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Yoga Nidra- Access the body and minds ability to heal itself

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that yogi's have been using to deeply relaxation and heal the body and mind for centuries. Yoga nidra was first mentioned in the Upanishads where Sri Krishna is said to enjoy the state of yoga nidra. Yoga nidra refers to the state of consciousness between waking and dreaming... sort of like how you feel just before you drift off to sleep. In the Upanishads they use the word prajna to describe this deep state of relaxation. Swami Satyananda claimed to have discovered the benefits of this state of mind while serving as a disciple for his guru in the 1940s. He recounts being a young student there and falling asleep near a group of children chanting mantras. He had never heard these mantras before but when he awoke and heard those mantras again, he seemed to know them like he spend years chanting. Swami Satyananda says that his subtle body had heard and remembered the mantras even though his body was fast asleep. He then put the practice together aimed at relaxing the self layer by layer until we make it down to the yoga nidra mind state that he experienced as a student.

How does Yoga nidra work?

The physical practice of yoga nidra is simple, just lay down and get comfortable, but the magic happens inside of your mind. During the practice the teacher guides the students awareness through the different layers of the self, releasing old stuck energy and leaving us feeling refreshed and content. The body falls asleep but the mind remains awake to go through these different layers encouraging a state of deep relaxation where the body can let go of stress and tension so we can heal. It also teaches us how to access relaxation because the more we practice the more we begin to understand the difference between stressed and relaxed. I know that sounds ridiculous but these things come on slowly so we just get used to being over worked or not sleeping or feeling sick until we finally let go and relax. Once we feel the body soften we can see how much stress and tension we were actually just carrying around with us all day. No wonder why we are so exhausted! It is this ability to access deep relaxation that is proving yoga nidra to be a powerful practice for healing.

Online yoga nidra certification course

Waves in the Ocean

Our Consciousness can be seen as a vast ocean, stretching a

s far as we can see. The waves just shows us the surface of the ocean, they are impermanent and always changing, they rise up from the ocean and exist for some time but they eventually become one with the ocean again. The waves are just a part of the ocean, but there is a deep seemingly limitless body of water just underneath the surface. The deeper you dive the more mysterious and subtle the water becomes. This is how the different layers of the Self work, with the physical body being the waves, just the surface, and our true self down deep in the dark waters below. Yoga nidra is a way to explore these deeper, and more subtle aspects of our consciousness but in an open and detached state of mind so anything that we encounter seems like we are just watching a movie. This witness consciousness allows us to process and release things that we have been holding onto consciously or unconsciously.

Brainwaves and consciousness

Our brain cycles through different wave lengths based on our state of consciousness at the time. Beta waves are dominant when we are awake and thinking. Alpha brainwaves are dominant when our mind seems calm, it is considered the resting state for the brain. Alpha represents some meditative states and reflects our consciousness living in the present moment, when they are present we are calm, alert and open to new information and experiences. Theta is a slower wavelength that is dominant when we sleep and also during deep states of meditation. During theta waves we are primed to learn, remember and intuit new things. Our senses are withdrawn in this state so our awareness is focused on whatever is going on in our internal world. Theta wavelengths show that we are experiencing a dream, the vivid imagery, crazy stories and strange information go beyond our normal consciousness, our imagination is allowed to be free here, that is how we dream. Past theta comes delta brainwaves, these are slow and loud brainwaves that are generated during the deepest states of meditation and dreamless deep sleep. Healing and regeneration occur in this state. Delta brainwaves repair the body and refresh a worn out mind, so that we come back into the world rejuvenated and ready to live life. Reaching delta brainwaves during yoga nidra is difficult, but that isn't the goal of the practice anyway, the goal is to just let go and experience whatever is present at the moment. When delta is dominant our sense of self is completely dissolved and we end up sitting in a state of peaceful witness consciousness, where we can just simply observe the world as it is, without our judgments, expectations, feelings and emotions. After the slow waves of delta comes the Gamma wavelength. Gamma is the fastest of the brain waves and it helps us to process information from different areas of the brain at once. Gamma passes information quickly and quietly but the mind has to become quiet before we can access these wavelengths. It has been found to be highly active during states of universal love, altruism and other higher virtuous mind states.

Yoga nidra guides the student into the deepest state of sleep where the brain produces theta (4-7 hertz) and delta waves (1-3 hertz), but the student remains conscious throughout. According to Theta Healing, “Theta State is a state of very deep relaxation; it is used in hypnosis and during REM Sleep. The brain waves are slowed down at a frequency of 4-7 cycles per second…Theta waves are always creative, characterized by feelings of inspiration and very spiritual. It is believed that this mental state allows you to act below the level of the conscious mind.” Delta waves are the slowest wavelength in the brain and are usually experienced during deep dreamless sleep. When our brain has slowed down into the delta level, our body and mind has an opportunity to rest, and heal.

Why are we talking brainwaves here? They signal what our state of consciousness is, so if we do something that changes our brainwaves we are changing our state of consciousness.

Also most people don't reach theta brainwaves when they sleep so they aren't reaching the healing theta or delta waves with regular sleep. Yoga nidra practice can cycle our minds through the different wavelengths allowing the brain to dip into those wavelengths that they were missing so they come out of practice feeling completely rejuvenated.

Researched Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra is an ancient practice, but most people have never heard even heard of it! It is a great and simple practice that allows us to access our bodies natural healing abilities and recently science has recognized the potential benefit of yoga nidra. I went through and found a few studies that have shown the benefit of practicing yoga nidra, while there needs to be more studies the deep relaxation that yoga nidra induces it worth trying it out!

1.Yoga nidra has been shown to be a beneficial practice in dealing with chronic insomnia.

30% of adults complain of suffering with occasional insomnia while 10% suffer with chronic insomnia and 95% of American adults have suffered with insomnia at some point in their life. If we don't get the proper amount of sleep each night it can have a negative impact on our overall health. Some symptoms of poor sleep include: trouble concentrating and memory loss, increased inflammation and blood pressure, low libido, weight gain, weakened immune system and diabetes. Racing thoughts and aches and pains can get in the way of our ability to relax enough to fall asleep and stay asleep, but yoga nidra can help! Yoga nidra is about letting go and just listening, experiencing whatever arises as the teacher guides your awareness through different aspects of yourself. The practice of yoga nidra asks us to remain awake but if you fall asleep during practice, that is perfectly okay because that just means you must of really needed that nap!

A case report was done between two patients that complained of sleep maintenance insomnia. They had 5 weeks of guided yoga nidra practice and then were told to practice at home using a recording of the practice. They had to keep a diary and were subjected to a series of tests before and after in order to understand the data the got. The results showed an overall improvement in sleep quality and management up to 3 months after the study started! Total sleep, sleep efficiency, and rating of sleep both improved and sleep onset latency )time it takes to fall asleep), WASO (Wake After Sleep Onset), and total wake duration all decreased with the addition of yoga nidra. Now it was a small study and more studies need to be done, but if you are having issues sleeping and are looking to find some relief, yoga nidra is a safe and easy practice that could bring you the sleep that you need!

2.Yoga nidra can help reduce stress and anxiety

We live in a fast paced society where we always feel the pressure to be active and productive so we get used to pushing ourselves to work harder and “do” more. This pressure we put on our shoulders becomes too stressful or anxiety inducing and we end up burning ourselves out. When we are stressed, hormones are released that increase inflammation in the body. If we don't address our stress then it can eventually lead to heart disease, chronic fatigue, sleeping disorders, chronic pains, hypertension and even a stroke. It is important to learn how to properly relax so that our body and mind can recover from the stressors of our daily lives. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Yoga found yoga nidra to be more effective in reducing the cognitive and physiological effects of stress and anxiety.

Yoga nidra is actually system designed to encouage deep relaxation. The practice relaxes the several different layers of the Self so that we can heal the body and mind and come out of it feeling refreshed and calm. The body falls asleep but the mind stay awake and aware throughout the practice, but the lens that we normally perceive the world through has been removed. The lens I'm talking about is our individual perspective that we see the world through, our judgments, expectations, our desires and aversions, all of the things that we add to what we experience all settle and we can experience witness consciousness. When we experience this state of consciousness we can see the “Stuff” that we identify with from a different angle, from a place that seems like they are not ours at all. From this perspective it's a little bit easier to find the correct path through the problem without getting caught in the emotion and expectations that normally cloud our way.

Research shows that Yoga Nidra can be a therapeutic tool to help cure psychological disorders like anxiety, insomnia, hostility and more. It also helps with psychosomatic diseases like asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer, and hypertension. Yoga nidra can help with all of that and the only requirements of the practice is to let go and remain still!!

3.Yoga nidra can help heal trauma

An article in the Boston Globe titled, “Ancient form of Yoga used to cure Yuletide stress ” reportwrote about some research the Department of Defense in 2006 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the how effective yoga nidra was on soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD. This study led them to adding yoga nidra into weekly treatment programs in several VA facilities around the country. Then in 2010, the U.S. Army Surgeon General endorsed yoga nidra as an intervention in treating chronic pain and has been studied as a treatment for things from insomnia to cancer therapy and there has been several studies on the benefits of yoga nidra and PTSD.

4.PMS Symptoms

Now I have to say that I don't have any personal experience with menstrual issues but I understand that they can be debilitating, and I do know that cramps can really make the day crappy! So what if I told you that yoga nidra can help provide some relief from the negative symptoms of that time of the month?? There have been a bunch of studies on the effects of yoga nidra and woman with menstrual disorders (their words not mine) as well as yoga nidra as a treatment for chronic pain. Yoga nidra seems to combat the negative thoughts and feelings that come with the physical pain of cramps. Cramping feels constricting and negative thoughts are constricting, but yoga nidra actually encourages the opposite to arise using just our awareness. When the body and mind are allowed to deeply relax, every layers of us lets go a little bit and the body is able to heal itself. Inflammation decreases, the muscles relax and soften and the body reaches homeostasis, or balance. Yoga nidra can provide some temporary, but refreshing, relief from whatever issues are present. Those little breaks allow the mind and body to heal and any tension in the body to soften and release

5.Yoga nidra can influence our autonomic nervous system

Yoga Nidra can influence Heart Rate Variability is the time between each heart beat. It is an indication of a personals overall health, when we are healthy and active our heart rate variability will be high and it would be low in a person that is not so healthy or active. Yoga nidra has been shown to increase our heart rate variablity which primes our nervous system to go toward the rest and restore response instead of fight or flight. Our autonomic nervous system is in control of a lot of automatic functions of the body, things like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, metabolism and gut function, sweating and even our emotional responses. It splits into two branches, one that raises energy and one that lowers energy. The sympathetic nervous system is the gas pedal, it raises energy in the body by activating the fight or flight response and the parasympathetic nervous system is like the brake pedal, slowing the body back down to it's baseline by activating the rest and restore response. Yoga nidra can help settle a chaotic mind which, especially for people with anxiety, can allow us to lower our defenses so that we can encourage relaxation to take over our being. The brain is like a muscle and the more we practice yoga nidra the better we get at distinguishing between which part of the nervous system is in control and the better we become at accessing relaxation.

Still not Sure if Yoga Nidra is right for you??

Yoga nidra is an easy practice that can provide much needed relief with very little (if any!) downside. Here are some more upsides to the practice that I just didn't have time to yap about here.

Yoga nidra can be practiced by any and everyone!- Yoga nidra doesn't require years of study and practice in order to be good at it, it isn't reserved for a certain age limit, yoga nidra is an available practice for anyone who can sit or lay down, get comfortable, relax and listen to the teachers voice. During the practice the teacher will suggest sensations or experiences broadly and your mind will expand on each one, so you can “go deep” at your pace. This isn't a practice where you have to confront demons in order to feel rejuvenated, it's just about letting go of effort and opening up to whatever arises in our awareness.

There is no wrong way to practice yoga nidra- The only wrong way to practice yoga nidra is to get up and start doing sun salutations, as long as you can lay down and try to be still, all other effort can just melt away. The body is supposed to be still while the mind explores our subtle inner world. As long as you can try to not try, there is no real wrong way to practice yoga nidra.

Doesn't take a long of time, can but incorporated into your daily routine -There are yoga nidra meditations available so it can easily be fit into any schedule. You can find guided yoga nidra meditations from 10 minute up to 90 minutes (it really depends on how long you can lay still!) There isn't much setup and no effort is required, just put on your favorite recording and relax!

Good for hypertension sufferers- When we are stressed our whole body tightens up, our blood vessels constrict, our muscles become rigid and tense and even our breath becomes short and choppy. This leads to high blood pressure, hypertension and other issues if we don't learn to take a break and allow our body to settle down. Yoga nidra allows you to deeply relax while keeping the mind occupied. When our awareness is turned inward we can release some of the tension and stress that we have been taking on unknowingly. When the body is allowed to relax our blood vessels dilate, the muscles soften and the breath starts to flow deeper into the body. By practicing yoga nidra we can allow the body to heal and return back intohomeostasis or balance.

So there are just a few of the benefits of the practice of Yoga Nidra, it is a simple practice that can really help with a bunch of different issues. It is one tool that makes sense to always have with you! If you are interested in trying yoga nidra, check out the Events page and see what live classes are coming up! Discover what yoga nidra practice can help you with!

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