Buddha Groove’s Guru Series brings insight from experts across the fields of mindfulness, natural wellness, yoga, and meditation. Below we have wisdom from writer, Lettie Stratton.
Sleep is a problem for many Americans. Either we often don’t get enough of it or the sleep we do get is not restful or restorative. Some people turn to different kinds of meditation to try to relax and rejuvenate themselves before sleep. What if you could receive the benefits of three hours of sleep in a simple 45-minute practice? Enter yoga nidra, an ancient practice from India. While it’s slowly becoming more mainstream, you’re not alone if you haven’t heard of yoga nidra and the many benefits it offers.
What Is Yoga Nidra?While yoga nidra practitioners may look like they’re simply sleeping, yoga nidra is much different than regular sleep. Also known as yogic sleep, yoga nidra is guided relaxation meditation that calms your nervous system and allows you to restore your body and mind faster and more efficiently than if you were to simply take a nap. Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can practice yoga nidra. All you have to do is lie down in savasana (corpse pose) and listen to the instructor or recording guide you through the steps. Yoga nidra is very grounding and often leaves practitioners feeling extremely refreshed and clearheaded.
Why Practice Yoga Nidra?Yoga and meditation benefit both the mind and body, and yoga nidra is no different. The benefits of the practice are many. One of the biggest benefits of yoga nidra is what it can do for sleep. Getting six to eight hours of sleep per night is critical for health, but not all sleep is created equal. Anyone who’s ever woken up after a full night of sleep feeling anything but rested knows that. The different ways stress could affect your sleep are well documented and point to why we need practices like yoga nidra to help us maintain health and well-being. Yoga nidra is an easy way to reduce stress and bring your body and mind into a deep and restorative state of relaxation. Some people like to practice right before bed while others prefer a rejuvenating mid-day session. Whatever you prefer, the benefits of yoga nidra will be clear and long lasting.
How to PrepareYoga nidra is always guided, so you don’t need to worry about knowing much about the practice ahead of time. You’ll lie down on a mat in savasana and do whatever you need to do to get comfortable. Grab a pillow for your head and cover yourself with a loose blanket if need be. The goal of yoga nidra is to maintain a state of conscious awareness; however it’s common, especially for beginners, to fall asleep during the practice — and that’s OK! You have not failed if you fall asleep. The more you practice yoga nidra, the easier it will be to reach the conscious state of deep relaxation. Until then, just enjoy the practice in whatever way you experience it.
What to ExpectYoga nidras are typically 30-45 minutes in length, as this is the optimal amount of time to get your body and mind into that state of conscious awareness and relaxation. Once you’re in savasana, the practice will begin with setting an intention or resolve (sankalpa). This can be a statement of your true self or desire, or a specific goal such as “I am calm” or “I feel joyful.” Instead of looking for it relentlessly, do your best to let your sankalpa come to you. The body scan and breath awareness sections of the yoga nidra provide a great opportunity to check in with yourself and notice where you’re holding tension in your mind and body. Once you know which areas need a little extra love, you’ll be better equipped to let go of that tension. Visualizations that connect to all your senses are a big part of yoga nidra. Following the instructions of the guided yoga nidra can sometimes feel hypnotic, but do your best to stay conscious and aware all the way through. Toward the end of the yoga nidra, you’ll be asked to come back to your breath and begin moving very slowly to come back to the present moment. Hopefully, you’ll feel extremely relaxed and rejuvenated. It’s easy to see why yoga nidra is becoming more popular and mainstream in yoga studios around the country. Who wouldn’t want to experience a guided relaxation that’s often as restful as three hours of sleep? If your local yoga studio doesn’t yet offer yoga nidra, you can find many recordings online that will guide you through the practice. You won’t regret it.
Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, women’s basketball, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.