What is Yoga Nidra?…….How can Yoga Nidra aid Anxiety, Stress, Depression?
We are living at a time where more and more people are suffering stress, anxiety and depression. Lives are over stressed and over stimulated from school age students, to teens, young adults and beyond and this is not going away. There are methods that can be used to help people through stressful times such as exams, meeting deadlines or even competing in events such as the Visla Surfing Competitions in Manly in March 2019
Along with exercise, meditation and visualising positive intentions will change a person’s state of mind and Yoga Nidra is a method to take the participant to a state of conscious deep sleep and producing a sense of calm. It is also known as ‘the waking sleep’and is a simple, practised and researched method that will help address issues related to the mental fatigue of stress, anxiety and depression.
Yoga Nidra is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, emotional and mental relaxation. The practitioner appears to be sleeping but the unconscious mind is functioning at a deeper level. It is sleep with deep awareness. In normal sleep we lose track of our self, 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 be absorbed and even recalled after. Since Yoga Nidra involves effortless relaxation it is best practised with someone who is experienced and trusted to take you on the journey to complete relaxation.
Yoga Nidra cannot be done incorrectly. As you lie down comfortably in Savasana (pronounced shavasana) or Corpse Pose, with arms away from the body and palms turned upwards, all anyone needs 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.
My personal journey with Yoga Nidra began at 18 attending the Satyananda Yoga Centre in Manly, Sydney and Mangrove Mountains, Central Coast of NSW and in that time I was lucky to have been part of a workshop taught by the originator of the Yoga Nidra technique, Swami Satyananda, (now deceased).
More recent research studies by Dr Richard Millar (Integrative Restoration or IRest) over the past 16 years has proven that the reductions in anxiety and stress symptoms occurs with regular Yoga Nidra practise amongst all ages.
When I began my Fitness, Wellness and Teaching career I included Yoga Nidra as part of a regular practise in schools as well as Fitness Classes. This became part of every program I still teach with all ages. I have found over the years as stress and anxiety levels increase more and more people request Yoga Nidra and even ask for a longer session.
Currently I am running a program called Movement and Meditation for Student and Staff Wellbeing through Teacher Training Australia for School Teachers that includes Yoga Nidra as a practise to help students suffering stress, anxiety and depression.
The scientific studies have shown that people who practise Yoga Nidra experience better sleep generally, reduced anxiety and fear, reduced depression, improved interpersonal relationships and are more productive.
Once lying in Savasana (corpse pose) or if this is difficult sitting in a comfortable chair, feet should be separated to approximately hip width apart, and toes falling outwards. Eyes remain closed throughout and adding a lavender pillow over the eyes will aid the sense of complete relaxation.
If lying it is best if the body is symmetrically on the floor or yoga mat. A good way to do this is to imagine a centre line running from the souls of the feet to the crown of the head.
This position is said to aid relaxation and influence the consciousness and prepares the mind/body for complete relaxation and letting go. It is also said it will balance the flow of life force or Chi throughout the body.
When I teach Yoga Nidra I include a focus on Intentions, which helps realising a resolve or something 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 moving into the verbal instruction of relaxation of muscles and body through naming eg feet, legs, torso and so on and then repeat the intention when coming out of deep relaxation. I also focus on breath before and after the deep relaxation.
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.