How To Write A Yoga Nidra Script

by | Mar 4, 2022 | Yoga Teacher Continuing Education

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How To Write Yoga Nidra

Many people know the benefits of Yoga Nidra, and many practitioners are integrating it into their offerings as yoga teachers and yoga therapists. You can find many books on Amazon that give you scripts written to convey a multitude of themes, or you can learn to write your own Yoga Nidra scripts. If you’re interested in inspiring change and helping your clients work through their unique challenges then my recommendation is to learn to write your own scripts that meet your students where they are at and weave in the material they are working to integrate. 

How To Write Yoga Nidra
The first step to writing Yoga Nidra is to determine your style. There are three styles of Yoga Nidra that we teach in our Yoga Nidra training. The first style is a Tantric style that was brought to the United States by Swami Satchidananda in the late 60’s. This style is very specific and has a specific grammar that must be followed. The second style is deep relaxation derived from Nischala Joy Devi’s Yoga of The Heart. This technique is much more accessible than other techniques, and it lends itself to trauma-informed groups more so than Swami Satchidananda’s style. The third style is iRest Yoga Nidra, a style created by Dr. Richard Miller to help treat PTSD. All three styles follow the same formula, but they all vary slightly. 

The basic outline of Yoga Nidra follows the Panchamaya Kosha system. The Panchamaya Kosha system is the system of integrative sheaths that the yogis look at the human body through. These sheaths are interdependent, working together to help the body maintain homeostasis. The first sheath, annamaya kosha is the food body or the physical body. The physical body is the home of the second sheath, the pranamaya kosha, or the energy body. You can think of the energy body as the cardiopulmonary system, endocrine system, and all of the other energy transport systems in the body including parts of the nervous system. The third sheith is the manomaya kosha, which is the mental body and consists of the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Finally, we have the anandamaya kosha, or the bliss body where the soul resides, according to the yogis. This five-layer system of energetic manifestation makes up our human experience, and it’s a path for understanding how we become aroused and how we can regulate the body. 

When we follow this path, we can move from the physical body into the more subtle layers. In doing this we can learn to systematically relax the body in a way that is conducive to our overall health and wellbeing. Yoga Nidra scripts are written to address the body from the outside inward, slowly relaxing the body so that the body relaxes its gross tissues first followed by the subtle tissues, and subtle mind
Yoga Nidra always begins with an intention. The very first paragraph of your Yoga Nidra script should invite the practitioner to set an intention for practice. In setting this intention, the practitioner is acknowledging that they are practicing Yoga Nidra. You can, if you want, weave in verbiage about remaining still, but this is traditionally associated with Swami Satchidananda’s work and not integrated into the other two styles of Yoga Nidra. Once an intention has been set you can move on to the next step, and here is where the styles diverge. 
Traditionally you would move into Nyasa, which has taken on the form of rotation of consciousness through the body. In Tantric Yoga Nidra this ALWAYS begins with the right hand thumb, but after you take your client through the body you can start to move in more creative ways. In Nischala’s Deep Relaxation we find that the annamaya kosha is addressed by progressive muscle relaxation beginning in the right leg. In iRest, Dr. Miller brings you through two additional steps before moving you into rotation of conscientiousness through the physical body. These steps include identifying your heartfelt mission and cultivating an inner resources. Both of these steps precede rotation of consciousness in iRest Yoga Nidra. 

Rotation of consciousness can look different depending on what you’re going for; for example, if you’re working with chronic pain you may end up avoiding certain body parts when you start working with individuals who have pain in particular areas of the body. You might start with the right hand and move through the major digits of the body on the front, back, top, and bottom and then you might start all over again from the feet and do the same thing in reverse. If you’re naming digits then you can be as fluid if you want. If you’re using progressive muscle relaxation you want to do one body part and move on to the next. Once the entire physical body has been relaxed you want to let it go and move on to breath sensing. 

Breath sensing is the next step in the Yoga Nidra process. Breath sensing can be done in many different ways. You can sense the breath by counting the breath using multiples of 108. For example, you might count backward from 54 to 1 or you might count backward from 27 to 1. You can also engage your students in mental nadi shodhana practice where they are visualizing and sensing their body and breath coming into one nostril and out of the other. In Nischala’s scripts, she uses the breath to “brush” tension from the body. This is a beautiful technique that employs autogenics, or suggestive languaging to create relaxation in the body. Dr. Miller is more fluid with his version of breath sensing, but does use some of the techniques used by Swami Satchidananda. After breath sensing both the traditional Yoga Nidra and Nischala’s Deep Relaxation ask the practitioner to feel sensations in the body.
As we move into manomaya kosha, the mental body, we start to work with conceptual integration of sensation. Swami Satchidananda uses pratipaksha bhavana to do this by offering opposites of sensations. For example, practitioners are asked to develop the sensation of heaviness and then the sensation of lightness. In Nischala’s Deep Relaxation practitioners are asked to guide the gentle breath to brush away any remaining feelings, memories, tension, or holding in the body– all of which are cognitive concepts that must first be conceptualized by the mind. In iRest, Dr. Miller asked practitioners to work with thoughts, emotions, and eventually, beliefs that they have in order to teach them how to identify them, any feelings associated with them, and to find their opposites. 
After sensations, the Tantric variation begins to bring in symbols which are Yantras or representations of divinity that we as a society, maybe even as humans, have internalized for centuries. These symbols include everything from a newborn baby to an old man to a coffin beside a grave to a sunset on a deserted beach. Each of these is a symbol that can be traced back to a feeling that is attached to a perception of divinity. Everyone’s perception is slightly different, but Yoga Nidra attempts to depolarize our perceptions of good and bad, right and wrong so that we can meet death as a messenger, not as a punishment. Here we see pratipaksha bhavana being used, too. Symbols are being presented alternating between general perception; for example, you might offer a red rose as a symbol, and then you might offer a coffin beside a grave. These two objects cancel each other out, but both speak to the left hemisphere of the brain where symbols and metaphors are stored. 

Technique For Setting An Intention
When you invite your students to set an intention you can do it in a few different ways. You might ask them overtly to set an intention, or you might ask them in a roundabout way to develop a resolve or Sankalpa for practice. You might guide them to an intention to remain focused on your voice. If you’re working with someone who is trying to work through specific material you will want them to set an intention to connect with this material both consciously and unconsciously. This can be a quick five-minute introduction, perhaps a paragraph or two long. It doesn’t have to take up substantial time, but can be relatively casual, similar to the way some yoga teachers set up their yoga classes with an intention. 

Technique For Identifying A Heartfelt Desire
Whether you’re teaching iRest or not, integrating a Heartfelt Desire is a great way to help them to anchor to what their life’s longing is and to reinforce their purpose. Your heartfelt desire is your deepest longing for life. It’s what you want to connect to and to thrive for in this lifetime. It can be anything; some people feel their heartfelt desire is to be whole, complete, connected, and interdependent. Some people feel their heartfelt desire is to be supportive, generous, and connected to those around them. There is no wrong answer. Even if you said you’re heartfelt desire was to make millions of dollars, that wouldn’t be “wrong”, it’s just a different form of Shakti. I like to bring in the heartfelt desire component into all of the Yoga Nidra scripts I write to make them unique and personalized to the individuals I’m working with so that they can attach meaning to their practice. 

Technique For Identifying An Inner Resource
Developing an inner resource is a technique that is used in somatic experiencing and iRest, among other programs for trauma and PTSD. It provides students with an anchor to come back to when they feel activated or overwhelmed. This can be VERY helpful when your students need to regulate in practice or in their daily life. An inner resource is a memory of an experience, person, place, pet, or object that helps to invoke a feeling of peace, wellbeing, contentment, and joy. We use the inner resource until the student can develop the felt sense independently, at which time the felt sense becomes the inner resource. I believe integrating this into your Yoga Nidra scripts is a smart plan since SO many people find Yoga Nidra activating in some way. This will help them find something to come back to, to connect with, and to ground into rather than spinning out and feeling dysregulated. 

Technique For Rotation of Consciousness (Nyasa)
Nyasa is the technique of placing mudras on marma points over the body and infusing the body with the intention or incantation associated with mantra. Although we don’t physically place mudra on the body anymore when we use this technique in Yoga Nidra, we do infuse our present awareness in various psychic centers of the body as we rotate the consciousness throughout the physical structures. There is no right or wrong way to do this. This is really what makes one style different from the other. For example, Swami Satchidananda’s Yoga Nidra scripts are very rigid and do not offer a lot of room for variation. Dr. Miller’s scrips are very fluid and start in various places all over the body. Nischala starts in the feet and works with gross body parts, not smaller digits. As you can see, there is no right way to do it, but rotating the consciousness through the physical body, and making a point to ensure that students are consciously moving their awareness through the body as you guide them is an important step. 

Technique For Breath Awareness
Many of the breath awareness techniques are similar with the exception of Nischala’s technique in Deep Relaxation. Essentially what this tells us is that there is a lot of fluidity in this section of the practice. We want our students to learn how to anchor their awareness to their breath. Whether they do that with mental Nadi Shodhana, breath counting, visualizing the breath, or another technique is insignificant as long as they are developing a relationship with the breath.

Technique For Sensation Awareness
When exploring sensation it can be helpful to integrate autogenics. Autogenics is a technique of suggesting sensations to students in a way that causes the mind to produce that sensation in the body. Usually, scripts vacillate between hot and cold, heavy and light, pain and pleasure but you could easily use any pairs of sensations you like. Keep in mind that some populations might be activated by certain sensations. For example, domestic violence survivors and individuals in eating recovery might be activated by the sensations of heavy and light. Think about the language you use before presenting it to your population. 

Technique For Symbol Awareness
Suggesting symbols usually begins by having students bring their awareness to the Chidikasha, the blank space behind the eyelids. Once their awareness is focused here, the facilitator asked the participants to visualize symbols that represent archetypes, deities, and qualities of nature and divinity. This is done quickly so that the individual doesn’t have too much time to fall into the story and the mind can move from one image to another without going into thinking. 

Technique For Closing
Once the student has been guided through the visualization process, they are brought back to their intention. This could be a paragraph reminding them to recall their intention for practice. In iRest Yoga Nidra, Dr. Miller has students identify Joy, Wellbeing, and Bliss before coming back to their intention. Adding these layers helps the students to identify with gratitude and presence and can be integrated into any Yoga Nidra script. 

Technique For Moving On After Class
After class, it’s important for students to be brought back to a comfortable seat, to reground by putting their props away and to have some water. Bringing the element of earth back into the body helps the students to come back into their body which will help them to integrate their experience. 

Using the techniques above you can write Yoga Nidra scripts to meet your students’ needs and to help them integrate material they are working on through Svadhyaya. This will help them to have a more personal experience that is meaningful and inspires change.

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