AHYMSIN newsletter, issue - May 2011  

After 3 Years of Yoga Nidra

by Riccardo Valdettaro

2007-2010---inizio 15/16 febbraio 2010
di Riccardo Valdettaro

My psycho-physical condition:

When I was born my head got stuck in my mother’s cervix and for a while I could not breathe. I had a high fever after the birth. The doctors called this status *Cerebral Palsy*.

Cerebral refers to the affected area of the brain, the cerebrum (however the centres had not been perfectly localized and the disorder most likely involves connections between the cortex and other parts of the brain
such as the cerebellum).  Palsy refers to disorder of movement.

CP is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the young developing brain . It is a non-progressive disorder, which means that the brain damage does not worsen, but secondary orthopaedic difficulties can appear with time.

There is no known cure for CP. Medical intervention is limited to the treatment and prevention of complications arising from the effects of this sickness.

Before telling you my practice and what I have obtained from it, I want to write down the theory upon which my sadhana is based on and which I am practicing 24 fours a day, which is the sadhana that I have started in the beginning of the year, 2007, joining the Himalayan Institute of Italy here in Florence.

The Theory of My Sadhana

First of all I shall describe the important points of my program and then I shall go into what I have gotten from them.

  1. Sit in meditation every day, at the same hour, to create new models, new grooves or habits in the mind. This is done by substituting one thought and one samskara at a time(aggiunto 07.02.2010)
  2. Practice self-inquiry with oneself inside one's mind, daily. It should be a Self-dialog.
  3. Develop a steady posture for meditation, still, firm and comfortable.
  4. Learn to breathe serenely, with no jerk and, in due time, without a break.
  5. Develop a way of cultivating a sankalpa or determination. In doing yoga, the first aspect to realize is full discipline to your practice, which brings you inevitably to the consolidation of your will. Before doing anything, you should form a conviction that you shall do it, that you have to do it, that you are going to do it, and that you can do it. This creates determination, and this point is very important in my, and I think in everybody's, daily life, and not only when one practices.
  6. Learn to let go of every thought that gets into your mind and distracts you: it should not stay there. You should not think over and over on the same thought in particular, either if it is good or bad. You see, if you prick yourself with a needle, it hurts. But if you don't keep on thinking it hurts, the feeling will not be there. And this method you can use with bigger body injuries, mental woes etc.
  7. This is examination of your thoughts, called self-inquiry. This means to observe which are one's thoughts and determine whether to keep on them or not. The yogic manuals talk of aklishta and klishta thoughts. The first one is useful and the second one is not useful, but is harmful. You have to examine your thoughts to determinate which ones help you and which are to be eliminated.
  8. After self-inquiry, the next practice is witnessing. When you have learned to witness worldly things, in the moment you do not identify yourself with them, you are then at an advanced stage on the path of yoga.

I’m putting in the following excerpt to inspire myself for an eventual goal in life:

Excerpt From A Life Of A Yogi

(I put this excerpt to give hope to those who like me practice yoga not only for the attainment of the self. It is from the life of Ramana Maharshi)

“But it was not only submission to regulations; it was submission to all the conditions of life and to pain and sickness which taught us silently that pain cannot disturb the equanimity of one who abides in the Self. Throughout the long and painful sickness that finally killed his body, he submitted loyally, one after another, to the doctors who were put in charge, never complaining, never asking for a change of treatment. If ever there was any inclination to try a different treatment, it was only so that those who recommended it should not be disappointed: and even then it was made dependent on the consent of the Ashram authorities. If there is a tendency today to regard submission as spiritless, it is only because egoism is regarded as natural. In itself, but for the Grace of Bhagavan, it would be the most inaccessible to modern man on account of its very simplicity and directness; and yet it is the most accessible, and in many cases the only accessible path, from the contingent point of view, since, because of its very directness, it requires no ritual or forms of worship, no priesthood or congregation, no outer signs or special observances, but can be practiced in the workshop or kitchen or city office as well as in the monastery or hermitage.”

“In the same impersonal way a man can attend to all the affairs of life, knowing that he, the real Self, is unaffected by them; and every attack of greed, anger or desire can be dispelled by self-inquiry, vichara. It must be dispelled, because it is no use repeating that one is the Self and acting as though one were the ego. Real, even partial, awareness of the Self weakens egotism: egotism, whether expressed as vanity, greed or desire, is a proof that recognition of the Self is merely mental.”

The Philosophy Of My Sadhana

The above stages, which are the groundings of beginning Yoga Practice constitute the basis of my sadhana, which I started the beginning of 2007 at the Himalayan Institute of Florence in Italy.

I think it is useful to go into some details: I started like everybody starts trying to sit still, trying to breathe continuously, in-breath, out-breath, etc. taking care to watch the touch of the air at the larger, moist, lower nostrils to begin to focus my awareness on the gift that life gives us all, breath.

In the beginning my sickness would not let me sit still. Above all, it was my left foot and my left hand and arm which would not let me put my attention on the practice. The more I wanted to sit still, the more they designed chaotic dystonic figures in the air. The left side of the body ached, due to my silliness to force the body to sit still. And, moreover, I had a shallow breath which made my anxiety grow more than it normally was.

When I was a small boy I always was afraid of other people, even in my own family. This anxiety grew deep inside, so even now there is an unconscious fear when I try to do my daily meditation which comes out again.

The following exercise was even more difficult. Introducing in the breath awareness the universal mantra soham, the mantra that is given to beginners which mimes the breath (“ham” when one exhales, “so” when one inhales), the first thing that happened was that I started gasping.

Again I made the silly mistake to force the practice, until I was too tired to go on.

In the first three months my practice lasted no more than ten to twelve minutes.

But I had one thing on my side, my sankalpa!  I DID NOT GIVE UP! And I repeated it more and more “I DON’T WANT TO GIVE UP AND I SHALL NOT GIVE UP!”

This is the philosophical basis to my still young sadhana which will bring you very, but very far in whichever your goal in Yoga is, be it kaivalya, be it samprajnata samadhi, or what else.

But I had some luck: I literally fell in love with a yoga practice, yoga-nidra. I read something about it, but the important thing was that I bought a good CD, which dictates the practice, and immediately started practicing. I found and thought “this must be my main practice” and so I did it night and day, sitting, lying on the floor or when it was cold at night in my straight bed.

I won't go into the details of the practice, because every good teacher should know it. But only two words I shall say: In the beginning the practice seems like a very long shavasana, and “in some way at the very beginning” it is: it is a relaxation practice, at a first glimpse. The impression is not exact, because one very soon finds out with the 61 point practice, the shithili karana, (or relaxation through breathing with the whole body, which is a very effective technique to relax the body from the crown of the head to the toes), are techniques which go many steps further than shavasana, in one way, and turn out to be a very different practice, in another way.

It is pratyahara.

The essential point is that it is very easy to fall asleep. In yoga nidra one should not fall asleep, but rather remain in a deep sleep while completely awake! It is a “conscious rest”, which the raw theory says is a sister to Meditation.

They say “it is one level below samadhi”. That is why it has many levels and if one has never been in samadhi, like the writer, when one has a glimpse into it, i.e. yoga nidra, it sure is a wonderful experience!

The yoga nidra practice started giving me positive results doing it.

First of all, the left side of the body slowly began to quiet down, as did the dystonic movements. Then, within the time of about one year, I started sleeping less, a gain of 4 four more waking hours. I was amazed and literally out of myself with joy!

Now, when I do svadhyaya, either studying scriptures or doing japa of my mantra, sometimes I just forget that I have a lame body!

My sankalpa, which is to ever refine the practice of yoga nidra with the help of God and Guru, has been the most important thing I ever did, because it empowers ever so much my activity in my whole life, and I'm learning to use it daily for a wide variety of actions, obviously changing it duly.

My goal is to teach this practice to pregnant women who expect a baby who is sick like me or, who is perfectly in good health, so that baby may lead a better life, either practicing yoga (that would be great, starting practice at a few months of life!) or not!

This sadhana went on until what comes now. That is to say, from now on I may use the sadhana that follows.

27 January 2010
Upgrade Of My Sadhana by Dr. Stoma Parker

Today Stoma came to my place and we put together the following sadhana. It is going to be followed, as this self-dialog will witness, until it will be changed.

To begin with, what is written below is my sadhana where

  1. 1. “Y N Meditation 2” is my daily meditation. It shall be soon established at what time and how many times it shall be done. It is a meditation done by Swamiji Veda Bharati which “in a way” talks about the yoga nidra practice to yourself, making the practice interiorized.
  2. 2. Yoga Nidra Practice as below:
    • Resolve in your mind, before you begin, not to sleep. If you do fall asleep, just stop the exercise and return to it the next day. (Don’t labor away at trying not to sleep.)
    • Regular relaxation exercise to begin.
    • 61 points
    • shithili-karana  (point-to-point breathing).
    • Breath awareness at ajna-chakra (5-10 breaths), vishuddha-chakra (5-10 breaths), then sink your awareness into anahata-chakra with no object of concentration (no thought, no mantra), just feeling the breath, until the body heaves (to heave = emettere un sospiro di pieno rilassamento = to emit a breath of deep and full relaxation that happens involuntarily) a spontaneous sigh. That is your signal that you are finished.
    • Contemplation:
      So’ham”, “I am That,” is almost the same as “aham brahmasmi”, “I am Brahman.”

    3. Physical sadhana:

    • treadmill
    • mental joints and glands
    • whatever mental postures you want to try and that feel good and helpful
    • where it is difficult to feel inside parts of the body (e.g. in your hands), use anatomical diagrams to create a visual map and then practice extending feeling into the visual map. With your hands, put the latex glove on, contemplate the feeling of wearing the glove and then visualize wearing your body with a similar feeling. You could even practice drawing the visual map on the surface of the glove.
    • japa of my mantra in which I was initiated in the Himalayan Tradition, whose Sadguru is Swami Rama, on the 22 October 2007 by Swamiji Veda Bharati.

— Two words about atma-tattva-avaloklanam:  “Do it!!” Practice trying to feel the being that you share even with inanimate objects. (Also other people.) Do this especially when your mind is still and peaceful, e.g. after a period of meditation or yoga-nidra practice. The sign that the awareness is coming is a fine, subtle sense of joyfulness that rises in your mind.

Journal exercises:

  • Consider writing down some of the dialogues with your mind. (Where criticism of self or others is an issue, look at the website of Byron Katie, - just Google it.)
  • Each day make sure to note at least one moment of beauty, joy or wonder that struck you so that you cultivate the habit of seeing beauty in addition to problems.
  • Track the results of your visualization experiments with relaxation and also with japa.

— End of the sadhana for the coming period

Editor’s note: Himalayan Yoga Institute Italia in Florence is an AHYMSIN affiliated center.  This is their website: