If the idea of practicing Yoga Nidra overwhelms you, then you are in for a big surprise.
Anyone who has known me longer than a week during the last 10 years of my life also knows about my passion for Yoga Nidra. I propagate this practice to my clients and friends who are dealing with insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The reason I advise this ancient practice so passionately is that it truly works.
Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep” and every time you practice, you are quietening your mind by gently guiding your state of sleep. People who practice this daily and regularly claim that that 45 minutes of yogic sleep feels like 3 hours of regular sleep. Now, that’s quite a motivation, isn’t it?
It’s Rather Simple
To begin with, let’s get one thing clear: Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation. Not only that, but it’s also an extremely powerful meditation that allows your body and mind to surrender completely to the present moment. The result? You are more aware, alert, relaxed, balanced, and calm. Did I mention that it helps to deal with insomnia, anxiety, and stress?
Lets Talk About The Science ( Just A Little Bit)
You begin with being conscious of your body and breathing in a precise way to evoke the relaxation response. The relaxation response supports the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and adjusts the left and right brain. During this process, your brain transfers from beta, an awakened state with extra brain activity, to alpha, a more comfortable state. Also during the alpha state, the mood-regulating hormone serotonin gets released, which in turn calms you down.
Did you know? People who spend less time in an alpha brain-wave state have more anxiety than those who spend more time in alpha. Moving your brain into an alpha state starts its process of “powering down,” or slipping into a state of rest or deep relaxation which also normalizes the brain wave activity.
Now, This Is How You Practice Yoga Nidra
Find a comfortable spot, and down. You may want a blanket or some pillows, the choice is yours. The idea is to be as comfortable as possible so that can you practice without any physical discomfort.
Now set an intention for the practice.
Then begin with taking a deep breath through the nose, hold for 10 seconds, and slowly release through the mouth. Repeat this 6 times.
As you commence to feel a deep sense of relaxation, open your senses, and discern any smells, tastes, sounds, or sensations in your current setting.
Recognize emotions, feelings, and memories as they appear and dissolve — let your body and mind just “be.”
Now examine your whole body all at once and allow every muscle to get heavy and relaxed. Let yourself be buoyant and weightless, or heavy and dense — just encounter whatever emerges without judgment or critique.
Its always better to practice guided Yoga Nidra so that your teacher can alter your awareness to the various parts of your relaxed body. The key is to embrace any sensations and keep tranquil as you proceed to focus attention on each body part.
The Next Steps?
Yoga Nidra may sound heavy, complicated and ‘hippie-ish’ but its a marvelous tool for deep relaxation, and also an extremely fulfilling spiritual practice. Rest assured, once you enjoy the yogic “deep rest” — you will be hooked.