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Yoga in Deep Sleep The yoga of deep sleep is primarily abiding in formless awareness, re- turning to the original void or state of emptiness in which everything is hidden in seed form. In deep sleep there is no objective world to be perceived, nor a separate self with which to perceive. World and self-consciousness are merged in a state of pure potential, with cur- rents of possibilities and structures of underlying cosmic principles or dharmas. There is a mass of light, energy and vibration with only incipient movement. There is no outer or form-based bodily self. Be- ing conscious of this root vibration is the yoga of deep sleep. The higher, formless worlds of the causal plane can be reached


through developing awareness in deep sleep. These are realms of meditation, voidness and light. We can earn access to them by culti- vating a deeper peace and contentment and by learning to be a form- less being, a pure mind, without the need for an external world or body. We can do so by cultivating higher principles of unity and har- mony, the rule of cosmic law. One way to facilitate this is to meditate on the yantras, or geometrical forms, of the Deities, like the famous Shri Yantra. The yoga of deep sleep happens on two levels. It begins in the wak-


ing state with the practice of deep pratyahara, or sensory concen- tration and withdrawal. In this way it is possible to draw the mind, prana and senses into a condition of wakeful deep sleep. One holds the awareness deep within the heart, and the outer mind and senses are shut off. Then, during deep sleep, one strives to maintain continual aware-


ness throughout, not as the waking personality, but as the deeper awareness behind the mind. This is the true yoga nidra, or yogic sleep. Another important part of the yoga of deep sleep is cultivating


peace and contentment in daily life, particularly the ability to surren- der, relax and accept. Practicing pratyahara in the waking state aids in this. We must learn to let go of name and form, body and mind and rest in the undifferentiated state of awareness. We must accept the great mystery that true knowledge transcends the mind and that what the mind knows is just a form of darkness or ignorance that can ô3


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Natural Patterns of Sleep From: healthysleep.med.harvard.edu


ur bodies require sleep in order to maintain proper function and health. In fact, we are programmed to sleep each night as a means of restoring our bodies and minds. Two interacting systems—the internal biological clock and


the sleep-wake homeostat—largely determine the timing of our tran- sitions from wakefulness to sleep and vice versa. These two factors also explain why, under normal conditions, we typically stay awake during the day and sleep at night. But what exactly happens when we drift off to sleep? Prior to the era of modern sleep research in the early 1920s, scientists regarded sleep as an inactive brain state. It was generally accepted that as night fell and sensory inputs from the envi- ronment diminished, so too did brain function. In essence, scientists thought that the brain simply shut down during sleep, only to restart again when morning came. In 1929, an invention that enabled scientists to record brain activ-


ity challenged this way of thinking. From recordings known as elec- troencephalograms (EEGs), researchers could see that sleep was a dynamic behavior, one in which the brain was highly active at times, and not turned off at all. Over time, sleep studies using EEGs and other instruments that measured eye movements and muscle activity would ôRô


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Yoga Nidra Yoga nidra is one of the most important aspects of traditional yoga practice. Its popularity today shows a new interest in the more eso- teric yogic practices. Many forms of relaxation and pratyahara are now being taught as yoga nidra, but these are preliminary practices only. True yoga nidra is an integral part of the yoga of the four states, cultivating wakefulness during waking, dream and deep sleep. It in- volves moving into the inner peace of the witness Self at the time of sleep or rest. It allows us to consciously enter into deep sleep like a deep pratyahara, and gives us the ability to shut off the sense and motor organs during the waking state as needed. In this condition, we withdraw our consciousness into the heart—not the physical heart but the deeper spiritual heart. In the state of yoga nidra, in which the õ 3 3 3 ô õôõL


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the higher consciousness. This is described as dharma megha sama- dhi in the Yoga Sutras. Through true yoga nidra, we contact the con- sciousness of Ishvara, the inner teacher of yoga.


Yoga in the Fourth State The underlying practice behind the yogas of waking, dream and deep sleep is cultivating the witness consciousness, or sakshi bhava. To re- ^


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and sleep, time and space, birth and death. This begins with cultivat- ing wakeful awareness, conscious dreaming and remaining aware in deep sleep. Cultivating the witness state is also the core practice for the fourth


state, but requires support practices. First, we should maintain a dharmic and conscious lifestyle, such as outlined in the yamas and niyamas of yoga practice. This includes a vegetarian diet, control of our sense and motor organs, and control of our mind and emotions.


A seasoned meditator is immersed in his deepest Self, while outer 1


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samadhi. With such adeptness, he can readily reach the subtle worlds of the causal plane in deep sleep.


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electrical patterns in a sleeping person’s brain, as well as the presence or absence of eye movements. The two main types of sleep are rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep


and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. On an EEG, REM sleep, often called “active sleep,” is identifiable by its characteristic low- amplitude (small), high-frequency (fast) waves and alpha rhythm, as well as the eye movements for which it is named. Many sleep experts


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