On this page:
- What is yoga nidra?
- How do we practice it?
- Who is this practice for?
- What are the benefits of yoga nidra?
What is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is a form of meditation and a deep relaxation practice also known as yogic sleep or conscious sleep. During the practice, we move through the layers of our being (the Koshas), journey away from the tactile and down to the subtle, and we can access a state of total relaxation which brings us closer to our true essence.
Yoga nidra also gives us the opportunity to objectively observe our emotions, whether they are negative or positive. We are given the opportunity to contemplate them in peace, without immediate reaction. We also allow ourselves to look within and gain more knowledge about ourselves so that we can be better connected with the people and the universe around us, making it the perfect tool to achieve self-knowledge and self-appreciation.
How do we practice it?
In a typical session, we lie down and simply rest. Props are incorporated such as bolsters and blankets to keep the body as comfortable as possible.
The teacher’s voice guides and accompanies the listener through the entire duration of the practice. The length of each yoga nidra session varies between fifteen and thirty minutes depending on the general level of the students in the class.
Before lying down, the teacher guides the students through a few simple postures and stretches to open up the body and to prepare it for elongated periods of stillness. Pranayama and breathwork are also used to balance energy levels and to start inducing the sense of calm and peace which is needed for the practice.
At some point, one might appear to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness. The nidra begins with moving from external consciousness to internal consciousness and is followed by being guided back to the external world.
Yoga nidra employs a variety of different techniques and exercises such as: systematic body relaxation, breath awareness, withdrawal of the senses, guided body scans, observation of sensations and visualisation.
Most importantly, during the practice, we are encouraged to formulate and focus on a Sankalpa (an intention or a heartfelt desire). Our sankalpas are a site of positive change not only within ourselves but also within others and the rest of the world. This practice can have a profound transformative effect on those who initiate its powers.
Who is this practice for?
Yoga nidra is accessible for practitioners of every level and ability. Even if you’ve never stepped onto a yoga mat before, yoga nidra is for you. It is perfect for anyone who desires a strengthened meditation practice and is yearning for spiritual growth.
It is also suitable for those who simply wish to access a moment of peace, bliss and relaxation – whether that be as a result of the normal stress of everyday life, or due to conditions such as anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Yoga nidra is a wonderful therapeutic tool to help us manage challenging times in life. For instance, it is often used at times of grief, or when coping with the realities of palliative care. It can also be used in order to manage pain, for instance in the case of chronic disease.
This practice is the heart of yoga and allows us to be exactly who we are, in a state of calm acceptance. When we reach this state we are kinder to ourselves and those around us.
The benefits of yoga nidra are said to include:
- Minimising and counteracting the effects of stress and anxiety.
- Teaching us to observe our thoughts so we can live in harmony with ourselves and others.
- Developing our capacity for empathy and compassion.
- Sharpening our memory and strengthening our imagination and creativity.
- Increasing our capacity for attentiveness and concentration.
- Aiding the management of sleep disorders.
- Contributing to a greater sense of well-being.
- Enriching our spiritual selves.