If you've been to a yoga class, you probably enjoyed a guided relaxation at the end. And it is quite likely that the yoga teacher asked you to focus your awareness on different areas of the body to help you ease into a state of relaxation. This technique, called 'body scanning' or 'shifting awareness', is part of a larger technique called Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra for relaxation
Yoga Nidra could be described as a form of guided relaxation. The practice typically last 30-40 minutes and often brings immediate benefits such as a delightful sense of well-being, peace and contentment. Although the translation of Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep, it is not at all like being asleep. Rather, Yoga Nidra leads to a state somewhere in-between alertness and sleep – a bit like daydreaming or being lost in thought. It is a state of deep physical relaxation while the mind stays active, able to think and observe.
Yoga Nidra for better sleep
As well as a technique to relax, Yoga Nidra can facilitate sleep and help overcome insomnia. Ever woken up in the middle of the night with your mind and your heart racing, and found it difficult to drop back to sleep? Practicing yoga nidra can help you settle, calm the mind and nerveous system, and eventually reach that that comfortable drowsy stage where you fall asleep again easily.
Yoga Nidra as meditation
Yoga Nidra can also be used as a form of meditation. One of the stages in the Yoga Nidra process is to practice becoming a kind and detached observer of your experience, much as you would during meditating. Meditation is an integral part of yogic practice, typically practiced in a seated position. Yoga Nidra offers a more comfortable and restorative form of meditation, thus opening meditation up to people with physical restrictions and to those who have a need for deep relaxation and prefer to lie down.
What should I expect?
People often ask me how they would know that the have entered the state of Yoga Nidra. As the experience differs from person to person, this question is not easy to answer. But I venture to say that you will 'know': You will come to a point when you suddenly realize that you haven't thought about anything in particular for a while, that you lost track of time, that you were completely absorbed in just being.
To get the most of Yoga Nidra, it is best not to expect anything. Without preconceptions, simply follow the instructions given by your yoga teacher. When the conditions are right, Yoga Nidra happens automatically, just as sleep and happiness happen automatically when the conditions are right. It cannot be forced by will power. During a Yoga Nidra session, you will typically drift in and out of different levels of relaxation, sometimes the mind gets distracted, sometimes you may wish to adjust your body position. All this is part of the natural flow of the practice.
What if I fall asleep?
Well, if you you use Yoga Nidra to fall asleep, that's your goal achieved! If you don't want to asleep because you just want to relax for a little while during the day for example, there is a simple solution: Set an alarm. Setting an alarm as two advantages. Firstly, you will wake up in time, ready to do whatever is next on your agenda. And secondly, it may help you relax because you know that everything is under control and you won't be late for anything even if you fell asleep.
How can I learn Yoga Nidra?
There are plenty of free Yoga Nidra recordings available online, however, I think it is best to try Yoga Nidra under the guidance of a yoga teacher, so that you have the option to share your experience and ask questions afterwards.
My next Yoga Nidra Workshop takes place online via Zoom on Saturday, 26 June. You can book your place here.
My Yoga Nidra workshops are a deeply nurturing experience. Expect to float out feeeling restored, relaxed and rejuvenated. After a sequence of gentle stress releasing Hatha and Yin Yoga poses, you will have the opportunity to rest and turn your awareness inwards. Even if your life feels somehow crazy at the moment, here you can create a space of inner peace and calm to help you to nourish body, mind and heart, turn on your innate relaxation response, and regain your inner equilibrium. No previous yoga experience is needed.