What is Yoga Nidra?

I recently completed some additional professional development training in Yoga Nidra. Known as “Yogic sleep” Yoga Nidra is an amazing practice that has beneficial effects on multiple levels.

Yoga Nidra is a state between waking and sleeping that we normally pass through without noticing. To yogis this state is turyia, a state of silent awareness within. To Western medicine it’s hypnogogia, the border between alpha and theta brain waves, between day dreaming and dream sleep.

Practising Yoga Nidra can help us to:

  • Relax
  • Get to, and go back to, sleep
  • Regulate our emotional responses
  • Be more aware of our body and its needs
  • Improve our concentration and creativity
  • Deal better with stress
  • Improve general overall health
  • Feel better about ourselves and others

A Yoga Nidra session is a form of guided meditation. Meditation develops awareness, focus, attention, calmness, compassion and a connection to the self or higher being. Some parts of a Yoga Nidra class are guided, others are just letting things happen.

Originating from Satyananda’s Bihar School of Yoga, YogaNidra practice was set out in the ‘blue book’ in 1976.  It was most likely influenced by a mixture of yoga, Buddhism and Western psychology.

Yoga Nidra incorporates slow breathing, relaxation and body awareness.

  • Slow breathing stops the cerebellum working so hard, calming the mind, slowing the brain stem and controling automatic body functions. It switches off pre-frontal cortex and activates Vagus nerve. It also affects the heart – everything calms down when the breath does.
  • Focusing on breath helps access Hypnagogic state. Spending time in this state helps us stay asleep, as we become more familiar with shallow sleep.k
  • Relaxation activates parasympathetic system and reduces cortisol. Learning to relax helps us get to sleep and get back to sleep.
  • Awareness of body help us pause before reacting with anger or aggression, improves our interoception by bringing the insula online that regulates the body’s needs. Focusing on the body can lead to greater acceptance of the body and self-compassion. Feeling our body means we can then then move beyond it.
  • Meditation – improves the ability to focus and increases levels of serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone.

Thank you to the amazing Yoga Reading, Melanie Cooper and Jennie Wadsten for some really great training in this great gift of a practice. See the classes page for details of when I’m next teaching Yoga Nidra and give it a try.

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