Five Reasons to Practice Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra is a form of meditation that guides you to a place of deep relaxation. With the stressful events of the last years, it is no surprise that yoga nidra is gaining popularity as a means to manage and reduce stress. 

An adapted form of yoga nidra developed by psychologist Richard Miller, called iRest, is even endorsed by the American military to help veterans better manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Without a doubt, yoga nidra is a valuable tool for counteracting stress – which is ever prevalent in our busy modern world. But how does it work? And what other benefits does yoga nidra have to offer? Keep reading to learn five reasons to practice yoga nidra.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga nidra, commonly known as yogic sleep, is a technique designed to relax the body and mind. Unlike most forms of meditation, yoga nidra is not practiced seated. While you rest comfortably in savasana, a reclined resting position, this systematic practice takes you on a journey through your body, breath, and mind. Because yoga nidra has specific steps, practitioners usually follow the instructions of a teacher or recording.

As you are guided through the practice, the body and mind progressively release tension. You may feel very relaxed and still. Although practitioners look like they are sleeping, the actually rest between waking and sleep. In this state of deep conscious relaxation, we can heal, restore, and awaken to our true potential. 

Like other yogic practices, yoga nidra was originally meant for spiritual purposes, such as raising our consciousness and reaching enlightenment. Nevertheless, it can also be used for therapeutic purposes. Therefore, anybody can benefit from yoga nidra! Here are five major reasons to start your yoga nidra practice.

1. Anyone Can Practice Yoga Nidra

Advanced postures and sweaty vinyasa flows are not for everyone. Yoga nidra, on the other hand, is accessible to everybody regardless of age, experience level, and physical abilities. There is no movement involved – your body remains completely still throughout the entire practice.

Thus, all you need is a comfortable, supported position in which you can fully relax. Most practitioners choose to lie on their yoga mat in savasana, with the option of supporting the body with extra pillows, bolsters, and a blanket. If you can’t lie down on the floor, you can still do yoga nidra seated. You can even practice in bed!

All you need to do is follow the voice of the instructor. As your consciousness drifts between waking and sleep, it’s possible that you will remember some parts of the practice and not others. Every yoga nidra session will be a different experience – sometimes you will be very focused, other times you will be easily distracted or lost in thoughts. Falling asleep is okay too, because you will still receive benefits while the subconscious mind absorbs the practice.

2. Yoga Nidra Releases Stress

Nowadays, many people suffer from chronic stress. Due to financial problems, pressure at work, and relationship struggles, they live in a constant state of “fight or flight.” In this state, the body prepares for action by releasing adrenaline and cortisol, accelerating the heart rate, and increasing muscle tension.

Unlike our ancestors, however, we cannot fight or outrun our problems. Therefore, we never actually release the energy that the body has generated – and the stress is stored in the body. Eventually, it leads to physical symptoms, such as palpitations, diarrhea, and headaches, as well as feelings of anger and frustration. In the long run, stress is the root cause of countless diseases, including digestive issues, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

However, there is a simple way to counteract the damaging effects of stress – yoga nidra! During the practice, you enter a state of deep relaxation: Your heart rate slows down, blood flow returns to the limbs, and circulation improves. In short, yoga nidra activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is also known as the state of “rest and digest.” Therefore, yoga nidra is great for people who suffer from chronic stress. 

3. Yoga Nidra Improves Sleep

As the name suggests, yoga nidra can greatly improve your sleep! By soothing the nervous system, yoga nidra can help you fall asleep faster and lead to better quality of sleep. Recent studies even suggest that yoga nidra may be beneficial in the management of sleep disorders, such as insomnia. 

In addition, you can practice yoga nidra to compensate lack of sleep after a sleepless night. Although not the same as sleep, the rest experienced during yoga nidra can restore your energy levels. In fact, some yogic texts state that one hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to four hours of sleep!

4. Yoga Nidra Trains Your Mind

During yoga nidra, the mind is open and highly receptive. This gives you the opportunity to train your mind. For example, you can use yoga nidra as a way to release old tendencies and establish more beneficial habits. The most powerful tool for training the mind is the sankalpa, meaning resolve or resolution. 

This resolve is repeated at the beginning and end of every yoga nidra, while the mind is open and quiet. It should be stated as a simple phrase, with positive language, and in the present tense. By repeating your sankalpa time and time again, you plant the seed of intention in the subconscious mind. Eventually, it becomes strong enough to affect positive change in your daily habits. Yogis firmly believe that your sankalpa is bound to come true in your life. 

5. Yoga Nidra Increases Awareness

While yoga nidra offers many tangible benefits, it is ultimately a spiritual practice. Thus, you can consider it a pathway toward samadhi. This Sanskrit term translates as liberation or enlightenment, and it describes the ultimate state of yoga. While not everybody that does yoga nidra aims to attain enlightenment, it is important to remember and honor the deeper purpose behind the practice. 

On a more practical level, regular practice of yoga nidra leads to heightened levels of awareness, paired with less emotional reactivity. Therefore, you may find that you become less stressed, less reactive, and more peaceful. Situations and people that would have upset you earlier, will no longer have a strong impact on your emotional state.

Imagine staying calm, centered, and even content in traffic jams, while having a difficult conversation with your boss, and during other stressful moments. Yoga nidra can help you get there! Swami Satyananda emphasizes that yoga nidra “is not only a way of coping with stress; it provides a means of transforming and positively utilizing tension as a steppingstone to greater awareness, efficiency, and achievement in life.”

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