It is common knowledge that sound sleep is essential for good health. It is only during sleep that the worn out body tissues are repaired and revived. No gland or organ in the body can function properly unless we sleep well. Deeper the sleep, better is the tissue rejuvenation.
Unfortunately in today’s world, natural sound sleep is extremely rare. People lead a highly stressful life and carry their stress to bed. The brain remains active thinking and analysing the day’s problems. When the mind is thus not relaxed, the body cannot let go of its tension. With a tense body and mind, restful sleep is not possible.
Even if one manages to fall asleep in that condition, the sleep generally is not of high quality. The person keeps tossing and turning all through the night and may wake up a few times during that period. Obviously, the body parts do not get a good chance to rejuvenate themselves well. In such a condition, one starts the day with less efficient glands and organs.
If it happens for a short period, the body can tolerate it. But trouble starts when it is repeated every night. In the long run, such poor sleep leads to poor health as well as slower metabolism. Also, researchers of the University of Chicago have found that sleep deprived people cannot resist high-calorie snacks such as cookies, candies, chips etc., resulting in weight gain.
Often people turn to sleep medication which is of little value, because many restorative phases are bypassed in medicated sleep. Secondly, drugs are chemicals, and chemicals can interfere with the functioning of the system including that of the thyroid.
Apart from poor sleep, stress itself is bad for the thyroid function as well. The thyroid, situated at the base of our neck is designed to secrete certain hormones, including thyroxin, which controls our metabolism. The amount of thyroxin this gland is to secrete is determined by the pituitary—the master gland. The pituitary gets its instructions from a part of the brain called hypothalamus, and it is this body part that is directly connected with the mind.
When the mind is stressed and preoccupied with an external problem, the hypothalamus too gets tense and its judgements can become faulty. Consequently, its erratic orders are relayed to the body via the pituitary and the functions of all the glands and organs can go haywire. That can lead to various problems, including a malfunctioning thyroid.
One cannot avoid stress in this world. It is inevitable in life, as it comes from far too many sources such as career, health, education, relationships, crime, natural calamities, traffic jams, quarrelsome neighbors, noisy children, loud music, inefficient and insincere staff and many more. We can only counter the harmful effects of it, and that can be achieved through certain techniques.
Yoganidra is a very effective de-stressor that was developed by the great guru Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda Saraswati from a tantric ritual, where systematically touching the body parts leads to a completely relaxed state. In Yoganidra, one does not need to touch anywhere in the body but just visualize it. By the end of the practice, the entire body is completely relaxed.
This practice is so powerful that half an hour of it is seen to have the same effect on the body as two hours of natural deep sleep. Furthermore, one is generally lulled to sleep after Yoganidra. The quality of that sleep is very high, which facilitates optimum tissue rejuvenation.
Therefore, every weight watcher should sleep with Yoganidra for the best health of the thyroid. Insomniacs can do it twice a day because even if they do not sleep for the recommended eight hours a day, their body will still get the rest it needs and does not suffer the effect of sleep deprivation.
Another advantage of Yoganidra is that it is an excellent medium to reach the subconscious, and with this mind’s help, one can get anything. Attaining a perfect body is nothing for this mind. It is said that through the subconscious, one can even move a mountain. Hence, apart from working on the body, it is essential to work on the mind and make it accept your wish to get what you want from your body.
The subconscious mind surfaces and becomes receptive only when the physical body is completely relaxed and the conscious mind is inactive. Such a state is indicated by the alpha brain waves. The brain generally generates the fast beta waves when we are awake and our conscious mind is busy flitting from thought to thought.
But during sleep and, very briefly, just before and after sleep when the mind is not active, slow alpha waves are emitted. But during Yoganidra, these wave are produced abundantly even when the person is awake indicating the inaction of the conscious mind. A resolve made in that state makes a strong impression on the subconscious which almost always bears fruit.
The resolve must be framed carefully. The sentence should be short and clear and should have a positive note with no negative words in it. A lady who was very fond of cakes and pastries made a mistake of using a negative word in her resolve. She said, ‘I will not eat any fattening food.’ She did not. But every time she saw anything she was tempted to eat, her stomach would start hurting. She could not understand the reason and had to endure the pain till she casually mentioned it to me. I taught her the way to get out of it. But it took her a long time to rectify that error.
Yoganidra is a simple and pleasant practice where one does not need to do anything physically, but just listen to the voice and follow the instructions in the mind. Traditionally, only a live voice was used, but now a days, it is being recorded for convenience and commercial use. You can even record it in your own voice. Choose a pitch that you find most soothing.
Although Yoganidra can be done anytime and more than once a day, practising it at bedtime is essential. That way, not only the accumulated tension of the day is removed, but the sleep that follows is the most rejuvenating. Consequently, one gets up feeling fresh and energetic the next morning and finds it easier to do more rounds of the dynamic Suryanamaskar. Yoganidra should be practised in semi darkness for enhanced effect as the nerves automatically relax in such condition.
Technique • Lie down in Shavasana. • Close your eyes gently and relax the body. • Adjust your body to a very comfortable position. • Take a deep breath. • As you exhale, say ‘R-e-l-a-x-’ in your mind and let the tension leave your body.
Every time you exhale, say ‘R- e- l- a- x-’ mentally and try to relax a little more. • Practise at least 10-15 breaths in this way. • Now make a resolve and repeat it firmly three times in your mind. • Then move your mind over the body and visualize the body parts in the following sequence:
Right hand thumb > first finger > second finger third finger > fourth finger > palm wrist > elbow > shoulder right hip > right thigh > knee calf > ankle > heel sole > big toe > second toe third toe > fourth toe > fifth toe
Repeat with the left side of your body starting with the left hand thumb.
Then go to your back and visualize the following parts:
Right shoulder > left shoulder > right side of the back left side > right heel > left heel
Then move your mind over the front of your body in the following sequence:
Top of the head > forehead > right eyebrow left eyebrow > right eye > left eye right ear > left ear > right cheek left cheek > right nostril > left nostril upper lip > lower lip > chin chest > abdomen
Repeat the entire process two to three times more for complete relaxation. Then repeat your resolution three times again, and end the practice.
Excerpted with permission from Yoga and Diet for Weight Loss; Rupa Publications