Every single one of us is supposedly wired for ‘genius’ status, though – in most of us – this potential is never realized. Why? According to long-time researcher and practitioner of a technique known as ‘yoga nidra’, the mind, when in a relaxed and receptive state, can access it’s greatest possibilities. These possibilities include learning multiple languages and remembering far better than in normal waking states. Yoga Nidra is a ‘conscious sleep’ practice which removes the mental blocks and screens keeping us from accessing our hidden potential. Young people, especially, who are not buried under a lifetime of conditioning and emotional baggage, have the opportunity to unlock deep seated potential through this ancient and unique sleep practice.
Origin of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra literally means ‘conscious sleep’ or ‘yogic sleep’ and indicates a state of awareness that is neither totally asleep nor completely awake – it is an ‘in-between’ realm of consciousness. The birth of yoga nidra came from the experience of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who would fall asleep as a child listening to chants taking place in the school where he was meant to stay awake as a watch-boy – often times early in the morning before dawn. When he later realized that he knew the chants without ever learning them himself, he came to the conclusion the mind could take in information while in sleep states. This was the beginning of the development of yoga nidra.
Yoga Nidra originated in India as a tantric practice, but has been gaining recognition world-wide as a multitude of scientific studies are validating the amazing effects of the technique on all age groups for a variety of reasons. Simple studies, conducted at the beginning of the technique’s origin, included reading various texts to children while they were asleep, and repeating the literature again when waking. Over time the children, read to in a sleeping state, were able to easily memorize the material – thereby showing the mind’s receptivity to information even while asleep.
“The main principle working behind yoga nidra is deep relaxation of the mind, which allows it to absorb knowledge like a sponge absorbs water, so the learning process is not physically or mentally tiring.“
How to practice Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra is a simple, guided meditation practice which leads one into deeper states of consciousness such as dream and deep sleep while remaining largely conscious. There are eight main parts to the practice which include two repetitions of what is called the ‘San Kalpa’ – or resolve. This San Kalpa is key in revealing deep seated potential as it helps to uncover subconscious barriers and remove negative programming. In children, much of what adults have in the way of conditioning, is not yet present. Young minds are able to reveal more ‘genius’ potential because they don’t have as thick of a mental barrier to break through between what is manifesting currently and ‘what is waiting to express.’
The practice breaks down like so:
1- Introduction/Relaxation – a time to withdraw the mind from the ordinary senses, usually beginning by ‘filling the senses’ by listening to sounds and feeling sensations.
2- San Kalpa – repeated three times to the self. This is some sort of affirmation, suggesting to the subconscious what is wanted – such as ‘I have a great memory’ or ‘my memory works for me very well’, or anything else wishing to be altered or enhanced in ones life.
3- Rotation of body consciousness. This step takes awareness around to different parts of the body, simultaneously relaxing the gray matter of the brain, bringing one into deeper states of consciousness. By doing this, the organs and systems of the body are also relaxed and the mind is prepared to go deeper.
4- Breath observation. During this phase, the practitioner or child is asked to observe the breath as it moves in and out of the body. For children, breath can be visualized as different colors or as a bubble blowing up and deflating. Breath awareness takes one deeper into the mind in preparation for the rest of the practice.
5- Feeling sensations or opposite feelings. In this part of the practice, one is asked to create the sensation of opposite feelings in the body such as hot and cold, heavy and light – in this way activating both hemispheres of the brain and training one to be able to conjure emotions and feelings at will. Emotional tension in the mind is released here as different feelings are brought to the surface.
6- Visualizations. This may be the most important part of the practice. In this stage one is able to “develop the power of imagination, creativity, confidence, discrimination, willpower, and positive traits of personality. Imagining that you possess the positive traits with intensity in every session of yoga nidra can actually make it a reality.” Different images are given and then to be imagined or ‘seen’ in the mind’s eye by the one practicing. As one repeats this portion of the practice, images become clearer and easier to see. The subconscious mind is also ‘fished’ clean of all negative associations with images and words by allowing their surface and release. It is in this phase that the programs of the mind can be changed.
7- Repeat of the San Kalpa. At this stage the one practicing is surfing deep states of consciousness where they are most impressionable. Repeating the san kalpa at this point, pushes its benefits deeper into the subconscious where change can be easily affected.
8- Coming out of the practice – entails something of a reverse of the introduction/relaxation, allowing one to come back out of deeper states systematically in a way that is not jarring to the senses or the depth of mind. A reminder to feel sensations and listen to sounds is reiterated to bring one carefully to waking state again.
Helping Children Tap Potential
It is common knowledge that one learns best when creatively inspired. Usual educational methods in traditional schooling largely approach learning from the left brain perspective. By placing children in a yoga nidra state before engaging in normal learning activities, the process of memorization can be sped up, allowing recall and academic performance to increase, thereby leaving more room for creative pursuits. Even 10-15 minutes of yoga nidra before math, science, reading and writing portions of school has been shown to improve children’s performance significantly.
In Indian schools this method has been tried and documented for many years with amazing results. For seven years, from 1993-2000 a teacher in Rajasthan, India implemented a 15 minute yoga nidra daily to her students 2-3 months prior to testing. And from 1995-2000 a 20 minute yoga nidra was given to students every day before regular school began. These students all showed significant improvements in test scores and behavior during this time. Because of the success of these experiments, research was conducted on a small group of children to get more concrete numbers as to the benefit of this practice.
In 2001, 30 students from ages 13-15 were given yoga nidra for 30 minutes per day over a two week period. During the practice, they were to affirm their memory to be good and their ability to recall information, strong – this was their ‘san kalpa’, or resolve. The memory scores for the group improved from the pre mean value of 72.73 before the yoga nidra to 93.83 afterwards. The control group, on the other hand, dropped in scores from 67 to 70 over the same period.
Throughout the practice instructions are given to be aware, i.e. “be attentive”. This is precisely the quality required in order to learn well. When awareness develops in children, it becomes a very useful quality for self-development. As the awareness expands, the dark areas of the brain become illuminated, awakening the dormant centers of the brain and leading to the utilization of the maximum capacity of the brain. This will help children to develop their intellect, memory, concentration, power of discrimination and other mental faculties. Expansion of awareness will also make them aware of the storehouse of knowledge that lies at the subconscious level of the mind, as contact with the subconscious develops spontaneously.
Youth are being trained to unlock deep seated potential that would otherwise lay dormant through the unique sleep practice of yoga nidra. This practice can be done at home using a simple audio recording. The wisdom of how powerful sleep time is can also empower parents to utilize the time children are asleep to read to them, play music to them or expose them to foreign languages. Upon waking, the same information ought to be repeated in order to activate the genius potential of the mind. The science is showing that when relaxation is complete, the receptivity of the mind is greater. Yoga nidra completely relaxes both body and mind in a way that ordinary sleep cannot. In fact, studies show that 45 minutes of yoga nidra practice is equal to the equivalent of 4 hours of deep sleep.
Yoga Nidra in the Womb
Using yoga nidra during pregnancy can greatly improve the health of the growing child and benefit fetal development by reducing stress hormones present in the mother’s body. ” It is known that stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenalin, overcome the placental barrier and penetrate into the embryo, as the toxins and poisons, and may affect the physiological and mental development of the embryo. Yoga Nidra removes all the effects of stress suffered by the expectant mother, harmonizes the internal state of her body, and forms the most favorable hormonal background for child development.” By reducing prenatal stress, new babies can enter the world with a clean slate and are less at risk for developing stress-related genetic disorders, allergies and colic. Babies who have experienced yoga nidra in the womb enter this reality with a very different set of defenses, allowing them to use less physical effort to ‘survive’ and more fully tap the potential they came here with.
Who knows what type of genius potential we are all capable of expressing? We have so much emotional baggage and programming blocking us from realizing our greatest versions of self, we may never know. As youth, practicing the yogic art of conscious sleep practices, perhaps we can see the deep seated genius potential unlocked, making way for a new generation of children free from the problems of those who came before them. By exposing children to simple body awareness techniques, young minds can be trained to overcome obstacles before they even exist, uncovering information and potentialities we can only dream of.
Written by: Stasia Bliss