In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes the 8 limbs of yoga, the steps of the yogic path. The 5th limb is pratyahara, meaning withdrawal of the senses. This is the first step in meditation, turning awareness inwards, into the body, energy body, mind, subconscious, and unconscious aspects of self.
To access the different dimensions within us, we must direct our focus inwards. We must retreat from external stimulus. Now, one can do this simply by going to a float spa. One can slip into a sensory deprivation chamber and escape from all incoming stimuli: sight, smell, sound, touch, gravity, and even proprioception. Thanks to modern technology, this experience is accessible to anyone and everyone.
The real struggle is figuring out what to do next. Where do we go and what do we do once we’ve slipped out of our every day reality and into the mysterious depths of the body and mind. Once we’ve entered pratyahara, we must cultivate concentration of inner perceptual awareness (dharana- the 6th limb) and focus this awareness on the divine that lies within each of us (dyhana- the 7th limb) so that we can them merge or unify with the divine in Samadhi, the last limb.
So, this is where meditation begins, and this is where a guide or teacher can come in handy.
The practice of yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, takes us into pratyahara by slowing down the process of sleep and then directs awareness through each layer of being while you remain in a completely relaxed and conscious state. In doing so, it provides the opportunity for deeper, more nourishing rest and the chance to explore and expand ourselves from the inside out.
The best part is… you don’t actually have to do anything in yoga nidra. We do not have to try or work to achieve peace, relaxation, and higher states of consciousness.
In this practice, all you have to do is lie down and listen.