Can Yoga help you sleep?
The practice of Yoga Nidra can indeed help with sleep.
Yoga Nidra is a perfect tool to reach a state of pleasant relaxation, reduce stress, and boost your health.
I bumped into Yoga Nidra by Rod Stryker when trying out the Yoga International online classes. I’ve been a yoga enthusiast for a while, so I was excited to find a new technique.
Contrary to most Yoga styles, Nidra doesn’t involve any movement.
All you need to do is to lie down and follow the instructions. When practiced regularly, Yoga Nidra can greatly improve your sleep. It is a fantastic tool for treating insomnia, or just for getting more restful sleep every night.
Let’s dive into Yoga Nidra 101.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is what they called Yogic sleep. The goal of Yoga Nidra is to stay awake even when your body is entering a deeply relaxed state.
If you find yourself falling asleep during the practice, don’t worry. After regular practice, your mind will get used to the sequence of yoga Nidra.
What happens during Yoga Nidra?
During the session, your body will enter a state of sleep. Your metabolic and respiratory functions will slow down. Even your brainwaves will be as if you were sleeping. But your mind will remain awake. As you rest in a state of deep relaxation, a flame of awareness will remain, dissipating the dark.
Who invented Yoga Nidra?
In a form, as it is currently taught in the Yogic world, Yoga Nidra was brought to life by a guru Satyananda Sarasvati. His methods were inspired by the Yogic techniques practiced since times immemorial.
According to its numerous practitioners, a 30-minute practice of Yoga Nidra can have an effect equivalent to two hours of sleep.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Our everyday lives are full of stress. Facing the challenges of a fast-paced life results in mental and emotional tensions. Mental stress puts an effect on the body, making us accumulate muscular tension.
As many people struggling with back pain have noticed, ordinary sleep is not enough to take the tension away. Here is where Yoga Nidra comes in handy. Through deep relaxation, while remaining aware, it enables your mind to consciously loosen up muscle after muscle.
According to medical research, Yoga Nidra improves heart rate variability and tones down the autonomic nervous system.
What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and meditation?
Both Yoga Nidra and meditation come from the Yogic tradition, where they were used to attain higher states of consciousness. The difference lies in regulating attention.
Meditative practice requires being concentrated. In Yoga Nidra, the practitioner is allowed to follow the natural flow of the mind. Of course, he/she should follow the teacher’s instructions, but whatever happens during the session is part of the process.
Putting it simply, on a basic level Yoga Nidra can be treated as a form of contemplative practice simpler than meditation. However, it doesn’t mean that it is less powerful. With diligent training, it can lead to lifechanging, profound experiences.
Because it puts the mind at peace, Yoga Nidra makes meditation much easier. If you tried meditation before and struggled to make your mind calm, incorporating Yoga Nidra into your meditative practice may be the key to success.
How to practice Yoga Nidra?
To practice Yoga Nidra, you can use one of the numerous audio recordings available online. After you become more proficient, you can also make a recording of your own.
- Find a calm and quiet spot and lie down. Using headphones may help in limiting the distractions.
- During the session, the teacher’s instructions will guide you through the process of moving awareness through your body.
- You will also pay attention to the breath and witness your thoughts flowing through your mind. You may be flooded with positive, joyful feelings, or on the contrary, you may face some anxious thoughts coming from your subconscious.
- Embrace all the sensations coming from the practice.
- Everything that happens in Yoga Nidra is meaningful for your self-exploration and healing.
- An important part of Yoga Nidra practice is Sankalpa: the resolve of your practice.
Yoga Nidra has a similar power to a state of hypnosis. It enables you to embed meaningful thoughts and intentions into your subconscious mind. How to do Sankalpa? Just clearly state your intention for the practice at the beginning and the end of the session.
When to do Yoga Nidra?
You can practice Yoga Nidra either during the day or just before going to sleep.
Any time of day is good for practice, but you should avoid doing Yoga Nidra right after meals. When your body is in digesting mode, it is much harder to stay focused on the instructions.
Since I started do have Yoga Nidra sessions in the afternoon, my days are much more productive. A session of Yoga Nidra makes my mind and body rejuvenated. It works much better than simply taking a nap.
If you have problems with insomnia, practice Nidra before going to bed. Once you enter a state of deep relaxation, it will be much easier to fall asleep.
Does Yoga Nidra replace sleep?
Unfortunately, you can’t replace your every night’s sleep with Yoga Nidra practice. However, Yoga Nidra can make your sleep better. Reducing tension and relaxing the body through Yoga Nidra practice makes your sleep more restorative.
Practice Yoga Nidra for free
For your first steps with Yoga Nidra practice, I would recommend choosing a recording prepared by an experienced Yoga teacher.
- You can find many Yoga Nidra recordings on Youtube but my favorite is Rod Styker’s 61 points Yoga Nidra (where the mind is focused on 61 points in the body). You can try it out with the 30 day Trial of Yoga International.
Some other apps and websites you can practice Yoga Nidra are:
Check out our curated list of meditation and mindfulness apps