In my opinion, Yoga Nidra is one of the biggest gifts to the modern world. It is a systematical approach that relaxes the entire being. In a fast paced society, the need for effective relaxation is huge. Yoga Nidra can be done anywhere, anytime. The same practice never leads to the same experience. In this post, I will explain a bit further what happens during Yoga Nidra, and why it is such an effective technique. As every Yoga practice, it develops over time & benefits from regularity & sincerity. I hope you are curious by now.
The Yoga Nidra technique works its way systematically through the different layers of our being. In Yoga, we call these layers or sheaths “Koshas”. The body is a gross layer, whereas the breath & the mind are more subtle. Yoga Nidra relaxes the physical body (Annamaya Kosha), recharges the energy body (Pranamaya Kosha) & helps release tension from the mind (Manomaya Kosha) & psyche or subconscious (Vijnanamaya Kosha). Eventually we experience bliss (Anandamaya Kosha) & pure presence. Just as tension is stored & experienced on different levels of our being, so is relaxation & tension release. Do you remember when you last were in a stressful emotional situation? Very likely you experienced emotional distress, worrying thoughts & tight shoulders or an upset stomach. Take any situation really to see how intertwined the layers of our being are. Relaxation ideally targets multiple layers of our being in order to be most efficient.
One reason why everybody loves Yoga Nidra is because it requires zero effort. The technique is done in Shavasana, lying on the back. Cushions & blankets are allowed to be comfortable throughout. The practice takes 20 – 25 minutes. Everything under 20 minutes is not considered a Yoga Nidra but a guided relaxation. The Yoga Nidra technique follows systematical stages that each serve a purpose. The Yoga Nidra book from Swami Satyananda Saraswati looks in depth at the specific purpose for each stage. Again, many modern guided relaxations randomly mix different cues & layers. This is not necessarily wrong, but less safe in its effects, often following preferences of the teacher & very likely less effective. I learned to appreciate the clarity, simplicity & beauty of a traditional Yogic system that works to the core of my being.
Yoga Nidra develops over time. In the beginning, people often fall asleep as their bodies need deep rest. That is ok. As with other Yoga practices, we don’t always get what we expect but we always get what we need. Staying aware & awake throughout is the intention but takes practice. When done regularly, the technique can develop more toward meditation & unfold various benefits for the deeper layers of our being. In yogic terms, Samskaras are released when we are in this deep state between wakefulness & sleep. Samskaras are impressions that we carry with us. Impressions from our childhood & from everyday life. They are stored within us. Yoga Nidra cuts through the different layers (Koshas) of our personality & clears impressions out. This brings relief & “clears the canvas”, bringing us more into presence.
I can honestly say that the daily practice of Yoga Nidra has changed my life. It has become a healthy routine, an invitation really, to rest. It is recommended to do Yoga Nidra daily, ideally in the late afternoon or before lunch. I find it ideal as a transition after work. When done before sleeping it increases the quality & depth of our sleep. 25 minutes of Yoga Nidra according to research are equal to 2 to 3 hours of deep sleep. This is exactly how it feels when coming back. Not only is it a recharge for the nervous system, but it also increases the ability to be present with myself & others, having cleared the mind, the emotions, the psyche from impressions that would otherwise consume energy.
I recommend Yoga Nidra to everyone. Yoga Nidra is one of the most profound & effective techniques. It is great to see that research is catching up on the multiple benefits of Yoga Nidra. It is beneficial for conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, obesity, chronic fatigue, burnout, PMS & many more. The Yoga Nidra Network provides academic research results. Visit their homepage to read more.
Last but not least, I would like to highlight the importance to practice Yoga Nidra under the guidance of a qualified & experienced Yoga Teacher who can advise you & help you understand the experiences made in this deep state. The practice evolves & changes over time, & only a qualified Teacher can guide you & help you derive the most from it. There are a lot of guided relaxation techniques out there that call themselves “Yoga Nidra”, following a trend, but without a Yogic System. If you would like to read more about Yoga Nidra, visit Satyam Yoga Prasad, the website of the Bihar School of Yoga with free books & audio resources. I have completed 150 hours of Advanced Yoga Teacher Training in Yoga Nidra & Restorative Yoga & feel grateful for the depth, guidance & clarity of teaching that I have received. There are recordings on my soundcloud profile for you to enjoy.