Commonly known as yogic sleep, Yoga Nidra is a meditation and conscious relaxation practice that brings about complete physical, mental, and emotional relaxation.
This practice brings you into a place between wakefulness and asleep… a sleepless sleep, if you will. I’ve heard it said that an hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to four hours of regular sleep. I don’t know that there’s any science to back up this claim, but I can tell you from experience that it is incredibly rejuvenating and refreshing.
How is it Different than Meditation?
Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation, but you generally practice lying down. Lying down really allows you to let go, though you can also practice in a seated position. This practice is also highly guided; someone’s voice will guide your attention to specific places through a series of steps.
A Yoga Nidra practice also requires a bit of a time commitment. We can meditate for any length of time, from two minutes to two hours. Inducing the state of relaxation that Yoga Nidra is intended to bring about requires a minimum of 15-20 minutes.
Some of the Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
It Feels Amazing.
Typically, one will come out of a Yoga Nidra practice feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
Relaxes the Mind.
We’re not talking about the kind of “relaxation” we feel we get from mindless TV. Yoga Nidra allows the mind to fully let go and truly relax.
It’s nice to journal right after a practice.
If you’re the kind of person who misplaces their keys all the time, start a Yoga Nidra practice and see if it helps!
The complete relaxation of body and mind counteracts the effects of daily stress.
What Happens during Yoga Nidra?
We are guided through stages of relaxation that move from the outside in:
- The Physical Body.
- The Energetic Body/The Senses.
- The Mental Layer.
- The Subconscious Layer.
- The Bliss Layer/Ultimate State of Relaxation.
We move through each layer via a series of steps, which can include, but are not limited to:
- Body Awareness.
- Breath Awareness.
- Intention Setting.
- Emotional Awareness.
- “Waking up”
Each step takes you into a deeper state of consciousness until you reach the state between asleep and awake. In this state, you are fully conscious, but your body and mind are fully at rest.
The intention you set in Yoga Nidra is called a Sankalpa. You can also think of this as a resolution or desire; something that you wish to see come to fruition in your life. During a Yoga Nidra practice, you will be prompted to state your Sankalpa a couple of times. It’s nice to formulate one beforehand, so you’re not thinking too much during the practice.
Your Sankalpa can be anything you want it to be; here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make it a simple, clear, concise, one-sentence statement.
- It should be something you desire on a heartfelt level (something deeper “losing 10 pounds”).
- Look at it as adding to your already perfect life, not something you need to achieve in order to be fulfilled.
- The idea is to set a Sankalpa and keep it until it takes effect in your life.
- Use terminology that you are comfortable with – “I am…” “I will…” “I will become…”
Using the present tense allows your subconscious to see this statement as already true. Some examples are “I am love” “I am abundant” “I am healthy and whole” “I have all that I need” “I am enough.”
Allow your Sankalpa to come to you naturally. If you use one and it doesn’t sit right, feel free to change it, but try to find one that you can stick with until it comes to fruition. The idea is that you set your conscious intention, and then let go and allow for deep relaxation of the body and mind. Your unconscious is then able to open up to new ways of thinking and fulfilling your conscious intention.
What do I do during Yoga Nidra?
You just relax! Set aside e a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed for the duration of the practice. Then just make yourself comfortable! Not so comfortable that you encourage yourself go to sleep (i.e. try not to practice in bed) but do make your space as cozy and comfortable as possible.
- Double up a couple of yoga mats or place your mat on a rug so the body is on a cushioned surface.
- Place a blanket over the mats so that if your limbs touch the ground, it’s not cold to the touch.
- Place a bolster or rolled up blanket under the knees to elevate them.
- Place a small pillow under the head so the chin tucks towards the chest slightly (don’t elevate the head too much, as this will get uncomfortable in the neck).
- Cover the body with a blanket.
- Cover the eyes with a towel or eye mask.
Do what feels right for you. It might take you a few practices to find what is truly comfortable for you.
Here’s a quick tutorial showing you how I set myself up for a Yoga Nidra practice; you might find it helpful:
Ready to give it a try? Grab your props, make yourself comfortable, and hit play on this Extended Yoga Nidra practice: https://youtu.be/Ot0IE1uaCnI