In recent years Yoga Nidra has been distorted in ways similar to Yoga itself. Unfortunately, almost any guided practice that brings a modicum of relaxation is now called Yoga Nidra. The form of Yoga Nidra being taught by the Nature Center for Meditation can be called Advanced Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra brings an incredible calmness, quietness and clarity. Yoga Nidra is one of the deepest of all meditations, leading awareness through many levels of mental process to a state of supreme stillness and insight. Yoga Nidra means Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake.

While Yoga Nidra is a state that is very relaxing, it is also used by Yogis to purify the Samskaras (habitual patterns), the deep impressions that are the driving force behind Karma.

Yoga Nidra has been known for thousands of years by the sages and yogis. Of the three states of consciousness of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep, as discussed in the Upanishads texts, Yoga Nidra refers to the conscious awareness of the Deep Sleep state. This is the third of the four levels of consciousness contained in the AUM mantra, relating to the state represented by the M of AUM.

The four states are Waking, Dreaming, Deep Sleep, and Turiya, the fourth state. The state of Nidra Yoga, conscious Deep Sleep, is beyond or subtler than the imagery and mental process of the Waking and Dreaming states. As a state of conscious Deep Sleep, Yoga Nidra is a universal principle, and is not the exclusive domain of any more recent teachers or traditions.

The Deep Sleep state (M of AUM Mantra) is the level where habitual patterns are stored in their latent form. It contains the roots of our habits that are the driving force behind Karma (actions). Those wants, wishes, desires, attractions, and aversions that play themselves out in dreams (U of AUM Mantra), or turn into actions and speech in the external world (A of AUM Mantra) have their root in this level of consciousness. Those impressions are like seeds, lying there waiting for water and fertilizer to awaken them, so they may grow in the fields of Dreaming or Waking.

The ultimate purpose of Nidra Yoga is for one to gain access to the Samskaras in the Deep Sleep state. While they are in this latent form, they can be more readily altered such a way that they lose their power and no longer bind us to them! True liberation!