benefits of yoga nidra

Sleep and relaxation your way – Yoga Nidra

by Harsh Kumar
yoga nidra benefits

Yoga Nidra is a practice of yoga that everyone, from children to adults, can do. It’s easy to adhere to at any age. Yogic sleep or Yoga Nidra, as it is generally known, is an extremely impressive and powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest and obvious yoga practices to relax and sleep. While the professional rests comfortably in Savasana (The corpse pose), this efficient and organized meditation takes you through the five layers of self (Pancha Maya Kosha), leaving you with a sense of wholeness. No longer do you have to dismay spending hours on yoga sitting on the floor waiting for deliverance and liberation. Here are few benefits of developing a Nidra yoga practice are treating insomnia, relaxes your body, decreases stress and lower anxiety level.

Nidra yoga for sleep is a five-stage process that begins with a body scan to engage one’s physicality. It incorporates and involves visualization, self-healing, a meditation on the breath and the balancing of emotional states. Setting a positive and clear intention is another important step (which is also called a Sankalpa) and this gives the practitioner a specific purpose to the yoga session. All that you need is to do is to lie down straight on the floor and even if you can’t lie down straight on the floor, you can still do this asana seated.

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What is Yoga Nidra?

During Yoga Nidra, we let our awareness and senses wander through the whole body. While doing this Nidra yoga, we move through different stages of consciousness and awareness just as in sleep: We wander and shift between the waking state, the dream state, and finally to deep and relaxing sleep. It creates and balances mental peace, higher awareness and deep relaxation for health. 

Swami Rama quoted “Yoga Nidra is a discipline of self-mastery of the autonomic nervous system and senses. The technique is practical, efficient and easily accessible.” 

Relaxation exercises and pratyahara for fitness are used to prepare the body and mind for Nidra yoga by balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain and stimulating the subtle energies and spirit of our vital force, the Prana. Each step is planned and proposed to take you deeper into an altered state of consciousness, the state between awake and asleep; where you’re fully conscious but your mind and body are fully at rest and peace.

When you set a conscious motive at the beginning of your yoga Nidra practice, and then let go and allow for deep relaxation of the mind, emotions, and body, your unconscious opens up to new ways of healing, thinking, and fulfilling your conscious motives. So whether you want to try yoga Nidra to help you relax, to sleep and release stress, or you want to gain an approach or connection to create a real positive change in your life, the exercise can help you reach your goals and make it easy to accomplish your fitness goals.

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Aside from being restorative, restful and relaxing, studies have shown that Nidra yoga can also:

  • Reduce chemical dependency, PTSD and chronic pain 
  • Alleviate and reduce stress
  • Ease insomnia
  • Decrease anxiety levels
  • Foster feelings of calm, clarity and peace
  • Heighten focus and awareness 
  • Transform negative behaviors, ways of thinking and habits

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The three stages of Nidra

The complete Yoga Nidra practice occurs in sequential stages:

Stage 1: Rest, convalesce, heal, refresh and reinvigorate

Stage 2: Manage old desires, old patterns, emotions, and any devouring negative memories

Stage 3: Awaken to the experience of your deeper senses, life purpose and natural self.

  • Stage 1:

The primary objective in this stage is to isolate the senses and mind. The mind is alert, focused and separated from external stimuli. Nidra yoga sleep separate from the senses, from their need for attention and from the body. So we create a sense of withdrawal (Pratyahara) and authorize control over the sensory mechanisms of the physical body, specifically through exercises that handle the mapping of the brain. Pratyahara opens the gate to the contents of the unconscious and subconscious levels of mind.

The science behind this practice is simply to make use of the principle of a homunculus, or the walking sensation through the cerebral cortex of the brain. The mapped incentive through the brain relaxes the sensory and motor regions, thereby relaxing the mind and the body. The objective here is not only to enhance and heighten our ability to be aware and connected to our emotional returns, but also to work with the profound body. By Nidra yoga for sleep helps us to become mindful of the realms that lie beyond the physical body and experience the Pratyahara tide of breath without judgment. Through the breathing approach, we continue to withdrawal from the external body and continue the momentum towards the journey of the soul.

  • Stage 2:

Our target at this stage is to use the interaction of contradictory emotional experience through a type of word union with mind and inner self. We want to dissolve our attachment to conditional and emotional programming that lies hidden from our conscious awareness in the subconscious mind. With detachment and without the fear, we observe the emission then seek equilibrium to their experience to conclude indifference. Experiencing both waves of a feeling or emotion can have a momentous and symbolic impact on releasing the stored effect of past experiences. We simply invite Nidra yoga for sleep without added exaggeration whatever may arise remaining fixed on observing the intensity; and flavor of each experience or moments and even where in the body it’s centered.

  • Stage 3:

At this stage, we approach and work with contents of the subconscious, unconscious mind and sanskaras which are our emotional and mental patterns, ideas, individual impressions or actions. Altogether, our sanskaras make up our programming and functioning. Here, guidance through a series of guided visualization in the form of an eloquent and vivid journey will evoke responses in our relaxed mind. We heal and cleanse the mind of deep-rooted conditioning. We revisit our motive (Sankalpa) and plant it into the garden of our unconscious mind. We then return back the awareness back to our body. Yoga Nidra sleep takes us through a magical and whimsical process of releasing the physical body, tapping into our emotional body, silencing the brain waves and gaining a higher level of intellect. Even a starter can enter profoundly deep states of consciousness just the same as any experienced practitioner.

In today’s furious, frenzied and high-tech world, many people find that their sleep is not completely relaxing. They are unable to resolve their issues, or they are unaware of how much tension they are carrying and holding it into their sleep. Tension, stress, over time and anxiety, travel deep into the body and mind; and plant the seeds of mental, psychological and physical problems and illness. Many people usually try to sleep with their minds still switched on and focus on their problems. Over-thinking is the main symptom of worry and stress. Unchecked, it can become unconscious and comatose habit that undermines your happiness, peace, and health.

Learning how to turn off excessive worrying and thinking is the key to getting deep, relaxing and restful sleep; and practicing Yoga Nidra is one of the easiest ways to eliminate anxiety, rumination, tension, and worry. Nidra Yoga is also a key to fitness. Sleep deprivation, sleep disorders and disturbed sleep such as insomnia have reached epidemic proportions in recent few years. Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to considerably increase the risk of chronic degenerative illnesses, such as depression, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, while also highly increases the chances of premature death.

In Yoga Nidra, the professional enters their alpha state and their focus shifts to the third eye chakra, The Sahasrara (To read more about the chakras read our previous article on Kundalini). It also arouses and triggers the hormones in the pineal gland, which releases melatonin; a hormone that boosts the immune helps prevents the illness system and also reduces stress and anxiety. Regular practice of the exercises helps harmonize the brain hemispheres, maintain peace of mind and promoting better mental performance.

Yoga Nidra sleep can serve as a passage to freedom without creating bodily stress. A mental groove (Samskara) is formed by a repetitive habit or thought that is deepened in the body and mind, creating a mental belief over time. These beliefs can cause negative emotions and reactions which prevent a unification of the five layers of one’s self (koshas). If these negative emotions, thoughts, and reactions continue to plague you, the emotional or mental layer of the self that is unable to integrate with the other layers: higher wisdom, physical, bliss body and energetic. This is where Nidra Yoga can be especially helpful.

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