Yoga Nidra (or Yogic Sleep) is becoming an increasingly popular practice with many studios now offering dedicated classes that create the atmosphere for an unrushed and nourishing experience - especially useful for the stressed and overworked city dwellers!
What Yoga Nidra actually is and how the classes are structured varies depending on who you ask and where you go. In general there are two approaches however, the first uses Yoga Nidra as a way to progressively relax, kind of like a form of guided meditation. The second, and perhaps the more tradition approach, believes Yoga Nidra to be a particular state of consciousness in which the mind (with all its unconscious components) is able to enter a state of total rest. Many influential teachers have been quoted saying that minutes in this state can be equal to hours of sleep - it's deeply restorative as well as rejuvenating.
Great yoga masters such as the late Swami Rama believe that the practice of Yoga Nidra can also facilitate the process of creation. Yoga Nidra can become a powerful tool to bring about manifestation or to promote the process of healing; so long as these are the intentions of the practitioner. It uses the principles of the first approach to get the body and mind into a completely pure and calm state; like when it's in those last few moments of consciousness before falling sleep. This 'Yoga Nidra' state is believed to remove blockages in the flow of energy within the body that then allows for intentions to be set off into the world in a powerful way we can't pretend to yet understand.
How do you actually practice Yoga Nidra on your own if you can't get to class? The steps are simple but the process is challenging, as it's all too easy to fall asleep once you start to relax. So, ensure you have enough energy and allow yourself anywhere from 30-60 minutes and consider using a recording if just starting out. I personally love the Yoga Nidra album by Dr Marc Halpern and continue to use it even after a year of purchase but there are many others out there and some are even free - explore and undertake your own search to see what resonates with you most.
Steps to Practicing Yoga Nidra:
1) Lie down comfortably on a flat surface. Once settled aim to remain completely still, awake and aware while bringing your mind to stillness (20-30 minutes)
2) Once completely relaxed, imagine the reality you wish to create (1-5 minutes)
3) After a few minutes of vivid visualisation, let it go and continue to enjoy the restorative state of Yoga Nidra (5-20 minutes) + Repeat daily until the desired outcome manifests