What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra literally means sleep yoga. This doesn’t necessarily mean you fall asleep while doing this ancient yoga practice, because that is not the intention. The practice is done is a wakeful state in between waking and sleeping and usually takes place through a guided sequence. Essentially, the body is falling asleep while your mind stays awake. You will begin in savasana pose and a voice will guide you and ask you to keep your attention on various areas of the body. The typical “body scan” will address the following:
- Feet and legs
- Hands and arms
- Head and neck
There are some example recordings and podcasts I mention below for you to try it out. I use yoga nidra both as a one-off meditation session as well as before going to sleep when my anxiety runs very high. I usually can go right to sleep, but when my anxiety creeps in and there is nothing I can do to keep my mind focused, I will turn to yoga nidra and it is my number one fail proof sleep and anxiety aid.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Decreases stress and anxiety by providing deep relaxation
Increases dopamine levels in the body
Better sleep and helps you fall asleep faster
Has been used by the US military to help PTSD
Has been used successfully to treat chronic pain
Balances out blood pressure and heart rate
Helps with abdominal pain by accessing the parasympathetic nervous system
Your Brain on Yoga Nidra
It is said that just 45 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent of three hours of sleep. What happens is the brain goes from the active, wakeful “beta” state into the more calm “alpha” state where serotonin levels increase in the body. Even further, it may go from alpha into “deep alpha” and “theta” which is REM sleep, and then finally the states of “delta” (still a deep sleep) and “turiya” (consciousness).
Note: Yoga nidra is part of the prathyahara limb of the eight limbs of yoga in that it’s about turning inward and withdrawal of the senses to gain a mastery over external influences. This strengthens the mind and helps in meditation. By not looking to the outside world, you are able to look inward.
Examples below include free and paid options. You should also be able to find an in-person yoga nidra class at a local yoga studio by searching on Google.