by Lily Goncalves
Yoga Nidra is a simple way to get back in touch with your body while you relax your mind. Never heard of it? Here’s how to start and why you should consider it.
What Is It?
Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation. Believe it or not, a lot of Yoga is not really about exercise but rather meditation. The poses that are a quintessential part of the activity help strengthen the body and provide focus for your mind while you’re meditating.
Nidra is a special form of meditation that requires you to lay perfectly still on the floor under blankets. Sometimes, oil is used to help induce a meditative state. Eye pillows block out light. After a few stretches, you’re asked to lay down for 45 minutes while you’re guided through levels of relaxation.
The Biological Basis For Yoga Nidra
Stress is almost synonymous with the western way of life. We carry tension from our work, our family life, and sometimes even during times when we’re supposed to be relaxing – like the holidays.
Yoga Nidra is a way for you to bring those tensions to the surface and release them. This, in turn, offers you a way to release tension at the deepest level. You drop into a semi-sleep-like state. Brainwave activity changes, and slow alpha waves and theta waves dominate.
These brainwaves are responsible for deep relaxation and promote peace and restfulness.
The Psychology Of Yoga Nidra
Stress that’s caused by our subconscious conflict-creating patterns is thought to be built into our psychology from birth. These habits, patterns, belief systems, and self-concepts often control our lives, exerting a negative influence and prevent us from living a fully and joyous life.
Karma is at the root of what we believe as our problems, with suffering caused by self-inflicted conflict – a conflict between what we want and what is real. In a sense, it’s the constant struggle, self-imposed biases, and irrational reactions to the impersonal nature of reality that cause suffering.
So, for example, say you’re stuck in traffic. You can’t do anything about the situation, and yet you become increasingly upset. Or, say you throw something at the garbage can, but it misses. You get angry at the object – it’s misplaced anger that grows and grows, creating more stress in your life.
People do this all the time. Yoga Nidra is what helps you release this stress. It takes away the emotional response to “triggers” in life, allowing you to experience joy instead of stress.
It Helps You Sleep
One of the major benefits of this type of meditation is improvement in restful sleep. The relaxed state of mind it puts you in means that you fall asleep faster, and have a deeper restorative sleep, than ever before.
That’s because you’re removing mental stressors. When you use Yoga Nidra, you don’t actually fall asleep. You become more focused on different parts of your body. Relaxation becomes more effective. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to clear out all of the mental “junk” that’s accumulated during the day.
When it’s time to fall asleep, you don’t have it hanging over you, bothering you and cluttering up your mind.
You’ll Feel More Relaxed
Want to feel more relaxed in general? You want Yoga Nidra. Aside from its benefits off the mat, Yoga Nidra works for you on the mat too. When you include it at the end of any asana sequence, it gives the mind time to assimilate the effects of what you’ve just done and it also helps to cool down your body and restore it to normal temperature.
Sometimes, you might experience some pain after intense yoga postures. This is due to an extreme stretch. Whenever the body goes through heavy physical activity, calcium ions leak into the muscle cells, which causes the muscles to contract and subsequently feel tired.
Laying down helps the body to clear out these chemical deposits through the bloodstream, making you feel more relaxed.
You Feel Refreshed
There’s something about meditation that makes you feel more refreshed afterwards. The more you practice Yoga Nidra, the better you get at it. The easier other meditations become, and the more relaxed you will feel during and after your asanas.
You will also notice a heightened sense of awareness and more energy throughout the day.
About the Author: Lily Goncalves is the founder and director of the Blooming Lotus Yoga schools of Bali and Thailand. Having received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Lily combined her knowledge of western psychology with the self-development tools of classical yoga and now offers yoga retreats to clients from around the world to help them heal both body and mind. Based on the tropical island of Bali, Indonesia, Lily continues her life-long work of offering the sacred wisdom of yoga to all her many students.