Susie McCarthy | Relax into Sleep: Yogi Nidra and Ujjayi Pranayama

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Relax into Sleep: Yogi Nidra and Ujjayi Pranayama

by Susie McCarthy

Journey into a state of deep relaxation, turning away from thoughts and worries. Practiced regularly, you will re-wire yourself to disconnect from stresses. Life becomes easier & more pleasurable. Sleep becomes restful and refreshing.
Genre: New Age: Meditation
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Stage 1 (Breath Awareness)
6:32 $2.00
2. Experience Ujjayi Breath
10:32 $2.00
3. Deep Body Relaxation
27:32 $3.00
4. Relax into Sleep
16:33 $3.00
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Can Yoga Help You Sleep?

Yoga, practiced in its intended form, can definitely help! The practice of yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1:2).

Maybe the first question should be “Why is it difficult for me to get a good night’s sleep?” One thing that affects people when trying to get to sleep is that their mind is busy going over events, problems, and future plans. The busy monkey mind won’t let you relax.

True yoga is about union of the mind, body and spirit. This is where we learn to calm the fluctuations of the mind. Effective yoga incorporates asana (postures), pranayama (breath control) and meditation (both sitting meditation and yoga nidra). As well as the physical benefits gained from exercise, yoga asana prepares the body to be able to sit for a period of time to perform pranayama and meditation. While doing yoga postures, attention is focussed on the breath (using ujjayi) and focussed internally. Each person works at their own level of ability, without comparison to others.

Pranayama should be introduced slowly, starting with awareness of the natural breath and the ability of the breath to be changed and redirected. This in itself is a very enlightening process. From there it is possible to move on to more advanced pranayama techniques, each with specific aims.

Sleep is one of the most important bodily functions that operates at the level of instinct. We need yoga’s “chitta vritti nirodah” to help us when sleep is elusive or ineffective. During yoga nidra we use focussed attention to achieve relaxation and centering, allowing us to transcend states of physical and emotional stress. Our attention is directed elsewhere, we have something to occupy our mind. This allows our body to fall into restful sleep.

We all require relaxation and sleep. In the sleep state, we are disassociated from thoughts, feelings, emotions and expressions. These things may creep into our dreams, but most often in a way that allows us to process them.

According to yoga, deep and refreshing sleep has a very important function: it helps us to stay balanced. When we are stressed and suffer from sleepless nights the rest of our body suffers and we are out of balance. This shows up in our body as tension headaches, increased heart rate, anger and sickness. These effects take a serious toll on the body. When the body is out of balance it will try to rebalance itself by such things as craving for sweet foods to obtain energy. Then the sugar overload in the body pushes other functions out of balance, those imbalances affect our sleep - and a circular effect is happening. We sleep less, causing ourselves more anxiety.

During yoga nidra we are guided into a hypnagogic state, the stage between wakefulness and sleeping, where our mind is receptive to suggestion. Attention is directed to our physical senses, the senses which may become overwhelmed during prolonged periods of stress, and we return to feeling and inhabiting our body.

The alternative used by many people, prescription drugs, can be dangerous and doesn’t lead to a state of balance in the body. Here is another cause and effect circle going on, and it isn’t a good one! When we depend on pills to get to sleep we are masking our problems. Millions of dollars are spent on these drugs without any resolution to the underlying problem.

Yoga Nidra - Deep Body Relaxation

Yoga nidra trains your body and mind to let go and relax completely while in a waking state. We use the breath to bring attention to various parts of the body. In the Deep Body Relaxation, you will be reminded to stay awake and aware while you are guided through the stages of yoga nidra. You will be led into a deeply relaxed state which will nourish your body and mind.

Using the Deep Body Relaxation practice you will find that the practice energises your body. While immediately afterwards you may feel “floaty” and maybe a bit vague, as you gradually return to full consciousness you will find yourself refreshed and energised.

It is a great practice to use at those times of the day when you feel sluggish, usually in the early afternoon after lunch, to provide a sense of renewal to complete your daily tasks. Also, in the early evening, if you have a social outing planned and feel too tired, try this practice to provide you with the energy to go out and enjoy yourself.

Please note: It is always a good idea to give yourself time to come fully back to the present after Yoga Nidra, before driving or performing any complex task.

Yoga Nidra - Relax into Sleep

Practising yoga nidra regularly will teach your body to switch off from the stresses that are affecting your sleep and inhibiting your ability to live fully. During Relax into Sleep, you will be guided into a deeply relaxed state conducive to sleep. The instruction to remain awake is omitted and you are encouraged to let go and sleep.

It is well worth trying! Most people, even those who experience great difficulty in getting to sleep, find they have difficulty staying awake during a yoga nidra practice. All you have to do is listen to the instructions, and you will be guided into a deeply relaxed state. If you find you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep, just listen again to “Relax into Sleep”.

The ultimate aim is to learn how to deal with situations with a witnessing attitude, so that we don’t get caught up in so much stress! Regular yoga practice really can allow you to achieve this. There are many aspects to yoga, it has been practised in India for thousands of years. Practised correctly, under the guidance of a good teacher, yoga is a healing modality not an exercise regime.

Many scientific research papers have been published about the effectiveness of yoga. Research is occurring around the World, including in Australia, the USA, India, the UK and many other countries.


Pranayama, translated literally, means either control of the breath or to draw out the breath. Using pranayama techniques, we begin by simply becoming aware of the natural breath, move on to control of the breath, and then progress to changing our breathing in various ways with the aim of producing specific results.

Prana is “life force”, a form of energy, and using yoga asana we move prana in the body, bringing this life force and energy to joints and organs that have become blocked and sluggish.

In pranayama, we control and direct prana internally and this has profound effects on the body, the mind and the psyche. Pranayama can improve breathing, remove energy blocks and can induce a state of mental tranquillity.

Every part of life is affected by prana. All bodily functions are driven by the flow of oxygen. Using the breath to nourish the body, feeling the body and mind opening up with new energy, is yoga’s gift to you. Imagine what happens when the brain doesn’t get nourished with an adequate supply of good quality oxygen. And imagine the effect on the body and brain when it gets a plentiful supply of good quality oxygen!

Pranayama - Stage 1 Breath Awareness

The first step in pranayama is to become aware of our breath. We are guided to watch the breath with awareness during guided Yoga Nidra and meditation practices. We become aware of the breath’s quality, whether it is smooth or uneven, deep or shallow, fast or slow.

Breathing is an automatic function, but differs from many other automatic bodily functions, in that it can be controlled and altered. Once the ability to be aware of the breath has been awakened, we can move on to controlling and altering it.

The qualities we are aiming for in our breath are for it to be smooth, fairly deep, and slow when we are at rest. These qualities are affected by our internal and external environments. When our central nervous system is suffering from tension, our breath will suffer. If we are spending too much time in an unnatural environment, with fumes from plastics, carpets, pollution, etc., this damages the quality of the breath.

The breath is affected by life events and conditioning:
• When under stress, real or imagined, the breath becomes shallow to preserve energy for a fight or flight response.
• Past stresses may be held in the body for an extended period of time, continuing to affect the breath.
• When we’ve been taught to hold in our belly to create a slim appearance, the belly doesn’t expand as it should with each inhalation. We hold the breath and block energy flow.
• Past traumas and habits may have caused us to round our shoulders, leading to constriction in the chest and stiffness in the muscles between the ribs, restricting the breath.
• Other bad postural habits restrict the flow of the breath.

Slowing down the breath, using awareness of the breath, and bringing fresh breath into all parts of the lungs improves overall physical and mental health. As we breathe more deeply, disused air sacs in the lungs start to open up, allowing oxygen in, displacing stale air.

As this fresh and energised oxygen moves through the body, it affects the state of health of the whole body. Fresh oxygen sustains the brain, the heart, organs, skin, every part of the body.

During pranayama, by the simple process of awakening our awareness of the breathing process, health is improved. More advanced pranayama practices work on many different aspects of our physical body and psyche.

Pranayama - Experience Ujjayi Breath

Ujjayi pranayama helps calm the mind and warm the body. It is often the first pranayama that yoga practitioners hear mentioned in yoga classes, this is due to ujjayi being practised while moving through yoga postures.

Ujjayi is known as the victorious breath, or the ocean breath, which refers to the sound made during ujjayi. You should be able to hear this sound, but it should be almost inaudible to other people, unless they are very close beside you. Sometimes it seems like a competition to perform ujjayi the loudest, as if to prove it is being done. That is not the idea, it is a personal practice and we don’t compare ourselves to others in any form of yoga.

To be able to practice ujjayi, you need to learn how to do it correctly. Often students are simply instructed to use ujjayi if they know how, but aren’t offered any training in how to do it. This is most likely because it takes a little time, a quiet space and concentration to learn ujjayi. It is not difficult, everyone can do it with a little instruction.

You will be guided through two techniques to learn ujjayi, both are equally effective, but you may find one or the other resonates more clearly with you. Try both techniques, and the simple exercises included in the track to experience ujjayi and how it is used in a short physical exercise.

At the end of the recording you will be led through a mantra meditation practice using ujjayi. The mantra used is “So Hum” which means “I am that”. It is a very centering and calming practice. Using ujjayi during the practice increases its power and effectiveness.

Through regular practice of pranayama, you will experience positive changes in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Obstacles and Victories

Obstacles! Always there are obstacles because we can be our own worst enemy, especially when it comes to making changes. Obstacles will arise when the conscious mind gets in the way, trying to thwart our best intentions.

It may be helpful to use a sankalpa during your yoga nidra practice, to help remind yourself that your yoga practices will lead to good changes. A sankalpa should always be framed in your own words, so don’t take one of these word for word!
• “I practise yoga regularly and I am aware my life is changing for the better.”
• “I enjoy and feel the benefits of my daily yoga practice.”
• “My regular yoga practice is bringing positive change into my life.”

It’s not usually that we don’t enjoy the practice, or don’t think it is doing us good - it is that little negative imp on our shoulder telling us that we don’t deserve the change we want, or won’t be able to maintain good health, or that we shouldn’t be spending so much time on ourselves.

Sometimes others discourage us as they are jealous of the improvements they see, or maybe scared that the changes will cause us to find new friends.

When you feel discouraged, try telling yourself that you will do just one short practice. Once you have got yourself started, you will often find that you want to continue. If not, just go with the flow. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved so far.
It’s good to start the day with gratitude. Over your morning beverage, think of one thing you are grateful for and acknowledge it to yourself.



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