Yoga Nidra is the practice originally referred to to as Yogic sleep – but the idea here is to stay awake!
It is a deeply relaxing practice that can be used as a healing meditation. It is especially useful for dealing with stress and anxiety.
The practice can be done sitting, but it’s easier to get a full body relaxation lying down. A little cushion under the head allows length in the back of the neck, and a bolster or pillow under the back of the knees lets the low back rest comfortably. An eye bag keeps the light out and a snuggly blanket keeps you warm and cosy.
To begin settle nicely into your position, making sure you are as comfortable as possible. Take some time to arrive in your body and notice the breath. Most people find it easiest to follow a Yoga Nidra cd or download. You simply follow the voice which usually takes you on a rotation of awareness quickly around the body parts, this is a very relaxing process.
Sometimes you are asked to imagine feelings of heaviness and lightness, right side and left side etc. Sometimes you will go in a journey with visualisations. There are many ways and techniques available, and you will find many that will suit you.
I find Yoga Nidra particularly helpful to take my attention to the parts of my body where I am holding onto tension – usually my shoulders and neck when I’ve done too much difficult computer work. Yoga Nidra works a treat to calm my mind and relax my body – bringing me back down to earth!
Here’s a little bit of science…
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of seeing, doing and thinking. When we begin to physically and mentally relax with our eyes closed, Alpha brainwaves predominate as we enter a state of deep relaxation.
Theta brainwaves also occur during Yoga Nidra. These are responsible for REM sleep and our vivid dreams as well as enhanced creativity, sensory processing and emotional memory and memory storage. Images and feelings are present in this state.
Delta brainwaves are responsible for deep sleep, healing , and regeneration and are essential for good health. They reduce sleepiness, heighten alertness, enhance concentration and performance, and elevate mood – and amazingly they too can be measured during Yoga Nidra as a “conscious delta” state – hence the original name of Yogic sleep.