In honour of International Yoga Day, let’s explore an ancient kind of yoga that you may have heard of – a deeply relaxing practice known as Yoga Nidra.
Often described as effortless relaxation, this restful style of yoga facilitates transformations through existing consciously between the states of wakefulness and sleep. This internal awareness allows for you to disconnect from the outside world and tune into your present state of being.
What is Yoga Nidra Exactly?
The beauty of Yoga Nidra is that anyone can practice it – no prior yoga or meditation experience is required. It is a deceptively simple, and a less-intimidating, practice that doesn’t involve complex yoga positions or traditional seated meditation. Yoga Nidra is a form of deep relaxation where your body is at complete rest (usually lying down in Corpse Pose, Savasana) for 35-40 minutes while a teacher guides you through several stages of harmonious and restful being.
The practice starts off with setting an intention, and focusing on a wellness goal for your life. You then are prompted to bring your attention and your awareness to your breath, thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions. You might be thinking, how is this different from normal meditation, where you focus on your breath or on a mantra? Well, Yoga Nidra asks you to simply let go, and engage in the process of surrender.
Through this practice you learn to cultivate “witness consciousness,” where you observe and welcome anything that is present, without getting caught up in it. This is the understanding that we are more than our thoughts through recognizing ourselves as the one who is aware (the witness). Yoga Nidra invites us to a place where we can see ourselves and our lives in the most positive light, embracing all that we are – mind, body, and spirit. You develop a sense of wellbeing through the awareness and welcoming of all that is present, and only observing it from an outside perspective.
“Most people are trying to change themselves. Yoga Nidra asks them to welcome themselves. That moment of true welcoming is where the profound transformation takes place.” – Richard Miller, Yoga Teacher and Clinical Psychologist
Yoga Nidra is a practice that rejuvenates and relaxes the mind and body to a healing state by slowing down and releasing any built-up tension or stress. It practices the art of letting go, and reaching deep levels of rest. Through Yoga Nidra we are restoring our mind, body, and senses to their natural functioning. It helps you reach a place where you feel wholeness, tranquility, and well-being.
Where did Yoga Nidra Originate From?
The Sanskrit word Yoganidrā is composed of two words: yoga and nidrā, meaning yoga and sleep.
While it may just be gaining popularity in contemporary yoga cultures, Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries in the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, originating from India.
Yoga Nidra was first written down around 700 BC, however the practices date back to around 1000 BC through verbal teaching. These early teachings were practiced and expanded upon over the centuries. Yoga Nidra continues to evolve even today. Clinical psychologist Dr. Richard Miller has developed the iRest system of Yoga Nidra as a therapeutic practice used in settings such as hospitals, prisons, and clinics for war veterans with PTSD.
What are the Benefits of Yoga Nidra?
The benefits of Yoga Nidra stretch vastly, as they are very similar to the newfound benefits that meditation has on us. Both Yoga Nidra and meditation assist in activating calming states of being in the body. This relaxation response is due to the improved functioning of the nervous system and endocrine system through cells that are regenerating and being repaired, which both affect your hormones. It is said that one Yoga Nidra session or class is equivalent to four hours of normal sleep. Each session is unique and each person will experience different benefits from Yoga Nidra.
Here are some of the benefits of Yoga Nidra:
- Relaxes state of being
- Aids in emotional healing and trauma
- Rejuvenates the body
- Reduces stress
- Improves concentration and memory
- Releases negative emotions and thought patterns
- Assists in better sleep quality and sleep patterns
- Diminishes symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Refines mental clarity
- Restores physical body systems
The effectiveness of Yoga Nidra involves a shift in perception, and relies on the intentions of the practitioner. This intention is called sankalpa – which is the desire of the heart (similar to a mantra, but more of an internal goal for oneself). When the mind defines its intentions and one meditates with that goal in their subconscious, great clarity can be achieved. Intentions become internalized, and new neurological pathways are created in the brain. The mind will always turn to the base of this intention, and it will be embodied within yourself.
Yoga Nidra is a subtle yet very powerful practice that allows one to recharge their mind, body, and spirit. It offers us a way to heal and grow in order to reach our higher selves. Yoga Nidra is a gateway to guiding our awareness to our most true and authentic self.
Sending you love and light in your practice.
7 Key Benefits of Yoga Nidra. MIND IS THE MASTER. (2020, November 17). https://mindisthemaster.com/yoga-nidra-benefits-explained/.
Griffin, K. (2021, May 18). Find Full-Body Relaxation: Yoga Nidra for Anxiety, Addiction + Stress. Yoga Journal. https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/how-to-meditate/reflections-of-peace/.
Möllenhoff, C. (2021, January 2). The Origins of Yoga Nidra. Forceful Tranquility. https://www.forceful-tranquility.com/origins-of-yoga-nidra/.
Rao, T., Parvez, M., & Wilson, M. (2021, March 12). Origin and Evolution of Yoga Nidra – Yoga Practice Blog. Aura Wellness Center. https://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/2011/04/04/origin-and-evolution-of-yoga-nidra/.
Yoga Nidra classes on. Ekhart Yoga. (2020, November 16). https://www.ekhartyoga.com/resources/styles/yoga-nidra#:~:text=Yoga%20Nidra%20is%20an%20ancient,1000%20BC%20through%20verbal%20teaching.