Astral Projection is also known as an OBE (Out of Body Experience) this is where the spirit/consciousness temporarily leaves the physical body. Some people would argue that Astral Projection and OBES are different. Astral Projection being able to travel to other worlds, OBES being limited to the earth plane, but from my experiences there is no difference. The astral plane is not a place as we know it, but a higher vibration of existence, so if you're out of your body, then you're out of your body and what you decide to do while you're out is up to you.
So in reality Astral Projection and OBEs are the same, an OBE is the name given to a spontaneous experience, it just seems to happen so to speak, where as Astral Projection is a forced experience, you make it happen by using various techniques. People often confuse dreams of flying with an OBE, you will know when you have had a real OBE because you will often feel a buzzing sensation and when your spirit/consciousness returns to the physical body you will feel a jolt like an electric shock, the intensity of this jolt will vary depending on your own biological makeup. Although dreams of flying can be used to trigger an OBE especially if it's a lucid dream.
OBES (a spontaneous experience) are generally unpleasant experiences this is due to the nature of the vibration differences in the physical and spiritual realms. When we leave our bodies we are entering into a higher vibration and we are not used to this vibration, although this will bring no harm to you please use a protection exercise before you start, it can be quite frightening, it was for me when first tried it. Fear can actually stop you from experiencing an OBE, I still get scared when it happens although not so much as I used to. Astral Projection (a forced experience) is not so unpleasant, although the feelings are the same they are a lot more subtle, but can still vary in intensity depending on the individual. The reason these are not so unpleasant is because they are gradual and the vibration adjustment is gradual unlike an OBE where you're suddenly out of your body and haven't had the time to adjust to the vibrations, thus making them more intense and unpleasant.
When you first start to leave your body you may experience a heavy feeling, weights on your chest, shaking, buzzing sensations, a buzzing in your ears and some strange noises like the banging of doors or the sound of a drum beating, these are known as "Sonic Booms" and although can be scary cannot harm you. I'm not really sure why these noises occur, my guess is because you are leaving you body you are entering into another level of vibration, a much higher vibration than the physical world and your hearing is picking sounds from the spiritual dimensions. You may find also you will hear whispering voices and other strange sensations, again you may not experience any of these things as we are all different and experience things differently, these are the most common signs indicating an OBE.
Seeing your physical self while you are out is also sometimes reported, but with real astral projection/OBEs it's not actually as common as people think, although this depends a lot on the individual and how they perceive when they are out simply due to the vibration differences. If you're out of your body and your spiritual self is tuned in to the lower vibrations of the earth plane then you may see your physical body, if this is the case then you should see your room exactly as it appears. Seeing your physical self is more common in lucid dream state, but the lucid dream state is useful for astral projection so they can work hand in hand. You can read more about lucid dreams on the dreams page.
Some people report seeing a silver cord during an OBE, but I must admit I have never seen this cord or anything that resembles a cord all the times I have had OBE`s, but they are mentioned a lot in various books/writings on the subject. The interesting thing here is that those people who have read about the cord prior to having their first OBE seem to be the only ones that report seeing a cord, where as people who haven't read about the cord prior to having their first OBE don't report seeing a cord, with this in mind it would suggest that the cord is a subconscious influence and is coming from their own mind rather than it physically or should I say "spiritually" being there.
Another point to cover is sleep paralysis, this is where your mind suddenly becomes awake during deep sleep, your mind is awake yet your body is still asleep and you're unable to move. Our bodies become unable to move every time when we are deep asleep, this is to stop us from acting out our dreams, although not in all cases which is why you hear of sleep walking. Once we are aware we are in this state it can cause an OBE simply by shock and panic, when we panic we try to move but we cant so our spirit self tries to compensate by adjusitng, thus taking you out of your body.
How To Astral Project
There are many methods to Astral Projection and some are quite dangerous. I will give two methods to Astral Project, these are my own techniques that I developed for my self and are very easy and effective. The first one requires no visualization at all and is probably the best one to start with as it brings your head out of body first. The second one is a visualization method. Some people say that you need to be naked to Astral Project but that is NOT necessary, some people also report of seeing a silver cord which connects the astral body to the physical one, I personally have never seen this cord and often this cord is only seen after people have been told about it or read about it somewhere prior to having an OBE, so don't panic is you don't see it.
You should not attempt these exercises if you suffer from epilepsy. Always perform a protection exercise before you start, you may have your own protection methods to use or there is a protection exercise on the Psychic Protection Page.
Method 1: Head Technique Find a safe place where you can lay down and won't be disturbed, you can use incense if you wish although not necessary. When you've got yourself comfortable put you arms by your side and legs uncrossed and lay completely still, even if you have an itch, leave it. Next tilt your head to one side , you may have to experiment with this, I use the right side. Tilt your head to one side only slightly so it feels just a little bit uncomfortable, there is a reason for this. The reason is when you're laying completely still with your head slightly to one side for quiet a while the body tries to straighten your head to make you more comfortable, this is where the trick comes in, you need to fight this, although your body is trying to straighten your head, don't let your head straighten.
This in effect after a while will cause the astral body to straighten up, now because your head is to one side the astral body is straightening and thus your head will be outside your body. After this has occurred you may feel slightly disoriented and may feel your body start to vibrate and shake slightly, this is the beginning of an OBE. Also you may start to feel as if your body is starting to roll over on its side, you need to fight this too, this is the same as your head being straightened, the astral body is trying to roll you over to compensate for the head, thus in effect will bring your whole body out. You may find that you don't get any further than your head, but that's ok it took me a while.
This is another trick you can use to enhance the experience. Because the astral body contains some magnetic energy try moving your bed in different positions, for example lets say your bed is facing West feet first, thus when you tilt your head to the right, the astral body is being pulled out by the magnetic energy of the north pole. You can also place a magnet on your forehead this can also help with clairvoyance, I know it may sound silly but it works. Method 2: Hammock Swinging Again find a safe place where you can lay down and won`t be disturbed, this technique simply involves visualization. All you need to do is imagine yourself swinging in a hammock (you can use a real hammock if you wish just close your eyes while laying in the hammock and swing it gently) This has the same affect has the head trying to straighten except after a while your whole body will just leave. This technique is similar to the " Whirling Dervishes" the Dervishes, also known as the Mevlevi Order, are Sufis, a spiritual offshoot of Islam. They are a group of people who use spinning around to achieve altered states of consciousness and OBEs. Even fair ground rides can produce similar effects.
An easier way to explain this is, if you're running along a road or field then suddenly stop, your astral body carries on for a short while, thus momentarily leaving the body, maybe this is why people who are involved in car accidents experience OBEs, their astral bodies are shocked out.