Yoga nidra or “yogic sleep” is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage. It is discovering that calm and quiet place between sleep and wakefulness, when the body is entirely relaxed but the mind is still alert. So “yoga nidra” refers to the conscious awareness of the deep sleep state, rather than sleep itself.
During yoga nidra, the complete relaxation of the body helps us to become systematically and increasingly aware of our inner world by following a set of spoken instructions. Yoga nidra is effectively a form of guided meditation, although full meditation requires concentration on a single focus. In yoga nidra, we remain in a state of light withdrawal of the senses whilst only the hearing connects to the instructions. The instructions include a wandering excursion through the body in a rotation of consciousness, awareness of the breathing and feelings, and also a set of visualisations.
Yoga nidra, lucid sleep, is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness.
It is not about falling asleep but rather, inducing a state of deep relaxation and inner awareness. Yoga Nidra is a very powerful physical and mental relaxation technique. It soothes the body and helps to release the mind’s busy-ness with its often confusing and contradictory thoughts.
If done on a regular basis, this restorative practice is known to be beneficial for people who have physical pain and disabilities. The practice of Yoga Nidra relaxes, rejuvenates, and rebalances the mind, body and spirit.
Yoga relaxation has been found to reduce tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal pain respond well. It has even been used to help soldiers cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In my own case, yoga nidra has helped me to overcome severe insomnia. I sought knowledge about the subject because I was just so tired of never sleeping properly, feeling drained and mentally exhausted through lack of sleep and anxious about wandering through life like a sleep-deprived zombie. The practise of yoga nidra helped me to find techniques for keeping my mind busy just enough to calm the racing and chattering, allowing me to naturally float into deep and restorative sleep. By teaching yoga nidra, I hope to share these techniques with anyone who wants to find head space, who wants to sleep and escape from insomnia in a safe, welcoming and loving-kindness filled environment. Or simply just those who want to relax and escape from the stresses of everyday life.
In my yoga nidra classes, I encourage the practice of pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses) by using eye masks for darkness. We reduce touch and feeling by making the body as comfortable as possible using blosters, pillows and blankets, and then insitlling total quiet and stillness. I gently talk students into the practice, and then gently bring them back to full consciousness at the end, leaving a lot of time to find full wakefulness after the deep relaxation.
More free resources and some wonderful recored yoga nidra sequences can be found at the Yoga Nidra Network