YOGA NIDRA SCRIPT
As a yoga and meditation teacher, this is one of my most favorite classes to teach. Yoga Nidra is “yogic sleep” and 1 hour of yoga nidra is said to equate to 4 hours of sleep. Yoga Nidra encourages profound relaxation and effortlessness.
This makes it a great option for those with insomnia and for those who are working on their mindfulness and awareness. This script was intended for one of my classes and has since been used and shared worldwide.
I have adopted certain parts from other instructors. Please enjoy this script on yourself or with your students.
It is time for Yoga Nidra. You should be lying on your back with the knees slightly bent and supported over a bolster or blocks. Make sure that you are warm enough and that your position is one that will be comfortable for the duration of the practice.
Use a blanket behind your head and over your body if it is helpful. It is best that you remain still during Yoga Nidra so that both your body and brain have a chance to fully relax. However, if you become uncomfortable, please feel free to change position. Allow your eyes to close and keep them closed until the practice has ended.
The practice of yoga nidra is a practice of yogic sleep that will guide you to the hypnagogic state, a state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleeping.
Try to remain awake by listening to the sound of my voice. You will be asked to move your awareness to various bodily sensations, emotions, and images.
Try not to concentrate too intensely as this may prevent you from relaxing. During this meditation, please use and absorb what you need in the moment. If the mind becomes overactive with thoughts and worries, just return to the sound of my voice.
Become aware of any sounds you can hear in this moment. Nothing else but what you can hear without strain. Begin to focus on the most distant sounds that you can hear. Let your sense of hearing radiate outward, searching out these distant sounds and following them for just a few moments.
Move your attention from sound to sound without labeling the source. Gradually bring your attention to closer sounds, to sounds outside this building, to sounds inside this building, to sounds inside the room. Without opening your eyes visualize the four walls of this room, the ceiling, the floor, your body lying on the floor.
Visualize your body lying on the floor, the position of your body, your clothes, your hair, your face. Become acutely aware of the existence of your physical body lying on the floor.
AWARENESS OF BREATH
Become aware of your natural breath, become aware of your natural and spontaneous breath that moves in and out of your body without any effort. The natural breath flows in through both nostrils. Notice the feeling of the breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils. There is a sense of coolness as you inhale the breath.
Follow this feeling into your nose, your sinuses, the back of your throat, into your lungs. There is as sense of warmth as you exhale the breath. Feel this warmth on your upper lip as you breathe out.
The natural breath flows through both nostrils during the inhale and the exhale. Allow your breath to become longer and slower. Take a long slow inhalation, followed by a longer slower exhalation. Make your exhale even slower – notice the slight pause after the exhale. Slow inhale, even slower exhale, and pause.
Feel the urge to breathe in bubble up inside of you. When you need to inhale, please do so. Long slow inhale, longer slower exhale, and then pause where the body is neither breathing in nor out. Please continue breathing in this way. Now go back to the natural easy breath, releasing any control over the inhale or exhale.
The practice of yoga nidra begins now. At this moment you should make your sankalpa or resolve (way of being). The sankalpa should be a short, positive statement in simple language; try to discover one naturally. Please state your sankalpa clearly and with awareness three times.
The sankalpa you make during yoga nidra plants a seed in the fertile soil of your mind to bring about transformation and healing. Also say to yourself, “I am practicing yoga nidra, I am awake and relaxed.”
ROTATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
We will now begin a systematic journey of sensory awareness throughout the body. You will move your awareness to different parts of your body as soon as you hear them named. Please say the name of the part to yourself and feel that part of your body but do not move any part. The practice begins on the right side.
Right hand thumb … 2nd finger … 3rd finger … 4th finger … 5th finger … palm of the hand … back of the hand … wrist … forearm … elbow … upper arm … shoulder … armpit … waist … hip … thigh … knee … calf … ankle … heel … sole of the foot … top of the foot … right big toe … 2nd toe … 3rd toe … 4th toe … 5th toe.
Left hand thumb … 2nd finger … 3rd finger … 4th finger … 5th finger … palm of the hand … back of the hand … wrist … forearm … elbow … upper arm … shoulder … armpit … waist … hip … thigh … knee … calf … ankle … heel … sole of the foot … top of the foot … left big toe … 2nd toe … 3rd toe … 4th toe … 5th toe.
Now move to the back of the body … right heel … left heel … right calf … left calf … right thigh … left thigh … right buttock … left buttock … lower back … middle back … upper back … the entire spine … right shoulder blade … left shoulder blade … back of the neck … back of the head.
Now to the front of the body. Begin at the top of the head … forehead … right temple … left temple … right ear … left ear … right eyebrow … left eyebrow … middle of the eyebrows … right eye … left eye … right nostril … left nostril … right cheek … left cheek … upper lip … lower lip … both lip together … chin … jaw … throat … right collarbone … left collarbone … right side of the chest … left side of the chest … upper abdomen … navel … lower abdomen … right groin … left groin … the pelvic floor.
The whole right leg … whole left leg … whole right arm … whole left arm … the whole face … the whole head … the whole torso … the whole body … the whole body … the whole body.
Now imagine the whole body becoming light. As though your body could float away from the floor and toward the ceiling. The head is light and weightless, the limbs are light and weightless, the torso is light and weightless, the whole body light and weightless. You are rising higher and higher away from the floor.
Now imagine your body becoming heavy. Feel the heaviness in all parts of the body, each part is becoming heavier and heavier and heavier. The head is heavy, the limbs are heavy, the torso is heavy, the whole body is heavy. So heavy that it is sinking down into the floor.
Awaken the experience of cold in the body, the experience of chilly cold. Imagine being outside in winter without enough clothing. You feel this chill permeating your entire body. Now allow the sensation of warmth to spread throughout the entire body. Remember the feeling of heat in summer when you are out in the sun with no shade. You feel the heat radiating onto your skin, and heat all around your body.
Recollect the experience of anxiety, intense anxiety, and worry. Feel this stress in your mind and body but do not concentrate on its source. Create the experience of anxiety as clearly as possible.
Now allow the feeling of complete calm to envelop you. Manifest the experience of calm in your entire mind, body, and emotions. You are relaxed and aware, you are completely calm.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
In this tension and release exercise, I will ask you to relax every muscle in your body by squeezing the parts, and then releasing them. This will be done in a group of muscles and then we will take a few breaths in between as I indicate which muscle groups we will focus on next.
We will start now. Take your awareness to your feet, toes, calves shins, and knees. On your next inhale, begin to flex, contract, engage these parts of the body. At the top of your breath, keep squeezing, keep flexing, squeeze a little more, pause…and then release, exhale and let those body parts relax. Now take a few breaths in between. Take your awareness to the next set of body parts, this includes the thighs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower abdomen.
On your inhale, begin to flex, contract, engage these parts of the body. At the top of your breath, keep squeezing, keep flexing, squeeze a little more, pause…and then release, exhale and let those body parts relax. Now take a few breaths in between.
Next is your abdomen, chest, shoulders, spine, and torso. On your next inhale, begin to flex, contract, engage these parts of the body. At the top of your breath, keep squeezing, keep flexing, squeeze a little more, pause…and then release, exhale and let those body parts relax. Now take a few breaths in between.
Next are your arms, shoulders, hands. On your next inhale, begin to flex, contract, engage these parts of the body. Create a fist with your hands or flex your fingers. At the top of your breath, keep squeezing, keep flexing, squeeze a little more, pause…and then release, exhale and let those body parts relax.
Now take a few breaths in between. And finally, we have the head, your scalp, ears, and face. On your next inhale, begin to flex, contract, engage these parts of the body. At the top of your breath, keep squeezing, keep flexing, squeeze a little more, pause…and then release everything. Allow your body to be fully relaxed, still, yet aware. Come back to the cadence of your breathing.
INNER SPACE VISUALIZATION
Begin to concentrate on the space in front of your closed eyelids. Imagine before you a transparent screen as though you were at the movie theatre. The screen is as high and as wide as the eyes can see. Concentrate on this mind screen and become aware of any phenomena that manifest within it; colors, patterns, and light.
Whatever you see is the manifesting state of your mind. Continue your awareness of this space but do not become involved, practice detached awareness only. If any subtle images make themselves known, simply notice them without directing the images. If thoughts occur let them come and go but continue watching the dark space, continue this with detached awareness.
RAPID IMAGE VISUALIZATION
Now, a number of different things will be called out and you should visualize them on the level of emotion, memory, and imagination as best you can. This part of the practice will be similar to a flip book. Jump from image to image as soon as you hear the phrase.
We will begin now.
- red desert
- peacock feather
- Buddha meditating
- doctors office
- a panda
- a good night’s rest
- full moon
- your reflection in a mirror
- foggy morning
- waiting for results
- sun shining overhead
- bouquet of flowers
- tall tree
- receiving help from others
- cool clear water
- making appointments
- a relaxing afternoon
- laughing with friends
- a warm embrace
- burning candle
- temple on a mountain
- path in the woods
- vibrant sunset
- taking a deep breath
- cat stretching
- a beautiful garden path
- your favorite song
- the sound of my voice
- your body lying on the floor
It is time to repeat your sankalpa. Please repeat the same statement made at the beginning of your practice three times to yourself. Ask yourself, does it resonate? Where does it land for you? Where are you right now?
Come back to the feeling of your breath flowing in and out of your nostrils. Maintain your awareness of breath and at the same time develop your awareness of your physical body. Your body is relaxed and lying on the floor. Feel the container of your skin and the clothes and props that are touching you.
Notice the heaviness of your body as it rests on the floor and take your awareness into all the points of your body that are touching the floor; the back of your heels, thighs, buttocks, shoulder blades, arms, hands, and head. Do not open your eyes yet, but visualize the surrounding room.
Imagine where you are in the room and the other objects that are around you. Lie quietly until you feel ready to move. Start by slowly moving your hands and feet, take your time, there is no hurry. When you are sure that you are fully awake, gently open your eyes.
Begin to roll over to your right side. Stay on your right side for a few more moments. Keeping the shoulders, hips and knees stack. Feel the side body as it presses against the Earth beneath you. When you are ready, use your hands to press yourself up from the floor and allow your head to come up last.
Shift into a comfortable seated position. Take a deep breath in, open the mouth and sign it out.
The practice of yoga nidra is now complete.
Yoga Nidra at Work
For the purpose of relaxation, the essential elements of this form of yoga nidra are rotation of consciousness and counting of breaths. These elements can be easily adapted to allow for practice in the workplace or at home, if a short break of five to twenty minutes presents itself.
Additional flexibility is provided by the breathing practice, from which any number or combination of the four parts can be chosen as required. The following is an example of a practice suitable for the office or home, or wherever some privacy can be obtained.
Lock the door, switch off the light and draw the curtains or blinds. Make a mental note of how soon you want the practice to finish (e.g. 10 minutes). Lie down on the floor or a couch and close your eyes. Commence relaxing the body by lying quietly in the shavasana position for a short time.
Let your mind wander around the environment listening to sounds reaching you from outside; don’t analyze or intellectualize these sounds, just become aware of them as something external. Bring your attention to the body, take a deep breath and as you breathe out feel yourself letting go. Focus your mind on the meeting points between your body and the floor and develop this feeling for a couple of minutes.
Then rotate your consciousness quickly round the body starting with the right thumb and moving in the same fashion described in the practice (right side, left side, back, front, major parts). Become aware of your natural breath. Focus your attention on the breath as it moves in and out of the nostrils (or focus on the throat, chest, or navel as desired). Maintain your awareness of this for some time. Count the breaths backwards from 11 to 1 (or 27 to 1 if there is time). Stop counting and take a long, deep breath. Lie quietly for a few moments and stretch yourself slowly.
Open your eyes and get up. This completes the practice.
While it is possible to practice yoga nidra sitting or standing, this is not recommended here. The distinctive feature of this form of relaxation is systematic rotation of consciousness around the body, and this gives best results in the prone position. If quick mental relaxation is required and only a chair is available, for example in the kitchen while the dinner cooks or in the bus on the way home from work, then it is best to practise awareness of the breath only, particularly mental awareness of alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma). The procedure is similar to the one above. Once again become as still as possible and let your body become loose.
Then check yourself quickly for particular areas of tension and try to relax them. (E.g., are you frowning? Is your neck stiff? Are your hands clenched?) Tense all the muscles in your body internally and let them relax; repeat this. Focus your attention on the breath moving in and out of the nostrils and maintain your awareness of this for some moments.
Imagine that the breath moves in and out of the nostrils alternately: in left, out right, in right, out left, and so on. Start counting the breaths backwards from 27 to 1 (or whatever number you think is appropriate for the time available). Continue this practice for as long as required. When you want to finish, leave the counting and again become aware of the body.
Before you get up, take a deep breath and stretch yourself fully. This completes the practice.
Yoga Nidra to Prepare for Sleep
In cases of insomnia or overexcitement of the mind, yoga nidra can also be used to induce sleep. If you have a sagging mattress it may be a good idea to support it with boards underneath.
Start by switching off the light and getting into bed.
Get into the shavasana position (corpse pose) and rest your head on the pillow. Make sure the pillow is not too high that it strains the back of your neck. Allow your hands to relax into the most comfortable position probably with palms toward the ceiling.
Start by listening to external sounds, sounds beyond your room and building. Then slowly bring your awareness to sounds closer to you and even within your room. Become aware of the points where your body connects and touches your bed.
Continue to radiate your hearing outwards and back towards your room, followed by the connection of your body to bed two to three times until you fall asleep. This would normally put you to sleep.
If necessary you can continue the practice with mental alternate nostril breathing, starting at 54 and counting backwards to 1.
If sleep does not come a good idea would be to take some exercise before going to bed, for example a long walk, or 15 minutes of surya namaskara A or B.
- Adapted and Modified from Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.