This Yoga Nidra Routine Will Make You Feel Like You Got a Full Night’s Sleep
- Yoga nidra, also known as dynamic sleep, is a meditation practice that prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert.
- Research indicates that yoga nidra can help stabilize blood sugar levels, alleviate PMS symptoms, depression, and anxiety and combat PTSD.
- Download a Yoga Nidra mp3 audio file here, and feel like you just woke up from your best nap ever.
There’s no substitute for a great night’s sleep, but there is a particular combination of meditation and yoga that comes close: yoga nidra. Yoga and meditation experts believe that one 30-minute practice of yoga nidra can be as restful as two to four hours of 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 meditation.
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?
Renowned author, guru, and yoga teacher Swami Satyananda Saraswati perfectly answers the “What is yoga nidra?” question by referring to it as “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” Also known as yogic sleep, this meditation practice prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert.
To practice yoga nidra, you begin by lying face-up on the floor in yoga corpse pose, otherwise known as Savasana. Based on the guided meditation you select, you’re prompted to begin sensing your body for areas of tension. Breath awareness and mindfulness are also key aspects to achieving the deep relaxation response that yoga nidra offers.
What’s the secret sauce to this method of self-care? And why do people look to yoga nidra for sleep benefits? What separates this form of meditation from standard yoga classes is that it balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (the “flight or fight” and “rest and digest” parts of the nervous system). This allows you to unwind into various, beneficial brain wave states resulting in deep rest.
How does yoga nidra work to achieve a hypnagogic state?
What happens in yoga nidra? It works by gently guiding you through four main stages of brain wave activity: beta, alpha, theta and delta. The ultimate goal is to achieve a hypnagogic state, which falls between wakefulness and sleep. It’s that magical time just before you fall asleep when the body is in deep relaxation while the mind is still reasonably lucid. That’s what makes this practice ideal for nighttime meditation.
As you progress through the four stages of brain wave activity, your physical and mental well-being can improve as stressful thoughts and tension start to fade away. Here’s how yoga nidra works from within:
Beta and Alpha
First, the guided meditation will take you through the active thinking that’s characteristic of the beta wave state. Basically, if you’re up and engaged in conversation with someone, you’re in beta. As the meditation practice continues and your brain waves begin to slow down, you’ll then pass through the relaxed alpha wave state of mind. And if you have trouble reaching that point of tranquility and inner peace, don’t be shy about using a supplement for support.
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Once you’ve achieved the beta state, the yoga nidra meditation process drops you deeper into the theta wave state. Here, your thoughts slow down even more, as theta waves measure in the 4-8 Hz range compared to 8-12 Hz for beta waves. In this state, super learning (the ability to learn a large amount of material in a short period of time) is within reach.
Like hypnosis, this is also the state where negative thought patterns can be released like the heaviness of daily life. This makes the theta state a prime place to address bad habits formed in old neural pathways (we all have something to improve on) and change them up for the better. In other words, literally rewiring the brain for good.
Finally, the guided meditation takes you to the delta state, which is known to be the most restorative one for the mind and body. During this brain wave activity state, several hormones get released, including Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH), which stimulates the release of growth home from the pituitary gland. Meanwhile, the stress hormone cortisol is at the lowest level in 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 depths of the delta state. Once you do, it won’t be long before you add sleeping meditation practices to your weekly (or daily) mental fitness plan. A feeling of ‘“thoughtlessness” will wash over—and don’t be afraid to embrace it! After all, you don’t want to miss out on the potential benefits of yoga nidra for sleep quality and overall restfulness by overwhelming yourself with decision fatigue. Yoga nidra takes you out of that conundrum and resets your mind. For that reason, you might call this state the special sauce of yoga nidra.
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What are the other science-based benefits of 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?
Want to get a feel for how a yoga nidra session goes? In a nutshell, you’ll want to lie down in a comfortable position. This could be a way for you to learn how to meditate in bed, or you may want to grab a spot on the floor. 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 (your deepest intention) for the practice. Think about a goal you want to achieve during the time you’ve set aside for yourself. 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 calmly sink into the four states of brain wave activity.
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 a seated position again to honor the space you’ve created, feeling deeply at peace.
Don’t hesitate to give this relaxation technique a try. Enter your email below to download your yoga nidra audio file now.
Looking for another way to improve your mental and physical health? Learn how you can sleep better and manage stress with exercise.
This guided meditation will put you into a state of deep relaxation equal (in just 30 minutes).
Thanks to yoga nidra guide Sue Steindorff and Dayaalu Center for performing this meditation.
This article has been updated with new content.