Rules for rotating awareness

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To gain optimum benefits from the practice you should follow the rules given below:

1. Perception. You should perceive each physical centre using the following means: (i) feeling the sensation arising from that particular part of the body, (ii) mentally pronouncing the name of that part of the body once, after the instructor's pronunciation, (iii) visualization of that part of the body. That is, you should create a mental picture.

One of the above, any two, or all three together can be utilized to perceive each physical centre. If you have difficulty with visualization, then we suggest that you combine mental pronunciation ofthe name with perception of the sensation from that particular part of the body. If you find visualization easy, then combine it with perception of sensation, without naming any part. You must choose your own method of perception according to ability and preference.

2. Instructions. You should be simultaneously aware of two things: (i) the sound of the instructor's voice, (ii) the part of the body named.

Follow the practice of yoga nidra according to the instructions given by the teacher.

3. Rotation. Your awareness should move from one part of the body to the next according to the instructions given. You should be aware of the existence of each centre in turn, mentally touching each point. The rotation of awareness must be rhythmical and with minimum effort. Let your awareness 'flow' from one limb to the next. Or it should 'jump' from one centre to the next with the same rhythm as the ticking of a clock.

Don't let your awareness dwell on any part of the body for longer than prescribed by the teacher's instructions. Even if you don't clearly perceive, for example, 'the right thumb' you should immediately proceed to the next limb without delay.

4. Speed. The speed of rotation should be chosen to suit the circumstances. In the beginning the mind of the practitioner is likely to be straying here and there. At this stage rotation should be reasonably rapid in order to prevent this mental distraction. Later in the practice, when the mind is more one-pointed, the rate of rotation can be slowed down. The teacher must use intuition.

In any circumstances, the rotation should not be excessively fast or slow. If it is too fast, then the practitioner will not be able to follow the instructions and perceive each part of the body. He will more than likely fall asleep. Conversely, if the instructions are too slow and monotonous, then he will also fall asleep with boredom. You must be careful.

5. Circuit. There are various different circuits through which the awareness can be rotated. It can be a short circuit through the main limbs such as the legs, arms, etc. or it can be a longer rotation that includes the fingers, toes and so forth. As one becomes more sensitive, the rotation can also be passed through the internal organs such as the heart etc. The circuit can be chosen according to preference and available time.

Try to choose one circuit and stick to it when you practise yoga nidra. This will fix a pattern in your mind and your awareness will flow automatically from one centre to the next without effort. If you continually change the order of your circuit, this flow will not be spontaneous. Once you have settled on a specific sequence try not to change it.

6. Number of rounds. Complete rotation of awareness through one circuit of the parts of the body is one round. You can practise 1, 2, 3 or more rounds according to the depth of relaxation required and the time available.

7. The body. Do not move the body throughout the entire practice. Only be aware of each part without the slightest physical movement.

Try to regard your body as an object that is not part of your being. Feel that the body is outside and separate from yourself, merely an object of study. This too will increase the depth of relaxation.

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