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What Is Yoga Nidra: Deep Relaxation to Combat Insomnia and Improve Overall Health

My Yoga Teacher

Posted on Jun 17, 2021 therapy

What Is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a meditation that guides you to conscious awareness of your body for deep relaxation. Despite sometimes being referred to as "yogic sleep," Yoga Nidra isn't about falling asleep, but instead cultivating relaxation and inner awareness that is just as restorative as deep sleep.

yoga nidra savasana.png

When you mention "yoga" to most people, what immediately springs to mind is flowing movements requiring a certain level of balance and fitness. And that's followed closely by images of hyper-flexible people twisted into pretzel-like poses.

But yoga is about more than movement, physical strength, and flexibility.

There's a meditative aspect to yoga that often gets overlooked. And that's where Yoga Nidra comes in.

Yoga Nidra was introduced by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 1976. It was presented as an easy-to-learn meditation practice that anybody from any culture could use without previous knowledge of yoga.

This practice is a guided meditation in which you rest in savasana as you move through deep relaxation techniques. The purpose of Yoga Nidra is to help the physical, emotional, and mental self completely relax and heal.

The practice can help with insomnia, PTSD, trauma, and anxiety, as well as improve overall health, restore energy, and promote creativity. Yoga Nidra soothes the sympathetic nervous system, leaving practitioners with a sense of peace and calm.

How Does Yoga Nidra Differ From Meditation?

While Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation, there are key differences. For starters, Yoga Nidra is done in savasana with the goal of reaching a deep state of conscious awareness, deeper than most meditations.

According to Judi Bar, yoga therapist and yoga program manager, meditation is a waking state of consciousness, focusing the mind and letting thoughts come and go. This helps us get into the theta state. Yoga Nidra helps us get to the deeper, delta state.

How to Practice Yoga Nidra

Many yoga studios offer Yoga Nidra and you can easily do it at home for free with YouTube or a meditation app. Plus, no need to invest in any equipment. You just need a yoga mat (or even just a blanket) and something to support your lower back, spine, and head.

Yoga Nidra is best practiced in a quiet space where you'll be able to relax without being disturbed. When you're ready, dim the lights and get comfortable in savasana.

Allow your eyes to gently close and take a few deep breaths in and out. Let your body relax completely. From there, you'll go through a progressive relaxation of your entire body, starting with your right foot. Move your attention up to your right knee, thigh, and hip. Then, repeat the process on the left leg.

Continue this pattern of awareness and relaxation for your entire body.

Once you've completed this process for your entire body, allow yourself to relax completely. Stay here for as long as you'd like.

When you're ready, bring awareness back to your surroundings and slowly come up to a seated position before opening your eyes.

To get the most from your Yoga Nidra practice, here are some tips you can use:

  • Start with an intention. Why are you practicing? What is it you're hoping for?
  • Use a sleep mask to block out light.
  • Practice where you're most comfortable. The bed? A recliner? Go for it!
  • Use a blanket to keep yourself warm.
  • Start with shorter sessions of 15–20 minutes.
  • Practice whenever it makes sense for you.
  • Don't give up! Meditation is hard. You're being asked to quiet your mind against the innumerable things competing for your attention. Go easy on yourself.

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

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Yoga Nidra works on the autonomic nervous system. This is the system that regulates body processes like your heartbeat, breathing, blood flow, and digestion. Since it's such deep relaxation, Yoga Nidra also stimulates the pineal gland and encourages the release of hormones like melatonin. Melatonin helps manage blood pressure, cortisol levels, immune function, and is a common over-the-counter treatment for insomnia.

Plus, while meditation is documented to reduce anxiety and stress, in recent studies, Yoga Nidra has been seen as even more effective in reducing anxiety, as well as being a useful tool in reducing anxiety symptoms.

A 2020 study of Yoga Nidra found that stress affect and sleep quality saw sustained positive influence thanks to meditation. In addition, practicing Yoga Nidra consistently for just 11 minutes resulted in increased satisfaction with life, sleep quality, and mindfulness while leading to decreases in stress. For some of the study's participants, Yoga Nidra practice was reported to be particularly helpful when it came to acute stress situations (critical life events, exams, relationship problems, etc).

Here are some other benefits of a Yoga Nidra practice:

  • Connect with yourself
  • Physical and emotional healing
  • Flushes toxins
  • Ease symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and depression
  • There's no wrong way to practice

Complement Your Yoga Nidra Practice With Classes from myYogaTeacher

Did you know that 50–70 million adults in the United States alone have a sleep disorder? And it's a good bet that stress and anxiety play a huge role in that number! And, nearly 38% of those with sleep disorders report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once a month.

If that sounds like you, Yoga Nidra can help!

To get the greatest benefit from your Yoga Nidra practice, it's recommended that you do some light exercise — like a yoga class — before settling in for your Yoga Nidra session.

That's where myYogaTeacher can be an enormous help! We offer tons of yoga classes to choose from, but our Hatha, Gentle, or Slow Vinyasa classes would be a perfect complement to your Yoga Nidra sessions. We invite you to sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher. You'll get access to all of our live online group yoga classes (more than 35 each day) led by skilled and experienced Indian yoga teachers.

Classes with myYogaTeacher can be exactly what you need to get the most benefit from your Yoga Nidra practice so you can ease anxiety, get a better connection between your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves, and get better sleep.

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