Yoga nidra is an ancient technique first recorded in India around 700 B.C., but in the past few years, this powerful practice has experienced a worldwide resurgence in popularity.
Now even the United States military is using yoga nidra to help soldiers relieve the symptoms of PTSD.
If you are ready for a simple way to slow down and relieve stress in your life, read on to find out more about what yoga nidra is, and how you can use it to rest, recover, and heal.
Yoga nidra is a restorative, pose-free form of yoga that involves deep, conscious relaxation.
Based on the biology of our own bodies, yoga nidra progressively empties the contents of the mind, helping us move down through the different types of brainwaves to achieve a profoundly deep state of consciousness.
In yoga nidra, we enter deep states of conscious relaxation and move awareness from our external to internal worlds. We learn how to surf between sleep and wakefulness, to find a state of deep, blissful awareness where healing happens and the mind relaxes.
Yoga nidra can be a good tool in a yoga teacher’s toolkit because it doesn’t try to “fix” anything. It is simply a way to listen to the body and mind in a heartfelt way, to find harmony and awaken to our deepest, all-knowing selves.
Anyone can practice yoga nidra and gain benefit from it, but recent studies show that the practice is particularly effective at reducing the physiological and cognitive symptoms of anxiety.
While regular meditation helps us calm our sympathetic “fight or flight” responses, the deeper relaxation of yoga nidra works with the autonomic nervous system. That system regulates processes like our breathing, digestion, and circulation that happen without conscious effort.
Yoga nidra can help us:
Army researchers are even studying how yoga nidra can help ease the pain of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., nine active-duty soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder slept better and felt less depressed after being guided through 12 weeks of yoga nidra.
“They felt more comfortable with situations that they couldn’t control, and as a result, they felt more control over their lives,” says Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and consultant to the Walter Reed researchers.
Listening to instructions is the best way to induce yoga nidra, so it is usually practiced with a teacher guiding the session. You could also try it at home with a YouTube recording or a meditation or sleep app.
Begin by lying on your back in savasana or corpse pose, using a bolster or pillow for extra support if you need it.
Here’s an overview of the stages of a yoga nidra practice:
The good news is that there is no “wrong” way to do yoga nidra.
All you need to do is follow the voice that is guiding you. It is likely that you will remember certain parts of the meditation very clearly, and others not as clearly.
It is also fine if you fall asleep! Your unconscious mind will still absorb the practice, so you will still benefit from the practice.
Have you ever experienced yoga nidra? Tell us about it in the comments below.