My life changed eight years ago when I started a regular yoga nidra practice. Since then, it has transformed my life and teaching. I hurt my back in my early 20's practicing advanced poses beyond my limits, an injury that turned into chronic pain and forced me to change the way I practice and teach yoga.
I could no longer bend and flex my body without extreme pain. Sitting was hard for me, too, as my compressed spine radiated at my base and in my hips. Yoga nidra took my pain away, albeit temporarily, gave me the hope and security to know I could get out of it.
As a type 1 diabetic, I use yoga nidra as an energetic intervention for blood sugar swings and lower my stress-load (yes, even a yoga therapist has stress). It has opened my mind to altered states of consciousness previously inexperienced in meditation.
Once an unknown term, yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is quickly gaining traction within the holistic and medical communities as an alternative to meditation. The reason being that yoga nidra requires no effort, all you have to do is lie down in a comfortable position and rest. Twenty minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to a few hours of sleep. It is like a power nap on steroids.
The benefit of yoga nidra stems from learning to retain awareness while the body and mind sleep. Its state evokes non-REM sleep - the type of sleep required for memory processing, healing, problem-solving, and stress reduction (1).
First popularized in the West by Swami Satyananda Saraswat, yoga nidra is mentioned in early yogic (200 BCE) and Ayurvedic (200-400 BCE) texts.
Early empirical studies of yoga nidra conducted on my grand-teacher, Swami Rama in the 1970's revealed the first scientific evidence of yoga nidra's power on remapping the brain. He was hooked up to an EEG machine and entered deep sleep for ten minutes by producing delta waves. He was then able to precisely recall all of the conversations that occurred while scientifically "asleep" (2).
There is something to say for learning how to put your mind and body asleep. During sleep, the body rebuilds and regenerates. The mind processes emotions and experiences. In the depths of our mind, we can reshape our perceptions and even our destiny.
Unlike meditation, which is about concentration, yoga nidra is all about sense withdrawl (pratiyahara. What occurs is a non-state, a mind without focus. In this state, it is malleable, and one's intention (sankalpa) can shape the power of the mind's subconscious (3).
This is very important in the realm of belief and behavior. Yoga nidra is shown to help people with anxiety, PTSD, depression and chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes lower A1c.
There are various methods and styles of yoga nidra. It is best to try out a variety and see what works for you from the Bihar School, iRest, Parayoga Nidra and many others.
How to practice yoga nidra:
Resources & Teachers I appreciate:
You can experience my yoga therapy and yoga nidra classes in Aspen, Colorado and online. I offer private one-on-one yoga therapy which may include prescriptive yoga nidra in additions to breathing practices, movements and pranaymas.
Check out the reprieve - a yoga nidra + meditation day retreat in Carbondale, CO.
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Evan Rachel Soroka