Ever heard of Yoga Nidra? It’s a state of waking deep sleep, producing a sense of calm and reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Jill Healy-Quintard from Body & Balance explains exactly how.
Yoga Nidra systematically induces complete physical, emotional and mental relaxation. In normal sleep we lose track of ourselves, but in Yoga Nidra, while consciousness of the world is dim and relaxation is deep, there remains an inward feeling of lucidity and the experience may even be recalled after.
More recent research by Dr Richard Millar in the last 16 years has proven that the reductions in anxiety and stress symptoms occur with regular Yoga Nidra practice. Participants may also experience better sleep, improved interpersonal relationships and increased productivity.
Yoga Nidra is part of every fitness and wellness program I teach. More and more people seek out Yoga Nidra for its stress and anxiety reduction, even asking for longer sessions.
Yoga Nidra cannot be done incorrectly. As you lie down comfortably in Savasana or Corpse Pose, with arms away from the body and palms turned upwards, all you need to do is follow the guided voice. Parts of the meditation may not be heard as you enter deep relaxation. Many fall asleep and that is okay, as you will still receive benefits while the unconscious mind is absorbing the practice.
Feet should be separated to approximately hip width apart and toes facing outwards. Imagine a centre line running from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head. With your eyes closed, placing a lavender pillow over the eyes will aid the sense of complete relaxation. It will also balance the flow of life force or Chi throughout the body.
When I teach Yoga Nidra, I focus on intentions, which helps you realise what you want to achieve in your life. I say “see it, say it to yourself, feel what it is like and make it happen”.
I invite people to repeat this several times silently before instructing the verbal relaxation of muscles and parts of the body. I repeat the intention when coming out of deep relaxation, focusing on breath both before and after.
Your intention could be as simple as wanting more love in your life or being kinder to yourself, or something very specific like winning an event, a great new job or giving up alcohol or smoking. People have reported back to me that seeing and feeling these intentions have decreased their anxiety and allowed them to feel more positive about being able to achieve a balance in life.
People who practise Yoga Nidra say that by repeating an intention to themselves in this relaxed state, it takes root in their unconscious. This could also be called a post-hypnotic suggestion. By creating the moment they are in, and letting go of surrounding sounds and daily stresses, in as little as 10 minutes a day this practise has had profound results.
The combination of wellness programs that include yoga, pilates, dance, cardio and Yoga Nidra to finish, is the total balance of mind and body fitness. This will decrease anxiety and stress by helping blood and oxygen flow, throughout the body and to the brain. Feel- good hormones known as endorphins are released during cardio based movement and will make an enormous difference to how one feels, making for a long term positive outcome.
Yoga Nidra can be included as part of a class and from 10 minutes to an hour. It is said 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of two hours sleep and will increase dopamine tone.