Most of us spend at least six to eight hours a night sleeping; trying to relax, to restore the body and mind. Occasionally though, we wake up from a full night of sleep feeling not only unrefreshed, but we experience tension and even anxiety.
Yogis recognize that as long as we have a body and a mind, tension happens. From the grossest physical body to the most subtle layers of the mind, we store so much stress in our bodies, and sleeping alone is not always enough to release that tension.
That’s when the practice of Yoga Nidra helps. Nidra means sleep, and Yoga Nidra is a practice that helps us to put the physical body to sleep while keeping the mind awake. Instead of being conscious (fully awake), or dropping into the subconscious (dream sleep) or unconscious (deep sleep), we get to access the super consciousness. We get to experience true relaxation while the brain waves drop into the alpha state. We may even gain access to the spiritual world.
Naturally, every night during sleep our brain waves drop from the active beta state all the way down to the deep sleep, delta state, sometimes resting in the theta state while we dream; but we only pass through the alpha (turiya) state for 3-5 mins. And yogis believe the alpha state is where we find deepest relaxation and healing.
When we practice Yoga Nidra (with a set of specific techniques connected to the Vishnu lineage), we consciously tap into the alpha state. Organically, as we stay in that space for longer and longer, we start to experience real relaxation - where the body and mind can truly release tension and heal themselves.
A practice that includes different limbs of yoga, Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation marrying multiple techniques. We settle the body into the stillness of a corpse pose (Savasana), we plan our seed of desire (Sankalpa) in the mind, then we rotate the consciousness throughout the body to bring energy (prana) to different parts of the body. As the body settles, we use breathing techniques (pranayama) to further relax the mind, working with duality and use visualization to concentrate the mind. We then witness the mind space (sakshi bhava) to experience meditation. When we quiet the body and the mind, relaxation naturally follows.
Yoga Nidra is such a powerful, blissful practice. Whether you are looking to heal, to spiritually evolve, or simply relax, it’s the perfect meditation for anyone. They say one hour of Yoga Nidra equals four hours of deep sleep. So even just to feel more energized, why not give it a try?
Personally, I practice Yoga Nidra (and other meditations) throughout the day whenever I can. Sometimes, even something as simple as a few deep conscious breaths, simple neck rolls, or forward folds can help me come back to the present moment. When I am present, the mind settles, the body relaxes, and I can show up better for life in general.
This translates to my evening routine, usually involving a nice winding-down in preparation for sleep. I try to practice a few restorative poses before bed, sometimes just putting my legs up against the wall. Then I brush my teeth, wash my face, apply topical Ayurvedic herbs, sometimes a bath and/or facial mask if I have time. Before bed, I put my dream journal next to my nightstand, use Nasya oil to soothe the nervous system, then I always put on a recording of Yoga Nidra by my teacher, or guide myself through the steps mentioned above. Even though it's ideal to stay awake during Yoga Nidra, sometimes I get so relaxed and drop into a blissful, deep sleep in the middle of the practice, which is usually a sign my body needs it!
Interested to try Yoga Nidra? Susan has recorded a session especially for our RECLINER community! You can find it here.