Yoga Nidra vs Savasana

FAQ: Yoga Nidra is just a long Savasana, yoga nidra
Right? Wrong!

The beautiful pose at the end of your asana practice is called Savasana. “Savasana” (shah-VAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words. The first is “Sava” (meaning “corpse”), and the second is “asana” (meaning “pose”).

Savasana is often called the most important pose in yoga.  All of yoga practice, in every form from Iyengar to Kundalini intelligently informs the body of neuromuscular changes.  That is to say, the practice of yoga fundamentally changes the structure of who we are.  Savasana allows the body to rest in order to integrate and accept these changes prior to entering back into the fray of normal life. This pause at the end of the practice is very important for the nervous system. Just like lifting weights at a gym to grow your biceps, placing controlled stress on the nervous system through the practice of active asana(postures) allows your body to develop a strength and endurance that among other things, allows you to cope with normal life.  However, if you do not rest and give the nervous system time to integrate these changes, but instead jump straight into normal life activity, at worst you run the risk of  “over-training”, where essentially your nervous system and your neuromuscular system become too tightly wound and at best you simply don’t derive maximum benefit from your practice.

So if savasana is so important, why do most western yoga classes speed race through it? The answer may lie in contemporary culture, which values speed, efficiency and  validates things that look hard.  We live in a sound bite world. We desire  every experience but we want it economized so we can move on to the next event or duty. We often rush to yoga class, we “chill “ for 90 minutes (depending on the style of yoga practiced) and then we are  the first in line to put our yoga props away, so we can hurry on to the next item on the to do list.(Does this sound familiar?)  Traditionally, savasana lasts for up to half an hour.  In many classes, that is cut to 1 or 2 minutes and dropped altogether from personal practices.  If you are fortunate enough to participate in a class where savasana is 15 minutes or longer you have a much better opportunity to fully integrate the benefits of the  time  you invested. The longer timeframe allows the individual practitioner to give ceremony and sacredness to their yoga practice and to feel “the sweet spot” that so often results from our efforts in yoga.

Enter Yoga Nidra

Savasana is a pose in a supported lying down position and a practice of relaxation and integration unto itself. Yoga Nidra is a fully guided meditation practice which is usually experienced in the posture of savasana. In Yoga Nidra there is a particular sequence of stages which takes the practitioner into a deep state of relaxation and ultimately into a state of pratyahara (Pratyahara is sometimes described as a withdrawal of the senses but is in fact a restoration of the senses and the mind- to their natural functioning. The ability to remain present and aware of your True Nature in the midst of  the myriad of circumstances of human life).
The framework of  Yoga Nidra is based on the yogic model of the Koshas or 5 Layers of Being. These subtle layers include our physical body, breath/energy body, emotional/mental body, the intellect body and the bliss body. Through body scan, breath awareness, sensory awareness and visualization, we enter the deepest realms of the practice. We move sequentially through the (western status quo) fast beta brainwaves  into slow alpha brainwaves, and even possibly into even slower theta  brainwaves, evoking and producing deep relaxation. These are the entry points to the subconscious. In this state, you can make a conscious crossover from the logical left brain to the intuitive right brain. We transition into the unconscious mind of the intelligent body. We connect to the field of conscious pranic intelligence, where our personal intention  (sankalpa) is carried out spontaneously and effortlessly.
We enter and exit the practice with Sankalpa . San=Heartfelt desire. Kalpa– committed intention.
The sankalpa is a present tense statement that is planted by the conscious brain into the fertile subconscious mind that is accessed through the Yoga Nidra practice.  The conscious mind is like the Queen Bee- directing and giving orders and the subconscious mind are the drones- doing the work without asking any questions. The subconscious mind does not discern between what is real or not real- it simply follows orders.

Yoga Nidra is called the “Yogi’s Sleep”.  Sleep with a hint of awareness.  Yoga Nidra is a dynamic state, not the unconscious sleep of nighttime. While ordinary sleep can renew the body and refresh the mind, Yoga Nidra has the ability to alter your unconscious programming.

Savasana is the beautiful culmination of integration at the end of your active hatha yoga practice. You may feel relaxed and even briefly enter the state of  relaxed awareness given the right amount of time to do so.

Yoga Nidra is a committed meditation practice that is a full and healing modality on its own.. Through the unique marriage of science and spirit and the combination of awareness and sequence, you delve into the deepest relaxation. Here, without effort or strain, you are able to tap into your own source of intuition, creativity, health and abundance. Here, there is Healing. Here, there is Spirit. Here, is your True Nature.


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