What is the translation of Sankalpa?
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From Sanskrit --> English!
Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word. "San" means a connection to our highest self and "kalpa" means vow or promise. So it literally means a promise to yourself!
To find my Sankalpa, I use two methods. Sometimes I scan my body and my emotions and see what I come up with. If I notice that my jaw is really tight or my stomach feels anxious, I might state “I have peace within my body.”
The other method I use is to imagine what my perfect life would be like. How do I feel? What do I think about? What happens in the morning? What is the best part of that day? And then I use that to craft a short statement. For example, “I have time to enjoy things.”
Once you have decided your Sankalpa, you say it a few times in the beginning of the session.
You do not fall asleep in Yoga Nidra
It happens sometimes! And if it does, just go with it. Your body is the expert and might need sleep more than Yoga Nidra that day.
I once heard it described as the “knife’s edge of sleep.” In Yoga Nidra, your body is asleep but your mind is not. This is called the hypnagogic starte, but no need to geek out.
With your body asleep, much of the brain power normally used to control the body is reduced. This lets you to get to the source of your sleep issues: YOUR MIND.
The Five Steps of Yoga Nidra
After an initial relaxation and stating your Sankalpa, your teacher guides you through five stages. These five stages generally align with the Koshas. The Koshas, according to ancient Yoga texts, are the “sheaths of being”. The Yoga Nidra sequence addresses each of these, moving from the outermost physical layer to the most central self (called the “Atman” in Sanskrit).
Want the hard science behind this?
Yoga Nidra changes the pace of brain waves while also releasing hormones that relax blood vessels, initiate digestion and other parasympathetic nervous system activities.From a psychological perspective, this journey can be considered explorations through the ego to the self, observing inner reactions with an unbiased perspective.
This is why Yoga Nidra begins with the sequence of naming body parts. This allows your mind to spend energy and focus on the physical body. The particular sequence of body parts is very important and done in a similar fashion each and every time. By the end of this sequence, the mind can release it’s hold of the body and begin to focus on something else. In turn, the muscles of the body soften and release any holding or tension.
The next three stages address the breath, then the energy within your body, then moves to your senses. This part of the practice balances the way you feel emotionally and physically.
Then you can begin the deep work of Yoga Nidra.
While in this deeply relaxed state, you can begin to release some of those nasty patterns that keep us awake, keep us stressed, and keep us unhealthy. In Yoga, we call these "Samskara". Samskara are the mental and emotional habits or loops we get stuck in. Our brains love autopilot. Autopilot is why we can continually learn new things without forgetting the old. But sometimes, autopilot keeps us stuck.
Isn't this the same thing as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Nope! But it's close. Click here to learn more.
It's super close though!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing schemas, sometimes called assumptions or core beliefs. Schemas are automatic thought patterns that have negative effects. If every time, you make a mistake you think “I’m so dumb” that’s a (very basic) example of a schema. Samskaras are almost identical to this but they tend to be deeper and difficult to articulate.
For example, my insomnia wheels were turning at the thought of things I’d say at meetings, concerns over etiquette and competency. My Yoga Nidra practice began peeling back the layers about WHY I thought these things. Yoga Nidra helped me face one of my Samskaras.
This is the real power of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra can help you rewire things that are no longer serving you. Yoga Nidra can help you be a better person - to yourself.
For this part of Yoga Nidra to be effective, you NEED a trained and experienced teacher. It's even better when you're seeing the same teacher and they know you well.
At the end of the practice, you revisit your Sankalpa and your teacher skillfully guides you back to an awake state. Your body and mind energized - but relaxed. A truly amazing feeling. From here you can go on with your day, or as I did that first night, find your way to bed for a wonderful satisfying sleep.
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