Yoga Nidra – What Is It?

August 12, 2022 | 8341 views

In the busy lifestyle of modern times, it’s important to take time to calm yourself and center your energy so you can feel rested and calm throughout the day, rather than getting swept out to a sea of anxiety and urgency. 

Yoga Nidra is a practice that can help you reclaim your body and retain mindfulness throughout the day without disrupting your typical routine. 

Learn more about the meditative practice of Yoga Nidra and how it can improve your life in this article from Kerala Ayurveda today. 

What Is Yoga Nidra? 

In its simplest form, Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation. Typically guided by a virtual or live instructor, this practice allows you to calmly walk the line between a state of waking and resting. 

This “yogic sleep” as some call it, puts your body and mind at ease and facilitates the healing of any chakra that are out of alignment.

In this state of near-sleep, your unconscious and conscious mind align and harmonize. (1) This type of meditation is similar to the Tibetan Buddhist’s Kriya Tantra, which focuses on cleaning and purifying the mind and body through movement and external action. 

Many individuals who practice Yoga Nidra say that they can experience a kind of interconnectedness with all living things in this state; all that was required of them was to open themselves up to the state and follow the guidance of their instructor.

“The United States military has drawn on yoga Nidra, a guided meditation process that includes body scans and unhurried breathing, to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and to help them sleep better.”

– NYTimes

This interconnected, blissful state of awareness and unconsciousness is so overwhelmingly restorative that it has even been used as a tool for healing anxiety and traumas like PTSD or depression. Still aware of your surroundings and the physical environment, your body is allowed to rest, at peace with your mind. In this state of balance, you are free to explore your inner self and heal from trauma.

Learning Your Inner Self 

There is a kind of clarity that comes with any type of meditation that allows you to see your inner self and learn what you need to heal. 

As you meditate and enter a deepened state of relaxation and awareness, you may find your attention drawn to unpleasant or transformative moments in your life. 

Within this state of relaxation and harmony, the experience will not necessarily be unpleasant, but it can draw your attention to areas of your life that may need healing or expression.

This inner self is often locked underneath an unconscious state, something that many of us forget in a bustling modern routine. Learning more about your boundaries and wounds of the past opens an opportunity for healing and growth.

Benefits of Yoga Nidra Meditation 

Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that combines Vedic teachings with meditative relaxation and deep states of consciousness. (2) Studies have proven the effectiveness of this meditative awareness, showing that physiological responses do occur in those who practice yogic sleep versus those who do not practice any type of yoga.

“Researchers at the Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Medical University in India administered either a yoga Nidra program or no yoga (control group) to 150 women with menstrual disturbances. […] The researchers found that blood pressure, postural hypotension, sustained hand grip, and heart rate variables were significantly improved in the yoga group.”

– HuffPost

While there is always more research to be done on altered states of consciousness and the effect of ancient teachings, those who practice it often come away with a noticeable change in their behavior, mood, and overall health. 

Better Sleep 

As the body enters a deeper state of relaxation, brain waves slow and calm into a rhythmic harmony that allows the body to begin healing, like that of deep, dreamless sleep. 

The brain also begins producing neurotransmitters that leave you feeling calmer, happier, and more at ease with your place in the world. 

Many of these same neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating sleep. As you practice Yoga Nidra, you will find that your sleep is deeper, and you wake up feeling more refreshed.

Anxiety and PTSD Relief 

During Yoga Nidra, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are inhibited, and the production of calming, mood-boosting chemicals in the brain assist in raising your body’s resilience to anxiety. Anxiety is often the result of an imbalance in your bodily and emotional health. 

Because your body is no longer in a fight-or-flight mode of panic – whether it is a baseline level of anxiety or triggered by certain factors – and your resilience to stress is raised, you will experience relief from these symptoms. 

Calm Mind and Body 

Yoga Nidra is about more than sleeping or meditating; it is a way to calm your mind and body, bringing them into harmony with one another. This state of being improves your sleep and allows you to detach from your thoughts, releasing stress and anxiety from your life. 

From this state, your body and brain slow into a recuperative rhythm, allowing your cells to repair themselves as if you were in a restful, deep sleep while you are still aware and awake. 

Deeper Connection 

The deep state of relaxation that yogic sleep allows you to access is an excellent starting point for establishing a deeper connection. 

This connection may be with your true inner self, or with all living things around you. This sense of connection typically comes with a strong sense of well-being and purpose or serenity. Many individuals associate this feeling with spirituality and Oneness with the world.

Emotional Growth 

Everyone experiences emotional blocks that keep them from moving forward in life. Undoing emotional traumas brings us closer to our true sense of being. By releasing this stuck energy and making connections in this state of deep consciousness, you can experience and let go of stubborn emotions that are holding you back and experience the personal growth from those achievements.

 

How To Do Yoga Nidra 

Yoga Nidra is a deeply relaxing state of connectedness that is beneficial for anyone open to practicing it. (3) While there are guidelines for practicing this yogic sleep to ensure your body and mind are aligned in the same goal, there are no strict definitions of how you should do it. 

In other words, there is no right or wrong way to practice Yoga Nidra. 

The practice puts you in a meditative state of well-being, and while you can follow an instructor or virtual guide, you can also practice it on your own. 

“Yoga Nidra is deep conscious relaxation. […] There is no goal other than to be aware without obstacle.”

 – Forbes

You can practice Yoga Nidra in a matter of minutes, but there is no set timeline unless you impose one. 

  • First, prepare your space by laying out a yoga mat or blanket to provide cushion. A rolled-up or folded towel can support the neck and knees. Unless you are using Yoga Nidra to fall asleep, it is not recommended to lay in your bed.
  • Lay on flat on your back with your hands by your side, palm facing up. This is a classic yoga pose that helps you come back to your body and enter a meditative state of awareness.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Here, you can set an intention with your practice if you wish.
  • Mentally scan your body. This check-in, typically starting from the right side and rotating around to the left side, or migrating from head to toe, is an excellent way to bring awareness to your physical body. Here, focus on the sensations your body is experiencing at different parts and notice yourself relaxing at each step.
  • Become aware of your breath. Slow down each breath until you are aware of the air coming into your nostrils and gently leaving through your mouth.
  • Welcome your feelings. Try not to get wrapped up in your thoughts but focus on the emotions you hold inside your body and how it feels. If you need to, express that emotion by laughing or crying, whatever comes to you. The goal here is to welcome the feeling, understand it is a part of you, experience it, and let it go.
  • Return to your breath and body. Once your body has let go of excess emotion, bring your attention back to your breath and how it moves through your body. Think about the sensation of lying there, scanning down or around your body. Reflect on how you feel in the present moment, and how you are connected to all living things around you.
  • When you are ready, gently begin moving your head, fingers, and toes and slowly sit up. Take a few minutes to come back to the present moment and allow yourself to wake up gently. There is no rush to get out of this state of yogic sleep, and nothing is expected of you. As you sit up, gently stretch each body part, remaining aware of it, and try to channel gratitude for the experience.

To fully experience the benefits of yogic sleep, you should be treating your mind and body with care. Following ayurvedic principles of nutrition and activity and opening yourself up to learning about your inner self are all beneficial to the practice. 

The Best Time for Yoga Nidra 

If you have a busy schedule, it can be frustrating to feel like you don’t have any time to practice yoga or meditation for yourself. 

Fortunately, Yoga Nidra takes very little time for you to feel the benefit, and the prolonged effects can last for several days.  

There is no right or wrong time to practice yogic sleep, so you can fit it into your schedule whenever it is most convenient. 

Most people choose to practice Yoga Nidra early in the morning, shortly after waking up, or late at night to help them fall asleep. If a different time works best for your yogic sleep, then that is when you should practice it. 

At Kerala Ayurveda, we do recommend that to avoid falling asleep accidentally, you should avoid practicing Yoga Nidra within 3 hours of your last meal. After eating, the body is primed to sleep, which can increase your chances of falling asleep during the meditative state. While it is not critical to remain awake during the meditation, it may be inconvenient if you need to be awake at a certain time. 

During hot summer nights, Yoga Nidra is an especially beneficial tool.

The hot, humid air during these warmer months can make it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Your body is naturally inclined to rest at cooler temperatures which can make falling asleep nearly impossible if you already struggle with insomnia or sleep-related troubles. 

Practicing Yoga Nidra before you go to bed can help you drift off to sleep and wake up feeling refreshed, despite the hot temperatures.

How Does Yoga Nidra Work? 

Yoga Nidra works by aligning your body and mind with your emotions and providing a meditative space to connect with your inner self. 

In this heightened sense of awareness and deep relaxation, you are primed for any kind of mind-body healing that you need to experience.

This yogic sleep incorporates a yoga posture known for dissipating fatigue and removing anxious feelings, as well as the meditative goal that comes from Vedic teachings. Combined with Ayurvedic healing, this practice is highly effective, even for those with few expectations of the experience.

It is no secret that Yoga Nidra is beneficial to the body and mind, but what is happening physiologically? 

Studies have shown that meditative states are extremely beneficial for our brains and provide a prolonged sense of relaxation. It is thought that by incorporating this state with Yoga and Ayurveda, the mind is in better alignment with the body to unblock any unresolved energy. Neuro scans show that this yogic sleep brings brain waves to the slow, rhythmic Delta state of consciousness, similar to when you are asleep, even if you remain awake throughout the session.

This restorative state translates to a lowered amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body in a very short amount of time compared to traditional meditation or sleep alone. 

In the modern world, your body is constantly producing cortisol, whether it’s dealing with bosses or rushing to your next appointment. This lowered amount of cortisol in the body is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease, inflammation, obesity, depression, and many other problematic health conditions.

In the brain, there is an increased production of the ‘happy chemicals’ serotonin and oxytocin, as well as GABA neurotransmitters, which allow us to remain calm in stressful situations.

Serotonin is well-known for regulating sleep, behavior, and appetite. Increased production of this chemical helps your body reduce depression and regulate the anxiety response. 

Oxytocin is well-known for its feel-good qualities, but it is also responsible for regulating the pain response, blood pressure, and wound healing. 

All this is experienced by your body in a matter of minutes, showcasing the power of this yogic sleep on the body.

Calm Your Mind and Body with Kerala 

Kerala offers a wide range of ayurvedic supplements to keep your dosha in alignment and support your lifestyle choices for holistic, sustainably-sourced herbals. 

With the technological advancements of the modern world, these supplements are available in greater concentrations and different forms, but it doesn’t change these herbals’ rich yogic history. 

Natural medicines have been an integral part of humanity for millennia, serving as remedies to ailments or methods of keeping the mind in alignment with the body.

By following this ancient wisdom and integrating it into your routine, you can live a happier and more fulfilled, energized lifestyle.

Kerala serves as a genuine seed-to-shelf company that provides a bridge between now and the ancient wisdom of Vedic texts. The most popular formula in these texts is authentically recreated in our gardens. 

Natural Ayurveda remedies are delivered right to your door so you can continue your meditative path to longevity with ease as if you had your own personal Vaidya, or Ayurvedic practitioner to help you on your journey.


Is It OK to Fall Asleep During Yoga Nidra? 

Yes, it is completely OK to fall asleep during Yoga Nidra. It is a misconception to believe that it is not, largely held by a modern culture that devalues the importance of sleep and other ‘down’ states of consciousness.

The deeper the state of relaxation, and the closer your mind and body dance on the border of consciousness, the more likely you are to fall asleep. At some point, everyone falls asleep during guided meditation, and Yoga Nidra is no different.

Even if you fall asleep during Yoga Nidra, your mind will still be on the precipice of that mental state, providing you with additional awareness of your inner and outer self. The state of relaxation you experience will only deepen, and you will feel more refreshed and rested upon waking. 

Depending on the length of time that your body is in a state of unconscious sleep, you may feel a little sleepy initially, though you will quickly recover and feel more energized throughout the day.

Incorporate Yoga Nidra and Ayurvedic Practices into Your Life

The goal of Yoga Nidra is to align your body, mind, and emotions so that you can enter a deep state of relaxation and semi-consciousness. With continued practice, healing will begin to take place in your life.

For a complete healing experience, it is necessary to treat the mind and body gently, facilitating this healing in other areas of your life. For example, removing harmful chemicals or drugs from your life is an excellent way to treat the body, while therapy and counseling may be beneficial in treating the mind. 

Ayurveda is a complementary discipline that can assist in the healing of both body and mind based on your way of life. This is done through understanding your primary Doshas, which categorizes which elements that make up your body and mind and balances those elements. 

The goal of Ayurveda is to bring yourself back to your individual ideal state of being, working in tandem with yogic sleep, meditation, and awareness of your inner self to balance all things and unblock the path to healing. 

Incorporating these practices into real life is easy with guidance from Kerala Ayurveda, your source for ancient herbals, education, and ayurvedic consultation.

Who Should Practice Yoga Nidra? 

Anyone with enough desire can practice Yoga Nidra. It is not energy-intensive and does not require any bodily strength, or special understanding of other Yogic practices. There are no expectations in a guided Yoga Nidra class, and there is no ‘wrong way’ to practice.

Children, seniors, and everyone in-between will find themselves able to participate. So long as you are open to practicing the techniques and following an instructor’s guide, you will experience the benefits of this balanced state of awareness. 

Individuals who find themselves struggling with clearing their minds and staying focused enough for traditional meditation often have no problem practicing Yoga Nidra to help create a state of mindfulness and relaxation.

Veterans and other individuals who experience strong symptoms of PTSD or other emotional and mental trauma will find benefit in the practice of Yoga Nidra as well. Over time, the goal of the practice is to help them gently heal from their wounds and restore balance to their lives. 

Restorative, Ayurvedic Yoga for The Mind and Body 

Yoga Nidra is restorative for the mind and body, helping you release tensions and trauma that have developed in life. 

Ancient Vedic teachings have given us these disciplines to keep our minds and body in harmony. While the actions are small and simple, the relaxing effect it has on your life is profound. 

If it did not work as intended, the practice would have been abandoned years ago, yet many swear by the life-changing effects Yoga Nidra has on the body that modern medicines cannot help with.

In combination with Ayurvedic practices, this yogic sleep can help you re-align your chakra and experience an elevated level of consciousness that can only come from this deep, restful meditation.

You will notice, as you continue to practice Yoga Nidra, that you feel a continual and lasting sense of well-being. During this meditation, your body, mind, and emotions are interconnected and working collectively to rest and recover.

After this restorative yogic sleep, you will notice that your nighttime sleep becomes deeper and more relaxing, and you are more resilient to stressors throughout the day.  

What to Expect with Yoga Nidra 

If you have never practiced yoga before, it can be a daunting experience to dip your toes into. These healing practices are so ancient that it can seem like you need to learn everything about the system before taking a class, but nothing is further from the truth. 

While some classes may be available for more advanced students who have a familiarity with the foundations of yoga positions and teachings, no one expects you to understand the world before you ever experience it.

There are no expectations of you in a Yoga Nidra session; your only job is to open yourself up to healing and experience the sensations that wash over you. 

Fortunately, Yoga Nidra is one of the easiest ways to begin learning about the Vedic traditions and reap the benefits of relaxation and connectedness. This type of yoga involves no physical contortion and is accessible even to individuals who struggle with meditation.

Practicing Yoga Nidra consistently can change your perspective on many life stressors, allowing you to tackle these problems directly with a level head. Practitioners of Yoga Nidra often find that they are less anxious throughout the day, have refreshing sleep, and tend to experience a heightened state of awareness and relaxation.

Learn More About Yoga and Ayurveda Today 

Vedic teachings connect all beings together in the same stream of consciousness, unlocking the secrets of the universe and leading its practitioners to a state of self-realization beyond the physical realm. 

This ancient knowledge branches out into individual disciplines, two of which are known today as Ayurveda and Yoga.

Integrating these healing disciplines into your life will improve your state of being and help you reconnect with your Self and the collective consciousness of the universe. While these teachings touch all parts of humanity from arts and culture to science and spirituality, it is an individual journey that must be discovered for yourself. 

Open yourself to a state of connectedness and unity and you may be surprised how healing the practice can be. 

Kerala Ayurveda provides a holistic platform for integrating Ayurvedic herbals into your life and learning more about the Vedic disciplines. 

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