Yoga Nidra is one of the most widely used yogic tradition among different paths and styles of yoga. Traditional practices such as Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and Hatha Yoga were all designed, developed and practiced by ancient sages and then passed on to their disciples.
Similarly, ancient India’s sages and yogis also used Yoga Nidra to achieve a state of conscious sleep or sleep with awareness.
But that’s not it; there are many other benefits of Yoga Nidra on human life’s physical and psychological aspects, which we shall discuss in this post. But first, let me help you understand its origin and definition.
Origin of Yoga Nidra
The earliest signs of Yoga Nidra can be traced back to the ancient tantric practice of Nyasa. It includes chanting mentally while concentrating on specific parts of your body.
Although an ancient tradition, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the style was documented in a book Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a renowned teacher from Bihar School of Yoga.
Describing it as a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, he laid down the basics of Yoga Nidra. His teachings are still being used, learned and followed by yoga enthusiasts all over the world.
So, what makes Yoga Nidra such an effective and celebrated form of yoga?
Well, let’s take a look.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Also known as psychic sleep, yoga nidra can easily be understood as sleeping with full awareness. Meaning, that during yoga nidra, your body rests, but your mind remains awake. Apart from cultivating awareness, yoga nidra has far-reaching therapeutic effects on your physical and mental health.
The sleeping practice of yoga nidra revolves around many elements such as,
- Looking inwards rather than outwards
- Being aware and free from distractions
- Feeling different parts of your body
- Being aware of your breath
- Carrying out a complete body scan which is at the heart of yoga nidra
The practice of yoga nidra includes all the methods used by ancient sages to attain a higher evolution in humanity. It’s the combination of physical postures, ethical disciplines, breath control, sensory methods, affirmations and visualizations, and prayer and complex meditative disciplines.
All these elements collectively make Yoga Nidra as a whole an effective style of yoga.
Along with these elements, a complete Yoga Nidra module has eight specific stages.
8 Stages of Yoga Nidra
- Preliminary preparation (Prastuti) Which includes internalization and relaxation. It revolves around minimizing your physical senses such as touch and sight so as to lose interest in external world, quiet your mind, and prepare your consciousness.
- Affirmation or resolve (Sankalpa) Refers to affirming your personal goal silently. The purpose of affirming your purpose in a short, clear, and positive manner is to penetrate your subconscious mind with your desires and inclinations. Repeat your goal 3 times with full awareness, feeling, and emphasis.
- Shifting consciousness (Cetana-sancarana)Means moving your consciousness in a pre-defined manner which usually starts with the right thumb and ends with the little toe of the right foot. Then the circuit from the left thumb to the little toe of the left foot.These are followed by circuits which begin from the heels to the back of the head, and from the head and individual facial features to the legs.
- Breath awareness (Nadi-prsodhana)Or being aware of your inhalation and exhalation promotes deep relaxation and concentration. It also directs the flow of energy to each and every cell in your body.
- Awareness of sensations and feelings (Saviloma-ganana manasika)Results in relaxation by pairing opposite feelings such as heat and cold, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and so on. The pairing symbolizes the harmony between your left and right hemispheres.
- Visualization (Kalpanika caladdrsyadarsana)Induces mental relaxation as it helps you develop self-awareness while avoiding any distractions.
- Reaffirmation of resolve (Sankalpa)Since now you’d be in a heightened state of consciousness and it’d be easy to reprogram your sub-conscious mind. Make sure that your resolve is stated clearly and positively.
- Finish by returning to full awareness (Samapti)In a careful and gradual way so as to bring yourself down from psychic sleep to the awaken state.
It is also important to note that daily sleep and the typical way of relaxing for most people may include:
- Collapsing on a rest chair or couch while watching TV.
- Reading a book.
- Enjoying a cup of tea or coke.
Daily sleep and the typical way of relaxing for most people may include reading a book.
True relaxation is beyond all diversions. It needs absolute awareness, and that’s where Yoga Nidra comes into the picture.
During Yoga Nidra, you’re supposed to lie down in a supine position with your face and torso looking upwards. It is also known as corpse pose.
Yoga Nidra allows your body to sleep while making your consciousness function at a much deeper level allowing you to attain a heightened state of awareness.
On this note, let’s move on to understand the major benefits of Yoga Nidra in your day-to-day life.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra offers tons of benefits for your overall well-being. Be it your physical, psychological or mental health, Yoga Nidra can bring positive changes in all facets of your life in no time.
Let’s take a closer look.
Yoga Nidra lets you sleep while being alert and free from any distractions. Although you can practice it at any time, the ideal way would be to include it at the end of your yoga routine, followed by a quick meditation session.
This way, your body will be able to absorb the effects of asanas to the fullest. Plus, it will also enable you to cool your body & temperature and calm your metabolism after carrying out a vigorous yoga style.
Once you’ve reached a deeply relaxing state, you can swiftly transit into a state of deep meditation.
Yoga Nidra delivers deep physical and psychological relaxation while keeping your mind functional and alert.
It has been proven to be one of the most powerful methods to achieve deep relaxation without using any chemicals or sedatives.
Yoga Nidra delivers deep physical and psychological relaxation while keeping your mind functional and alert.
Impact of Yoga Nidra on Physical, Emotional & Psychological Health
Physical, mental and emotional stress are some of the typical agonies of modern times. A study conducted by Banaras Hindu University claims that Yoga Nidra restores your mental, physical and emotional health by creating harmony between your left and right hemisphere, and the two aspects of the autonomous nervous system that is sympathetic and parasympathetic.
With regular practice of yoga nidra, physical tensions such as muscular tensions, and other imbalances in the nervous and endocrine system can be easily released.
The state of deep relaxation attained during yoga Nidra helps relieve any physical tension from the body. It positively impacts your blood pressure, heart rate, vitality and breath-holding capacity.
The practice of yoga nidra also relieves pre-menstrual pain in women and helps manage other menstrual abnormalities. Apart from that it also helps manage diabetes, arthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder, making it an exceptional therapeutic option for many diseases.
Yoga Nidra also helps with emotional stress by controlling and soothing the emotional structure of your mind. Emotional stress is one of the most dominant reasons for keeping you from reaching your full potential, be it your personal life or professional life.
By practicing yoga nidra on a regular basis, you can avoid such emotional turmoil from hampering your personal or social growth.
Stress, anxiety, mood disorder, fatigue and depression are common factors that may keep you from living your life to the fullest. In worst case scenarios, these psychological elements can even cause your behavior to become abnormal.
A study conducted by Grand Valley State University shows that practicing yoga nidra can seriously reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological fears whereas promotes positive thinking in individuals and boosts your self-image.
Yoga Nidra also helps with emotional stress by controlling and soothing the emotional structure of your mind.
Chronic Insomnia or Sleeplessness
Chronic insomnia is a common sleep problem which can cause many malfunctions such as sleep walking, eating disorders, cancer or even death.
A detailed research published by All India Institute of Medical Sciences suggests that Yoga Nidra can be used as an important adjunct in managing chronic insomnia.
According to the study, it has been noticed that practicing yoga nidra in the morning right after performing your yoga routine improves the quality of sleep at night, making it more restorative.
Although the exact mechanism is not known, experts believe that it may be something to do with reduction in the sympathetic activity and increase in parasympathetic function of Automatic Nervous System (ANS), an obvious result of deep relaxation or Yoga Nidra.
In easy terms, it’s the reduction in sympathetic arousal and emotional state that improves the over-all quality of your sleep.
Yoga Nidra can be used as an important aid in managing chronic insomnia.
Perfect for Beginners
Another great advantage of Yoga Nidra over other yoga classes is that you don’t need ample of experience or a dedicated teacher to guide you through. Anyone can practice Yoga Nidra, even an amateur or a noob too. You can do it from the very comfort of your home without much preparation.
Just follow the process of Yoga Nidra which you can easily find across various online platforms and you’re good to go.
You can do Yoga Nidra from the very comfort of your home without much preparation.
Yoga Nidra is perhaps the easiest and fastest yoga practice which you can carry out even in the busiest of your days. Regular practice of Yoga Nidra induces deep relaxation by decreasing your excitatory response and increasing your relaxatory function.
This relaxation response can be understood as an inverse equivalent of the ‘fight or flight’ response.
After all, the ultimate goal of Yoga Nidra is to handle the stress and imbalances caused by the seemingly uncaring way of our modern lifestyle.
While it doesn’t demand too many efforts from your end, the important thing is to be consistent with your practice for maximum benefit.
With regular practice of Yoga Nidra, you can turn the adverse effects of stress related disorders to your favor and achieve a higher state of consciousness, greater awareness, full deep relaxation and increased efficiency for enhanced performance in your day-to-day life.
Still feeling gloomy? Try Yoga Nidra and sleep tight.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
Apart from being a playful scribbler, he’s a hardcore music fan and loves exploring space and science. He is also a spiritual soul and fitness enthusiast. Yoga, meditation and workout are some of his favourite health activities.