Yoga nidra, often referred to as the sleep of the yogis, is an ancient practice. This powerful technique teaches you to relax consciously and has many life-changing benefits.
If you missed any of my previous posts on relaxing and relieving stress, you can catch up here:
- 4 Restorative Yoga Postures for Ultimate Relaxation
- 30 minute Chair Yoga Practice to Reduce Stress
- How to Use Breath Work to Reduce Stress
What is Yoga Nidra?
The practice originated through the Tantric tradition more than a 1,000 years ago. However, Swami Satyananda Saraswati is credited with refining it into today’s modern practice sometime in the 1960s.
In Saraswati’s book, Yoga Nidra, he describes the practice as:
“A systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. During the practice, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness.”
In Yoga Nidra by Kamini Desai, she calls the practice, “The art of non-doing.”
Yoga Nidra + Other Practices
Although yoga nidra may resemble regular sleep or meditation, it is different.
While the Sanskrit term “nidra” loosely translates to sleep, during yoga nidra you’re still conscious and deeply aware.
One hour of practice (which is the equivalent to three hours of regular sleep) creates a healing, regenerative state in your mind and body.
In meditation, you’re usually in a seated position using a single point of focus. For yoga nidra, you’re lying in savasana, and a guide takes you through a specific step-by-step system.
5 Life-Changing Benefits
Both clinical studies and years of anecdotal observations reveal a long list of benefits.
The benefits addressed below all have studies related to them and you can read more about them in Kamini Desai’s book.
- Helps regulate and restore the ideal balance of body chemistry such as serotonin (feel good/focus), dopamine, oxytocin (pleasure), melatonin (sound sleep), and endorphins (anti-pain/anti-depressant).
- Stimulates the relaxation response which helps your body shed stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When these harmful chemicals are gone your heart rate, hypertension, and blood pressure decrease.
- Prepares your body for sleep by releasing melatonin and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It also can help you experience more sleep cycles, staying asleep for longer periods of time.
- May reduce or decrease dependency on tobacco, alcohol, and drugs by managing the stressors causing the cravings.
- Aids in symptoms of trauma and PTSD by altering the responses of the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus.
more powerful benefits
Any practice that induces relaxation (yoga nidra, asanas, meditation, pranayama) helps to restore and reset your nervous system.
By stimulating your “rest and digest” system, you also:
- Improve memory, productivity, focus
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue
- Increase cognition and mood
- Decrease pain, headaches
- Reduce hot flashes, IBS symptoms
- Relieve psychological and somatic disorders
- Bring balance to your endrocine system
For me personally, it has helped to alleviate headaches, reduce anxiety, and makes it easier for me to fall asleep.
Practice Yoga Nidra
Ready to try yoga nidra for yourself? Check out the final tips, then press play on the video. The script used for this 20 minute yoga nidra is from Kamini Desai’s book.
Practice in the morning to set your day. You can practice in the evening to release thoughts and reactions. Or late afternoons to balance blood sugar.
👉 Practice anytime you are most likely to do it.
Rest in savasana/supported savasana, where your body is more naturally aligned and supported. Wear loose comfortable clothing, and use a light blanket and socks to stay warm.
Expect physical releases such as body jerks, shaking, and itches. This is usually your body discharging accumulated stress.
You may want to include some light stretches or gentle asanas before beginning. Allow for a minimum of twenty minutes.