Yoga Nidra is literally translated as yoga sleep. However, instead of sending us all to sleep, it is designed to put our minds into a state between the conscious and unconsciousness. It is a deep relaxation practice. Typically, to practice Yoga Nidra during a class, you will lie in savasana while your teacher will talk and give you instructions. They will try to withdraw all your senses except for hearing. It is so the outside world cannot distract you, but by concentrating on listening, you will not fall asleep. A Yoga Nidra will usually last anything from twenty minutes up to an hour. In an hour-long yoga class, you will often participate in a short relaxation session at the end of class rather than a full Yoga Nidra.
During this Yoga Nidra, you are training your mind to sleep with awareness. When we bring awareness to whatever we are doing, our efforts are likely to be more productive. It is the same with sleep. Scientific tests have been carried out on Yoga Nidra, and they have found that it has amazing benefits to the body and mind.
Many people report that after practicing yoga Nidra, it can feel better than a full night’s sleep. It is because when we sleep, our whole body will shut down, even the mind. It means that we wake up in the same emotional state as the previous day. In Yoga Nidra, the mind stays aware and is calmed. When we wake up from yoga Nidra, we, therefore, feel as though the body and mind have been refreshed and recharged. From this, we gain a greater ability to focus and concentrate on tasks throughout our day. Our memories will also improve and become a lot sharper, we will find that we are distracted less and even our ability to process information and make decisions are improved.
There are four main stages of a Yoga Nidra session. Your teacher will guide you through these often by reading a script aloud. Before this starts the student must be comfortable so as distractions are minimal.
- The first stage is to relax your physical body. It will focus on each part of the body separately, working systematically from the toes upwards.
- The second stage is relaxing the subtle body. The subtle body is part of the body that we cannot see; it is where our energy and emotions lie. This stage involves visualization and breathing techniques that aim to remove the effects of stress.
- Stage three is to rest in complete stillness and relax all layers of the body.
- The fourth stage is to re-energize the body by using visualization and breathing techniques again. This stage also involves bringing the student into the conscious mind and becoming aware of the surroundings.
If you haven’t already, try a Yoga Nidra session. You can go to classes that offer long Yoga Nidra sessions and can even find Yoga Nidra practices online. You will see that regularly practicing it will reap the benefits.