Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth. She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is often referred to as “yogic sleep”. This can be a little misleading as the idea is not to actually sleep but to enter a state where you can emerge feeling refreshed as you would from sleep.
It’s a much better alternative to taking naps, especially if you are an insomniac (I speak from experience!). Naps aren’t all bad but if you’re trying to get into a healthy sleep routine then it can be counterproductive to nap during the day when you should be awake.
How to Practice Yoga Nidra
You can use yoga nidra instead and if you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are you’ve already practiced it. Usually you will lie in Shavasana (corpse pose) on your back with the legs extended and arms relaxed by your sides or a supported version if you suffer from pain in a particular area of your body. Please ask your teacher for guidance on this one.
The teacher will then systematically guide you to different parts of the body one at a time. You simply bring each part into your awareness as it is mentioned and move onto the next when prompted. An audio download or cd can be used to practice at home. The idea is that once confidence is built, guidance is no longer needed and you can practice it on your own. Yoga nidra induces a relaxed state said to be similar to alpha sleep (stage 1 & 2 of the sleep cycle).
Research & Yoga Nidra
Research has found that Yoga Nidra has been shown to improve stress and anxiety levels and helps in building up the coping ability. As yoga nidra relaxes the physical as well as the mental stresses, it relaxes the whole central nervous system (Kumar, 2008). This means that it illicits the relaxation response or parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body and aids sleep.
It really is a fantastic practice to learn and master. It’s a practice I often use myself on those nights where my mind is racing and I’m having trouble quietening it down.
Kumar, K. (2008). A study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga nidra. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 7(3), 401-404.
If you live in the southern suburbs of Perth and are keen to try out some yoga nidra, we often practice in class. We are located in Applecross, Fremantle & Bateman & you can view our timetable here