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As always, I asked the class if anybody needed anything in particular from this Yoga Nidra session. The zombie in the back row lifted a tired hand. She looked at me with dead, bloodshot eyes, and announced that her name was Suzie.
“Please,” she begged, “I haven’t slept—I mean really slept—for almost 6 months. I’m going crazy. Can Yoga Nidra help me?”
Yoga Nidra for Sleep
“Suzie, you’re in the right place,” I responded enthusiastically. I then explained to the class exactly how Yoga Nidra can help work its magic to promote excellent sleep. To prepare for Yoga Nidra, first I led the students in a few gentle asanas, then some relaxing pranayama. Then I instruct them to lie down, close their eyes, and relax.
Next, I led them through a 35-minute Yoga Nidra practice and awareness practice. It acts like a guided meditation, where I focused on helping people achieve deep, peaceful, and nourishing sleep.
I made an audio recording of the Yoga Nidra practice and sent it home with the students as homework. Suzie received the recording gratefully.
The next week, Suzie came back to class though I almost didn’t recognize her. The zombie had transformed into a vibrant human being with bright eyes, a warm face, and a wide smile.
Like normal, I asked if anyone in the class needed anything in particular from this Yoga Nidra practice.
Suzie excitedly reported how last week’s Yoga Nidra practice helped her to relax more than she had been able to in a very long time.
She also said that night she experienced a fantastic deep sleep, and that she had been sleeping well ever since.
(Drop the mic.)
Have you ever suffered from sleeplessness? Of course, you have. Everybody does. In the United States, 50–70 million adults of all ages and socio-economic classes suffer from regular sleep problems (Reference).
Before you go get a prescription drug, consider Yoga Nidra as an effective and completely natural remedy for sleeplessness.
Though it’s not addictive in the pharmaceutical kind of way, once you try it, you likely come back for more.
Yoga Nidra for Sleep: What? How?
I know what you’re thinking: What is Yoga Nidra? And why is something like a guided meditation even called yoga? And how can listening to a guided meditation help you sleep better?
To understand what Yoga Nidra is, it’s best to start with the definition of yoga.
The Yoga Sutras says that the experience of yoga is to connect body, mind, and spirit and arrive at a state of Awareness called Samadhi, or Oneness.
This state of Oneness is synonymous with wholeness. Ancient wisdom says Samadhi is our most natural state because it’s our Source.
You can’t “make” Samadhi happen but regular practices of body, mind, and spirit connection can help us achieve glimpses. Then one day I guess you piece together all those glimpses to realize that you’re living Samadhi.
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I haven’t been there, I’ve only read the book. But hey, if stilling the mind is leading me to something as magnificent as Oneness, then surely it can help with a bit of insomnia.
Likely, when you think of yoga practice probably think of sweaty asanas and deep Ujjayi breaths, yet there are many ways to practice stilling mind.
Yoga Nidra is a serious and ancient yoga practice, rooted in Tantra and Vedantic Shaivism. It uses ONLY one asana: savasana.
Yoga Nidra and the body
In Yoga Nidra you practice stilling the mind by paying attention to parts of you like your body, energy, thoughts. You’re invited to simply observe these parts, as well as anything else in your Awareness, without value or judgment.
The deal is that you begin to disidentify as a body, energy, thoughts, and start to experience yourself as Awareness. Essentially, Yoga Nidra trains you to be less reactive and more observant of everything about yourself and your environment. That and get outrageously relaxed.
What is Nidra, Anyway?
Nidra is a Sanskrit word meaning sleep. It refers to a particular state of mind, the Nidra state, which is the state between waking and dreaming consciousness.
This daydream state acts like an opening of your consciousness whereby you may experience pure Awareness. The yoga of sleep is in truth helping you to wake up.
4 ways Yoga Nidra help you sleep better
There are several ways that Yoga Nidra helps you achieve more regular, deep, and nourishing, sleep. First, yoga is a practice and relaxation is a skill that you must practice. Do you know somebody who simply does not know how to relax?
Come on… are YOU ever that person? Of course, you are because we all are at some time or another.
Relaxation is a skill. You can do it well and you can do it poorly. Sometimes how well you relax depends on our habits, like stress management, watching violent movies, etc.
Even if your mind is very active, Yoga Nidra wants you to welcome anything that shows up in your Awareness.
You must acknowledge how these thoughts affects your being, then to merely be the witness of the object.
That’s it. Doing so helps you to be the observer of rather than subject to things like busy thoughts. Becoming the observer of busy thoughts breaks your mind’s habitual cycle of busy thoughts and allows you to relax.
1) Relaxation As a Practice – Yoga Nidra for Sleep
Yoga Nidra uses relaxation as a primary tool to help you get into the Nidra state. Modern psychology says that you can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time. One way Yoga Nidra helps you to get relaxed is by going through something similar to a body scan.
This helps you identify not as the body, but as Awareness witnessing itself through the sensation of the body.
The more you become aware of your body in Yoga Nidra, the more you relax. This happens because your most essential Self is pure Awareness.
Yoga Nidra helps you to feel your truest essence which is Awareness married to the body. So, essentially the more you can anchor your Awareness in your body, the more you experience your birthright of peace.
But the same way you gotta practice headstand to do it well, you also gotta practice relaxation too.
Yoga Nidra actually helps to train you to downshift your brain wave activity from a frenetic high beta brainwave state to low beta, alpha, theta (Nidra state), and even delta.
Look at Steven Kotler’s book called Mapping Cloud 9 to explore the scientific studies done on how meditation practices like Yoga Nidra alter brain waves.
2) Concentrated Rest
Another way that it helps you to sleep better is by the quality of rest that occurs during Yoga Nidra. It’s said that resting in the Nidra state equals 4X regular rest time. Yoga Nidra is like rest concentrate.
A 30 minute Yoga Nidra session is equal to the rest you’d receive from a sound, 2-hour nap. So, if you’re feeling under-rested, you’ll relax knowing that you’re receiving concentrated, nourishing rest as you practice.
It’s common to emerge from a Yoga Nidra practice feeling relaxed, and clear-headed, even if you’re under-rested due to sleeplessness. If at night you can’t sleep try listening to a Yoga Nidra recording and focus on getting some concentrated rest.
This will also help you avoid the hamster wheel of worrying about not sleeping. You’ll likely fall asleep when listening to the Yoga Nidra recording but if you don’t, at least you’ll feel relaxed.
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3) Aligns Your Imbalances
It’s important to remember that sleeplessness is often a symptom of other imbalances in body, mind, or spirit. Get this: Yoga Nidra’s purpose is not necessarily to heal you from sleep problems.
What it actually does is help you gain Awareness, which in turn puts you back into balance. So while Awareness is the goal in Yoga Nidra, balance is often the result. Wellness is the byproduct of Awareness.
4) Visualizations: BE The Sleeper!
Last, Yoga Nidra is a fantastic venue for visualizations. Countless athletes, addicts, leaders, and creators, have proven that visualizations help revolutionize behavior and transform the impossible into the every-day.
Yoga Nidra acts like a bridge between your conscious and unconscious mind. This allows you to both recognize unconscious behaviors and program the behaviors that you’d like to see in your life.
Visualizations work because to your unconscious mind, seeing is believing. If you believe it, you can do it.
Neuroscientists say that our brain sends the same fight or flight message to our body whether the scene is in real life, or just in our minds.
If your mind is playing out scenes regularly, then no wonder you aren’t getting any sleep. Your brain is telling your body to get ready to run or start throwing punches.
Similarly, if you visualize yourself receiving deep, nourishing, and peaceful sleep, your brain starts to send those same peaceful brain chemicals to your body to deliver on what it translates as reality.
Yoga Nidra can help you visualize yourself receiving excellent sleep and literally overnight you can rewrite your patterning.
Five big benefits of Yoga Nidra for sleep
- Yoga Nidra improves the amount and quality of sleep. It allows you to get more concentrated rest and more of it!
- A quieter mind– Yoga Nidra helps you detach from your thoughts as you disconnect from them and become the observer.
- It helps to relax you– We practice meditation to quiet the sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, nervous system, allowing the body to relax.
- Release tension and pain-You can become more aware of the tension and anxiety that hold you back by becoming more aware of your body’s sensations. It’s essential to know where the stress and pain in your body exist to release it.
- Improve your overall well being-Research on Yoga Nidra has shown an abundance of benefits to overall well-being. Specifically, improved emotional regulation, mood, and quality of life and decreased anxiety, depression, and stress levels.
At the end of the day, Yoga Nidra is a life-changing practice that cultivates Awareness in body, mind, and spirit.
Nidra also helps you practice relaxation, cultivates concentrated rest, and helps you align your imbalances.
Also, Yoga Nidra is very effective at helping you learn to visualize to change behavior. So you can literally program yourself to receive deep, peaceful, and nourishing sleep.
I invite you to practice greater awareness and move toward your optimal wellness with this Yoga Nidra for sleep practice.
Many people complain that they get so relaxed during Yoga Nidra they fall asleep and miss all enlightening stuff.
Unfailingly, I tell them that the part of them that I’m speaking to during Yoga Nidra is always paying attention, regardless if their conscious or not.
And for those seeking better sleep, if you fall asleep during a Yoga Nidra practice then, mission accomplished!