Need to take a nap but end up sleeping for hours together? Try yoga Nidra to feel well-rested. Yoga Nidra or Yogic sleep is a technique used to control the body’s relaxation response. Stress, anxiety has taken over the calm of our lives. With fast-paced lives, we often find ourselves not pausing and stressing over minute things which in turn affects our overall well-being.
While some people can feel episodes of stress taking a toll on their lives others might go through the same daily and yet are unable to find a sense of calmness in their lives. If you want to change your lifestyle and don’t know where to begin yoga Nidra is your place to go. Because of the pandemic, our mental health has taken a back seat. Our mind is filled with thoughts of sanitation and cleanliness. In such perilous times, yogic sleep helps a lot.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is an advanced form of sleeping, sounds a little weird, but yoga Nidra means to be in a state between being awake and sleep. It is a guided meditation that helps put you to sleep by your instructor. Yoga Nidra stills the mind waves through entry into the sleep state, thus forming a deeper connection between your body and mind. While performing the yoga Nidra you start to sense your body and your breathing which then activates specific ways to trigger a relaxation response.
This relaxation response balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and also your left and right brain. Our brain shifts from a beta state to an alpha state. Beta state is referred to as a more awakened state with lots of brain activity while alpha state refers to a more relaxed state of mind. When in the alpha state our body releases serotonin hormone which calms you down and makes you feel relaxed. A person is less anxious as compared to a little time in an alpha state.
While practicing yoga Nidra, the practitioner rests in Shavasana or a corpse pose. With guided meditation, the instructor takes you through panchamaya kosha or the five layers of self in a simple guided manner thus attaining a sense of wholeness. Regular practice of yoga Nidra can transform a dull, tired self into an active, full of life.
How does the guided meditation work?
Yogic sleep calms our mind and body by immobilizing our brain waves via entering into a state of deep sleep. Our brain shifts from the beta or the awakened state to a more relaxed alpha state. From this alpha state, our mind then shifts into a deep alpha and high theta state where our thoughts slow down to 4-8 thoughts per second. This is the state where all super-learning happens. Kids and artists experience more theta waves because these waves are always creative and full of inspiration. It’s here people might hear random thoughts or see illusions.
After the theta state, one is guided into a deeper state – the delta state. Here our thoughts are even slowed down to 1-3.9 thoughts per second. A person in a coma is usually in this state. In this state, our bodies allow our system to restore and repair. This state is considered as the restorative state where the organs regenerate and the stress hormone – cortisol is removed from our body. From the delta, the instructor further takes you to a deeper state – one which can’t be achieved by conventional sleep. In this state your brain is thoughtless. Not everyone who practices can reach this state but with regular practice, one can see glimpses of this state.
After reaching the fourth state you are guided back to waking up. Now that you’ve touched the fourth state you bring back a piece of this state with you. You are also able to rewire your thoughts and emotions because your subconscious mind is still in the most fertile state – the fourth state. Your mind is now more open to affirmations and intentions.
How to practice Yoga Nidra on your own?
Yogic sleep is easy and can be done without the help of any instructor. Here are the steps to practice yogic sleep.
- Lie down on your back on a yoga mat in Shavasana pose. Keep your eyes closed and take deep breaths. Alternate between deep and slow breaths to relax your body.
- Continue doing this for a few rounds and then shift your attention to the left foot. Make sure your leg is relaxed. Now slowly lift your left leg, thigh, and waist.
- Repeat the same step as in 2 with the right leg. Keep your eyes closed at all times and take deep breaths. Shift your awareness to your leg and keep your mind still.
- Slowly move your attention to other parts of your body: stomach, chest, navel, hands, shoulders, neck.
- As you gradually shift your awareness upwards focus on your palms, fingers, wrist arm, and biceps. Think about your throat, nape, forehead. Keep your mind still and do not shift your awareness.
- Continue alternating between slow and deep breaths and experience your body’s sensations. Practice for 10-15 minutes.
- After every 5-7 minutes turn to the right. Repeat all the steps as above for a few minutes. Now, slowly open your eyes and sit up.
It will take a few tries to get accustomed to yogic Nidra.
Benefits of practicing Yoga Nidra regularly
1. Help reduce stress and anxiety
As mentioned before, regular practice of yoga Nidra helps reduce anxiety and stress as it shifts your brain waves into a more relaxed state. Yoga Nidra is more effective than meditation, so if you’re looking for an alternative for meditation look no further and start your yoga Nidra journey. It also helps reduce both the cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety.
Studies indicate that yoga Nidra helps improve heart rate variability. This improved heart rate variability is because of the shift from the sympathetic nervous system to a more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is responsible for a relaxed or ‘rest and digest’ response.
2. Heals the body and slows down the brain waves
In these fast-paced, non-stop lives we often forget to slow down and relax our brain. Our relaxation in these times is watching a show on Netflix or scrolling through our Instagram feed. These modern relaxation techniques are adding more stress than reducing them. Practicing yoga Nidra transports you into a deeper state – the theta state. The theta waves are always creative, filled with feelings of inspiration and spiritual well being. The brain waves in the theta state have slowed down at a frequency of 4-7 cycles per second.
3. Help treat trauma
Yoga Nidra can be used to treat trauma. The relaxation of brain waves leads to calming the noises inside your brain. A study conducted on the soldiers showed that performing yoga Nidra reduced their post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. Reduces chronic pain
Our body is engineered to heal naturally provided it gets enough rest. Practicing yoga Nidra gives our body to do just that. Our body switches to the highest state of rest which gives our body time to rest, restore, and thereby reduce the inflammation and improve the functioning of our immune system.
5. Reduces PMS syndrome
PMS syndrome can cause you to react irrationally and cause anxiety, stress. PMS syndrome can also cause an emotional upheaval which you can nullify by yoga Nidra. Studies show that people with menstrual irregularities and psychological problems significantly noticed an improvement in their well-being, anxiety, and depression.
6. Improves sleep and reduces insomnia
Yoga sleep improves the quality of your sleep and relaxes your mind and body. Insomnia and loss or lack of sleep aids in mental health disorders, stress management which in turn disrupts our overall well-being. Yogic sleep trains your body and mind to relax and move to deeper states of sleep. Sleep is extremely essential for our body. Without sufficient sleep one can experience poor memory, trouble in concentration, increased blood pressure to name a few.
Yogic sleep is a great supplement if you have issues with your sleep pattern.
7. Reduces symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Yogic sleep and other relaxation techniques have been proven to reduce the symptoms of Type II Diabetes. It also helps control the glucose levels in your body.
8. It’s easy to do and you cannot practice yoga Nidra incorrectly
Difficult asanas such as sirsasana require trained professionals, but yogic sleep can be performed by anyone irrespective of their age. All you need to do is lie in Shavasana and listen to the voice guiding you. It’s that simple.