Said to be four times as restorative as sleep, this is the meditation practice that I feel most drawn to practice and share, but what is Yoga Nidra, and why give it a go?
Yoga NIdra is often translated as ‘Yogic Sleep’, however sleeping is not (always) the intention. But if you start snoozing, no big deal, it's likely that is simply what your body really needs. It's an audible meditation, a practice to receive, lying down, with no need to 'do' anything. There is no ‘wrong’ way.
The Yoga Nidra space invites us to rest in the liminal state between awake and asleep, known as the Hypnagogic or Alpha/Theta brain wave state. Alpha brain waves being those we might experience when awake, daydreaming, meditating or having slow gentle thoughts. Theta brain waves being those we might experience in dream sleep. In this boundary state between the two we have access to the conscious and subconscious, the brain is at its most flexible in this creative and rejuvenating space.
In order to sort out the chaos, complications and confusions, we must come back to the simplest thing we know. What feels like nourishment? Begin with that.
- Victoria Erickson, Rhythms and Roads
Yoga Nidra can include some or all phases of rotating awareness around the body, this might include a visualisation too, breath awareness, imagery, feeling into opposites and Sankalpa. Sankalpa being a 'resolve to do', or intention from the heart and mind, a wholehearted promise to oneself.
What are the benefits?
In Yoga Nidra we invite a felt sense of deep relaxation for our whole Self, body, mind, brain and soul, and all layers in between. Our lives are fast, to-do lists are long, learning to slow down and rest in the here and now is a powerful tonic.
But my mind is always busy (I hear you think!), how can I stop?
Thoughts will always skip around in the mind, that's 'normal', thoughts do not have to stop. BUT the more we practice focussed attention, the more ninja-like mind awareness naturally arises. It's a skill like any other. Just like running a marathon without long term training would be unachievable (for most of us), to sit in silence for one hour without experiencing many shorter sittings first is setting up for failure. I am all for 'small achievable goals' for motivation. (oh and 1 hour is not the goal btw, just an example).
What benefits might I experience?
As well as greater focus and awareness, with regular practice, Yoga Nidra is thought to offer many benefits:
Soothing the Nervous System
Stress relief / reduction
Improving sleep quality
Trauma release (for the latter please seek specialist guidance before starting a Yoga Nidra practice).
If meditation is new to you, Yoga Nidra is a great accessible starting point.
Sounds pretty great, how do I start?
I have just uploaded my first audio to Insight Timer - a free meditation app with loads of great teachers. It's a 'Yoga Nidra Recharge' daytime practice to invite an energy boost and time you need to increase your inner battery % charge.
I have intentionally shared an accessible bitesize 11 minute Nidra. I know from experience that not "having enough time" is a wonderful excuse to avoid stuff! Plus it is an accessible starting point.
We can all make 11 minutes in our day if we really want to. Right?
SO when you make time...
Turn noisy alerts off on your devices, find a space just for you, lay down and take a minute to invite comfort. Perhaps with cushions under any parts that need extra support, back of head and backs of knees can feel good. Allow yourself to feel cosy with a snug blanket over the whole body to keep the warmth in as you settle into stillness. Then press play, and listen...