What is Yoga Nidra and Why Should You Try It?
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Yoga Nidra, also known as “yogic sleep,” is an ancient form of relaxation that puts those practicing it into a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.
Yoga Nidra is a profoundly restorative practice involving relaxation techniques and visualization exercises designed to help people achieve complete physical peace and feelings of relaxation.
Unlike other meditation practices typically done seated or standing, Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down in a yoga pose (asana) called Shavasana or Corpse pose.
It is often described as a “meditation for non-meditators” because of its ease and effectiveness.
Unlock the Power of Deep Relaxation with Yoga Nidra
What Does Yoga Nidra Do?
The term “yogic sleep” is somewhat misleading regarding what we try to achieve in Yoga Nidra, as we’re not actually trying to go to sleep.
The purpose of Yoga Nidra is to reach the transitional state of consciousness that exists between wakefulness and sleep, called Hypnagogia.
During this state, our senses are withdrawn from the external world, and our conscious mind can explore and observe creative streams of thoughts and images that we typically only experience as we awaken or drift off to sleep.
How Does Yoga Nidra Work?
So how does it work, and what exactly is going on? As we transition from a state of wakefulness into a state of sleep, our brains move through different stages of brain waves.
During the progressive relaxation of Yoga Nidra, our brain wave activity undergoes a similar process.
Starting in an active state of beta waves (14-40hz), we then move into the more relaxed and thoughtless state of alpha waves (9-13hz).
From there, we move to a state of deep meditation, which is theta (3-8hz), and finally into the deep sleep waves of delta (1-3hz).
Hypnagogia, the state of consciousness we can achieve in Yoga Nidra, happens between the alpha and theta waves.
In this state, we are able to tap into the inner wisdom of the subconscious mind, access levels of deeper relaxation, and potentially overcome limiting beliefs and behaviors.
How to Prepare for Yoga Nidra
If you practice Yoga Nidra in a class with a teacher, most of the setup will be done for you. However, you will need to prepare if you are practicing Yoga Nidra from home using a pre-recorded script.
Before you start, wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that won’t feel restrictive.
As you relax and get closer to the ‘sleeping state’ of consciousness, your body temperature may begin to drop, so you could consider having a blanket at hand.
To ensure you’re in a comfortable position during practice, lie on a yoga mat, or rug with a pillow to support your head.
If you struggle with practicing whilst lying down in Shavasana, any relaxed position will do.
Finally, make sure your room is suitably dark with the curtains or blinds drawn. If this isn’t possible, you can practice in a sleep mask.
What Happens During a Yoga Nidra Session?
The structure of a Yoga Nidra practice may vary depending on the instructor and type of class, but they generally follow a similar format.
Most classes last between 20 and 40 minutes, although some may be longer or shorter.
Intentions / Sankalpa
A Sankalpa is an intention or a resolve that you will be asked to make at the beginning of the practice. This should be a specific intention that can relate to your personal growth or deepest desire.
Dont worry; you don’t have to share it with anyone.
Here are some examples:
- I will achieve total health
- I will awaken my spiritual potential
- I will let go of that which no longer serves me
- I will quit smoking
- I will find peace of mind
If you have difficulty coming up with a Sankalpa, start with something small that can help you build toward a more significant Sankalpa in the future.
During practice, you may be asked to repeat your Sankalpa to yourself multiple times silently.
Rotation of Consciousness
After you set your intentions, you’ll be taken through a body awareness exercise.
Unlike a traditional body scan meditation technique, where you spend time examining each area of the body for feelings and sensations, a Yoga Nidra body scan is rapid, rotating through the body repeatedly in quick succession.
A Yoga Nidra body scan also follows a particular order, starting with one of your thumbs and then moving through each individual part of your body until you end with your toes.
In the next section of the practice, you’ll be guided to become aware of the breath. This may involve counting down from a high number with each individual breath.
Often you’ll be asked to restart your count if you become distracted and lose count. This refocuses our mind after we’ve relaxed with the body scan, helping us avoid falling asleep.
Feelings and sensation
During this phase, you will be asked to focus on contrasting physical sensations, such as pain and pleasure or hot and cold.
These opposite sensations are not usually felt together in such a short period and stimulate different parts of the brain.
This stage of Yoga Nidra is critical in establishing new neural connections in the brain.
In the practice’s final phase, you’ll be led through a series of different visualizations designed to help you make contact with the unconscious mind.
This could be anything from being guided through a nature scene to visualizing your body’s chakras or aura.
There should be no effort on your part, but at the beginning, you may find that images take time to materialize.
In this case, avoid the temptation to focus on creating a visualization, allowing the sense to develop within you naturally.
You may wish to practice visualizing everyday objects and daily routines to build up your visualization strength.
With regular practice, you will find the introduction of static images much more accessible.
Ending/ Repeat Sankalpa
At the end of the session, you’ll once again be asked to repeat your Sankalpa before being brought back to wakefulness.
You may wish to spend a few extra minutes resting in Savasana, absorbing the sense of peace before you get up and carry on with your day.
I also advise keeping a pen/pencil nearby to jot down any images or thoughts that arise during the practice.
Unlock the Power of Deep Relaxation with Yoga Nidra
The Benefits of Yoga Nidra
The benefits of Yoga Nidra are vast and can help and can aid us in developing both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Yoga Nidra offers deep relaxation that can decrease anxiety by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
The body scan and breath awareness techniques calm the nervous system, improving health by allowing the body to rejuvenate by reducing stress.
Connecting with the sensations in your body through Yoga Nidra helps you become aware of the deep-seated bodily stress that you may have come to take for granted.
Yoga Nidra improves your emotional well-being and reduces depression and anxiety, leading to an increased sense of happiness and overall quality of life.
Improves Quality of Sleep
Yoga Nidra promotes physical and mental well-being through the restorative power of active rest.
By training your brain to relax through this process, you can learn to achieve deeper states of restful sleep for longer periods of time.
One of the most critical aspects of Yoga Nidra is the setting of Sankalpas (intentions).
By making positive steps towards achieving our goals and making our lives better, we build confidence that we can succeed in life and achieve our goals.
Yoga Nidra facilitates the ability to dive into the subconscious mind and deal with deep-seated trauma in a way that is not possible in our waking states.
An eight-week study examined the effectiveness of Yoga Nidra in improving the well-being of combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
All participants reported reduced rage and anxiety and increased feelings of peace, relaxation, and self-confidence
Stress and anxiety directly affect our memories by overwhelming our minds with negative emotions.
By reducing our stress, we free up space within our brains from negative thought patterns that impede our mental performance and memory.
Yoga Nidra is a form of NSDR (Non Sleep Deep Rest) that can trigger neuroplasticity, making it highly beneficial for learning and improving cognitive performance.
Practicing NSDR on the same day as learning something new or acquiring a new skill can speed up neuroplasticity and enhance your ability to absorb and retain new information.
As you delve into the restful states of a Yoga Nidra practice, you will become aware of how your thoughts come and go.
As your sense of internal awareness deepens, you will be able to apply this sense of mindfulness to your daily life.
Insight into the Nature of Consciousness
During Yoga Nidra, you will be working to connect with more profound levels of the mind, identifying how it works and what causes negative emotions and belief patterns that no longer serve us.
By gaining a deeper understanding of our conscious and unconscious thinking patterns, we can tap into more powerful ways to overcome long-held emotions that may be causing us harm.
Guidance From Within
The purpose of Yoga Nidra is to dive into the subconscious mind and receive guidance and insights directly from it.
These insights can help us improve our everyday lives, achieve our goals, and live a more fulfilled existence.
How to Get Started with Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra can either be practiced in a class led by a yoga teacher or at home with a pre-recorded audio track.
Even if you want to explore Yoga Nidra in a class, start a practice at home first.
This way, you can get used to the format, sensations, and experience of Yoga Nidra before practicing in a class with other people.
MindEasy’s five-part Yoga Nidra course is an excellent resource for both experienced practitioners and people looking to experience Yoga Nidra for the first time.
The course begins with a simple body scan and then introduces you to Yoga Nidra over the subsequent four sessions.
Each session builds on the last and is designed to take progressively further into the practice, open up your senses, and achieve more profound states of deep relaxation.
Unlock the Power of Deep Relaxation with Yoga Nidra
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a form of deep relaxation and meditation that originated in India and is derived from tantras.
It ain to create a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, in which the body is completely relaxed and the mind is aware and alert.
Yoga Nidra sessions involve visualizations and body awareness exercises that help to calm the mind and release tension.
According to the practice, it can promote physical, emotional, and mental healing, as well as reduce stress, improve sleep, and promote overall well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga Nidra?
The benefits of Yoga Nidra are numerous and wide-ranging, making it a popular form of relaxation and meditation practice. Some of the key benefits include:
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Yoga Nidra helps to calm the mind and release tension from the body, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
- Improving sleep: The deep relaxation achieved during a Yoga Nidra session can help improve the quality of sleep, leading to better overall health and well-being.
- Relieving physical pain: By relaxing the body and releasing tension, Yoga Nidra can help relieve physical pain, such as headaches, back pain, and other chronic pain conditions.
- Promoting emotional balance: Yoga Nidra helps to quiet the mind and promote emotional stability, leading to greater inner peace and happiness.
- Boosting concentration and mental clarity: The practice of Yoga Nidra helps to improve focus and mental clarity, making it a valuable tool for students, professionals, and anyone who wants to increase their productivity and effectiveness.
- Encouraging self-awareness and spiritual growth: By bringing the practitioner into a state of deep introspection, Yoga Nidra can help encourage self-awareness and spiritual growth.
Can Yoga Nidra Replace Sleep?
Yoga Nidra cannot replace sleep, but it can complement it and enhance sleep quality.
While sleep is essential for physical and mental restoration, Yoga Nidra can help to promote deep relaxation and calm the mind, leading to more restful and rejuvenating sleep.
Additionally, practicing Yoga Nidra before bed can help prepare the mind and body for sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
However, it is important to remember that sleep remains a crucial component of overall health and well-being, and that Yoga Nidra should be used to complement, not replace, adequate sleep.
How Do I Practice Yoga Nidra?
Practicing Yoga Nidra involves lying down or sitting comfortably in a quiet, relaxed environment and being guided through a series of visualizations, body awareness exercises, and intentions. Here are the basic steps to practice Yoga Nidra:
- Find a comfortable and quiet place to lie down or sit.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to help relax your mind and body.
- Start by becoming aware of your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to the top of your head.
- Follow the guidance of the teacher or recording, visualizing different images, repeating affirmations, and focusing on different parts of your body.
- Maintain a state of awareness throughout the practice, allowing thoughts and feelings to pass by without getting distracted or attached to them.
- Finish the practice by taking a few deep breaths and slowly bringing your attention back to your surroundings.
It is important to find a qualified and experienced teacher or use a high-quality recording that has been designed specifically for Yoga Nidra practice.
Additionally, it is recommended to practice Yoga Nidra regularly, at least once a week, in order to experience its full benefits.
How Long Should a Yoga Nidra Session Be?
The length of a Yoga Nidra session can vary, but typically ranges from 20 to 60 minutes. The duration of the session depends on various factors, such as the practitioner's experience and goals, the teacher or recording being used, and the specific form of Yoga Nidra being practiced.
For beginners, a shorter session of 20 to 30 minutes may be sufficient. As the practitioner becomes more experienced, they may choose to extend the duration of their sessions to 45 to 60 minutes in order to achieve a deeper level of relaxation and introspection.
It is important to listen to your body and adjust the length of your Yoga Nidra session as needed. The goal of the practice is to achieve a deep state of relaxation and introspection, not to push yourself to the limits of endurance.
If you find that you are not able to focus or relax during a longer session, try reducing the length or breaking the session into shorter segments.
Can Yoga Nidra Be Done at Any Time of Day?
Yoga Nidra can be done at any time of day, although some people find that it is most effective when practiced before bed or in the early morning.
The practice of Yoga Nidra is designed to promote deep relaxation and calm the mind, making it an ideal way to prepare for sleep or start the day with a sense of peace and clarity.
However, it is important to consider your personal sleep patterns and schedule when choosing a time to practice Yoga Nidra. If you have trouble falling asleep at night or tend to feel drowsy during the day, you may want to avoid practicing Yoga Nidra just before bed or in the late afternoon.
Ultimately, the best time to practice Yoga Nidra is when it fits into your schedule and allows you to relax and focus without being distracted. Find a time that works best for you and stick to a consistent schedule to help build a daily practice that supports your well-being.
Can Yoga Nidra Help With Sleep?
Yoga Nidra has been shown to be effective in promoting deeper and more restful sleep for many individuals. The practice of Yoga Nidra involves deep relaxation, visualization, and guided meditation, which can help to calm the mind, release tension, and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
These benefits can lead to improved sleep quality and a greater ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
However, it is important to note that Yoga Nidra should not be used as a replacement for other forms of sleep treatment or medication for sleep-related issues. If you are experiencing difficulty with sleep, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider who can recommend an appropriate course of treatment.
Additionally, practicing Yoga Nidra regularly, such as before bedtime or in the early morning, can help establish a routine and signal to your body that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This can help to improve the quality and duration of your sleep over time.
Is Yoga Nidra Similar to Meditation?
Yes, Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation. It is a form of guided meditation that involves deep relaxation and visualization, and its aim is to promote a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.
The practice of Yoga Nidra involves lying down and listening to a guided meditation, which can help to calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety.
Like meditation, the aim of Yoga Nidra is to promote relaxation, increase mindfulness, and improve overall well-being. However, the guided nature of Yoga Nidra makes it accessible to people of all levels of experience and physical ability, and its focus on deep physical and mental relaxation makes it unique compared to other forms of meditation.
So, while Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation in terms of its aim and methods, it is a distinct and comprehensive practice that offers a range of physical and mental benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and promoting overall well-being.
Is It Necessary to Have Prior Experience in Yoga or Meditation to Practice Yoga Nidra?
No, prior experience in yoga or meditation is not necessary to practice Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a simple and accessible practice that can be enjoyed by people of all levels of experience and physical ability.
It involves lying down or sitting comfortably and listening to a guided meditation, making it an ideal practice for those who are new to yoga or meditation or who may have physical limitations.
In fact, many people find that Yoga Nidra is an effective introduction to the practice of yoga and meditation, as it provides a gentle and supportive environment for exploring the mind and body.
By guiding the practitioner through a process of deep relaxation and visualization, Yoga Nidra can help to calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote overall well-being.
So, whether you are a seasoned yogi or a complete beginner, Yoga Nidra can be a valuable addition to your practice and a means of promoting physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.
Is Yoga Nidra Just Meditation?
Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation, but it is not just meditation. It is a comprehensive practice that incorporates elements of yoga, mindfulness, and guided visualization, as well as deep physical and mental relaxation.
The aim of Yoga Nidra is to promote a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, known as the hypnagogic state, where the mind is highly receptive to positive suggestion and visualization.
In a typical Yoga Nidra session, the practitioner is guided through a series of mental and physical practices, including body scanning, visualization, and affirmations, with the aim of promoting deep relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.
Unlike other forms of meditation, Yoga Nidra is typically practiced lying down, making it accessible to people of all physical abilities.
So, while Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation, it is a unique and comprehensive practice that offers a range of physical and mental benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and promoting overall well-being.
What Does Yoga Nidra Do to the Brain?
Yoga Nidra has a number of positive effects on the brain. The practice of Yoga Nidra involves a combination of deep physical and mental relaxation, visualization, and guided meditation, which can help to stimulate and balance different areas of the brain.
During a Yoga Nidra session, the brain waves slow down, promoting a state of deep relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.
This can also help to improve sleep and overall well-being. Additionally, the visualization and affirmations used in Yoga Nidra can help to rewire the brain and promote a more positive outlook and improved self-esteem.
Research has also shown that the practice of Yoga Nidra can stimulate the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that promote feelings of relaxation and calm, such as cortisol, GABA, and melatonin.
By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, Yoga Nidra can also improve mental and physical health, as well as overall cognitive function.
So, by combining deep relaxation, visualization, and guided meditation, Yoga Nidra can help to balance and stimulate the brain, reducing stress and anxiety and promoting physical and mental well-being.
MindEasy founder & meditation teacher
Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.