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Yoga Nidra


Yoga Nidra has become one of my self care non negotiables, so much so that I wanted to learn the science and philosophy behind it so that I could share this transformational practice with the World.



What is Yoga Nidra?


Also known as Non Sleep Deep Rest, Yoga Nidra is a guided mediation practice that was first recorded in ancient Hindu texts known as the Upanishads, which date as far back as 600 BCE.

In Sanskrit, the term Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep.

It is a form of deep relaxation that follows a systematic process, putting us in a very relaxed state that is somewhere between being awake and asleep, where your body is completely relaxed but your mind remains alert.

As we enter a state of complete relaxation, we allow ourselves to let go of any physical tension, trauma, negative thoughts or emotions that may be holding us back.

Yoga Nidra can take us into a unique state where we can access deep non REM sleep with delta brain waves, whilst remaining aware. In this state we are more open and receptive to the messages of healing and creativity shared during the meditation.

Another powerful aspect of Yoga Nidra is its ability to reprogram our subconscious mind. Using visualisations, intentions and affirmations (sankalpas) and repeatedly focusing on these during the practice, we can begin to rewire our brains neural pathways and create new patterns of thought and behaviour that support our growth and wellbeing.

Unlike other forms of yoga, Yoga Nidra typically doesn’t involve any complicated asanas, or poses. It simply involves lying down in a comfortable position as you are guided through the meditation.

Seated meditation can be frustrating for some, and even triggering at times, trying to clear the mind or find inspiration to focus on. Yoga Nidra is always guided so there is nothing for you to do but lay back and relax.

There are different schools of Yoga Nidra, but most include a body scan and awareness of the breath and can also include imagery, visualisations and an intention or goal, called a Sankalpa.

Some schools of Yoga Nidra are stricter than others around not moving and not falling asleep. In my school of Yoga Nidra, all is welcome and all is perfect. If you need to move, you can do so, gently. If you fall asleep, that is fine. Your body clearly needs that. Every time you come to the practice you will have a new experience. There is no right or wrong, so you can release expectations or fears around “performing properly” and relax completely into your unique and very personal practice.

The more consistently we work with yoga nidra, the more we reap its benefits. And due to its powerful effects on the subconscious, we can use it to rewire negative or limiting beliefs, enhance our mood, or to support us in achieving and manifesting our goals.


“Yoga Nidra moves us through each layer of our being—physical, mental, energetic, intuitive, and spiritual—allowing us to experience the inner peace that yoga teaches us is always part of each one of us”

 


Yoga Nidra Benefits

Research shows us that Yoga Nidra offers several mental, physical, and emotional benefits:

  • Improves mood

  • Boosts confidence

  • Increases resilience

  • Reduces stress levels

  • Boosts concentration

  • Improves cognitive processing

  • Increases alertness

  • Boosts memory

  • Enhances self awareness 

  • Reduces anxiety

  • Reduces depression

  • Reduces PTSD

  • Improves anger management 

  • Increases motivation

  • Reduces insomnia

  • Improves sleep quality

  • Reduces pain

  • Relieves headaches

  • Regulates heart rate

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Improves blood sugar levels

  • Corrects hormonal imbalances

A 2023 review noted that Yoga Nidra shows potential as a non invasive, cost effective and easily accessible approach to help treat many health conditions, as a complementary form of treatment along with primary treatment.


Is Yoga Nidra safe for everyone?     

  

Yoga Nidra is generally considered safe for most people, however there are some conditions that require attention:

-          Pregnancy (lay on your side and use cushions to support you and your baby)

-          Mental health crises, PTSD or severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia - Yoga Nidra creates a non-ordinary state of consciousness and in that state, you may feel a lack of sense of self which can feel unsettling or even scary. Sometimes, the practice can also bring up deep fears, difficult memories, or frightening visualizations

-          Recent surgery or chronic / serious health issues

You should never perform Yoga Nidra whilst driving or operating heavy machinery. And in all cases, you should always listen to your body, stop if necessary and contact your GP if you have any concerns.

 

The Science of Yoga Nidra


Scientific research has shown that practicing yoga nidra produces various neurological effects that contribute to its incredible benefits.

One of the significant findings is the impact on brain waves. During yoga nidra, your brain transitions from beta waves, associated with active thinking, to alpha waves, linked with relaxation and meditation. This shift helps calm the mind and promotes a state of deep relaxation.

Studies have also revealed that Yoga Nidra activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the relaxation response. This response reduces stress hormones like cortisol and increases feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. As a result, practicing yoga nidra regularly can enhance overall well-being and reduce anxiety and depression.

Additionally, scientific research suggests that Yoga Nidra improves sleep quality by increasing slow-wave sleep or deep sleep duration. This restorative phase is crucial for physical rejuvenation, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation.

Understanding the science behind Yoga Nidra provides insight into its profound effects on your mind and body, and how this practice supports your overall health and well-being.

 

How do I get started with Yoga Nidra?


You can do Yoga Nidra at home or in a studio, with a certified teacher, like myself, who will guide you through the steps. If you are doing Yoga Nidra at home there are many wonderful resources online, of which I will recommend at the end of this blog.

If you would like to try Yoga Nidra at home, here are some tips to get the most from your practice:

Create a yoga nidra nest – choose a warm, quiet and comfortable spot where you are unlikely to be disturbed (it is advisable power down your phone or put on silent)


Comfort is crucial – the aim of Yoga Nidra is to help you get as relaxed as possible, so create yourself a little Yoga Nidra nest with all of your most comfortable and resourcing things. Loose clothing, blankets, bolsters, cushions, eye mask, essential oils, candles, favourite teddy! Whatever will support you to drop into your most cosy and relaxed state. And although the invitation is to stay as still as possible, it is okay to give yourself permission to move gently as needed to be comfortable


Consistency is key – Try to make a point of practicing Yoga Nidra regularly. Perhaps try to practive at the same time every day so that it becomes part of your routine. The principal ingredients of growing and nourishing a routine of yoga nidra include patience, persistence, and perseverance. Perhaps you could start with shorter sessions (five minutes a day) until you work your way up to longer ones. On a side note, the nervous system LOVES predictability, so the more you incorporate regulating practices such as Yoga Nidra into your routine, the happier and more harmonious your nervous system will become.


Wandering Minds – it is normal to feel distracted, get bored, or have your mind wander sometimes. Try noticing these feelings with as much compassion and as little judgment as possible. Let these feelings pass and gently work to bring your attention back to your breath and the session. With practice, these distractions become less


Reflection – keep a journal nearby so that you can note any revelations or insights you may have had during your session. Yoga nidra enhances creativity so you may find yourself full of ideas and inspiration upon waking.


What to expect in a Yoga Nidra Session


I would like to stress the importance of having no expectations when entering into Yoga Nidra, trusting that your experience will be exactly as it is meant to be for you, and that every experience will differ.


However, for structures sake:

Arrival – you will be invited to make yourself as comfortable as possible and create a Yoga Nidra nest to completely cocoon and comfort you throughout the practice. Remember comfort is key. And although it is preferable for you to not move throughout the practice, you are whole heartedly encouraged to do so, gently, to maintain your comfort throughout.

Resource – I will lead you through a brief resourcing practice to find a place internally and externally, that you can return to throughout the practice, to bring you a sense of peace, calm, neutrality or perhaps, joy. This is especially important if, during the practice, you unlock something within your subconscious that unsettles you. (See Emotions and Memories below). Having a resource acts as a safety anchor, that you can always come back to at any time.

Session – In some schools of Yoga Nidra the scripts are traditional and remain unchanged. In my sessions, I tailor my Yoga Nidra’s to the group. They almost always begin with a body scan and breath awareness, and sometimes the sankalpa. After this I may include images and visualisations or take you on a guided journey.

Emotions and Memories - As we are accessing the subconscious parts of our brain, it is not unusual for you to see images, memories or feel emotions that may have been locked away in our subconscious. Sometimes these are joyful happy memories, but do be aware that it could unlock things which are less desirable. It is important to remember that your body and brain will only present things that it believes you are capable of navigating and handling. However, if at any time, anything feels overwhelming, you can gently bring yourself back to your breath and your resource, or open your eyes and orient yourself in your surroundings.

Return – At the end of the session I will gently bring you back to your breath, felt sensations and surroundings, and upon waking I will take you through a grounding practice before you go about your day. Obviously, if the session is tailored to sleep, I will gradually quieten my voice, and slow down my commands, before allowing you to completely rest in silence.

Aftercare – you may wish to journal or note down things from your experience. Yoga Nidra switches on the creative parts of our brain, meaning you may be overflowing with inspiration following a session. It is said that certain artists including Salvador Dali, would perform Yoga Nidra before painting some of their most famous creations. So keep a journal nearby. And go gentle into the rest of your day, as always, being kind and taking care of yourself.

 

Tailored Yoga Nidra


You can find many Yoga Nidra’s online with specific themes to address your particular needs. For instance there are Yoga Nidra’s for better sleep, nervous system regulation, gratitude, abundance and even, astral projection.

If you have a particular goal in mind, it can be helpful to find a Yoga Nidra relating to that. However, you can also create and work with a Sankalpa (intention) within your Yoga Nidra’s too. The beauty of sankalpas are that they can seep into and work on the subconscious during a Yoga Nidra, making them more likely to rewire the subconscious and become reality, rather than simply repeating affirmations mindlessly in our awake and conscious states.

Examples of sankalpas could be:

“I make healthy choices to support my wellbeing”

“I feel deeply peaceful every day”

“My sleep is deep and restorative”

“I feel deeply loved and fulfilled in my relationship with my partner”

“Every day I am attracting more prosperity and abundance into my life”

“I am at peace with myself and the World”

I have created my own Yoga Nidras, specific to my personal needs, which have helped me immensely. They even supported me in becoming alcohol free again this year.

If you would like a specific tailored yoga nidra for yourself, please do not hesitate to contact me and I would be happy to work alongside you in creating that.

 

Final Word on Yoga Nidra


Through regular practice, Yoga Nidra becomes a catalyst for personal transformation. It helps us develop self awareness, cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others, improve sleep quality, manage anxiety or depression symptoms, enhance creativity, boost productivity, increase focus and concentration – all leading towards living a more fulfilling life.




 

Resources

My wonderful Yoga Nidra teachers, Melanie and Jennie have a channel on SoundCloud and Insight Timer with lots of free Yoga Nidras: https://soundcloud.com/yogatreat

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