Yoga has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, owing to its flexible approach that doesn’t impose strict rules and regulations. It serves as a tool rather than an end in itself, emphasizing individual experience, where everything can be personally felt and understood. Yoga aids in connecting with higher wisdom, and it’s up to each individual to decide whether this wisdom lies within themselves or originates from a higher power.
Renowned philosopher Descartes’s quote, “I think, therefore I am,” which has influenced us greatly, prioritizes the mind while pushing emotions and feelings into the background. However, the mind merely acts as a projector, scattering consciousness into the past, the future, or alternate versions of events. This distraction hinders our ability to connect with emotions and shape our reality in the present moment. Often, we neglect introspection and disregard our true desires, allowing external factors like social norms, expectations of others, and concerns about their opinions to dictate our decisions. Yoga offers a way to quiet the mind and gain significant power by enabling us to take control of our thoughts and feelings. As we master our mind, we free ourselves from its control, determining what to think about, how to feel, and where to direct our focus. Yoga provides the necessary tools for this transformative process.
How to practice Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, often referred to as the yoga of lucid dreaming, represents a state between sleep and wakefulness, characterized by Alpha brainwave activity, promoting profound relaxation of both body and mind. During this state, the brain focuses on the subconscious, allowing us to reprogram our cells and break free from old habits.
To practice Yoga Nidra, find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. Lie on your back with a pillow under your head and knees, ensuring your body is in a relaxed position while wearing loose, comfortable clothing made of natural materials. Cover yourself with a blanket if needed.
Close your eyes and direct your attention to your breathing, taking a few deep and conscious breaths to calm your body and mind.
During a Yoga Nidra session, you’ll follow the guidance of an instructor’s voice. These guided sessions involve body scans, breath awareness, and visualizations. Your primary task is to quiet your mind and surrender to guidance.
Follow the instructions attentively, allowing yourself to completely relax and enter a state of deep relaxation. Aim to remain conscious and alert throughout the practice. If you happen to drift off to sleep and lose conscious awareness of the instructor’s voice, don’t worry, as the work still takes place beyond our immediate awareness. As you progress, it will become easier to follow the guidance without falling asleep, allowing you to engage in more conscious work with emotions or past memories.
During the practice, various emotions, feelings, and sensations may arise, but avoid fixating on them. Let them flow freely and observe them without engaging your mind. Instead, let your body work with them. You may also experience sensations or discomfort in the body, such as cold, heat, or pressure. Similarly, observe them without getting entangled in them, following the instructions and breathing accordingly. In Yoga Nidra, we must trust the body and its processes to unfold at their own pace. Discomfort may diminish over time or with repeated practice, indicating progress in working with the energy body, where much of the transformative work occurs during yogic sleep.
A vital aspect of the practice is to refrain from judgment.
If you accidentally fall asleep during a session, accept that your body needed it, and avoid judging the memories or emotions that surface. Acknowledge them, accept them, and let them be released.
Typically, a Yoga Nidra session lasts 20 to 45 minutes and is recommended to be practiced regularly for maximum benefits. Consistency is key to fully experiencing the profound effects it offers, as a 40-minute session can rejuvenate the body as effectively as three hours of sleep. While therapy often involves mental work, Yoga Nidra allows the body to do its own work.
After completing a session, it’s common to feel refreshed and energized, akin to the sensation after a restful night’s sleep. You may also experience a gentle tingling throughout your body and a feeling of rejuvenation in every cell. Your body and mind will be revitalized and ready to take on the world.
An integral component of yoga practice is setting an intention (Sankalpa). Often, instructors introduce an intention at the beginning of a session that will guide the entire practice, but practitioners can also choose their own. The key is not to dwell on the intention but rather to state it and then let it flow freely.
Working with intention is a fundamental aspect of all yoga practices. When we approach any aspect of life with a clear intention, the results tend to be more favorable, whether it’s cooking, work, or physical exercise.
When to Practice?
If you find it challenging to fall asleep, simply head to bed a little earlier and engage in a yoga nidra session of any length. With the lights off and under your own sheets, you’ll likely drift off into a peaceful slumber with ease.
Another opportune time for practice is in the morning. Instead of hitting the snooze button for an extra five minutes of sleep, utilize that moment when the alarm goes off to practice yoga nidra. It will offer numerous benefits, rejuvenating your body and setting a positive intention for the new day. The best part is, you don’t even have to open your eyes or leave the warmth of your quilt. You gain so much without losing anything. Once you try yoga nidra in the morning, it may become a regular part of your morning routine, and you might even consider setting your alarm earlier to allow more time for practice. Additionally, if you had insufficient sleep and need an energy boost for the day, a morning session of yoga nidra can recharge your batteries effectively.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra has various benefits that positively impact both the body and mind:
- Stimulation of the endocrine system: Yoga Nidra stimulates the pineal gland, promoting the release of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. Melatonin is not only essential for quality sleep but also functions as a potent antioxidant, supporting the immune system, reducing stress, and potentially helping prevent cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Deep relaxation: The systematic relaxation of the body and calming of the mind induced by yoga nidra lead to a state of deep relaxation. This practice aids in reducing stress, anxiety, and fatigue, leaving practitioners with an overall sense of calmness and rejuvenation.
- Improved sleep quality: In today’s fast-paced world, sleep problems and insomnia are common issues. Yoga Nidra can serve as a powerful tool to overcome sleep disturbances. By guiding individuals into deep relaxation, it enhances the quality and duration of sleep, leading to improved energy levels and overall well-being.
- Stress reduction: Chronic stress can adversely affect both mental and physical health. Yoga Nidra activates the body’s relaxation response, lowering cortisol levels and helping to reduce stress. Regular practice builds resilience and enables better coping with life’s challenges.
- Emotional healing: Through yoga nidra, deep-seated emotions and traumatic experiences stored in the subconscious can be discovered and released. This process fosters emotional healing, resulting in a greater sense of inner peace and emotional balance.
- Increased creativity and focus: Yoga Nidra enhances mental clarity, concentration, and creativity. By calming the mind and relaxing the body, it clears the mental clutter and unlocks creative potential. This practice is particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD.
In summary, regular yoga nidra practice offers a range of benefits:
- Helps in the treatment of depression
- Calms and soothes the mind
- Refreshes and rejuvenates the body
- Calms the nervous system
- Reduces feelings of fatigue
- Lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves sleep quality
- Alleviates bodily pain
- Enhances concentration levels
- Boosts creativity and supports brain function
The peace and balance required for a successful life are already within us; we need not search for them externally. By quieting the mind and turning inward, we can successfully tap into the values we aspire to. Various practices, including yoga nidra, can support us in this transformative journey.