This Yoga Nidra Routine Will Make You Feel Like You Got a Full Night’s Sleep
By: Julie Hand
- Yoga nidra, also known as dynamic sleep, prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert. One 30-minute practice of yoga nidra equals approximately two hours of deep sleep.
- Yoga nidra works by gently guiding you through four main stages of brain wave activity – beta, alpha, theta, and delta. The goal is to finally achieve a “hypnagogic state” — the state between wakefulness and sleep.
- While researchers acknowledge that greater longitudinal studies are necessary to verify all of yoga nidra’s benefits, research is mounting. Prior studies indicate that yoga nidra helps to stabilize blood sugar levels; alleviate PMS symptoms, depression, and anxiety; and combat PTSD.
- Watch our Guided Yoga Nidra Video above and feel like you just woke up from your best nap ever. Download a Yoga Nidra mp3 audio file here.
While there’s no substitute for a great night’s sleep, there is a particular combination of meditation and yoga that comes close, called yoga nidra In fact, yoga and meditation experts believe that one 30-minute practice of yoga nidra equals approximately two hours of deep sleep. While more conclusive studies are necessary to understand precisely why this is so, researchers believe it’s related to the brain-wave changes you undergo during yoga nidra. Read on to learn more about yoga nidra’s science-backed health benefits — including how it will make you feel like you just slept for hours.
What is yoga nidra?
If you’re new to meditation or yoga (or even if you’re not), you probably want to start at the beginning. Yoga nidra, also known as dynamic sleep, prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert. Yoga Nidra pioneer, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, refers to it as “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” We in the west might call yoga nidra the crossroads between alpha and delta brainwave states.
To practice yoga nidra, you begin by lying on the floor (face up) in yoga corpse pose or Shavasana. Then, based upon the guided meditation you’re following, you’re prompted to begin sensing the body and breathing in specific ways to incite a relaxation response in you. This relaxation response is the secret sauce to yoga nidra because it balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems – the left and right brain –allowing you to unwind into various, beneficial brain wave states.
How does yoga nidra make you feel like you slept?
Yoga nidra works by gently guiding you through four main stages of brain wave activity – beta, alpha, theta, and delta. In the end, the goal is to achieve a “hypnagogic state” — the state between wakefulness and sleep. It’s that magical time just before you fall asleep when the body rests while the mind is still reasonably lucid. Conscious thought then blends with dreams and a trippy reality sets in.
In order for this to occur, you have to transcend the four states. First, the guided meditation will take you through the active thinking that’s characteristic of the beta wave state (14-40 Hz). You’ll then pass through the relaxed, thoughtless alpha wave state (9-13 Hz).
From there, the yoga nidra meditation drops you deeper into the theta wave state (4-7.5Hz). Here, your thoughts slow down to 4 to 8 thoughts per second. In this state, superlearning is within reach – that is to say, the ability to learn a large amount of material in a short period of time. Like hypnosis, this is also the state where negative thought patterns can be released. This makes the theta state a prime place to address bad habits — formed in old neural pathways — and change them up for the better — literally rewire the brain for good. To do this, find a certified yoga nidra instructor.
Finally, the guided meditation takes you to the delta state, where you have approximately 1 to 3.9 thoughts per second. Delta is known to be the most restorative state for the mind and body; your organs regenerate and heal, and the stress hormone cortisol is released from your body. Unfortunately, it’s all-too-common these days that people don’t achieve theta and delta sleep in any given night, so quite simply put, our bodies lack the opportunity to restore and heal themselves entirely.
Perhaps one of the most profound yoga nidra experiences occurs once you achieve the farthest reaches of the delta state. In that state, the experience takes on a feeling of ‘thoughtlessness.’ Imagine how good it would feel to not think sometimes… After all, over-thinking is precisely what causes decision fatigue — those times when it feels nearly impossible to make a good choice (like a collard green wrap over a gluten bun) because you’re actually overwhelmed by choice. Yoga nidra takes you out of that decision conundrum and resets your mind. For that reason, you might call this state the special sauce of yoga nidra.
What are the other science-based benefits of a yoga nidra?
While researchers acknowledge that greater longitudinal studies are necessary to verify all of yoga nidra’s benefits, research is mounting.
- 150 females with PMS symptoms showed improvement in symptoms after 6 months of yoga nidra, which proved to be particularly beneficial for hormone regulation.
- 100 women with depression and anxiety linked to menstruation benefited from yoga nidra therapy.
- Yoga nidra diminished stress and anxiety levels significantly 80 college students.
- 30 minutes of yoga nidra for 90 days stabilized blood glucose levels in diabetics.
- Military combat veterans reported alleviation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms like rage and anxiety and increased feelings of relaxation and peace.
How do you practice yoga nidra?
In a nutshell, you’ll want to lie down comfortably—you may desire a blanket to keep you warm or a block under your knees for support. The goal is to make yourself as comfortable as possible because you’ll be in this position for at least 30 minutes.
First, you will set your Sankalpa or deepest intention for the practice. You’ll then be asked to scan your body and notice sensations. You’ll become aware of your breath and the meditation will provide guided instruction as to how to breathe to drop deeper into your resting state. You’ll also embark upon guided visualizations of light. It’s at this point that the magic starts to happen as you drop deeper and deeper into those brain waves states.
At the end of the practice, you’ll reflect on the journey you’ve taken with your yoga nidra guide. Bringing awareness back to present reality, you’ll restate your Sankalpa. You’ll come into seated position again to honor the space you’ve created, feeling deeply at peace.
Watch our Guided Yoga Nidra Video above and feel like you just woke up from your best nap ever. Namaste.
Download the Yoga Nidra mp3
This guided meditation will put you into a state of deep relaxation equal to two hours of deep sleep.
Thanks to yoga nidra guide Sue Steindorff and Dayaalu Center for performing this meditation.