Engaging in yoga and meditative practices are a wonderful way to more deeply understand oneself, whilst also reducing stress levels. However, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably found these practices to also be frustratingly difficult to get the hang of.
Yoga requires space, and although it’s a myth that you need to be super fit and flexible to take part in the practice, it can often feel like the opposite when your super bendy instructor is demanding almost impossible positions.
Likewise, for something that is supposed to be calming and stress-reducing, meditation can feel very irritating. In particular, sitting upright for an extended period of time and attempting to clear the mind is much easier said than done.
However, if you struggle with these issues too, you’re in luck! We have a solution: Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is an ancient concept that has molded into a very easy but incredibly effective form of meditation.
If you’re interested, check out the information below. We’ve covered everything, from the origins of the practice to its numerous benefits. We also discuss exactly what to expect from a guided Yoga Nidra class so you can be completely informed on the process!
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation. It is also known as ‘yogic sleep’ or even ‘effortless relaxation’. Generally, the aim of Yoga Nidra is to transport the individual into a state of harmonious restfulness.
You can practice Yoga Nidra at any time and in any place, however, it is commonly done within a studio under the supervision and guidance of an experienced yogi. Yoga Nidra is commonly practiced after the end of a slow flow yoga class to finish off the session.
Where Does Yoga Nidra Originate?
Yoga Nidra is an ancient Indian practice that was first mentioned in the Upanishads, a series of Hindu sacred treatises written between 800 and 200 BC.
However, Yoga Nidra became globally popular after the yogi Satyananda Saraswati began studying the practice. He went on to construct a system of relaxation which became popular around the1960s.
This system of relaxation was comprised of eight stages, including internalization, Sankalpa, rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, a manifestation of opposites, creative visualization, Sankalpa, and externalization.
By following this system, Saraswati believed that a state of Yoga Nidra could be reached. He described this state as one between sleep and wakefulness, in which the deep phases of the mind could be opened.
Since then, Yoga Nidra has become wildly popular. In particular, it has become a useful therapeutic tool. For instance, Yoga Nidra was used by Richard Miller, a pioneer of the therapeutic benefits of yoga, to help rehabilitate soldiers experiencing pain.
How Do You Practice Yoga Nidra?
To practice Yoga Nidra, you begin by laying down on your back. From here, the teacher will guide you through a series of meditative exercises, as listed below.
First, it’s important to set an intention. To do this, you must enquire into your intentions for life. For instance, you might consider some personal questions, such as ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘where am I going?’, and ‘am I on track?’.
Finding Your Inner Resource
Following this, you need to find your inner resource. This can sound a little abstract, but it simply involves finding a safe space within your body and tapping into it. By doing this, the process of practicing Yoga Nidra will feel safe, secure, and calm.
Next, it’s likely that the teacher will guide you through a body scan. During a body scan, you are told to focus on specific sections of the body and particular bodily sensations. Completing a body scan aids in reducing tension in the body, and thus, helps to promote total relaxation.
After the body scan comes breathwork. This section tends to include focusing on your breath, paying attention to how the air flows in and out of your body. Focusing on the movement of breath, and how the body moves with the breath, helps you slow and even your breathing.
Witnessing Thoughts And Feelings
Now the foundations have been laid, you can begin to address your thoughts and feelings. In particular, you are encouraged to welcome your emotions and thoughts, even if they are negative. In fact, witnessing these negative things is an important part of the process.
The Final Phase
Once your thoughts and emotions have been heard, welcomed, and connected with, they will slowly fade into the background, just as the body did after the breathing exercises. Now, the final phase of Yoga Nidra can ensue, that of exploring your consciousness. In this final phase, you can observe your ‘self’.
Your personality, your feelings, your thoughts, and your true nature become clearer within the final phase of a Yoga Nidra session.
Though this ultimate liberation is unlikely to be so revolutionary for beginners, as you continue to use the practice, you will continue to find out more about yourself and your existence.
To finish, it’s very important to reflect on your practice. Consider how you were feeling and what you were thinking about during your session. Take a few minutes to calmly and slowly transition back into normal life, making sure that you bring all of the wisdom you have gained with you.
Who Is Yoga Nidra For?
In short, pretty much everyone!
However, due to its nature, it is probably most beneficial for people who struggle to ‘let go’. In fact, Yoga Nidra is a great option for people who have struggled with the process of meditation in the past, as it guides you through a set of manageable steps.
You might also be very happy to know that you cannot practice Yoga Nidra incorrectly. All you have to do is lie down and follow the guiding voice. Even if you struggle to follow guided meditations, the clear instructions within Yoga Nidra make it very easy to practice.
How Does Yoga Nidra Differ From Meditation?
Yoga Nidra is very much like meditation, but it does have subtle differences.
In meditation, you’re sitting and very much awake. Meditation makes it possible to reach the theta state of mind, which is a state that we must travel through to arrive at the delta state. The delta state is the deepest part of the sleep cycle.
In Yoga Nidra, you are intentionally trying to reach the delta state. Within this state, the body and mind are rested, whilst the consciousness is awake and available to thoroughly explore.
What Are The Benefits Of Yoga Nidra?
There are a huge number of benefits to practicing Yoga Nidra. Take a look at some of them below!
It’s An Easy Way To Reduce Stress
Yoga Nidra promotes a deep sense of relaxation that is missing from regular meditation.
Meditation has been known to help calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. However, the deeper relaxation encouraged within Yoga Nidra also releases melatonin. Melatonin is a great antioxidant that aids in regulating immune function, blood pressure, and sleep.
If you’re skeptical, check out this study. The results show that, although meditation is an effective anxiety and stress reducer, Yoga Nidra is more effective.
It’s A Good Way To Learn About Yourself Intimately
Yoga Nidra offers a space to explore, understand, and release emotions. It lets you confront uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, which can help you overcome them.
The deep state of relaxation also allows you to reflect on who you are. You can consider your existence more deeply, and use this to invigorate your life.
It Is Easy To Incorporate Into Your Daily Life
Other forms of yoga and meditation can be frustrating. They may require space and props that you do not have. Meditation in particular can also be uncomfortable for many people, as it is difficult to sit still and clear the mind.
However, with Yoga Nidra, the guided nature of the practice can help you maintain concentration. Furthermore, all it requires is a comfortable space for you to lie down in. You can even do it from your bed!
Yoga Nidra is a unique form of yoga practice. Thanks to its guided nature, lying down position, its accessibility, and the way it induces a very deep sense of relaxation, the practice of Yoga Nidra is perfect for literally anyone looking to reduce stress and gain a deeper understanding of themselves.
We hope this article encourages you to give it a go!