Yoga International – Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep



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Yoga International – Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep

Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep
+ Deep Relaxation Techniques + Exercise Without Movement + True Power Naps + Accessible and Powerful Meditation


Join Rolf Sovik, Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute and yoga nidra guru, for a powerful inward transformation. Become attuned to the here and now, allowing your inner wisdom to emerge and your stress to melt away as you progress through stages of relaxation. This course, accessible to all, will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the benefits of “yogic sleep.”

Rolf is amazing as he guides all levels of students through this practice. I was able to have immediate results from just my first time viewing and practicing along. — Jill Saake, Course Participant


  • The theory and practice of the five steps of yoga nidra.
  • A look at sleep, the stages of sleep, and the brainwaves associated with each stage.
  • Helpful tips on how to stay awake while moving through relaxation toward deep sleep.
  • The enormous and accessible restorative potential of yoga nidra.
  • The short method of yoga nidra—the 10-minute power nap.

Section 1: Awake Yet Asleep

Lecture Notes

  • Demonstrating the Power of Yoga Nidra (Part 1)
    There are many different types of yoga nidra (yogic sleep), and you may have practiced some version of it. Rolf explains that the yoga nidra he is teaching in this seminar is the practice he learned from a great master, Swami Rama.
  • Demonstrating the Power of Yoga Nidra (Part 2)
    Swami Rama demonstrated his ability to control his internal states in an experiment conducted at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. He stopped his heart (actually created an atrial flutter) for 17 seconds!
  • Sleep, Benefits, and Philosophy
    Yoga nidra is sleep with awareness. It is a popular practice today thanks to its benefits as a therapy in treating combat veterans and other trauma patients. There is evidence that practicing yoga nidra can enhance memory and health, but ultimately, yoga nidra practice gives us a clear understanding of all other yoga practices and why we are doing them.
  • Biofeedback and Brain Waves (Part 1)
    In a biofeedback experiment at the Menninger Foundation, Swami Rama produced, at will, 25 minutes of delta brain waves—the waves occurring in deep sleep. Yet due to his mastery of yoga nidra, he was able to tell the scientists afterwards exactly what had taken place in the room while he was “sleeping.” Rolf describes the four types of brainwaves we produce, moving from wakefulness to deep sleep: beta, alpha, theta, and delta.
  • Biofeedback and Brain Waves (Part 2)
    Relaxation practice brings a delicious feeling, but sometimes we find ourselves losing awareness and falling asleep. We want to be able to deepen our relaxation and move toward sleep—going from beta all the way to delta waves—while maintaining our awareness. It seems simple enough, but it is a very long journey.
  • What We Know About Sleep
    Researching sleep can be difficult. If you are the researcher, the experience of sleep is taking place inside someone else. If you are the subject of the research, you are unaware and sleeping. What we do know is that sleep is a biological necessity: there are no animals that don’t sleep, none that don’t need recovery sleep if they’re sleep-deprived, and none that don’t suffer consequences from shortness of sleep.
  • Stages of Sleep
    There are two main types of sleep—REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is divided into three stages: in the initial stage, the mind becomes less conscious of the physical environment; in the second stage, there is less awareness of the body; and the final stage is deep or ‘”slow wave” sleep, in which the brain produces delta waves.
  • Benefits of Sleep and Conscious Sleep
    Rolf discusses some of the research on the benefits of sleep. It restores the body, improves our healing capacity when we are sick, and improves our creativity and memory. Knowing these benefits of sleep, we can begin to understand the immense benefits of yoga nidra practice.
  • Step 1: Gentle Movement
    Join Rolf in some simple movements to awaken the body and prepare for relaxation. Gentle movement is the first step of yoga nidra practice. Arm swings, hip circles, raising the arms overhead, and simple abdominal squeezes are enough to awaken the body and prepare for deep relaxation.
  • Step 1 (Alternate): 10 Stretches in 10 Minutes
    Rolf leads you through a simple asana practice that prepares the body for relaxation. Ten stretches in 10 minutes is a practice everyone can do, and it targets all the major muscle groups.
  • Relaxation: Watching the Body Breathe
    Lying on your back in shavasana (corpse pose), enjoy this 10-minute relaxation as you let your body soften into the floor. Observe your body breathing while feeling that you are not the breather. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck
  • Two Crucial Moments Within Relaxation
    The first crucial moment in relaxation is when we realize that we don’t have to hold ourselves so tightly—that we can let the earth or floor hold us. The second is the moment, which occurs at some point in our practice, when our effort at breathing softens and we realize that we are not the breather.
  • Tips for Staying Awake
    Rolf shares a few practical tips for staying awake in relaxation. These tips and inspiration will help you, whether you’re an experienced practitioner or a beginner.

SECTION 2: Exercise Without Movement

  • How I Learned Yoga Nidra
    Rolf tells the story of how he and a few other students learned yoga nidra from Swami Rama in Nepal in 1984. Swami Rama taught the practice in overlapping stages, which is exactly how Rolf will teach it.
  • Relaxation: Rest Your Mind and Your Intention to Move
    Lie on your back in shavasana. As your outer body becomes motionless, sense the internal movement of the breath—your lungs filling and emptying. Watch the abdomen rise at the end of the exhalation and fall at the end of the inhalation. Before the relaxation ends, Rolf invites you simply to watch the body breathe and sense that you are not the breather. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck
  • Theory Behind Exercise Without Movement
    There are two types of asana practice: One is the traditional hatha yoga postures that are so popular. The other is sukshma (subtle) exercises that Swami Rama called “Exercise Without Movement.” These subtle exercises are more than exercises for the body—they start from the mind and move through the nervous system and body. In teaching Exercise Without Movement, Rolf mentions a few key points Swami Rama taught that help to increase the efficacy and safety of the practice.
  • Preparation for Exercise Without Movement
    Rolf introduces the preliminary breath training and postural alignment you will need before practicing Exercise Without Movement. He also explains how the engagement and release of muscle groups within the body are vital to learning this practice.
  • Benefits of the Practice
    The practice of Exercise Without Movement strengthens our inner awareness, which helps us to be attuned to the subtle aspects of yoga nidra. Exercise Without Movement also nourishes health, prevents collapse of the abdominal organs, strengthens the immune system, and helps with senile paralysis. This practice is for everyone, no matter what their age.
  • Step 2: Exercise Without Movement Practice
    Follow Rolf as he guides you through the complete practice of Exercise Without Movement. His instructions will help you to do the subtle work needed to reap the benefits of this practice. To make your practice seamless, also practice the 61 Points relaxation shown in Chapter 3. You can do the two practices together or separately.

SECTION 3: Deepening Relaxation 

  • Step 3, Part 1: 61 Points Relaxation
    Rolf guides you through a 61 Points relaxation (shavayatra). This relaxation, done in shavasana, deepens your awareness and rests the mind and body. Rolf invites you to rest your intention to move and to watch your body breathe as you bring your awareness to each of the 61 points of the body. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck
  • Being Practical with Yoga Nidra Practice
    The goal of yoga nidra practice is to become increasingly aware of yourself and your states of consciousness, and to understand how your mind manages your body. It’s important to remember this goal while you practice. Learning yoga nidra takes time; however, once you learn the practice, you will be able to do it, as well as a portion of the preparatory practices, in 30 minutes, and you will get all the benefits.
  • 75 Breaths Relaxation Overview
    Rolf gives an overview of the 75 Breaths (shithila karani) practice and explains its significance. In this practice, your awareness travels up and down the body, moving through certain points. The purpose of the practice is to deepen your internal awareness.
  • Step 3, Part 2: 75 Breaths Relaxation Practice
    Rolf leads you through the practice of 75 Breaths. The practice is done in shavasana. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck
  • Breath Awareness Overview
    In the breath awareness practice, the step following 75 Breaths, you lie on your left side and watch your right nostril and right side of the body breathe for 10 breaths. Then you lie on your right side and watch your left nostril and left side of the body breathe for 10 breaths. Finally, you lie on your back for 10 breaths.
  • Step 4: Breath Awareness Practice
    Rolf leads you through the breath awareness practice. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck

SECTION 4: Heart of the Practice

  • Yoga Nidra Overview
    The simple practice of yoga nidra can be done on its own or with all the preparatory steps. To do yoga nidra by itself, you lie in shavasana and lead your awareness from the eyebrow center, the seat of waking consciousness, to the throat center, the seat of dream consciousness, and finally to the heart center, the seat of sleep consciousness. Then you rest at the heart center for 6 minutes with the slightest awareness of the breath.
  • Step 5: Yoga Nidra Practice
  • Yoga Nidra Master Practice Warmup
    Rolf leads you through a simple asana practice that prepares the body for yoga nidra.
  • Yoga Nidra Master Practice
    Do you have a good understanding of all five steps of yoga nidra practice? If so, let Rolf guide you through them, starting with Exercise Without Movement, 61 Points and 75 Breaths, breath awareness, and finally, yoga nidra concentration. Prop: thin cushion for the head and neck

SECTION 5: Bonus Content

  • The Power Nap: Yoga Nidra Sitting Against the Wall
    This practice is great to do when you are on the go and in need of restoration and energy. Lean back against a wall or a similar support with your legs extended, your right ankle crossed on top of your left, and your right hand resting in your left palm on your lap. Relax your neck muscles and let your chin come down toward your chest. Travel from the eyebrow center through the throat to the heart center, and finally rest for 6 minutes at the heart center.
  • Waking, Dreaming, and Sleep Consciouness in the Mind
    Where do waking, dreaming, and sleep consciousness reside in the mind? Through lecture and discussion, Rolf puts the practice of yoga nidra and states of consciousness in the context of the yogic model of the mind: ahamkara (identity), manas (lower mind), buddhi (higher mind), and atman (higher consciousness). Rolf also discusses healing, learning, and resolution and where they might take place in the practice of yoga nidra and the mind.
  • Resolution in Yoga Nidra
    Rolf answers a question about where to put our resolution or intention in the practice of yoga nidra. He discusses the overall goal of yoga nidra and explains that if you would like to insert a resolution or intention into the practice, it’s best to make that resolution right before traveling to the heart center and resting there.
  • Yoga Nidra and Meditation: Similarities and Differences
    Rolf reads from Path of Fire and Light, Volume 2, by Swami Rama, to describe some of the differences and similarities between yoga nidra and meditation.
  • Other Yoga Nidra Practices: Pairs of Opposites
    Rolf answers a question about some yoga nidra practices popular today that use pairs of opposites (dvandvas). Such practices are good to be aware of, but in terms of our own yoga nidra practice, it’s important that we learn it systematically.


Rolf Sovik

President and Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute and a clinical psychologist in private practice, Rolf Sovik has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Nepal. He holds degrees in philosophy, music, Eastern studies, and clinical psychology. Former Co-Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, NY he began his practice of yoga in 1972, and was initiated as a pandit in the Himalayan tradition in 1987. He is the author of Moving Inward, co-author of the award-winning Yoga: Mastering the Basics, and a contributor to Yoga International. Interview with RolfWhat style of yoga do you practice and teach? Is there a particular tradition or lineage you are a part of? I have been a student of Swami Rama (1925–1996), Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, and the Himalayan Institute since 1972. [Rolf Sovik is the current President of the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.] What can I expect from your classes? These days I am happy to offer guided audio meditation and relaxation—gentle practices that can help you relax your body and mind. What’s on your mind these days yoga-wise? I am soon moving into the fourth stage of life—a time for reflection, it seems. The Himalayan Institute, under Pandit Rajmani [Chairman and Spiritual Head], is exploring the tantric worldview, and I am grateful to be exposed to such a genuine source of this teaching. At the same time, I continue to learn from the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by all these teachings. What do you like to do outside of yoga? Without sounding vain, it is hard to see anything that truly lies outside of yoga. A bit of golf, the genius of Glenn Gould and Oscar Peterson, an occasional novel, Beethoven’s 6th and 7th symphonies, the violin concertos of Beethoven and Brahms, and the news—these things still hold my attention.

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