Discover the hidden secrets and benefits of Yoga Nidra and embark on a journey from your conscious mind to your subconscious. Yoga Nidra is a subtle but very effective yoga practice that takes you into a deep state of conscious relaxation.
Unlike traditional meditation, Yoga Nidra allows you to access the subconscious mind, releasing the layers of tension and anxiety that cling there and prevent us from experiencing true well-being.
Through guided visualizations and breathing exercises, Yoga Nidra unleashes the effects of deep calm, relaxation, anxiety, and stress reduction to improve sleep quality and creativity.
- With Yoga Nidra, you move between being awake and asleep.
- However, it is not meditation.
- Yoga Nidra is practiced in Shavasana, the corpse pose.
- The practice is suitable for beginners.
Table of contents:
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is an ancient relaxation technique and state of consciousness between waking and sleeping (Pandi-Perumal et al. 20221).
The method is also referred to as “effortless relaxation” and is usually introduced by a guided meditation.
It is practiced lying down, in the corpse pose, and is guided by an experienced yoga teacher.
This state leads to deep emotional and physical healing, rewiring of the brain, and helps the body to restore its natural balance.
Conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind come to the surface and can be released or realigned.
This state also allows you to access the subconscious more efficiently and to control and program it.
Is Yoga Nidra Meditation?
Yoga Nidra and meditation have similarities but are different practices.
Yoga Nidra aims to access the subconscious. In meditation, on the other hand, you are in an awake state of consciousness.
In meditation, you sit upright while detaching yourself from your thoughts and allowing them to come and go.
In yoga Nidra, you move between being awake and dreaming, but in a conscious state.
The so-called delta state created during yoga nidra is a deep healing state. The body rests as if asleep, but the consciousness is awake and moves between unconscious and conscious.
Although the practice is guided like meditation and while lying down, the state is different and almost resembles a trance.
The theta state of meditation is the stage before the delta state in yoga nidra.
Can Yoga Nidra Replace Sleep?
Since your consciousness remains awake during Yoga Nidra, it cannot replace sleep.
Like the moment just before you fall asleep, your body is heavy and deeply relaxed so that afterward, you can feel as rested and refreshed as if you had just slept for several hours.
You have dream-like thoughts, but you are still conscious.
Is Yoga Nidra Suitable for Beginners?
Yes, it is suitable for beginners and requires no prior knowledge.
All you need is a dedication to the moment and an interest in exploring your inner world.
What to Expect from a Class?
A Yoga Nidra class usually lasts 45-60 minutes.
You often see blankets and eye pillows beside the yoga mats when you come to class.
The class is spent lying down with your eyes closed while a yoga teacher guides you through meditation and visualization exercises.
The longer the class lasts, the deeper you can immerse yourself in this state of consciousness and your subconscious.
After the class, you feel relaxed and renewed and often gain valuable insights about yourself.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra has various proven health benefits, such as improved sleep quality, stress reduction, and increased self-esteem. Here is an overview of the main benefits:
1. Improves Sleep Quality
A randomized controlled study examined 41 people who had insomnia.
A specific yoga nidra practice helped to reduce total waking time and improve sleep quality. It can successfully treat chronic insomnia
2. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Stress, anxiety, mood disorders, and depression are on the rise worldwide.
Researchers compared the benefits of seated meditation and yoga nidra to stress and depression levels. Both methods proved to be effective.
However, the yoga intervention was only able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety more than meditation
3. Increases Self-Esteem
Yoga Nidra not only reduces stress in many people. A study on students shows this.
In addition to reducing stress, participants who practiced the relaxation technique could improve their self-esteem and increase their general well-being (Dol et al. 20194).
4. Relieves Menstrual Cramps
It is an effective method against menstrual cramps.
Researchers showed that a 6-month practice can significantly reduce psychosomatic symptoms in female patients (Rani et al. 20115).
Further research suggests that learning and practicing yoga nidra significantly improves the well-being, anxiety, and depression of patients with menstrual disorders (Rani et al. 20116).
5. Supports Heart Health
Clinical studies have shown that yoga nidra meditation is not only associated with positive physiological changes but can also improve blood values.
These include, in particular, red blood cell count, blood sugar levels, and hormone status (Pandi-Perumal et al. 20227)
Regardless of whether or not it is practiced with or without conventional yoga exercises, yoga nidra relaxation improves heart rate variability (Markil et al. 20118).
Heart rate variability is a marker for the balance of the autonomic nervous system, the stability of the heart muscle, and life expectancy in general.
How to Do Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is practiced in Shavasanna, the corpse pose.
If you are practicing it for the first time, it is recommended that you practice under the guidance of a yoga teacher and let them lead you through the practice.
Some yoga studios offer yoga nidra, but you can also practice it from the comfort of your own home with the help of a video.
Come into Shavasana, the relaxed supine position, and place your arms at the side of your body, palms facing upwards, feet slightly open outwards.
Gently close your eyes as you breathe in and out deeply a few times.
If you wish, place an eye pillow over your eyes to help you relax and focus inwards more easily or cover yourself up. Allow yourself to relax and let go completely:
- Connect with the deepest desire of your heart. Focus on an important goal or something related to your health. Visualize achieving this goal.
- Set yourself an intention. Remember why you practice and put it at the forefront of your yoga nidra practice.
- Scan your body. Start by focusing your attention on your right foot. Hold your attention there for a few seconds as you slowly relax your foot. Then, bring your attention to your right knee, right thigh, hip, etc. Breathe in and out deeply. Repeat the process with each body part to release tension and optimally prepare your body for a deeper state of awareness.
- Focus on your breath and let it flow calmly. This can help you become calmer, focus on the moment, and breathe evenly.
- Observe your thoughts. Let them pass and observe with curiosity what comes up without judging or suppressing them. Over time, your mind will naturally become calmer and clearer.
- Let a teacher guide you into a dream-like state through various visualization exercises. Make sure that you do not fall asleep.
- Welcome your feelings. If you feel joy and happiness during the practice, accept these feelings and let them envelop your entire body.
- Slowly bring your attention back to your body’s surroundings. When you feel ready, move your fingertips and toes and gently turn to one side. Relax here for a few moments before ending the practice. This will help you wake up more consciously and take the insights and feelings from the class into your everyday life.
- Give yourself a few more minutes to return to the waking state while you reflect on the session. Feel free to take a journal and write down the key moments and insights from the practice to integrate them into your life better.
Attending Yoga Nidra classes is a valuable experience that you should not miss, regardless of what type of yoga you usually practice.
Lying still and surrendering to the practice can be challenging in the first few minutes.
Especially when you come from a full day of work or have a lot on your plate, the mind can still be very active. With every minute, letting go and immersing yourself in a deeper consciousness becomes easier.
At the climax of the practice, when you move between consciousness and subconsciousness, an intention is often set, or a particular image is anchored in your subconscious that you have already explicitly selected at the beginning of the practice.
Afterward, you feel like you have just woken up from a long sleep and a trance-like state. Take enough time to return to yourself and the universe from this little journey and integrate your findings.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What happens in yoga nidra?
During yogic sleep, practitioners are led into a kind of meditative state that creates a bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. You are in a dream-like state but conscious.
Who cannot perform yoga Nidra?
For people suffering from severe depression, severe trauma, and severe mental illness, yoga Nidra is not advised.
Is yoga Nidra as good as a nap?
Yoga Nidra is like a nap, but where you are awake and can choose what you dream.
Afterward, you will feel rested and relaxed, as if you had just slept deeply for several hours. One hour of yoga nidra can give you as much as 4 hours of sleep.
When should you practice yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is particularly valuable if you have a hectic everyday life or want to free yourself from stress and strain. In theory, you can do it at any time of day.
In any case, take enough time to integrate and wind down the practice and choose a time when there is little chance of you falling asleep.
How long does yoga Nidra take to work?
Even if you already feel much more relaxed during yoga Nidra, the benefits usually unfold after the practice.
The effect on the body and mind is immediately noticeable afterward and can last several hours or even days.
The more regularly you practice, the easier it will be to maintain a state of inner contentment, relaxation, and connection to yourself.
1Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Spence, D. W., Srivastava, N., Kanchibhotla, D., Kumar, K., Sharma, G. S., Gupta, R., & Batmanabane, G. (2022). The Origin and Clinical Relevance of Yoga Nidra. Sleep and Vigilance, 6(1), 61-84. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41782-022-00202-7
2Datta, K., Tripathi, M., Verma, M., Masiwal, D., & Mallick, H. N. (2021). Yoga nidra practice shows improvement in sleep in patients with chronic insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. The National medical journal of India, 34(3), 143–150. https://doi.org/10.25259/NMJI_63_19
3Ferreira-Vorkapic, C., Borba-Pinheiro, C. J., Marchioro, M., & Santana, D. (2018). The Impact of Yoga Nidra and Seated Meditation on the Mental Health of College Professors. International Journal of Yoga, 11(3), 215-223. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_57_17
4Dol K. S. (2019). Effects of a yoga nidra on the life stress and self-esteem in university students. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 35, 232–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.03.004
5Rani, K., Tiwari, S. C., Singh, U., Agrawal, G. G., & Srivastava, N. (2011). Six-month trial of Yoga Nidra in menstrual disorder patients: Effects on somatoform symptoms. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 20(2), 97-102. https://doi.org/10.4103/0972-6748.102489
6Rani, K., Tiwari, S., Singh, U., Agrawal, G., Ghildiyal, A., & Srivastava, N. (2011). Impact of Yoga Nidra on psychological general wellbeing in patients with menstrual irregularities: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Yoga, 4(1), 20-25. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.78176
7Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Spence, D. W., Srivastava, N., Kanchibhotla, D., Kumar, K., Sharma, G. S., Gupta, R., & Batmanabane, G. (2022). The Origin and Clinical Relevance of Yoga Nidra. Sleep and Vigilance, 6(1), 61-84. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41782-022-00202-7
8Markil, N., Whitehurst, M., Jacobs, P. L., & Zoeller, R. F. (2012). Yoga Nidra relaxation increases heart rate variability and is unaffected by a prior bout of Hatha yoga. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 18(10), 953–958. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2011.0331
Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.
Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.