Lucid Sleeping (Yoga Nidra)

Also known as Yoga Nidra, lucid sleeping is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. It is not the same as the similarly named "lucid dreaming", though the two can be easily confused, since the practices that lead to lucid sleeping can also generate lucid dreaming. What further confuses the issue is that, as opposed to being completely separate experiences in kind, the two states are actually only different in degree, existing as they do at opposite ends of a particular slice out of the spectrum of consciousness. Hence, lucid sleeping can "slide into" lucid dreaming and vice versa, a fact which can cloud the real difference between the two.

The distinguishing difference is the degree to which you remain cognizant of your actual physical environment as opposed to a dream environment. In lucid dreaming, we are only (or mainly) cognizant of the dream environment, and have little or no cognizance of our actual environment. Sounds or events in our actual environment may become translated into very different dream material and we will feel our bodies "moving" just as in normal dreaming. During lucid sleeping, on the other hand, we remain fully cognizant of our physical environment and of the actual content of sounds and other events, and likewise maintain a correct sense of the position of our bodies.

Hence, so-called "out of body" experiences are instances of lucid dreaming, even though we may have a sense of the room in which we are sleeping. Nevertheless, the sense of our body as moving in space is dream material, likely initiated by the activity of the propioceptive sensory organs influencing the subconscious mind. What "out of body" experiences nicely demonstrate is the fluid nature of the boundary between lucid sleeping and lucid dreaming, existing as they do at a point somewhere midway between the two.

On a final note, neither state is necessarily "deeper" than the other. That said, lucid sleeping can potentially be far deeper, given the kind of brain waves predominantly generated, than lucid dreaming. During any kind of dreaming, we are effectively blocked from the deepest states of relaxation by the generation of dream material, which occurs within a specific range of brain wave frequencies which are relatively high in comparison to those of deep sleep. While engaging in lucid sleep, on the other hand, we can consciously relax ourselves beyond that dreaming range of frequencies into the slowest range of deep sleep frequencies.

It is best to attempt this practice only after you have mastered 61 Points insofar as 61 Points is the easier of the two. It serves as a good way to learn how to navigate progressions of points through the body (there are nearly 150 points used in the following Lucid Sleeping exercise), and it also offers a stepping stone to the deeper relaxation you’ll experience with Lucid Sleeping.

It will also likely be necessary to stop practicing 61 Points altogether once you begin with Lucid Sleeping. The format of the concentration points is quite different. If you try to alternate the practices, you can become confused as to the correct progression of the points, which in turn can make you tense and unable to relax. Nor do you want to have to concentrate on remembering which point follows which, as this too will affect your ability to relax. Each point should follow effortlessly and automatically one after the other, with no need to try to remember which one comes next.

Of course, the first few times you do the exercise, you will need to make an effort to remember the format, so don’t expect to have a deeply relaxing experience right away. Once you know the format by memory, the deep relaxation will follow.

The practice is best done lying down on your back. You can place your hands by your sides palms up or else palms down upon your hips/lower belly. It’s best to use either no pillow or at most one low pillow beneath your head as your neck should remain fairly flat. Basically, try to be as comfortable as possible so you won’t have to move for the duration of the practice.

The progression through the points is quite different from 61 Points, both in the specific points used as well as what you do with each point. First off, you don’t count or imagine anything at each point. You simply come briefly to rest and then move on to the next point. Secondly, the pace is considerably faster with roughly one second spent at each point. Don’t time the movement with the breath. If you like, you can “hear” a silent, slow mantra such as “om”, with each repetition lasting roughly 8 seconds, which is to say 8 points.

It seems odd that a faster pace can lead to deeper relaxation. The reason is because a steady, slow rhythm is set up which can be very relaxing indeed. But this can only happen once the progression of the points is well memorized and comes automatically. So again, expect to spend some time just learning the progression before you can experience the deeper levels of relaxation.

Here is the progression of the points:

Right thumb
Right index finger
Right middle finger
Right ring finger
Right little finger
Right palm
Back of right hand
Outside right wrist
Inside right wrist
Inside right lower arm
Outside right lower arm
Outside right elbow
Inside right elbow
Inside right upper arm
Outside right upper arm
Outside right shoulder
Right armpit
Right side mid chest
Right side abdomen
Right side iliac crest
Right side between iliac crest and hipbone
Right hipbone
Crease at right side of groin
Front of right thigh
Back of right thigh
Back of right knee
Front of right knee
Front of right lower leg (shin)
Back of right lower leg (calf)
Outside right ankle
Inside right ankle
Top of right ankle
Right heel
Bottom center of right foot
Top center of right foot
Right large toe
Right second toe
Right third toe
Right fourth toe
Right little toe
[Repeat same progression for left side]
[Now you proceed down the front of the body]
Base of the front of the neck
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of upper chest
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of mid chest
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of lower chest
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of upper abdomen
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of mid abdomen
Simultaneously two points to each side
Navel
Simultaneously two points to each side
Center of lower abdomen
Simultaneously two points to each side
Upper pubis
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower pubis
Simultaneously two points to each side
Perineum
Simultaneously two points to each side
Anus
Simultaneously two points to each side
Tailbone
Simultaneously two points to each side
Mid sacrum
Simultaneously two points to each side
Top sacrum
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower mid back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Upper mid back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower upper back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Mid upper back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Upper upper back
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower back of neck
Simultaneously two points to each side
Middle back of neck
Simultaneously two points to each side
Upper back of neck
Simultaneously two points to each side
Lower back of head
Simultaneously two points to each side
Middle back of head
Simultaneously two points to each side
Upper back of head
Simultaneously two points to each side
Top of head
Down to center of head
Down to center of neck
Down to center of lower neck
Down to center of mid chest
Down to center of upper abdomen
Down to center of belly
Down to center of lower belly
Back to center of belly

At this point, rest your attention for a few moments at the center of your belly. Then imagine a plane that passes through the center of your belly dividing your upper body from your lower body. On the next exhalation, feel the plane pass down through your lower body to the soles of your feet, completely relaxing everything on the way through. On the inhalation, the plane returns to your belly and then, on the exhalation, passes up through your upper body to the top of your head, relaxing everything on the way through.

Now the plane turns on its side so that, still passing through your belly, it divides the right side of your body from the left side. On the next exhalation, feel the plane pass through the left side of your body, completely relaxing everything on the way through. On the inhalation, the plane returns to your belly and then, on the exhalation, passes through the right side of your body, relaxing everything on the way through.

Now the plane turns flat so that, still passing through your belly, it divides the top half of your body from the bottom half. On the next exhalation, feel the plane pass through the back half of your body, completely relaxing everything on the way through. On the inhalation, the plane returns to your belly and then, on the exhalation, passes through the front half of your body, relaxing everything on the way through.

At this point, you should be either fast asleep or else deeply relaxed. If you are still awake, just enjoy the sensations of deep relaxation, allowing yourself to go deeper and deeper, as deeply as you can.

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