What is Yoga Nidra?
I remember the first time I experienced a Yoga Nidra practice. My sister was sick, and I was filled with worry and stress. As I settled into the familiar home of Savasana, I allowed my awareness to settle into the voice guiding me to deepen my breath, settle, and through the systematic meditation travel through the pancha maya kosha.
- Pancha = five
- Maya = illusion or appearance
- Kosha = sheath, covering, or layer
Our koshas are our five layers of being, which inform and support each other. While they are individual, they are also inseparable.
As I was guided through this practice of meditation I was able to be with the impact of my fear for her well-being. To acknowledge the impacts on all layers of myself. To be present to the impacts we naturally numb ourselves to.
Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep as it is also known, is an incredibly powerful meditation that is also one of the easiest yogic practices to bring into your lifestyle. As we practice we rest comfortably in the restorative benefits of Savasana while settling into the Yoga Nidra state of consciousness. The place between being awake and sleeping, that space just before we go to sleep.
This is the difference between meditation and Yoga Nidra. Meditation, is practiced in an alert state. It is in the state of being between sleep and consciousness, where deep healing within the 5 layers of self begins. As Richard Miller, Ph.D., the author of Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxing and Healing states that there is no separation between our dream state and reality, they inform each other. Thus Yoga Nidra allows us to align with what’s true. The self exploration, opportunity to see our self clearly, and re-frame the context we are living within.
This is what explains the benefits I experienced. In today’s lifestyle, we are inundated with stimulation and intake. We are always connected, often taking on more and more each day. Most of us stressed, and our nervous systems are spending more and more time in the sympathetic, or fight, flight, and freeze state.
As I worried for my sister’s well-being, my nervous system was dealing with the fearful thoughts filling my brain. The daily worry keeping me in almost chronically in fight or flight. I would wake up through the night, my mind filled with worrisome thoughts. My digestion giving me trouble as my nervous system natural response of taking resources from functions deemed unnecessary in sympathetic conditions.
When my minds activity and tension in my body was disrupting my yoga and meditation practice, Yoga Nidra powerfully and efficiently access the “rest and digest” of the parasympathetic state. The state that naturally activates the bodies ability to heal.
While this practice was releasing the effects I was experiencing, there is so much more taking place. Connecting ourselves with all 5 layers of our being brings with it the opportunity to release, re-frame, and restore within all 5 layers.
The benefits of Yoga Nidra
In the beginning of your practice, whether you reach the state of consciousness awareness and restful nature of Yoga Nidra, or if you fall asleep, which is quite common you will start to feel more rested. In fact one hour of Yoga Nidra provides the same benefits of a few hours of sleep.
In our lifestyles today, more than 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. More than half of us lose sleep due to stress, and/or anxiety. We find our selves chronically deprived of the most valuable restoration for our minds and body; sleep.
As you continue your practice you can rely on it as a tool when you are feeling under-rested, stressed or in a state of unease. You can also use your practice as a way to bring clarity, be connected with your purpose, and bringing balance to your full self.
In a 1999 study at the State University Hospital in Copenhagen, the brains of men and women were scanned during Yoga Nidra. They found that the deep resting state of Yoga Nidra was similar to sleep, but they were completely conscious. “The measurements show, for the first time, that one can be completely aware in such a deep state—that one can consciously experience and control the brain’s activity simultaneously. This confirms that meditation is the fourth major state, equal to dreaming, sleeping, and wakefulness.” “We had not expected the meditators to be able to control their consciousness to such an extent.“ (Brain researcher Troels Kjær, The Kennedy Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark)
1. Yoga Nidra is accessible to all
You may have experienced that not all forms of yoga are suitable for you, or for all. Yoga Nidra is available to everyone of all ages, body types, and physical ability. All that is needed is being in a physically restful state, either laying down in savasana, or if this is not accessible, in a seated position.
2. There is no wrong way to practice
Simply lay down in a supported savasana and follow the voice of your guide. You are not expected to do, or create anything. Or even to remember the meditation. Simply allow the experience to unfold.
3. An easy practice to bring into your daily lifestyle
Do you remember that naps we took in preschool and kindergarten? Imagine that with a guided experience. You can practice from 5 minutes to an hour, making this an easy practice to add into our daily life. May find it easy to begin this practice just before bed. Not only will your practice release tension and stress from your day, your sleep will more peaceful and beneficial.
4. Reduce Stress simply
The deep restful practice is grounded in the power of the nervous system. Your bodies existing restoration system for physical, mental, emotional, spiritual healing. Within this state we are able to clear away the thought driven nature of stress and connect and bring awareness to the calming benefits of the parasympathetic state.
5. Connect with your true self
The practice of Yoga Nidra is a space of self exploration, where we are able to bring awareness to what exists within each of our layers of self. To bring awareness to what is needed. To release long-held tension, emotions, unhelpful beliefs and stories. We are able to come face to face with our truth in a non-judgmental, and safe way. We are able to dive in without the need to face the emotion in an overwhelming way.
Yoga Nidra was the perfect tool in my self care tool box! It is how I was able to simply be with my fears, without activating my anxiety. I was able to be with my sadness, without overwhelm. I was able to release the tensions in my physical body. All while being with the love in my heart for her healing, and supporting my own nervous system to protect my own well-being.
If you are interested in learning to teach Yoga Nidra, join our upcoming Yoga Teacher Training.