According to a recent medical theory one passes in sleep through many phases until one arrives at a state in which there is absolute rest and silence — it lasts only for ten minutes, the rest of the time is taken up by traveling to that and traveling back again to the waking state. I suppose the ten minutes sleep can be called susupti in the Brahman or Brahmaloka, the rest is svapna or passage through other worlds (planes or states of conscious existence). It is these ten minutes that restore the energies of the being, and without it sleep is not refreshing.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 31, pp. 442-443
According to the Mother’s experience and knowledge one passes from waking through a succession of states of sleep consciousness which are in fact an entry and passage into so many worlds and arrives at pure Sachchidananda state of complete rest, light and silence, — afterwards one retraces one’s way till one reaches the waking physical state.
Yoga Nidra, as the word suggests is “Yogic Sleep”.
In an ordinary sleep one just “falls” into sleep whereas in Yoga Nidra one “consciously enters” into that domain after having a proper guided training followed by a regular practice.
In our waking state, the conscious mind or the surface level mind do the most of the work of listening, remembering, thinking, analysing and so on. In this state the subconscious mind is hardly or very minimally in the functioning state.
However, in the sleep it is the subconscious mind that does the work of relaxation, rest, making the nerves and the cells refresh and so on. In this state, it is the conscious mind that is inactive or hardly active.
Most of our sleep is subconscious or even unconscious, in most of the cases. The process of entering from the conscious state into the subconscious state involves the withdrawal of the conscious mind and the subconscious mind overtaking the system. Yoga Nidra is a way to catch hold of one’s own system in this very state or during this process, and to use it consciously and actively to make the necessary upgrades or transformations in the deepest of the humanly systems. These are upgrades or transformation which one either can not do in the waking state or they would otherwise take years or births and ages as per Yogic science.
In this talk, I have explained a few aspects of this whole process in the light of Integral Yoga.
A few references from the Works of the Mother & Sri Aurobindo on making sleep conscious
How to Sleep
The rule should be to call the Mother before sleeping, to concentrate on her and try to feel the Mother’s protection around her and go with that into sleep. In the dream itself a habit of calling the Mother when in difficulty or peril should be formed; many sadhaks do it. Not to allow the invasion, any invasion of any power or being, whether in dream, meditation or otherwise—no force except the Divine Force, means to reject it, never to give assent, whether through attention or through weakness. . .Sri Aurobindo, SABCL, Vol. 24, p. 1501
Before Going to Sleep
One thing you can do in all security is, before going to sleep, to concentrate, relax all tension in the physical being, try… that is, in the body try so that the body lies like a soft rag on the bed, that it is no longer something with twitchings and cramps; to relax it completely as though it were a kind of thing like the rag. And then, the vital: to calm it, calm it as much as you can, make it as quiet, as peaceful as possible. And then the mind also – the mind, try to keep it like that, without any activity. You must put upon the brain the force of great peace, great quietitude, of silence if possible, and not follow ideas actively, not make any effort, nothing, nothing; you must relax all movement there too, but relax it in a kind of silence and quietitude as great as possible.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 7, p. 66
Once you have done all this, you may add either a prayer or on aspiration in accordance with your nature to ask for the consciousness and peace and to be protected against all the adverse forces throughout the sleep, to be in a concentration of quiet aspiration and in the protection; ask the Grace to watch over your sleep; and then go to sleep. This is to sleep in the best possible conditions. What happens afterwards depends on your inner impulses, but if you do this persistently, night after night, night after night, after some time it will have its effect.
He has seen God’s slumber shape these magic worlds.
He has watched the dumb God fashioning Matter’s frame,
Dreaming the dreams of its unknowing sleep,
And watched the unconscious Force that built the stars.
He has learnt the Inconscient’s workings and its law. . .
Its somnolence founded the universe,
Its obscure waking makes the world seem vain. . .
He must call light into its dark abysms,
Else never can Truth conquer Matter’s sleep
And all earth look into the eyes of God.
~ Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book VI, Canto II, pp. 449-50
About the author and speaker:
Shekhar is a Yoga therapist, Reiki healer and a violinist. At the age of 16 he joined yoga classes offered at the Bharatiya Yoga Vidya Dhaam in Nasik, which practiced Bihar school of yoga. His primary motivation then was to be rid of multiple ailments which he was suffering from including asthma, lumbar spondylitis, and chronic constipation. But regular and intense yoga practice there not only cured him of these ailments but also made a yoga teacher out of him after he completed an advanced teacher’s training course there. His first introduction to Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was in the year 2010 through a youth camp organised by Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry. Since then, he has participated in many programmes and camps at Pondicherry, and his interest in Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother continues to deepen. As a co-director of AuroYajna, Sri Aurobindo Society’s vertical focusing on Integral Yoga, Shekhar has been trying to incorporate the spirit and teachings of Integral Yoga in his therapeutic approach. He is also pursuing M.Sc. from S-VYASA University in yoga therapy.