challenges of yoga nidraBy Faye Martins

What are the challenges of Yoga Nidra?  Nidra is one of the most complex of the Yogic disciplines with frequent challenges to those who wish to master it. Fortunately, the benefits more than outweigh any difficulties the practice presents.

The most obvious difficulty lies in simply falling asleep. The ideal conditions for a successful nidra session are exactly the same as those for entering a deep, peaceful sleep. In the beginning, students will likely just fall into a deep state of rest, and this must be accepted. Given time and persistence, the desired state will occur.

Another one of the challenges of Yoga Nidra is in properly identifying a state of nidra and differentiating it from other states. The state of Nidra is beyond words to the point that using a negative definition and explaining what it is not may prove the easiest way to communicate an idea of what the state is like.

Yoga Nidra is not lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is valuable as a practice in its own right, but it’s not Nidra. Meditation also is not nidra, though meditation is certainly essential for preparing the mind for entering such a state.

Nidra is not simply an alpha state in the brain and it is not tied to any sound or music in particular. Recordings claiming to give listeners a ‘monk mind’ in as little as a month or a few weeks should be disregarded entirely, whether their claims are tied to nidra specifically or not. Most worthwhile things in this life require some effort, and deeper states of consciousness are no exception.

Nidra is challenging and frustrating to beginners because practitioners cannot be guaranteed that their efforts will result in achieving the Yogic state of Nidra. In this way, the pursuit of Nidra becomes a powerful spiritual practice in and of itself, because it cultivates a state of nonattachment. Either Yoga Nidra will happen, or it won’t. The student should not be attached to either outcome.

Another one of the challenges of Yoga Nidra is that unless one is a Yoga teacher, or a meditation expert, nidra may require a teacher more than other forms of yoga, and finding a teacher familiar with and proficient in true Yoga Nidra may prove difficult. A teacher helps students by giving instruction and using triggers such as bells or gongs to promote a Yogic state of Nidra within his or her students. Since one typically practices nidra in Savasana (Corpse Pose), it is easier to be guided by the sound of your teacher’s voice or an audio recording; reading is not possible with the eyes closed.

Yoga Nidra is an advanced practice that is well worth pursuing, but it is also worth noting that though nidra is different, it’s not necessarily better than other practices such as meditation or relaxation techniques. Nidra, relaxation, meditation, and hatha yoga training work well together to promote inner change in practitioners, but no one practice is specifically better than another. These different paths all lead to the same truth.

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