Whether you are a yoga teacher or a keen student of yoga, you’ll likely have heard of Yoga Nidra. A Yoga Nidra training is a great way to deepen your understanding and practice of Yoga Nidra and also provides you with the tools to facilitate classes.
This powerful meditation technique is generally performed in savasana and is very accessible. In this article we’ll take a look at:
- What is Yoga Nidra?
- Different approaches and styles of Yoga Nidra
- How to prepare for a Yoga Nidra Teacher Training
Yoga Nidra Basics
Yoga Nidra also referred to as yogic sleep is a systematic meditation practice that guides you through the koshas. It is an ancient practice that was popularized in the 1960s.
It is pronounced nid-ruh rather than nee-drah.
Nidra comes from the ni + dru.
Dru = to reveal, surface up, squeeze out, draw forth
Ni = nothingness, absence
Yoga Nidra practices are super accessible because they are practiced in the yoga posture called savasana. This means being comfortable and at ease.
Having yoga props and blankets for warmth will be a huge benefit to your experience. Even if you can’t lie on the floor, you can do this practice in other positions such as seated in a chair.
Yoga Nidra is a guided practice which means that all you need to do is follow the voice that is leading you. This means that it’s pretty much impossible to do the practice wrong. The essence of Yoga Nidra is about resting with whatever experience arises.What happens when you are comfortable and warm while lying down? Sometimes you fall asleep. It happens. It’s ok – it simply means that you probably need sleep more than Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is a great tool to put into your everyday routine. While there are some long practices as little as 10 to 15 minutes can be beneficial.
Knowing when to practice can be tricky. While it is often associated with being part of a bedtime routine (and there is nothing wrong with that), Yoga Nidra can often leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
For this reason, my favorite time of day to practice is in the afternoon when I feel that mid day slump.
Try practicing at different times of the day and see how it feels.
Yoga Nidra Benefits and advantages to Practicing
“Many consider Yoga Nidra a technique. I don’t.
At its heart is the exquisite embodiment of who we are meant to be and opens us up to true authenticity, spontaneity, vulnerability, intimacy and the realization of the true self.”– Richard Miller
You might be wondering why do a Yoga Nidra training and how it can help you and your students.
This is a practice with many benefits for both the body and the mind. Some of the reported benefits include:
- Improved sleep
- Reduced stress
- Increased present moment awareness
- Being a tool to help with PTSD
- Improves focus
- Being a tool to help with chronic pain and quiet pain sensitivity
- Developed interoception
- Developed body awareness
- Rest and relaxation
- Helping to down–regulate the nervous system into a parasympathetic state
- Taking responsibility for ourselves
- Transformation and spiritual awakening
Yoga Nidra – The Big picture
This is far from being a simple relaxation practice.
While there are obvious physical benefits to the relaxation that comes with Yoga Nidra practices it can also provide a non-judgemental place to look at ourselves our habits and responses.
It offers us a place to explore what arises within us in the moment. It can help us to work with negative sensations and emotions as well as our reactivity.
What is the difference between meditation and Yoga nidra?
Before embarking on a Yoga Nidra teacher training its worth knowing what the difference is between a meditation practice and a Yoga Nidra practice.
Unsurprisingly they are very similar but here are some of the key differences.
First of all, it really depends on how you define meditation. The state is essentially the same, but the process (rest) is different. Yoga Nidra encourages us to see the body as our home rather than something other or something to ignore or fix.
Yoga Nidra works through a “brain-to-body” and “body-to-brain” conversation. A meditation practice is more about the mind.
What is learned on a Yoga Nidra Training?
Learning to teach Yoga Nidra is an art and hopefully the training you choose will help you to set up an environment conducive to rest and relaxation as well as safety.
The crux of this is find a calm, quiet and warm environment.
Most Yoga Nidra trainings will take you through the structure of a Yoga Nidra practice and how to create your own based on a loose plan. Generally, you’ll find the following with a few additions/subtractions:
- Internalization – This is where settling and relaxation of the body take place.
- Sankalpa – A Sankalpa is an intention, and this can be specifically set for the practice or for a longer length of time, such as a year.
- Rotation of consciousness – This is generally done in the form of a body scan. It involves bringing awareness to different parts of the body and then letting them rest. There are lots of ways and approaches to do this.
- Breath awareness – This might include counting back from a certain number while focusing on breathing or a subtle form of pranayama.
- Opposites – This involves imagining opposites within the body. For example, you might be asked to explore the feeling of heat and then cold or heavy and then light.
- Visualization – This will include visualizing certain things within your mind.
- Sankalpa – Practices often come to a close by revisiting the Sankalpa set at the beginning of the practice.
- Externalization – This is where the teacher guides you out of the Yoga Nidra state and back into the day. It’s a bit like the process of coming out of savasana.
What are the Koshas and how do they link to the structure of the practice?
You’ll also learn about the Koshas or subtle layers of the body.
- ANAMAYA – food body. This is the externalizing part of the practice. The settling of the physical and bringing awareness to sensation.
- PRANAMAYA – energetic body. This is a relaxation part of the practice which focuses on breath and energy awareness.
- MANOMAYA – mind and emotions. This is where the intention (Sankalpa) setting happens.
- VIJNANAMAYA – intuitive knowing. There is an exploration of the awareness of thoughts and beliefs. This is a witnessing stage.
- ANANDAMAYA – bliss. This is the exploration of joy as the underlying and innate sense of being.
You should also learn about what is happening in the brain when practicing Yoga Nidra. The different stages of Yoga Nidra correspond to the different brain wave states.
Yoga Nidra takes its students into the hypnagogic state which takes the brainwaves into the place between the alpha and theta brain waves. The practice is not like hypnosis as the practitioner is totally conscious and alert (unless sleep happens).
What are the different schools/teachers of Yoga Nidra
There are a lot of styles of Nidra Yoga training out there and since the 2020 pandemic, a significant number of online Yoga Nidra trainings are now available. So how do you find the right one for you?
A great place to start is to do your research on some of the more established schools and teachers. A recommended place to start includes:
- Satyananda School | Swami Satyananda
- Himalayan Institute | Swami Rama
- iRest | Richard Miller
- Para Yoga Nidra | Rod Stryker
- Total Yoga Nidra Network | Uma Dinsmore Tuli
- Amrit Desai
What should I read to prepare?
Reading will not only help you prepare for your Yoga Nidra training but it will also help you decide which approach to practice most resonates with you.
The following books are a great place to start:
- Yoga Nidra: A meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing – Richard Miller
- Yoga Nidra – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
- Yoga Nidra -The Art of Transformational Sleep – Kamini Desai
- Enlightenment without God (Mandukya Upanisad) – Swami Rama
What else can I do to prepare?
Practice! It’s as simple as that. Try out lots of different styles and approaches to Yoga Nidra.
It might be helpful to keep a journal of your practice so that you can jot down some notes on the practices, how they made you feel, and what resonated with you. A good place to get a varied selection of practices is the Yoga Nidra Network.
Whichever type of Nidra Yoga training you decide to enroll in, do your research first!
Want to dive into Yoga Nidra a little more? Why not check out this article on Yoga Nidra for Sleep.