Yoga Nidra is one of my favourite things in the world.
I first discovered Yoga Nidra during my yoga teacher training and have found it to be one of the most beneficial and transformational practices I have ever encountered.
It has helped me to find a restfulness that I had never before experienced. It has supported me through integrating traumas and emotional experiences, it has helped me survive the sleep deprivation of motherhood and continues to help me to avoid burnout in this busy and overstimulating.
Yoga Nidra guides us back to our wild nature; totally present and profoundly at ease.
Learn more below and try it out!
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra, taken from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘yogic sleep’, is both a state of awareness and a practice. As a practice, it is both a technique that helps to promote deep relaxation and a practice of effortless meditation. As a state of awareness, it falls somewhere between sleeping, waking and dreaming and offers the potential to reap the benefits of both deep meditation and sleep simultaneously (win).
During a Yoga Nidra practice, the brain moves through different states of awareness and as such exhibits different brainwaves activity as guided by the various stages of the practice. Between each of the stages are opportunities to access the subconscious through the doorways of the liminal states of awareness that can arise such as the hypnogogic state (usually found just before falling asleep) and the hypnopompic state (usually arises just before waking).
Yoga Nidra has immense healing potential due to this capacity to access the subconscious, induce deep states of relaxation, bring normally unconscious functions under conscious control and provide a safe container within which to explore trauma, pain, suffering and challenging emotions without being triggered into emotional responses.
And all of this unfolds quite naturally without needing to do anything at all and with no prior experience, understanding, or information required in order to receive the benefits.
Honestly, this practice is gold.
One of my favourite memories from a yoga nidra class was as we were checking in at the start I asked why people practice. One of my favourite very softly spoken yin teachers was in the room and she answered to everyone's surprise: I just come here to get high. I now introduce new people to the practice by calling it drugs for sober people.
Yoga Nidra or 'Yogic Sleep' is a practice of effortless meditation and deep relaxation that supports the body's natural healing processes.
Yoga Nidra can be incredibly effective at helping to:
Undo the negative impacts of stress
Release deeply held physical or emotional tension
Soothe anxiety and calm the nervous system
Ease sleep difficulties and insomnia
Effectively help manage and integrate trauma
Help with neuroplasticity and the creation of new neural pathways
Improve memory and recall
Boost creativity and productivity
Improve overall health and wellbeing
And so much more, the possibilities are endless and the benefits long lasting and profound.
It is also highly accessible as it is open to all who are able to lie down and listen to the guidance, no movement is required (it can even be practice in a chair if lying down is not accessible).
'Yoga nidra initiates a process of self-awareness, accompanied by a restructuring and resetting of consciousness and the brain-body. It is reflected in greater stability of the autonomic nervous system, enhanced control of emotions and expanded consciousness. There is an art to relaxation, and yoga nidra is it.'
~ The Chalkboard
Give It a Try
What is the Difference Between Yoga Nidra & Meditation?
This is a question I get asked a lot so thought I’d share my perspective. Meditation is, of course, a broad category with many different approaches nestled within it but for me, a seated meditation is a practice to help focus and calm the mind, there is often an object of attention such as breath, sensation, or a guided visualisation, something that requires wakeful, attentive awareness. Meditation can facilitate a movement into the slower brainwaves and can be relaxing but focused presence is a pre-requisite of most styles, a common cue being to ‘bring the mind back to the breath’ or to the object of attention.
Yoga Nidra on the other hand welcomes drifting as a part of the exploration of the liminal states of awareness that are a key aspect of the practice. There is a lot of crossover as there are meditation techniques weaved throughout the stages of yoga nidra but the key difference for me is that drifting is welcomed as a doorway to altered states of consciousness such as feeling the body deeply asleep whilst the mind is aware or experiencing waking REM as just two examples. Yoga Nidra can be seen as a practice of effortless meditation as nothing is required of the practitioner in order to reach deep states of relaxation and presence. It can be a highly effective tool for deepening a seated meditation practice.
Meditation can be taken seated or supine whereas Yoga Nidra is almost always taken lying down (with lots of support it is possible to offer a seated practice to those unable to lie down).
There are usually long periods of silence within a meditation practice whereas a yoga nidra practice is usually almost consistently guided with the intention being that the mind stays loosely tuned into the voice without needing to necessarily focus on what is being said. In some styles and practices, gaps are offered towards the later stages of the practice.
I hope that helps! Feel free to share your thoughts and insights too.
Yoga Nidra has only recently begun to emerge into the mainstream of meditation and as such has not been researched anywhere near as much as regular meditation practices but here's what we've got so far...
iRest & PTSD
Yoga Nidra has been scientifically proven to improve conditions like insomnia, addiction, PTSD, anxiety, depression, chronic illness and chronic pain.
Richard Miller has done extensive work using his iRest Yoga Nidra technique to heal PTSD and I can attest to this personally.
It has even been shown via brain scans (EEG) that practitioners of Yoga Nidra can exhibit the delta brain waves usually associated with deep sleep, whilst their minds are awake and aware, accessing deep meditation from a place of effortless rest (trippy).
Regular Yoga Nidra has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, melatonin and GABA (all of the feel-good hormones!)
In 2002 an experiment was undertaken to demonstrate the association between levels of dopamine and Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra practice was shown to increase dopamine release by 65%.
(Study details taken from The Total Yoga Nidra immersion course notes delivered by Nirlipta Tuli)
Blog Series: Breaking Down the Stages of Yoga Nidra
Part 1 - The magic that is yoga nidra....
Part 2 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 1-2 Preparation and Settling
Part 3 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 3 Sankalpa
Part 4 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 4 Rotation of Consciousness
Part 5 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 5 Opposites
Part 6 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 6 Breath Awareness
Part 7 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Stage 7 Visualisation
Part 8 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Joy, bliss and pure awareness
Part 9 - The Stages of Yoga Nidra: Existential Explorations, Kośas, Merging Yoga Nidra & Everyday Life
The school of yoga nidra that I have been drawn to, Total Yoga Nidra is non-affiliated and therefore draws inspiration from the many different schools based on the intention of the practice and the needs of the student.
As a practitioner, I have always been drawn to spacious, creative and nature-infused Nidras and seek to infuse these aspects into my teaching.
My delivery style is inspired by nature, stories, poems and dreams and involves a blend of structured rest and creative freedom.
I am always learning through my students, taking self-guided nidras, classes with beloved teachers and recordings online.
I began teaching Yoga Nidra at my new moon gatherings in 2016 and have gone on to train with James Reeves of Restful Being and Nirlipta Tuli of Total Yoga Nidra.
I also offer a selection of recorded yoga nidra practices via my Patreon page and Insight Timer and I incorporate Yoga Nidra into my circles, classes and workshops.