Over the last decade, Yoga Nidra has rapidly risen in popularity, appealing to a wide range of people, from spiritual seekers and wellness enthusiasts to athletes and veterans. This is mainly for two reasons; one, the healing practice has tonnes of benefits, and two, it’s accessible to all.
The ancient yogic practice has proven so effective that many doctors have begun prescribing it to patients diagnosed with various disorders such as stress or insomnia. So, Yoga Nidra may be the answer, whether you are looking for a way to unwind at the end of the day, improve your sleep, or increase your focus and productivity at work.
Plus, as one of the easiest yoga practices, you can enjoy the benefits even if you’re working with injuries, chronic pain, or physical tension. So let’s dive in and discuss eight ways this practice could change your life.
- 1 What is a Yoga Nidra practice?
- 2 8 benefits of yogic sleep
- 3 How To Practice Yoga Nidra
- 4 Final thoughts
What is a Yoga Nidra practice?
Before we reveal why you should start this transformational practice, let’s discuss what Yoga Nidra actually is.
Many people assume that Yoga Nidra is a style of meditation, but this is not the most correct definition. Nidra is a guided deep relaxation practice specifically designed to take you into deep states of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.
However, the practice is similar to meditation in many ways as it is internal, drawing your attention inward. Still, one key difference is that Yoga Nidra is performed laying down in savasana (corpse pose), unlike meditation, which is usually done seated or sometimes while walking.
Nidra is a Sanskrit word for sleep; therefore, the name translates to “yogic sleep.” While it has only become popular in the western world in the last century, yogic sleep is an ancient practice originating from India. The method was first mentioned. in various Hindi texts, such as the Upanishads, then newer yogic texts explained it in further detail.
The name can also confuse new yoga practitioners, as it suggests it is a yoga asana style. While you won’t find any movement in this practice, it is still a form of Yoga as it is linked to Samadhi, the eighth limb of Yoga.
8 benefits of yogic sleep
If you’ve heard about Yoga Nidra before, you may have come across claims that Yoga Nidra slows down our brain waves or treats insomnia. Let’s explore the top eight benefits of Yoga Nidra and learn how such a practice can have profound effects.
It promotes better sleep and combats insomnia
If you struggle with falling asleep at night or wake up frequently, Yoga Nidra could be highly beneficial for you. We often struggle to fall asleep at a reasonable time because our minds are busy with thoughts and anxieties.
Yoga Nidra works by calming the mind, body, and nervous system so that you enter a deep relaxation and sleep-like state and thus can fall asleep quicker. It does this by slowing the brain waves. During the day, our brains are usually in a Gamma state of problem-solving and concentration or a Beta state of alertness.
A Yoga Nidra session evokes an Alpha state of rest and reflection. It then brings you into a Theta state, which is a sleep and dream state where your breathing and heart rate slow down.
What’s incredible about Yoga Nidra is that the more you do it, the more profound the benefits will become. So doing Nidra every night will allow your brainwaves to slow quicker, and you may notice your sleep patterns become more regulated.
Because Yoga Nidra brings you into a deeper state of relaxation than you are used to, you will find that it improves your sleep quality, too. So, if you often experience sleep disturbances, doing a Nidra practice before bed can significantly increase your chance of staying asleep and getting deep rest. Because of this, the method benefits anyone suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia.
For the same reason, practicing Yoga Nidra is effective for those experiencing sleep deprivation, like new mothers. Some people claim that one hour of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent to 4 hours of sleep, but there is very little scientific evidence to back this up.
Still, as we know, Yoga Nidra can take you into two of the four sleep stages and brain waves; Alpha brain wave (NREM stage 1) and Theta waves (NREM stage 2). It is also believed that experienced practitioners may reach Delta waves, the final two sleep state stages. So while you cannot “catch up” on sleep, doing Yoga Nidra after a lousy night’s sleep may help you feel less groggy and exhausted.
It makes you more present
Yoga Nidra helps find more silence and peace in your mind as it slows down mental activity. This is because the practice requires complete focus and presence, which, over time, spills over into your everyday life.
Yoga Nidra trains you to be more in the present moment and reduces the amount of recurring or random thoughts that do not serve you. As a result, your attention is not so frequently drawn away from the here and now.
It also increases conscious awareness and can awaken your subconscious mind. This is due to the Yoga Nidra script (which features mental cues and subtle suggestions) and the deep sleep states you access. For example, the Theta state is a creative and spiritual sleep state where you can access new ideas and perspectives you cannot experience from the conscious mind.
It reduces stress
One of the most significant benefits of Yoga Nidra is stress reduction, as the practice slows mental activities and rebalances the nervous system.
The practice triggers what is known as the “relaxation response.” This takes you out of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight mode) and evokes the parasympathetic nervous system, where healing and restoration can occur.
For many of us that live modern, fast-paced lifestyles, our parasympathetic nervous systems are out of balance. As a result, we live in a constant state of stress, always looking for the next problem or danger. Practicing Yoga Nidra essentially resets our nervous system and the relaxation response signals to the brain that we are safe. In turn, our minds start to calm down, and the excessive, negative thoughts lessen.
The state of the nervous system also affects the condition of the endocrine system and the immune system. The endocrine system regulates your hormones and metabolism and, when unbalanced, can result in menstrual irregularities and reproductive disorders. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body from viruses and bacteria. When weakened, we are at risk of getting sick.
Therefore, the reduced stress that Yoga Nidra promotes when practiced consistently leads to better health and well-being all around. Moreover, a study that compared the effects of meditation and Yoga Nidra on stress found that Yoga Nidra was more effective at reducing feelings of stress and anxiety than seated meditation.
It can help with post-traumatic stress disorder
One of the most notable benefits of Yoga Nidra is that it goes beyond helping alleviate everyday stress. The practice is an approved treatment for chronic stress and psychological problems such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
In 2011, a study was carried out on military combat veterans who were told to practice Yoga Nidra weekly. All 11 participants who completed the study claimed they experienced positive benefits like reduced rage, anxiety, emotional tension, and a drop in intrusive memories.
It helps chronic pain
The Yoga Nidra practice is known for treating chronic pain by reducing its severity. How is this possible? Because it brings the nervous system into the ‘rest and digest mode’ that promotes healing and stimulates the immune response, reducing inflammation.
Moreover, we all know that sleep is the best medicine for an illness or injury. The sleep-like relaxation state and slow brain waves evoked by the practice stimulate the healing response, just like when you sleep.
In addition, because of the relaxation response triggered by the nervous system, Nidra can reduce muscle tension and bodily stress.
It improves focus and concentration
Aside from the many ways Yoga Nidra benefits the physical body, the practice has impressive effects on the mental body. Like guided meditation, Yoga Nidra guides you along a journey using instructions and cues. This requires total focus; thus, the more you do it, the better your concentration.
In addition, practicing Yoga Nidra clears your mind of “mental fog.” It helps you think clearer so you can keep your concentration on one thing for a more extended time and solve problems better. Thus, after many Yoga Nidra classes, you may notice that you focus better at work, significantly improving your productivity.
It enhances memory and learning
People who practice Yoga Nidra for a long time also report that they can better remember and learn things. This enhanced cognitive performance results from the brain training of the eight stages of Nidra.
Each stage calls for your awareness of one specific thing, which studies have shown stimulates cognitive restructuring processes. Therefore, not only does Yoga Nidra prevent a cognitive decline due to aging. It also improves your memory and ability to take in new information.
It is more accessible than meditation
Because Yoga Nidra is always done laying down, many people find it easier than meditation. You do not have to force your body to sit still in an uncomfortable position, dealing with tight joints or muscles that feel sore.
Instead, you simply lay on your back with your whole body completely relaxed. You can also use pillows or blankets under your head or knees to make the position more comfortable. As a result, anyone (including people with injuries) can do Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is also easier to stay focused than meditation, as the instructor speaks throughout the practice, and you simply listen to their voice and follow the instructions. Plus, each stage of the method requires you to focus on a different thing, such as body parts or the breath, so there is no time or opportunity for your mind to start wandering.
Therefore, for those who avoid trying meditation because they think it is too tricky, Yoga Nidra is an excellent alternative.
How To Practice Yoga Nidra
Suppose you’ve never tried this type of guided meditation before. In that case, you’re probably wondering what to expect from your first Yoga Nidra session. As mentioned, Yoga Nidra is a passive practise where you lie on your back and listen to the instructor’s voice and cues. You can do Nidra in an in-person class or listen to a recording or Youtube video.
You will need a yoga mat and comfortable clothes for this practice. The instructor will follow a specific Yoga Nidra script that features all eight stages of the Nidra practice. These are:
- Internalization – Settling in by relaxing the body.
- Sankalpa – Setting an intention for the session, day, week, or year.
- Rotation of consciousness – A body scan where you move your awareness around your body, focusing on one body part at a time.
- Breath awareness – Counting your breath backwards for a set number of breaths.
- Opposites – Experiencing opposite feelings and sensations in your body, such as hot and cold.
- Visualization – Envisioning images or scenarios in your mind’s eye.
- Sankalpa – Revisiting your intention
- Externalization – Bringing your awareness back to your body and the external world.
With so many important benefits of Yoga Nidra, this deep relaxation practice is an antidote to the stressors of daily life. By practicing regularly, you’ll experience better overall health and personal growth. Plus, as Yogic sleep is so accessible and the practice is guided, there’s no reason why you cannot get started today!