Yesterday a friend was telling me about how she was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety in her life lately. All her usual methods of relaxing were not working for her… So I said, “Oh, you should practice Yoga Nidra“. Her response was “What is Yoga Nidra about”?
Well, Yoga Nidra is one of the most powerful practices I have, so you can imagine how fun it was to share it with her… And now you.
What Is Yoga Nidra About?
Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice which invites your innate intelligence and clarity of awareness to rise to the surface of your consciousness. It's a systematic method for harnessing your innate wisdom. You've experienced it before: it's early morning, and you're just waking. The night before you were in the middle of a conundrum… But now you know exactly what to do.
During Yoga Nidra, you will experience yourself beyond the confines of your body as witnessing awareness, which is the realization of your true nature. All the while your body experiences profound relaxation and restoration.
Nidra means sleep. Yoga is to bring consciousness and awareness to all parts of your life, making it whole.
Loosely translated, it means ‘Yogic sleep'. Except it's a conscious sleep…as opposed to an unconscious sleep. You are deeply relaxed and “asleep”, but fully aware, expanded and conscious of what's happening to you.
The aim of Yoga Nidra is to induce profound relaxation in your body and mind, eliminate stress, solve interpersonal problems, promote health and ultimately realize the fundamental goal of yoga–freedom.
In our busy daily lives, our bodies and minds are always tensed up, full of anxiety and worry. What Yoga Nidra does is provide a way to let go of all the tension and surrender to the moment, or to your true inner self. You consciously learn to place your mind in deep rest so that you can pay attention to the wisdom of your inner self and subconscious mind.
Does it sound a little like meditation?
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Meditation Verses Yoga Nidra
Some people refer to Yoga Nidra as a form of meditation, which is partly true. Yet, what makes Yoga Nidra different from meditation is your point of focus.
When you meditate, you focus on a single point. The instruction is to tune out everything else and give your attention to just one thing.
Yoga Nidra is different because its main goal is to focus not on only on one thing, but several things in a specific laid-out pattern.
Even so, meditation and Yoga Nidra do share one common goal… Reaching a state of intense peace and equanimity.
Types of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra was pioneered by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from the Bihar school of yoga in the 1960s. After studying the tantric scriptures he started constructing a system of equanimity and tranquility for his students. Yet the concept itself started many years ago in ancient Hinduism and Buddhism.
Through the years Yoga Nidra has evolved, as each teacher continued to enhance the practice. There are hundreds of types of Yoga Nidra, and some are more widely practice than others, but again they all have the same objective which is intense peace and equanimity.
Yoga Nidra Benefits for Health and Wellness
Yoga Nidra is a powerful and safe meditation method to use for physical, emotional, and mental health.
Sympathetic Nervous System
Practicing this type of relaxed awareness enables you to become easier going and better equipped to handle stress. This is because when you consciously relax, you switch off the sympathetic nervous system. This is your flight-or-fight mode of self-preservation. It kicks in whenever you're faced with a stressful situation. If you're suffering from adrenal fatigue, chances are your “fight or flight” response is happening too often.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
When we switch off the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. The parasympathetic nervous system induces a state of relaxation by slowing the breath, heart rate, blood pressure, and glandular activity. This is your “rest and digest” mode of self-preservation. Moreover, when your body relaxes, blood vessels dilate and blood flow increases.
This state of restfulness also extends to your muscular system, which brings relief to aches and pains. After any sort of intense physical activity, your body is likely to feel tense as calcium ions seep into muscle cells resulting in pain. Doing Yoga Nidra helps to flush these chemical deposits providing relief for aching muscles.
Relaxing, accepting and opening to life trains the mind to become more focused and in tune with unseen forces. Yoga Nidra releases seated anxieties in the mind and reduces stress levels. Each one of us stores our fears and worries at a subconscious level. Practicing Yoga Nidra gives you the opportunity to release your fears from your unconscious mind so you are no longer shackled by them.
We go through our daily activities as mere observers, passive and out of touch. Yet, Yoga Nidra helps you connect to your heart, and what's true for you. This gives you the freedom to live your life more authentically, as who you really are. You feel more connected to yourself and everything that goes on around you, enabling you to be present in the unfolding moment.
In fact, perhaps the best benefit of Yoga Nidra is the ability to perceive differently and gain control of your mindset. You can train your mind to alter your entire outlook on life for the better.
According to Rod Stryker, the founder of Para-Yoga, and author of The Four Desires… The practice of Yoga Nidra allows you to view yourself in the most positive light.
Yoga Nidra Can Also:
- Boost immunity
- Improve depression
- Alleviate anxiety
- Chronic pain
- Chemical dependency
- PTSD in veterans
- Calms the nervous system
- Improve digestion
- Release negative thought and emotion patterns
- Improve sleep quality – (It's believed that a half an hour of practicing Yoga Nidra has the same health benefits as several hours of sleep)
- Help you develop mental willpower
- Can heal psychological wounds
- Gives you a sense of joy and well-being
- Deep relaxation for effective stress relief and management
- Spiritual awakening
- Heal from fear, grief, and anger
- Improve concentration, memory and brain function
How To Do Yoga Nidra
You just need a quiet, comfortable space free from distractions that you can lie down. Make sure your neck, low back, knees are supported. A light blanket is useful because your body will cool down and you don't want cold fingers or toes.
Yoga Nidra is practiced with either an audio recording, or with a teacher or facilitator who guides you through several levels or stages of concentration. Most recordings last 30 minutes on average… And even though 30 minutes may sound like a lot, you'll soon find out there's no better way to maximize your hidden potential, recharge, and re-align your body, mind and soul.
If you already have a regular physical workout routine or yoga practice, try ending it with a Yoga Nidra session.
Some people find that practicing Yoga Nidra at night helps them to drift into sleep. Find what works best for you. I like to practice in the evening after work to clear my headspace and get ready for sleep.
Guide to Yoga Nidra Meditation
Get comfortable – a blanket to keep you warm and, if possible a bolster for your low back and knees
Connect to your intention for the session – Bring to mind your deepest desire… Whatever you are aiming to create in life. Bring it to mind and then drop in down into your heart. Feel as if it were already true. Speak it out loud if possible. Then you will be asked to let go by engaging your power of surrender.
Becoming Aware of the Inside World
Be Aware of Your Body – Get in touch with your body, how you are feeling, what you are thinking. Notice anything you are taking in through one of your 5 senses… Then let them go.
Embrace Your Emotions – Yoga Nidra gives you the freedom to welcome all emotions within you, good and bad. Without changing anything or thinking about what others might say or think, appreciating all your emotions will give you a sense of inner quietness and composure.
Embrace Your Thoughts – Just as you witnessed your emotions, it's also important to welcome your thoughts, which include your memories and mental images. Even fleeting thoughts are vital and leave some kind of mark on your subconscious mind. Don't judge your thoughts or emotions, just notice them.
Be Aware of Your Breath – Picture your body breathing on its own. Notice how the air flows in and out through your nose, throat, lungs and diaphragm. Take slow relaxing breaths and sense the rhythmic movement of your belly rising and falling as each breath goes in and out. More importantly, feel how your breathing gives your body energy and life.
Yoga Nidra Begins
Countdown Breaths – Start with the number '40' and coordinate your breath counting backward to 1. Inhale while mentally saying 40, exhale '39'. The next inhale is '38', and the next exhale is '37'… Keep going till you get to 1. If you forget where you are, it's okay. You'll get the next cue from the instructor. Just feel yourself relaxing deeply with each exhale and you count from 40 to 1.
Progressively Relax Your Muscles – The audio instructions will guide you to consciously focus on different parts of your body. There are different sequences or progressions that take you from location to location within your body. Organs, muscles, joints, skin and more… Simply follow the instructions and go with it.
Bring in Light – As you move through the sequence, you will be prompted to imagine your awareness as a golden light touching each part of your body. It saturates your entire body, heart, and mind with golden soothing light. Finally, when you are filled, you send out that light to everyone you know… Family, friends, everyone you know and finally to all beings everywhere. Continue giving and receiving; let your sense of personal self-start to dissolve. Bask in the sensation.
Closing the Practice
Take some final Breaths – Bring your awareness back to your breath. Don't over think it, just experience the moment. Let your breath hold you. At this point, you may be asked to bring your intention back to your awareness on an in-breath, and let it go again on the out-breath. Return to your natural breath.
Close the Practice – Wiggle your fingers and toes. Start to move your body around. Notice where you are and the time. Do you feel energized and awake? Open and loving? Has your awareness changed? Open your eyes and come back to life.
Every one of us needs to learn how to relax. It's been proven that there are very few people who actually know how to fully unwind, let go and practice the art of relaxation. But relaxing doesn't come naturally to us. We need to teach ourselves how to do it and then practice it. As one of my teachers says “relaxation takes practice”.
Relaxation is a state. It is best achieved by using a technique that triggers it. As you come to know harmony, you are soon able to recall it instantly when you need it – In the middle of daily activities!
It can be done almost any time, so don't just read about it!
Below I've linked to 4 of my favorite Yoga Nidra audio recordings for your convenience.
Promise me you won't hesitate to ask me questions in the comment area below. I'm here to help you and want nothing more for you to be the healthiest version of yourself possible. Let me know if you need anything and I'll be sure to get back within “hours” most of the time.