Last night we talked a little about how important Yoga Nidra is, particularly at the beginning of the class.
When we lead our Yoga Nidra (which means yoga sleep which in reality really means becoming awake) the objective of is to help our students find their internal point of stillness by carefully combining body, breath and mind into a single place and moment. This brings on a very deep and profound relaxed state, which will impact on every level of the mind/body field. As the body is the only part of us that ‘appears’ present, in the here and now, it is the focus for many deep relaxation techniques.
When we practice our postures we become conscious of just how stiff and tense we are. Many of us unknowingly hold parts of our bodies in tension all of the time. Even when we are asleep the body maintains the tension. Holding tension is something that we don’t notice until something goes wrong and we begin feel tired, tense and anxious. Learning to relax means becoming aware of where these areas are and how we can change them.
The intention of our YLP Nidra at the beginning of the class is to help our students build a portal or threshold into the now. Moment-by-moment we lead their attention from the outside world and the day’s events to the here and now of the yoga studio, on the mat. It’s a combination of deep relaxation and stillness allied with underlying experience of potential and intention.
Scientific research on Yoga Nidra reports an increased endogenous dopamine release in the ventral striatum  a finding accompanied by a reported “decrease desire for action.” Its also known that expressions of loving-kindness, a sense of connectedness, and feelings of trust and cooperation have all shown to produce increased activity in the ventral striatum.
This is why yoga nidra is a vital practice. If we skip it or don’t give it the importance it deserves then we are really not practicing yoga. We are simply just lying down.
Which is okay but its not yoga!
 Kjaer, T. W., Bertelsen, C., Piccini, P., Brooks, D., Alving, J., and Lou, H. C. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Brain Res. Cogn. Brain Res. 13, 255–259.
 In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and most addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity. Other brain dopamine pathways are involved in motor control and in controlling the release of various hormones. These pathways and cell groups form a dopamine system which is neuromodulatory. Wikipedia
 The ventral striatum is closely associated with decision-making, risk, and reward, in addition to suppressing certain actions in the limbic system. It primarily mediates reward cognition, reinforcement, and motivational salience. Dopamine is its most vital neurotransmitter; thoughts of gain (monetary, emotional, or otherwise) will increase dopamine in the ventral striatum, whereas thoughts of loss decrease dopamine. Wikipedia