Practicing yoga is much more than putting yourself into interesting yoga poses. If you’re looking for a yoga style that is completely about relaxation and restoration, then you should consider Yoga Nidra.
In this article, we will explore:
- What Yoga Nidra Is
- Where Yoga Nidra Originated
- 5 Yoga Nidra Benefits
- How & When To Practice Yoga Nidra
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Before getting to the benefits of Yoga Nidra, here are a few things you should know about this style of yoga. Yoga Nidra is also known as “yogic sleep” or a “yogic nap.” It is similar to meditation but has some unique qualities that make this style of yoga practice quite special.
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditative practice. The yogi experiences a state of consciousness that rests between being awake and being asleep.
The practice is said to be a more profound level of meditation. It allows the practitioner to enter a state of deep self-inquiry which can be very healing and therapeutic.
Where did Yoga Nidra Originate?
It is difficult to determine exactly when Yoga Nidra originated.
Some resources state that Yoga Nidra was mentioned in the Upanishads, an ancient yoga text believed to be written around 1000 BC. Other sources state that the practice may have been generated from the tantric yoga traditions, established around 500 BC.
Although it may be a challenge pinpointing the official beginning of Yoga Nidra, it is considered an important modern-day yoga practice to achieve stress relief, mental clarity, and is a form of relaxation and self-inquiry.
5 Yoga Nidra Benefits
Anyone can practice Yoga Nidra. Whether you’re a novice to yoga or are well experienced, anyone can benefit from this meditation practice. Here are five yoga nidra benefits:
1. Better Sleep
2. Greater Alertness & Mindfulness
3. Reduced Stress & Anxiety
4. Release Physical & Emotional Pain
5. Deeper Awareness of Self
Let’s explore each of these yoga nidra benefits in more detail:
#1: Better Sleep
Everyone wants a good night’s sleep. Engaging in a Yoga Nidra practice helps you to relax your mind and body so you get better sleep. You might even find that the quality and duration of your sleep also improve.
Research has shown that this particular practice may be associated with activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This systematic response is linked to relaxing the body and may also lessen the effects on the sympathetic nervous system which is associated with stress.
During Yoga Nidra, the body and mind enter a state of deep relaxation. This can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, the heart rate slows down, your blood pressure lowers, and your body’s stress response decreases.
This can lead to a feeling of calm and well-being, and it can also have a range of physiological benefits, such as improved digestion and immune function.
#2: Greater Alertness & Mindfulness
Yoga Nidra has a way of quieting the mind so that you’re able to develop better focus. In turn, you will feel more alert and mindful as you engage in important decision-making tasks.
The focus on mindfulness and self-awareness during Yoga Nidra may lead to an improvement in concentration and mental clarity.
By training the mind to stay focused and in the moment, this yoga style can improve overall cognitive function and alertness.
Because Yoga Nidra is associated with improved sleep, as mentioned above, it can further lead to increased alertness and productivity during the day.
#3: Reduced Stress & Anxiety
Yoga Nidra can help with reducing stress and anxiety in the same way that it can improve the quality of your sleep.
Because this form of meditation enhances the parasympathetic nervous system, it can decrease the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream, the hormone associated with the stress response.
When you experience less stress, your blood pressure improves, your heart rate and pulse decrease to healthy levels, and you can enjoy improved overall well-being.
#4: Physical & Emotional Pain Can Be Released
Due to the unique nature of Yoga Nidra, it can go deeper than the meditative qualities already mentioned. There are more apparent benefits to this practice as well as more subtle, subconscious benefits.
More research is underway when it comes to the depth of the Yoga Nidra benefits. One study, though, has shown that this meditative practice may be correlated with reducing emotional pain, which, of course, is a form of stress.
Yoga Nidra is said to induce the alpha-theta state. The alpha brainwaves are associated with relaxation and feeling mental calm. Theta brainwaves are attributed to deep relaxation and meditation.
To put it more plainly, this style of meditation makes you feel more peaceful, quiet, less worried, and more creative.
#5: Deeper Awareness of Self
Lastly, Yoga Nidra is a tool for deep self-inquiry. It can help to enhance self-awareness as it opens your mind to reveal the subtle parts of your being.
The quieted meditative practice allows the practitioner to feel more at peace. It promotes a sense of clarity in order to be more in-tuned with the Self, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
How & When to Practice Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a form of yoga that is designed for anyone. If your intention is to bring relief and relaxation to your mind and body, this is the style of yoga for you.
It is especially wonderful when practiced in the evening before going to bed.
Since it will enhance and improve your sleep quality, Yoga Nidra is an ideal practice for the end of the day. While other styles of yoga may invigorate and awaken you during the evening hours, this form of yoga will calm and settle you down.
The Yoga Nidra instructor, ideally, is specifically trained to teach this form of yoga. They lead you through three intentional phases including:
- Creating An Intention
- Moving Awareness in the Body
The verbal cues the teacher offers are intended to keep the mind active and focused. The physical body remains in stillness and in a profound state of relaxation.
Here are some examples of what is expected during the three phases of Yoga Nidra.
Creating An Intention
Like many other styles of yoga and meditation, it is appropriate to set an intention for your practice. It is a way of stating to yourself what you’d like to gain from your yogic experience.
Setting an intention as the practicing yogi at the beginning of the class doesn’t have to be too serious. Keep your intention simple. For example, you might say to yourself, “I want relaxation and peace,” or “fill me with love and compassion.” Make it as general as you’d like or as specific as you need.
Having an intention helps to focus your attention and awareness as you are guided through the other steps of Yoga Nidra. Use it as a mantra to remain mindful during the yogic experience.
Moving Awareness in the Body
The second phase of Yoga Nidra involves moving awareness, also known as a “body scan.” The instructor will guide you to pay attention to different parts of your body. They will start at the feet and move upwards toward the head.
The instruction may be as simple as “notice your right foot. Your left foot. Your right calf. Your left calf.” The intention is to bring awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise in each part of you.
The body scan cultivates enhanced self-awareness and acceptance. This is an important segment of the Yoga Nidra practice as it brings attention to self-inquiry and presence.
This part of the yoga practice involves using your imagination to create a specific mental image or scene in your mind. This may be developed by your instructor, or you may be asked to do this on your own.
The purpose of visualization is to cultivate a sense of relaxation and well-being. For example, you may be asked to create an image in your mind, like a beautiful nature scene that represents calm, beauty, or a sense of love.
Within this scene, your teacher will ask that you focus on the details. For example, pay attention to the shapes, colors, and textures of the created scene in your mind’s eye.
This part of the Yoga Nidra practice is designed to enhance your feeling of inner peace and long-lasting well-being.
As we have explored the five key benefits of Yoga Nidra: better sleep, enhanced alertness, reduced stress, the release of emotional pain, and a deeper awareness of self, we see that it can help your overall well-being.
Try incorporating Yoga Nidra into your daily routine. This meditative style of yoga will grant you improved mental, physical, and spiritual health.
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