I dabbled in Yoga Nidra a few years ago. I knew it was beneficial but I couldn’t sit still for large chunks of time more than once a month. In fact, I remember when I started practicing yoga at 19, I barely had it in me to stay for savasana. But recently it’s the subject I’m bouncing off everyone, be it at yoga class or around a campfire. Yoga Nidra is changing the game and I can’t keep it to myself.
So what is Yoga Nidra and why do it? Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep, is a dynamic sleep. It promotes deep relaxation, and better yet, alleviates tensions stored in the unconscious mind. The practice was formed in the early twentieth century from the great Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He goes on to describe it as so.
Yoga Nidra — The Blissful Relaxation
Most people sleep without resolving their tensions,
This is termed nidra.
Nidra means sleep, no matter what or why,
But yoga nidra means sleep after throwing off the burdens,
It is of blissful, higher quality altogether.
When awareness is separate and distinct from the vrittis,
When waking, dream and deep sleep pass like clouds,
Yet awareness of atma remains
This is the experience of total relaxation.
Relaxation does not mean sleep.
Relaxation means to be blissfully happy,
It has no end.
I call bliss absolute relaxation;
Sleep is a different matter.
Sleep gives only mind and sense relaxation.
Bliss relaxes the atma, the inner self;
That is why, in tantra,
Yoga nidra is the doorway to Samadhi.
I recommitted to the practice when I was looking for answers. While I’d forgotten the power of it, my mother had recently been certified reminding me what it’s all about. Despite going through the yogic motions, I was feeling unconnected, full of anxiety and on a seesaw of happiness. In the beginning when I would sit to practice, anxiety would take over, tightening through my stomach and restless legs. At times I would turn off the recording and roll over to rest. After a few false starts, I was able to stick through it. Watching as I would get tense and letting my unconscious guide me to what was really going on.
Most of the time I would process the changes through dreams. Eventually, I felt when it was time to make a change. Once I made a scary decision to leave San Francisco, a city I loved and a job and yoga community that had given me so much to move onto the next chapter, I did a Yoga Nidra practice and for the first time the anxiety was gone.
When I watched how this practice shifted me from disconnect and having no clue what to do, to finding a decision with ease and feeling like myself again, I knew I had to keep going. As the months go on I witness magic. Whether it’s in the form of easier decisions, or asking for something and receiving it. This past week I was in Yoga Nidra when I watched negative thoughts pop up and immediately turn them to positive, breaking the habit. I’ve experienced surges of good vibes and have no problem showing up to my practice.
Lately I notice teachers expressing how we need to take it easy, fine more and ease and slow down in order to speed up. I can only hope this continues. By taking part in our fast paced world, I felt more tension, disconnect and unhappiness. I recognized that if I take the time to slow down, to reset, restore and find that deep relaxation, I have more time for the things I love and more happiness to really embrace them.
Below I share some practices, reading and training’s for you to try. One of my teachers, John Vosler recommends doing Yoga Nidra 5x a week for 40 minutes and you will begin to witness changes within the month. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section!