This talk was given by Swami Satyananda at the Silver Jubilee All World Yoga Convention held at Bogotá, Colombia.
The ideals, the highest examples of life are before in. We certainly know what is right and what is wrong, but still there are times in life when we fail to act on it. Why is this? Intellectually we accept what has been spoken about life, love and understanding. Why then can't we behave accordingly? What is the obstruction? There must be some explanation for why it is so difficult to practice what we believe in. All the high ideals of life should not remain in the scriptures: we must start to live them. Yoga nidra puts us in touch, with our psychic personality, which is responsible for all that we think and do. With the help of yoga nidra we can start to act on those ideals in which we believe.
Many experiments have been conducted all over the world on the effects of yoga nidra or psychic sleep on human behaviour. The practice is very simple. Lie down flat on your back, close your eyes and concentrate on the whole body for a few minutes. Be careful to maintain self awareness. If you happen to fall asleep, the benefits of yoga nidra are lost, so check yourself. Try to prevent sleep and retain awareness throughout the practice. Then make a resolve which gives positive direction to the course of your life. This resolve can be the means of correcting your bad habits or achieving your aim in life.
If you are suffering from hypertension resulting in high blood pressure, practice yoga nidra on an empty stomach, never on a full stomach. On the other hand, if you are suffering from insomnia, practice yoga nidra immediately after meals. If you want to change the behaviour of your child, give suggestions or infuse knowledge into yourself or others, the best time to practice is at night after going to bed.
Some children want to learn but their conscious mind is either weak or unreceptive. By the practice of yoga nidra they can absorb things through the subconscious mind. The capacity of a child before and after yoga nidra is totally different. It's surprising how children can read books and solve mathematical problems which they were incapable of doing previously.
Once a small child, an habitual bed wetter, was brought to me. I kept her in my room and at night when she went to sleep I repeated the words, "You will urinate in the toilet" over and over again. I woke her after three minutes and told her to go to the bathroom whenever she felt like passing urine. Then she went straight back to sleep again. I did this for ten days and she stopped wetting the bed altogether.
Perhaps from this example you can understand that there a part of the mind which is totally receptive and obedient, which can follow each and every command that is given either by another or by one's own mind. You will have to tune in with this part of the mind if you want to develop love, compassion, charity and continence. When the mind is withdrawn it becomes fertile, and this is the secret of yoga nidra.
There are various forms of yoga nidra meant for different types of people: those suffering from nervous depressions and breakdowns, juvenile delinquents or people with a criminal mentality, those who want to develop their memory and mental faculties or get rid of evil thoughts and habits, those who are confused about the direction of their life and are seeking correct guidance. Once I was invited to teach yoga at a prison. About six hundred prisoners attended the class and almost all of them were out of control, jumping about, shouting and whistling. For forty minutes I tried to calm them down enough to show them some asanas, but without success. Suddenly one of the prisoners came up and handed me a packet of cigarettes and asked me to smoke. I told him that I would if he could get all of the prisoners to lie down quietly. He was a powerful man and got all of them to lie down flat on their back, but still they carried on with their jokes and mockery. After twenty minutes of telling them to close their eyes and not to move their body, I decided that it was impossible for me to control them and left the prison. The next day when I called the prison authorities to inform them that I wouldn't be coming again to take that class, they begged me to return. "Swamiji," they said, "you have cast a spell over them. They have been quiet ever since you left."
The second time I went to the prison, the same prisoners all lay down quietly. When I asked them to get ready for surf namaskara they said, "No, we want the yoga that you taught us yesterday." So for six days I taught them yoga nidra, psychic sleep, how to relax from top to bottom, outside to inside, every part of their being. Daily reports came to me that their dispositions were improving and there had been fewer quarrels.
On the seventh day, there was a farewell meeting and all of them were there. When it was my turn to speak, I took out the packet of cigarettes which I had been given and said, "The first day you wanted me to smoke. Here are the cigarettes you gave me and now I will smoke them with you."
The man who had given them to me came up on the stage and said: "Swamiji, I am sorry that I gave you those cigarettes. Please give them back to me. The attitude of this man, who had not known how to behave with a monk or a swami seven days earlier, was completely transformed, without being told anything except how to practice yoga nidra. What is the secret of this transformation? Sermons? No! Admonitions? No! Release of tension, relaxation and peace of mind are the secret of transformation.
Many people have bad habits which they despise. For example, someone may be addicted to hashish and every time he has a smoke, he hates himself for doing it. Even though he thinks, ‘I don't like this habit; I don't want to smoke’, still due to this strong tendency in his personality as soon as evening comes he starts longing for hashish. This creates conflict within him; his mind becomes split. He desires something which he knows is bad for him. If he compromises with it, then he is addicted to hashish which is detrimental to the brain and respiratory system.
How can this situation be overcome? There is a simple formula. Lie down on your bed and concentrate on the breath and body. The moment you feel yourself starting to doze say one thing, 'No hashish any more'. A parent or guardian can do this for children who are still young. Try this technique on any habit and within ten days you will find that you are forgetting about it. Through this resolve made when the mind is totally relaxed and receptive, you can improve your eyes, your digestion, your family relationships, you can change your whole life.