How often do you go to bed exhausted but then wake up feeling lethargic and tired? When we climb into bed and just fall asleep, the body shuts down but it is not necessarily relaxed and therefore not really recharging. Yoga Nidra is the practice of bringing awareness to your relaxation so that every part of your body and mind fully relax. It is believed that just thirty minutes to one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of deep sleep.
Yoga Nidra, though it may just look like yogis going to class to nap, is an ancient practice of mental, physical and emotional relaxation, also known as yogic sleep or sleep with awareness. The intention is to experience a sleep-like state and the deepest possible relaxation while still in a deep meditative state of consciousness.
At a time when most of us are living at a fast pace with technology overload and lots of stress, the practice of Yoga Nidra can help transfer you to a state of harmony and encourage an overall feeling of well-being. Yoga Nidra can be a wonderful addition to your yoga practice or can be used by anyone to help with stress and sleep. It can also be the pick-me-up you need during the day; a kind of supernap to get you going again (though I wouldn't recommend practicing Yoga Nidra immediately after a meal or it's likely you'll just be practicing nidra (i.e sleep) without the yoga bit)!
There are many benefits that can be experienced from practicing Yoga Nidra. Among these are:
- improved quality of your sleep and amount of sleep
- less chronic pain
- reduced anxiety
- enhanced mental focus and attention span
- improved creativity and whole brain functioning
- more ease and peace of mind in daily life
- helps create new neural pathways in your brain leading to healthy habits & routines
One of the best things about Yoga Nidra is that you don't need to have been practicing it for 30 years to feel the benefits, you don't need to sit for long periods of time, and you don't need any previous experience or skills. All you need to do is find a comfortable place to lay undisturbed for the duration of the audio. During a class (or audio guidance) the teacher will use techniques such as guided imagery and body scanning to alleviate muscular tension as well as mental and emotional stress.
The following link is to a 30 minute Yoga Nidra audio that I find is a good introduction to the practice as is especially designed for new students
Yoga Nidra - Beginners instructed by Swami Niranjananda Saraswati .
Finally, Yoga Nidra is super relaxing. There's a fine line between the meditative state of conscious relaxation, and being asleep. The relaxing nature of this practice may encourage you to fall asleep before it finishes, especially if you're practicing at night, and that's fine! Don't feel guilty! Just enjoy the super deep sleep you'll slip into.