If you haven’t tried yoga nidra yet, add it to your list of self care practices. Yoga nidra is regularly used in Yoga Therapy due its deeply healing benefits. Yoga nidra or “yogic sleep” is a guided meditation technique that can be calming to the nervous system, help reduce anxiety, facilitate the release of negative thought patterns and improve overall well being (references HERE and HERE).
It is a relatively easy way to get the body into a relaxed, almost sleep-like state that can be very healing and rejuvenating. This makes it slightly different then a seated meditation practice. The practice can be as short as 20 mins and even up to an hour. I usually do 20 minute yoga nidras when I’m feeling overly anxious or unsettled, or if I’m tired but don’t want to (or have the time) to take a nap. For those who are chronically ill, yoga nidra can be incredibly healing and restorative and used multiple times a day.
What to know about Yoga Nidra:
1 - How to find practices: There are a ton of guided yoga nidra meditations on YouTube and various other yoga websites. A quick search on Google or YouTube will get you plenty of options. HERE is a good yoga nidra 20 minute practice from YouTube I have used a lot. And HERE is a yoga nidra I recorded for this website. I am also happy to customize yoga nidra practices for my clients depending on goals and circumstances.
2 - How to set up: Yoga nidra requires a comfortable place to lay down. This isn’t a seated meditation. This makes it slightly less convenient as you can’t quite do it anywhere (ie your office, the car etc). But it is worth it….. Find a place to lay on the ground with some pillows and a blanket. I also do it on my bed sometimes which is fine too (although beware it may actually turn into a nap!). The idea is to be very comfortable and relaxed yet aware of what is going on… so not dozing.
3 - Key elements of the practice: Once in a comfortable position, you will be asked to create a simple “sankalpa”, which means “intention, resolution” in sanskri. You envision this intention as if it is already occurring for you, which is a key component of the practice. It helps to rewire the brain in a more positive way. Affirmations such as “I am peaceful”, “I am healthy”, “I am relaxed” can be used. Find one that resonates with you then embrace it to start the practice. Once the intention is set, you say it three times to yourself and then the guided meditation begins. After the intention setting the main element of the practice is a guided body scan. You observe each body part one on one - you just notice it. The goal is to feel each area of the body without judgement, just awareness. It is surprisingly calming and centering. Once that is over the approach can vary. You may get a walk through the chakras centers or focus on breathing for a bit. Then to end the practice you come back to that intention for further and deeper embodiment of it.
4- How yoga nidra can help: The body scan allows for mind/body integration. We are observing our body and breath in a non judgemental way. This mind/body integration is beneficial to the parasympathetic nervous system and increases alpha-waves in the brain (which the brain produces in a relaxed state). It is also shown to “positively influence stress related parameters” (Resources HERE). There is a lot of compelling research showing the benefits of yoga nidra. I feel it is one of those practices that is relatively short and simple to do that can make a significant positive impact. In other words, small time commitment, big impact - this is always a goal we have in Yoga Therapy.
It should be noted that with any practice, nothing works for everyone all the time. In certain instances yoga nidra may feel too intense, especially those recovering from trauma. As always, approach this practice with care and if you find it doesn’t feel right or is actually anxiety inducing, don’t do it. There is never a need to force or push through anything that is too intense.
However, if you think yoga nidra might be worth a try, go for it. If you are having a day when you feel restless, anxious or generally not well, you may find that yoga nidra is incredibly beneficial in improving your well being.
As always, I’m here to answer any questions you have….