The Power of Story in Yoga Nidra
~ Swami Premajyoti Saraswati ~
Derived from Tantra, Yoga Nidra is a systematic form of deep relaxation that actively fosters profound physical, mental, and emotional relaxation.
It has been shown to decrease stress, release past trauma, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, and increase overall sense of health and well-being. Yoga Nidra enhances creativity and creates conditions for people to find their own solutions to issues through access to higher wisdom and intuition.
Within the sequential structure of Yoga Nidra, participants are guided through the Koshas – layers of perceived reality and into the area known as the Vijnanamaya Kosha. It is here that visualizations are presented in order to stimulate and provide space for observing the manifestations of subconscious mind.
Presenting a story visualization in this arena provides a potent opportunity for release and growth in awareness. This is a stage where brainwave patterns move into Theta and may transform into Delta (if the Yoga Nidra state itself is achieved).
Inviting visualization in the form of a carefully constructed narrative in this part of the Yoga Nidra holds potent potential for expansion, creativity and healing.
There are several psychological reasons why stories in general are so powerful.
Throughout history, and across cultures, story-telling has been an ancient tool for the guiding of awareness.
Stories have always been a primal form of communication. They hold timeless links to ancient traditions, legends, archetypes, myths, and symbols – and they connect us to a higher self and universal truths.
Stories mirror how we think. Their structure assists us to make meaning in our lives. Whether they are termed schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives, stories promote the understanding of our place in the world. As communities, stories help us to define and teach social values.
The Commonality between these approaches to educating and inspiring consciousness is that the most important messages are implicit, not explicit. And the messages are often held in metaphor.
Stories that are completely explicit tend to wash over us, since there is no meaning-making required as the listener or viewer of the story, and no space to engage the imagination.
In a Yoga Nidra Journey, we offer a landscape for practitioners to interact with and a space for the making, remaking, viewing and reviewing of meaning. It is a space for imagination to be activated. This requires spaciousness within the narrative of the story allowing for deeper shifts in consciousness – and it requires an artistry with metaphor
We are actually wired to respond to stories. Stories play out in the imagination, yet imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses. This allows us to explore our relationship to themes, characters and events without the real-life implications while retaining a sense of the experience.
This aspect of human consciousness was studied at Princeton University
“In agreement with previous work, the story evoked highly reliable activity in many brain areas across all listeners.”
“Communication is a shared activity resulting in a transfer of information across brains. The findings shown here indicate that during successful communication, speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibit joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.”
The speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibited joint, temporally coupled, response patterns. So what does this actually mean?…
It was found that when people listen to a well-told story, the exact same areas of the brain light up on an MRI for both the storyteller and listener. The brain of the listener mirrors the brain of the storyteller.
So, when listening to a well told story, the listener’s brain responds as if they were actually experiencing it. This experience is created through imagination within the narrative space of the story.
When imagination is engaged, we become participants in the story. We can observe as well as participate, view things differently, and increase empathy for others. When we purposefully engage the imagination, we tap into creativity that is the foundation of innovation, self-discovery, expansion and change.