Dreaming of Yogic Sleep: 5 Reasons to Try Yoga Nidra
by Paula Hines (U Can Yoga)
“Yoga Nidra can be understood as a total practice of yoga itself… a state of ‘awakened sleep’… in this state (we encounter) auto-suggestive experience of the power of the unconscious mind and its linkage with the soul.”
Sri Ram Sharam Acharya.
What is Yoga Nidra?
The word ‘nidra’ translates as ‘sleep’, hence yoga nidra also being known as ‘yogic sleep’. Put simply, yoga nidra can be described as a form of meditation, though it is not so much a technique as a state of being. It can be seen as an altered state of consciousness – neither being asleep or awake, but a state in-between. Sometimes, yoga nidra is also referred to as ‘conscious sleep’ as the physical body is resting, but the mind remains awake – sleep with a trace of awareness.
The reported benefits of yoga nidra are numerous from reducing stress to even helping to heal emotional and physiological wounds (For example, the work of Richard Miller with US Army veterans with PTSD has produced impressive results). Here are just a few reasons to try yoga nidra:
1. Almost anyone can do it
This one of the great beauties yoga nidra. As a practitioner, all that is required of you is to lie down in a comfortable position, listen to the voice guiding you (either in a ‘live’ class or a recording) and be willing to become effortless, or in other words, enter an effortless state of being. Restorative Yoga (http://ucanyoga.co.uk/restorative-yoga/) poses such as Basic Relaxation Pose (Supported Savasana), or Supported Reclining Pose (in this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms-kF1JIAI0 – I show you how to set yourself up in Supported Reclining Pose) are ideal positions for yoga nidra as the body is completely supported and comfortable, thus creating the conditions for both body and mind to let go more easily.
2. It’s an accessible route to meditation
If you are interested in developing a meditation practice but the idea of traditional seated meditation feels like a bit of a leap, then yoga nidra is an accessible route into cultivating a regular meditation practice. As yoga nidra is always guided and you are usually lying down, you needn’t focus on anything but the voice you are listening to. Also, as a yoga nidra can be as short as five minutes or as long as an hour, you can choose the length of practice to fit into your day.
3. It promotes deep relaxation
Yoga nidra brings about total physical, emotional and mental relaxation. When we are asleep we lose our sense of who we are (the self), yet our minds are still not truly relaxed. The space we inhabit between being asleep and awake in yoga nidra, as well as our comfortable position facilitate deep rest. That said, even if you do fall asleep during your yoga nidra practice, you would still benefit, as your subconscious mind will still take in all it needs.
If you are feeling fatigued, then listening to a yoga nidra can be rejuvenating. For instance, if you feel like you need an afternoon nap, try lying down and listening to a yoga nidra. Don’t be surprised to feel refreshed afterwards.
4. It can help improve sleep quality
When I suffered with insomnia, I found that listening to a 10-minute yoga nidra recording in bed each night not only helped me get to sleep but also, the quality of the sleep I did have was notably improved. If listening to a yoga nidra at bedtime happens to suit you, this can be a great way to begin developing a daily practice.
5. It can help bring about a greater sense of wellbeing
Yoga nidras often invite the space to set a Sankalpa (or heartfelt intention) – a positive statement in the present tense such as, ‘I am whole and healthy,” or “I am enough as I am’. A Sankalpa is not essential, though from my own personal experience of yoga nidra, practising with a Sankalpa has helped (and continues to help) me find self-acceptance. As Rod Stryker (teacher, founder of ParaYoga and author of The Four Desires) describes, yoga nidra, “…opens a doorway to a place where we can see ourselves and our lives in the most positive light.”
As a student I have experienced yoga nidras across a range of traditions – Himalayan, Satyananda and iRest (Richard Miller) – and experienced different benefits from all of them, and so when I wanted to deepen my studies in this area in order to share yoga nidra with more people, I trained with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Nirlipta Tuil and Ben Woolf in Total Yoga Nidra. Total Yoga Nidra delves into all these different lineages and shows us that there is no one ‘right way’ to practise yoga nidra.
If you have classes or workshops available in your area then it can be wonderful to experience live ‘in person’ yoga nidra, but you can also listen to recordings, meaning that you can access yoga nidra whenever you need it at the times which work best for you.
I have recorded a few short 10-15 minute audio practices which are available through my website here.
And, if you happen to be based in London and would like to experience live ‘in person’ yoga nidra, I teach a weekly Flow & Restore class on Friday evenings at Embody Wellness in Vauxhall. This class concludes with a 15-minute yoga nidra.
I hope this has encouraged you to give yoga nidra a try and to experience the benefits of this profound practice for yourself.
Paula Hines (www.ucanyoga.co.uk)