Yoga Nidra For Sleep
What is Yoga Nidra, and how will it improve my quality of sleep?
Yoga Nidra is an ancient tantric practise designed to bring about a potent and deep sense of relaxation.
Although we may find the day to day forms of relaxation like watching tv, reading a book or even have a massage incredibly relaxing our minds and body are still engaged at some level.
The purpose of Yoga Nidra is to guide the mind in a Hypnagogic State that brings a complete sense of calm and stillness to mental, physical and emotional systems.
Yoga Nidra pioneer Swami Satyananda Saraswati described it as “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.”
What Happens In Yoga Nidra?
When practising Yoga Nidra you are guided by your instructor through all four brain wave patterns – beta, alpha, theta and delta.
Eventually, you will arrive in a state that is somewhere between wakefulness and sleeping, where lucid thoughts blend with the dreaming mind, allowing us to make contact with the subconscious.
The guided meditation begins by examining the active mind that occurs with beta waves (14-40Hz) and takes us through into alpha waves (9-13Hz) that typically brings about feelings of relaxation and thoughtlessness.
Once you reach the theta wave state (4-7.5Hz), your thoughts begin to slow down to around 3-5 thoughts per second. You’ll recognise this state if you’ve ever been transfixed in a task and found that you’ve totally lost track of time. In this mindset, people are very prone to a free flow of ideas, and it’s typically seen as a very positive mental state.
The final brainwave state you’ll reach is delta (1-3Hz), here the brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency. This is the restorative state your body put you into when you sleep, the stress hormone cortisol drops to its lowest levels and organs are allowed to regenerate.
When we suffer from insomnia or broken sleep its unlikely that we get the opportunity to achieve the healing benefits of theta and delta, however, with Yoga Nidra, these states are available to us on demand.
The Science Behind Yoga Nidra
There has been plenty of research done to back up the claims made by Yoga Nidra enthusiasts. By using fMRI machines, scientists can scan the brain waves patterns of people whilst practising Yoga Nidra.
Dr Amander Hull, a researcher for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, involved in the treatment of PTSD has integrated Yoga Nidra in the VA hospital structure.
There has also been research taken by the John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. After eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practitioners reported “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity”
How Yoga Nidra Improves Sleep
Although the purpose of Yoga Nidra isn’t supposed to leave the user fast asleep like a sleep story or a guided sleep meditation, the state of deep relaxation that you’ll find yourself in will very conducive to getting a good nights rest.
On top of that, in each session you’ll be training your brain to power down into these states so that you’ll be able to reach them better when you do go to sleep.
How to Practice Yoga Nidra
The good news is anybody can try Yoga Nidra; it’s one of the most effortless meditations to practice as you don’t even need to sit up to do it.
Put time aside; Most Yoga Nidra sessions last for at least 30 mins, so it’s best to choose a time when you know you won’t have any interruptions. It’s also good to have a bit of time afterwards to reflect on your feelings. Obviously, before bed is perfect.
Choose a space; Although it might seem it seem like a good idea to practice whilst in bed, the purpose of Yoga Nidra is to relax but not to fall straight to sleep. For this reason, it’s recommended that you lay on a firm surface, like the floor, with a pillow under your head. This will promote alertness but also allow to fall into a deep state of relaxation.
That’s all you need, simply play the guided meditation and your teacher will do the rest.