mat (published by Live Yoga Life, February 26), Manitsas conveys to the curious and the converted how to ensure their yoga practice is far more than simply stretching. The work is a follow up to her earlier book Spiritual Survival and the City (published by Hardie Grant as Katie Spiers).
Now that yoga has been embraced as a mainstream activity in Australia, Manitsas says it’s time practitioners realised the ancient practice is about far more than simply staying fit:
“Where yogic philosophy becomes really useful, and much more difficult to apply, is in everyday life – off the mat. Our everyday situations give us plenty of chances to apply this broader understanding of yoga; it can impact everything from how we relate to the planet through to our own self esteem,” she says.
As she explores how the full teachings of yoga, including its ethical and philosophical backgrounds, can help us Manitsas explains how yoga has much to offer the mind as a meditative art. It also helps us see ourselves in a more positive light:
“We may have grown up in a culture that tells us we can be whatever we want to be and a credit card can buy us anything we need, but this has left us embracing the message that who we are, how we see ourselves and how others see us is based on what we have and what we look like,” says Manitsas.
“Yoga teaches us that true self-confidence comes from within and that once we are grounded in knowing who we really are; a confidence will arise that is unshakable, regardless of our bank balance,” she says.
For those already practicing yoga ‘Yoga Off the Mat’ provides a valuable resource for learning more, particularly in the context of social ethics and ‘spiritual activation’. Newcomers to the practice will find Manitsas’ easy to read style offers a good starting point to the full yoga practice.
Author Katie Spiers (formerly Spiers) is Sydney-based Samadhi Yoga Studio Director and Certified Advanced Jivamukti Yoga teacher.
Available in both paperback and ebook (downloadable format) online through www.liveyogalife.com. Paperback also available at www.samadhiyoga.com.au.
Media materials including images are available from www.samadhiyoga.com.au and www.liveyogalife.com. Media contact for interviews contact Monica Redondo via our Contact Form.
Written by James Bryan
The dietary practices of the most stable population groups (transcultural) in the world have evolved certain recurrent patterns. Whole grains constitute the bulk of most of these diets and are consumed in the largest quantities. The ever-present legume, which is taken in approximately half that quantity, complements the grains, and together they provide the proper proportions of the essential amino acids. This grain/legume combination is the core of the meal, but the vegetables give it flavour and vitality. The amount of fresh vegetables which are consumed varies according to availability, included in sizable quantities. Generally, this means that they are taken in larger portions than the legume but in smaller portions than the grains.
In addition to this basic trio of grain, legume and vegetable, most traditional diets contain varying quantities of a fourth group of foods which includes dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, fowl and certain fermented bean preparations. This group might be referred to as the B12 group since all the foods included in it contain this vitamin whereas foods in the other three groups do not.
A small daily serving of raw foods constitutes the fifth group found in traditional diets. This may be fruits, though they are often regarded as a luxury. When in season they are generally taken separately, serving as a light breakfast or supper rather than a routine part of the meal. If they are absent, small amounts of some other raw food which can be easily digested is added to the daily menu.
List of the traditional five foods groups in order of quantity:
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga follows this five group diet.
For yoga practice to be balanced it must contain all the eight limbs of yoga as handed down to us by the sage Patanjali in his classic the Yoga Sutras:
List of the eight limbs of yoga:
We can reorganize these into five groups following Patanjali’s recommend sequencing:
(Please note Samadhi is a state of mind and is a result of the consistent practice of the preceding seven limbs).
List of traditional five yoga groups in order of quantity from Knoff Yoga:
If we then compare the traditional food groups to the yoga groups in order of quantity in the diet / practice we have:
Food Groups and Yoga Groups:
The modern trend in yoga is to focus almost exclusively upon asana. This is like eliminating four of the five traditional food groups and eating only grains, which will not allow for the development of a healthy and long-lived individual or population. We need to listen to the wisdom gained over millennia, from both the collective insights of the most stable population groups in the world, and our yoga sages.
With Knoff Yoga, we have developed a sensible and stable practice that honours the traditional teachings of yoga. This comparison of a balanced and healthy diet with a balanced and healthy yoga practice can give us insights to better our practice and well-being.
For All Levels – Check out James Bryan’s Chair Yoga. Suitable for everyone irrespective of your level of fitness. All that is needed is a chair! Perfect for travelling, offices, or where you prefer to sit.