Also known as “yogic sleep”, Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation intended to help students reach a natural state of peace and equilibrium.
Unlike most other yoga practices, Yoga Nidra does not consist of physical poses (known as asanas), so it doesn’t come under the category of Hatha or Vinyasa yoga.
The whole point of Yoga Nidra is to encourage students to slow down, switch off, and properly rest. It is most commonly practiced in the East for spiritual and religious connotations, while it is practiced in the West to help those deal with the stresses of a capitalistic society.
Yoga Nidra is a yoga style in its own right, meaning there is really only one form of Yoga Nidra. If you want to learn more about the X best forms of Yoga Nidra to try for yourself, keep on reading!
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what Yoga Nidra actually is.
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation yoga intended to allow the body to rest without falling into the unconsciousness of sleep.
Also known as “sleep with awareness” or “yogic sleep”, Yoga Nidra induces full-body relaxation where we can enter a true state of rest, allowing our subconscious mind to come alive.
While normal sleep is restful and necessary, the act of being unconscious doesn’t allow the deep levels of the mind to properly relax.
Yoga Nidra combats this, allowing the body to drift into a state between subconscious and unconscious to achieve a peaceful state of equilibrium.
A Yoga Nidra session consists of 8 stages, all together lasting between 20 and 45 minutes. Every stage is guided by a yoga teacher to ensure the mind doesn’t wander off, and to also ensure that students don’t immediately fall asleep.
Of course, sleep often cannot be stopped. If a student falls asleep during a Yoga Nidra class, it might be the body’s way of telling them that they are exhausted. This is why Yoga Nidra sessions have to be guided.
The best part about Yoga Nidra is that it is a yoga style for everyone. People of a certain age and physical ability might struggle with intense asana-based yoga practices, such as Vinyasa or Hatha.
However, considering that Yoga Nidra is not a movement-oriented yoga style, it is a practice fit for everyone.
Stages Of Yoga Nidra
So, now we know what Yoga Nidra is, let’s take a look at the stages that make up a Yoga Nidra session.
Stage 1: Preparation
The first stage is all about preparing the body to enter complete relaxation. During this stage, students are required to become aware of their environment and control their breathing.
It’s quite common in most forms of yoga for the first stage to be about entering a state of relaxation. However, most yoga styles require standing for this stage, but Yoga Nidra is completed entirely lying down.
Students will lie down in a corpse pose (savasana) and can make the necessary modifications to ensure complete comfort. Some like to rest their head on a pillow, while others prefer a block or pillow under the knees to prevent back pain.
Students are also allowed to use a blanket to keep themselves warm or an eye pillow to stop the temptation to open their eyes.
Stage 2: Intention
This stage is also known as the Sankalpa, which is a Sanskrit term that refers to an intention or desire.
Students are required to come up with an intention to repeat over and over again in their heads, which can be anything from “resolve” to “peace”, or even “Sankalp” if they understand the term.
Students aren’t required to say this statement out loud. Instead, it’s a mental statement that is personal to them and only them. They must repeat this intention several times with complete belief and faith.
Intentions are a vital part of meditation and yoga. They are intended to train the mind into giving us what we want, whether that is a break from stress or allowing ourselves to succumb to our subconscious thoughts.
Stage 3: Rotation Of Consciousness
During the third stage, our intention and awareness of our state is rotated through our body. This is where it’s possible to skip ahead or lag behind, which is why it’s helpful to listen to the guidance of the teacher’s voice.
The teacher will guide you through this stage with clear and precise instructions designed to relax every part of the body. Even if you don’t realize that your neck or jaw is tense, any tension will be relieved at this stage.
This stage is also when students become sleepy. However, make sure to avoid this if possible.
Stage 4: Breathing Awareness
The next stage is simply about the awareness of breathing. The teacher will count your breaths to make sure they are steady and in sync with the rest of the class.
Breathing techniques and awareness of the breath is an essential part of yoga, especially Yoga Nidra. Not only does deep breathing help you remain grounded, but it also introduces vital oxygen into your brain to keep you from falling asleep.
In our daily lives, we don’t breathe properly enough. This is especially true when we fall asleep, where our shallow breathing makes us fall into unconsciousness.
Deep and rhythmic breathing helps to align the energy centers and will make you increasingly more aware of your body.
Stage 5: Sense Perception
Stage 5 is about perceiving our senses and feelings, and then letting them go. It’s usually done by controlling an atmosphere of opposites – for example, hot and cold, or pain and pleasure.
This helps us to realize what we feel, how it makes us feel, and then letting those feelings go.
The aim here is to harmonize the opposing brain hemispheres. It is intended to train our brain into rationally understanding why we feel the way we do, and then working alongside that feeling.
Stage 6: Visualization
The visualization stage of Yoga Nidra is about visualizing whatever the teacher instructs you to.
This is a mind-training technique that encourages students to focus entirely on what the teacher is saying, therefore having control over their mind to prevent it from wandering off course.
The instructor will name a variety of things to visualize, such as a burning candle, a sunset, waves on a beach, the full moon, or a waterfall.
Visualization is a powerful tool to release any mental tension and encourage the student to become more self-aware about what they can accomplish through visualizing a peaceful image.
Stage 7: Sankalpa
Now we are almost in the state between subconscious and unconscious, we reinforce the Sankalpa stage again. This is to remind us of the intention we made earlier in the session, which will delve even further into our subconscious.
As with the earlier Sankalpa stage, students will then mentally repeat their intention in their heads three times.
Stage 8: Externalization
The final stage is the most important stage of Yoga Nidra. If we were to wake up immediately out of the subconscious state we have meditated into, we will be disoriented, confused, and likely very lethargic.
Instead, the externalization stage is when the instructor gently takes us out of the Yoga Nidra state through awareness of the breath, body, and external environment.
Then, we can begin to slowly move our bodies to gently awaken ourselves from this blissful state, and finally open our eyes.
Students will often remain on the floor with their eyes open for several minutes after the session is done to prevent feeling dizzy or nauseous upon sitting upright.
So, there you have it! Yoga Nidra is an incredibly powerful yoga practice that is suitable for people of all ages, skill levels, and abilities. It’s important that every student should be guided by an instructor to prevent the feelings of disorientation and confusion.
Still, practicing this yoga style is bound to make you feel more at peace with your inner self.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unlike other forms of yoga that require physical poses and asanas, Yoga Nidra is suitable for anybody, regardless of age or skill level. This is because Yoga Nidra is performed entirely lying down, and is more an exercise of the mind than the body. This means children and elderly people alike can practice Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation yoga that is completed lying down with an instructor guiding the session. It’s not easy to put this type of yoga into a category, as the world of yoga is large and somewhat convoluted. To put it simply, Yoga Nidra is a non-active yoga practice that is an exercise of the mind rather than the body.
Yoga Nidra is not the same as lucid dreaming, and is rather a mental exercise to achieve total awareness in our subconscious state. However, if your intention is to achieve lucid dreaming, then Yoga Nidra might be helpful towards achieving your goal.