I have been practising a life-changing meditation practise regularly now for over a year that I feel guilty keeping to myself. It’s called “Yoga Nidra”; and to me, the best part is that you do it lying down, all cozied up with blankets, cushions, and an eye pillow. I call it “Diva Sleep” because it makes me feel like a sacred Goddess, even if I didn’t wake up that day feeling like one. If you are a big fan of “savasana”; otherwise known as “corpse pose” at the end of yoga classes and you are bummed when it’s over, Yoga Nidra is for you!
Here’s some information I have gathered for you to help you decide if you want to give Yoga Nidra a try, and at the end of this article, I am sharing my number one go-to Yoga Nidra practise so you can get your own bliss on whenever you want.
What Exactly is Yoga Nidra?
I like this definition I found on https://www.doyouyoga.com:
Yoga Nidra, translated as yogic sleep, is a five-stage process that begins with a body scan to engage one’s physicality. It incorporates meditation on the breath, the balancing of emotional states, visualization, and self-healing. Setting a positive intention is another important step (which is called a sankalpa) and this gives the participant a specific purpose to the session.
On this same website, they go on to describe the specific benefits of Yoga Nidra:
During Yoga Nidra, we let our awareness wander throughout the whole body. While doing so, we move through different stages of consciousness just as in sleep: we shift between the waking state, dream state, and finally to deep, dreamless sleep.
It creates deep relaxation for health, mental peace, and higher awareness. Swami Rama has been quoted to say that Yoga Nidra is a practice of self-mastery of the autonomic nervous system. The technique is practical and easily accessible.
It’s said that 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra is as restorative as 3 hours of sleep. What does this mean? By receiving the proper rest, we enhance functioning of the immune and metabolic systems. In turn, this improves our overall physical health and leads to higher energy as well as fewer colds and infections of all types. Rest also improves mental health, eliminating brain fog, insomnia, anxiety attacks, PTSD, and depression.
The Science of Yoga Nidra
And if you’re someone who wants data on the benefits of a particular health activity, you need look no further. I found a wonderful article in the Huffington Post called, How ‘Yoga Nidra’ Works that should satisfy even the most skeptical minds. Here’s a snippet from that article:
Researchers concede that the sample sizes are small and more longitudinal studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful. In two separate papers published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. All of this comes on the back of numerous studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation, no matter the method, on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression.
Yoga Nidra’s psychological benefits have opened a discussion with wide implications in the study of PTSD. Dr. Amanda Hull, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is working to integrate Yoga Nidra, acupuncture, and qigong into the VA hospital structure. Alongside Dr. Hull, compelling research is happening at John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. They reported “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity” after eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practice. Similarly, at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, CA, researchers administered Yoga Nidra twice a week for 10 weeks to women who were victims of rape and military sexual trauma. Their 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy showed significant decreases in negative thoughts of self-blame and depression.
As a therapist who treats women with anxiety, depression, and trauma, I find this information to have many potential benefits to my clients. In fact, I often suggest that clients with these issues give Yoga Nidra a try and the feedback I receive is very encouraging. From their reports, it seems that the current research findings are accurate and that this practise may be one more invaluable ‘tool’ for people wanting vibrant emotional health and well-being.
Esther’s Favourite Yoga Nidra Practise of All-Time
I have scoured the internet for guided Yoga Nidra practises and tried many of them. There is one in particular however, that I keep coming back to as my regular go-to Yoga Nidra practice. It is on YouTube and features Sarah McLean, founder of the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona.
After trying a multitude of Yoga Nidra practices, I chose this particular one because there’s nothing new-age or weird about it. Some I tried spooked me with their ‘guided imagery’ which was anything but relaxing, and others irritated me for other reasons- annoying background music/singing bowls or the sound of rain. I like this one because it’s just one woman talking in a very soothing yet authoritative voice, giving clear, simple instructions which lead you to where you want to go- bliss land- and then she does a beautiful job of slowly guiding you back so you can ease yourself from one state to another in a lovely transition where you feel deeply rested and yet ready to face whatever else you have to do for the remainder of the day. I always end this practice feeling rested and yet rejuvenated and having more energy than when I started. It is a God-send if I haven’t slept well or long enough the night before.
It is almost 40 minutes and I cannot describe how delicious and self-indulgent it feels to give yourself this amazing gift. And once you’ve finished it, you will most definitely be giving everyone you love a gift as well because you will be a more relaxed, peaceful, and happier person than when you started it.
Try this amazing, transformative practice here.