The Buddha’s discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness, The Maha Satipatthana Sutta (the Great Discourse on the Foundation of Mindfulness) is remarkable that it opens with an initial assurance and concludes with a final guarantee. The assurance is that the four foundations constitute a Path that goes one way – and, one way only – and that is to the purification of beings, to the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, to the disappearance of pain and grief, to the attainment of the true way, to the realisation of Nibbana. The guarantee is that if anyone were to develop them at most for seven years or at least for seven days, one of two Fruits could be expected for him: either final knowledge here and now or, if there is a trace of clinging left, non-return.
Any of the programs given in these 36 lessons can be adopted as the basis for your regular yoga practice. They are all complete in themselves. Those in the first 24 lessons are ideal for preparing your mind-body for kriya yoga practice.
Many of you will not have started kriya yoga practice yet. Don’t be in a hurry. Wait until you feel that you are ready both mentally and physically. When you feel a strong inner compulsion, then commence kriya yoga. Also don’t start if you lack the time or if circumstances are unsuitable. You must use your own discretion in this respect; perhaps it is better that you consult an experienced yoga teacher or an ashram. Meanwhile, try to find time to practise other forms of yoga including asanas, pranayama and meditative techniques.
Stage 8: eyebrow centre awareness
Fix your attention at the eyebrow centre.
Feel your blood pulse at that point.
It is a rhythmical beat that goes on continuously.
Be aware of it.
Synchronize the mantra Aum with the pulse beat.
The sound of the mantra is mental.
The pulse and Aum vibrate like the ticking of a clock.
Stage 7: psychic centres visualization
Now you have to try to visualize the symbols of each chakra; this is not easy, but try.
If you wish you can use your own system of symbols; or the symbols that we have previously described (2-9).
Let us begin the practice.
As each chakra is named, try to feel that point is being lightly pressed by someone’s thumb, and try to visualize the symbol.
The psychic symbol for mooladhara is a red four-petalled lotus.
Inside there is a grey lingam around which is wrapped a snake three and a half times, head facing upwards.
Stage 5: visualization – body awareness
Try to visualize your own body.
Imagine that you are viewing it from outside.
Feel that your perception is outside and your body is an object of study.
You may find visualization difficult . . . don’t worry, only do your best.
If you wish you can imagine that there is a large mirror suspended above your body . . . and that your body is reflected in it.
Stage 1: preparation
Lie down on a blanket facing upwards.
Loosen all your clothes so that you feel perfectly comfortable.
If necessary, place a blanket over you to keep warm, or a sheet to keep away insects, as the case may be.
Keep the feet and legs a little apart.
Place the arms beside your body, palms facing up.
Adjust yourself so that you feel perfectly comfortable.
Points to remember
Bear the following points in mind when doing yoga nidra:
- Relax, but don’t sleep.
- Be aware; don’t concentrate.
- Maintain the attitude of a witness – don’t get lost in the mental reverie.
- Maintain awareness of the sound of the teacher’s voice; don’t lose contact.
- Don’t move the body.
- Keep your eyes closed throughout the practice.
- Don’t try to intellectualize or understand the process of yoga nidra. Just follow and do the practice.
There are hundreds of different types of yoga nidra. There is almost no limit to the variety that a teacher can bring into his or her lessons. Specific types can be given to remove diseases, others to remove dullness. Some can even be taught specifically to induce deep sleep; this is an example we have given in technique 5 in Part 3. The practice should be chosen according to the discretion and intuition of the teacher.
The stage of visualization gives the greatest scope for variety. The following are a few examples:
Stories can cover a vast number of different scenes; the only limitation is your power of imagination. You can describe stories set in jungles, mountains, far-off countries; you can even give fairy stories and descriptions of interplanetary travel. Use your imagination.
Objects for visualization are also limitless. You can utilize any object, but try to choose them by the faculty of intuition.
Yoga nidra is very useful as a preparation for kriya yoga. An important part of kriya yoga is perception of the different chakras and kshetrams in the human framework. Sensitivity has to be awakened in specific parts of the body. This can be done with the technique that we will shortly describe, technique 6. We recommend this to help with kriya practice.
Little needs to be said about the benefits of yoga nidra for they have already been discussed in this topic and the previous three lessons.
But for reference purposes we can summarize the benefits as follows:
- Relaxes the whole physio-psychological system.
- Rejuvenates the body and mind.
We have tended to emphasize use of yoga nidra as a relaxation technique. We have also suggested that yoga nidra be utilized, if necessary, as a method of inducing sleep. Possibly this may give the impression that yoga nidra is a preliminary technique for beginners; but actually yoga nidra, if practised correctly, can lead directly to meditation. Yoga nidra is, in fact, a powerful meditative technique.
All meditative techniques are intended to induce pratyahara (sense withdrawal) as a preliminary to dharana (concentration). Yoga nidra does this very systematically; in fact, it is probably the most systematic of all meditative techniques. First of all the karmendriyas (organs of action) are put out of action: hands, feet, etc. Then most of the jnanendriyas (organs of sense knowledge) are put out of action; that is sight, taste and so on are blocked, leaving only perception of hearing and touch. Stimulation of the brain is drastically reduced. The field of perception and awareness is narrowed; the mind becomes very one-pointed and this leads to dharana.