Recently there’s been a surge in Yoga Nidra classes and workshops, and for good reason. Despite existing for hundreds of years, the Western world is realising just how incredible this style of meditative yoga is and now everyone wants in on the idea. Here are five things you may not know about the practice.
1: It’s essentially one long Savasana from start to finish.
Lay down on your back, get cozy with pillows and bolsters and blankets, listen to the soothing voice guide you toward deep relaxation. You might be wondering, is this really a yoga class? Nidra is Sanskrit for “sleep” and is also called “psychic sleep.” It takes you to a deeper brain-wave state, a limbo between sleeping and waking, to bring you peace, clarity, and better sleep. What more could you ask for?
2: It beats a power nap hands down.
If you go to a Nidra class, you might just have the best nap of your life – even without sleeping. Doing 45 minutes of the practice, is said to equal 3 hours of sleep. Power naps can often leave us feeling sluggish and we rarely get a chance to switch off our busy brains during this time. Nidra on the other hand will allow you to fall into a meditative state and afterwards you’ll feel relaxed from your head to toes but also strangely energetic and lightweight.
3: It’s a wonderful way to combat stress and anxiety.
Modern day life is stressful. We’re constantly on the go; both our bodies and our minds are dashing from one thing to the next without ever taking a proper break. Even when we’re not moving, our minds are, and more often than not this causes us stress and anxiety. Yoga Nidra is a really effective and efficient form of rest for both body and mind; it gives you a chance to silence any negative thoughts in your head and drift off into bliss.
4: It does pretty cool things to your brain.
So what’s actually going on in there? You start with calming the body and breathing in specific ways in order to trigger the relaxation response. The relaxation response balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and balances the left and right brain. In the process, your brain shifts from beta, an awakened state with lots of brain activity, to alpha, a more relaxed state.
From alpha, you go into a deep alpha and high theta brain-wave state, the dream state, REM sleep. In theta, your thoughts slow down to 4 to 8 thoughts per second. Emotional integration and release also happen here, and structures in the brain change. It’s here that some people sometimes have random thoughts or see images. A person in theta may see colors or visions or hear the voice of a person talking yet at the same time not hear this voice. It’s where you begin to enter the gap of nothingness.
After theta, you are guided to delta, where your thoughts are only 1 to 3.9 thoughts per second. This is the most restorative state, in which your organs regenerate and the stress hormone cortisol is removed from your system.
When you’re put under anesthesia, you’re put into a delta brain-wave state. People in comas are also in a delta brain-wave state, which gives their bodies a chance to restore their systems. In our culture, very few people are going into the deep states of sleep like theta and delta on a regular basis, and as a consequence, our bodies are not powering down and getting the chance to restore themselves. Interesting huh?
5. Anyone can do Yoga Nidra.
Intense Vinyasa flows and long asana holds are not for everyone. Yoga Nidra, however, is a practice that everyone, from children to seniors, can do. It’s easy to follow at any age and is beneficial for us all. All that your body needs to do is lie down on the floor, and if you can’t lie down, you can do this practice seated.
Are you a Yoga Teacher interested in becoming certified in Yoga Nidra? Join us for our 150 hour Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga Teacher Training here at Kawai Purapura the 28 January – 8 February 2018. For more information visit the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Regan Spencer.