Useful, accessible and effective, Yoga Nidra is much easier than many other forms of meditation for beginners.
All you have to do is lie down comfortably and listen. Even if you fall asleep (which tends to happen until you’ve been doing it for a while), you’ll still receive a lot of the benefits of the practice.
This Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation can be used for better sleep, pain relief, stress relief, or just to unwind, whenever you need.
Yoga Nidra is a modern distillation of a Yoga practice thought by some scholars to have originated from the Vedic traditions.
The word “Nidra” means “sleep”, referring not to ordinary sleep, but rather a conscious, deep state of physical and mental relaxation that is even more restorative than ordinary sleep.
When practised regularly Yoga Nidra reduces tension & stress, and is now a part of rehabilitation programs for service-men and women returning from places like Afghanistan to help them cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; reducing anxiety & anger and improving sleep. Traditionally, Yoga Nidra was also used to help clear and purify old habits, patterns and perceptions.
Although techniques vary from teacher to teacher, there are usually some common basic elements of a Yoga Nidra practice:
- A relaxation induction and body preparation
- Breath awareness
- Mindfulness of the senses (at least sight, sound, & touch), and withdrawing or resting external sensory perception
- The setting of an intention in the form of a short phrase (traditionally called a Sankalpa)
- Scanning mentally in a rotation through the body, precisely and often quite swiftly
- Awareness of opposite sensations such as heaviness/lightness, or cold/heat in the body
- For more experienced practitioners, there can be a period of time where the brain experiences delta waves, similar to very deep sleep but with conscious awareness.
- A mindful, gradual transition back to a normal waking state.
Yoga Nidra is often now combined with creative visualisation, pain management meditation techniques, goal setting, or visualisation of archetypal imagery. Yoga Nidra practice has even been successfully used by scholars to improve learning and memory.
Listening to a Yoga Nidra practice for the first time, you might wonder why we circle the whole body with our awareness in a particular order and why there is so much detailed attention to the fingers, toes, and face. This is a very effective part of the practice because as far as your brain is concerned, those parts of the body are where most of the feeling sensation and perception of the outside world comes from. Moving your awareness systematically around your body in this way stimulates the cerebral cortex, and the resulting deep relaxation changes your brain waves.
The effects of Yoga Nidra on the brain have been studied through PET scans of people practising Yoga Nidra, demonstrating why Yoga Nidra produces a deeper relaxation than ordinary sleep. But you don’t need a brain scan to know that the practice is deeply relaxing and calming – all you need to do is try it for yourself! Having practised Yoga Nidra for some years now I can vouch for its benefits and I can affirm that a consistent Sankalpa, or affirmation, as part of the practice is definitely worth persisting with. The benefits become more and more apparent over time, with regular practice.
When I’m tired, have too much going on, or when I feel like my brain has been working very hard, Yoga Nidra is my first and favourite choice of all the yoga techniques I know. It always, always makes me feel better…calmer, clearer, and more emotionally balanced and relaxed.
And when I think I don’t have time for it, when it feels easier to “do” than to “be”, that’s when I need it the most, and feel the most benefit! Yoga Nidra Relaxations are always a favourite part of our Yoga Nurture Weekends, combined with restorative supported resting positions specifically tailored to each individual’s physical needs to make it really easy to enjoy the stillness.
So click here for your free recording of a Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation that includes all the basic components outlined above. I hope you enjoy practising with it!
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