Yoga nidra – or yogic sleep – is a form of yoga encouraging a state of deep relaxation that goes beyond your average savasana or meditation. After one 45 minute session, you will feel as though you have slept for 3 hours.
Whilst this immensely powerful technique might seem strange at first, practicing it can lead to a deeper sense of self, a calmer mindset and a feeling of inner liberation.
According to Ayurveda, the sister science and philosophy of yoga, there are three states of consciousness; the unconscious or subconscious, the conscious, and the superconscious. In the conscious state we are aware of the world around us.
We construct our lives around time and space, identifying with our sense of ‘I’. During our unconscious or sub conscious state – including our dream state – the mind works in a free manner, influenced heavily by the conscious state.
When the mind is in the super conscious state it is said to be in Samadhi (bliss), and connected to the singular absolute that is the basis of all existence.
So what does this have to do with Yoga Nidra?
During a yoga Nidra class, the teacher will begin by addressing your conscious state. You may be asked to send your awareness to certain parts of your body, encouraging them to relax and noticing any thoughts or feelings that arise when they do.
By engaging your attention in this way, you will move into a deeper state of bodily awareness. Eventually, you will find that you are able to better understand your reactions to each instruction by observing them intently – making what is usually subconscious, conscious.
As the body softens and relaxes further, a new sense is awakened. You start to feel no separation between your body and your surroundings, drifting in a state somewhere between sleeping and waking. Here, there is only wellness, wholeness, and peace.
Essentially, you will take a journey through the three states of consciousness with a heightened sense of awareness. Practicing regularly teaches us how to observe and welcome all our emotions, thoughts and sensations, leading us to identify less with our individual selves. Practicing yoga nidra and reconnecting with the body opens the door to many benefits for the minds, body and soul.
5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra
1) Counteracts stress
Cultivating the space between your reactions helps to take a new perspective on your daily challenges. Yoga nidra gives the ability to recognize and reorganize problems into smaller and more manageable tasks, in turn relieving unnecessary stress.
2) Relieves anxiety
Yoga Nidra provides us with a safe way to relax our bodies and minds. When anxiety rises, you can calm the physical and mental reactions by taking control of your awareness. Talk yourself through the steps the teacher takes. Start by rotating the consciousness around the body, letting any thoughts and feelings pass through your awareness without becoming involved in them. Soon you will feel relaxed, and the anxiety will have diminished.
3) Helps gain better quality sleep
If you have trouble sleeping, try practicing yoga nidra in the evening. You can even use a self-practice designed to achieve sleep at the end. Yoga Nidra slows your heart rate, respiration and even alters your brain waves, making it perfect for helping you attain a more peaceful and nourishing nights sleep.
4) Increases self-awareness
By turning your attention inwards during yoga nidra, you can discover a lot about yourself. In class you will be encouraged to notice thoughts and emotions that arise and to let them pass, without engaging in them. After a while, you may find you are experiencing deeper thoughts and feelings, related to your sense of self, your behavior and your way of being in the world.
5) Heightens creativity
Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not a characteristic, it is a state of mind. When the mind is free of stress and anxiety, an unending stream of creative energy becomes available to us. Yoga nidra teaches us to blur the lines between the states of consciousness, allowing us to explore this creative mindset with full awareness.