You may have heard of savasana, but the lesser-known, longer, and more focused version, Yoga Nidra is an ancient yogic practice that serves as a mind-body therapy. Known as “yogic sleep” or “sleeping with awareness,” it is a form of guided relaxation or meditation and typically lasts 20 to 40 minutes. This lengthened time period allows you to physically and psychologically get deep into the practice. In a normal seated meditation, the goal is to put your focus on one thing, and Yoga Nidra works to move your point of focus to various points of the body, resulting in full mind-body relaxation.
The best effect? Better sleep. In an over-stimulated world, rarely do we get the chance to sit down and deeply connect with our bodies to release tension. This heightened state of relaxation has profound health benefits and creates an overall sense of well-being, as it can lower cortisol drastically. And while daily meditation is a great practice, a weekly Yoga Nidra practice is another way to achieve a more profound sense of joy and well-being with less stress and anxiety.
A typical Yoga Nidra session is in a studio where a teacher guides the students through several stages. First, you close your eyes. Then, it is common to set an intention for your practice, life, or goals. Then, you start by focusing your awareness on your breath. Next, you focus on specific bodily sensations by paying close attention to a specific body part. The teacher then begins to go faster and you begin to move your awareness to a new area more quickly. It is a rare feeling to focus so closely on one area of your body, but it surprisingly brings up various emotions and thoughts. You will also notice a sense of peace known as “witness consciousness,” which is what occurs when we just acknowledge and welcome the thoughts and feelings without associating with them.
Unlike other forms of meditation, Yoga Nidra allows you to simply let go and surrender. You are encouraged to keep your eyes closed and not move at all, to itch, or rearrange. Moving past this state of uncomfortableness allows us to feel what it is like to surrender. This emotional sense of peace combined with the sensations our body experiences results in full mind-body relaxation.
If you are new to Yoga Nidra, try a class online to get used to it before jumping into a studio class. You can also just try to sit down and do a full-body scan, paying close attention to different areas of your body. Learning this art of relaxation takes time, and its benefits will seep into your life in various ways once it becomes a habit.