Yoga nidra is an ancient Hindu and Buddhist practice, which is even mentioned in the sacred Hindu text the Mahabharata. In modern times, the practice was spread by Satyananda Saraswati, who connected yoga nidra with tantric practices. His method of performing yoga nidra has eight stages:
- Sankalpa (intention or idea formed in the heart/mind)
- Rotation of consciousness
- Breath awareness
- Manifestation of opposites
- Creative visualization
- Sankalpa (wherein the original idea/intention is repeated mentally)
Although yoga nidra can be practiced independently, it is often practiced with a yoga teacher guiding students through its various stages. The student remains in a state of pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses -- except for the sense of hearing, which follows the teacher’s instructions.
It is said that yoga nidra is effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety such as headache, giddiness and abdominal pain. It can be useful for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, as it may help them cope with their symptoms.
Yoga nidra can also be performed at the end of an asana practice, where it has the added benefit of cooling and calming the body, allowing it to absorb the effects of a completed yoga practice.