What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation resulting in a deep state of relaxation, a state between sleeping and waking consciousness. A meditation that takes the art of simply being and observing further and allows us to tap deeper into our subconscious mind, it becomes a mind-body therapy. We typically explore Yoga Nidra in both our monthly Meditation Workshops and our monthly Urban Retreats (yoga and meditation immersions). It is a simple mindfulness practice and can be done by anyone. You don’t have to be a seasoned meditator, nor do you need any yoga experience. And, as in all our classes and offerings, there is nothing to be achieved. This is a practice, like yoga, where simply doing the best you can, and in Yoga Nidra, this means lying down and listening, is the result, it is what makes it so beneficial. So no pressure, and no fear of big words. It is best, in the beginning, to have someone read to you or to listen to a recording. Most recordings go from anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. Let’s explain and explore in more detail.

What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?

  • Lower heart rate
  • Breathing slows down
  • Reduced stress
  • Relaxed body
  • Calm mind
  • Better quality sleep
  • Ability to fall asleep easier
  • Joy
  • Ease in body
  • Clarity of mind
  • Quiet mind
  • Lightness of both body and mind
  • Happiness
  • Heightened awareness
  • Feeling of spaciousness and abundance
  • Helps to resolve trauma
  • Helps to overcome or better deal with feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, frustration
  • Improves capacity to welcome any feelings, emotions, and life situations
  • Improves compassion towards oneself
  • Improves compassion towards others

Why Yoga Nidra and what does it mean?

Yoga Nidra is often translated into ‘psychic sleep’. It allows you to drift in and out of consciousness, almost into sleeping and yet your subconscious is still alert and listening. It is also said that 30mins of Yoga Nidra is as restful as 2-3hours of sleeping. Now, I got your attention. It means that in a lying down position you allow all your feelings, all your physical sensations, all your thoughts, all your visions and imaginations that may occur during the meditation to surface, and you will welcome them all in, without any judgement or need to change them. It is simply a welcoming practice.

The practice itself is the result. There is no need to achieve anything here. Be kind to yourself and know, that this is the art of doing something nurturing and supporting for yourself. Let go of any judgment, of any idea of the ideal practice. Just like in yoga asana practice. In this sense it becomes also a practice of mindfulness, of being present.

What are the steps and stages of Yoga Nidra?

  1. Firstly, you are invited to find a comfortable position. Traditionally it is suggested to lie down. However, you are in charge and can decide what the most comfortable position is for you.
  2. Set an intention. This could simply be to stay open and present to whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations arise. Perhaps today, you need to find clarity or simply relaxation. If you come to our yoga classes, then you have felt that this intention setting is invited in every class and sets the tone for your practice as well as gives it purpose.
  3. State your Sankalpa. This means you now connect to your heartfelt desire and really ask yourself, what it is you deeply long for. Say this positive statement to yourself in the present tense, as if it has already happened. Say it three (3) times. Set and feel this affirmation with all of your heart, your whole body and mind. For example “I am at ease”, or “I have all I need”, or “I am patient” (clearly, this one is for me).
  4. Body Scan or Rotation of Consciousness. This means that you gradually allow your awareness to rotate throughout your physical body. You sense your whole body systematically and feel it as one whole radiant sensation. Start with your jaw, your mouth, your eyes, your ears, your nose, your forehead, your whole head, your neck, your throat, your left arm, your left hand, your right arm, your right hand, then both arms and hands simultaneously. Become aware of your chest, your shoulders, your back, your belly, your pelvis, your sacrum, your whole torso. Feel your whole upper body. Now become aware of your left hip, your left leg, your left foot. Then feel your right hip, your right leg, your right foot. Now feel both legs together. Now become aware of your whole lower body. Feel your whole body now as one entity, as radiant sensation.This is a very basic body scan. Time and experience permitting, you can be much more detailed and even include your chakras, your energy centres. This is where a recording will come in handy. I am working on one or five for you, please be patient with me. In the meantime, join us for the meditation workshops and retreats.
  5. Breath Awareness. Simply become aware of your breathing. Allow yourself to notice your breath. There is no need to shift it in any way. Sense your breath in your body. Notice the air moving in and out of your nostrils or notice the breath in your belly or your ribcage. There is no right or wrong, simply become aware of your breath and feel it moving in and out of your body. Perhaps you can allow yourself to feel a wave of energy in your body with each breath.
  6. Welcome your Feelings and Sensations. Become aware of any physical sensations in your body. Perhaps you feel heaviness, warmth, tingling etc. Allow yourself to feel that without any judgement or the need to push it away or ‘fix’ it. Simply welcome it in and experience it. Then see if you can also bring up sensations of the opposite. Say you feel heaviness, see if you can bring up lightness in your whole body and your mind. Then proceed to invite in and sense emotions that are currently present within you. Say you feel anger, frustration, sadness, happiness etc. Sense it, stay present and allow the opposite to be felt too. Do this with as many sensations and feelings as are present.
  7. Observe your Thoughts, Memories, Images. Become aware and observe any thoughts, memories or images that are present for you. Simply notice them without judging them or trying to change them. Welcome in your experience just as it is. Often in a guided meditation you will be invited to experience images and symbols on a level of feeling, emotion and imagination just as they are read out to you.
  8. State your Sankalpa again. Allow yourself to state your Sankalpa, your positive affirmation again three times. Three times in the present tense, as if it had already happened. If you do not have a Sankalpa just yet, leave out this step. You still get the benefits of this meditation. See below for an explanation.
  9. Closing, Return. Now become aware of your breathing again. Become aware of your surroundings and deepen your breath. Slowly move again, thank yourself and enjoy your day or a good night’s sleep. Know that you can practice for as long and as often if you feel is appropriate for you.

What is a Sankalpa?

A sankalpa is a positive affirmation or positive resolve. It goes beyond simply goal-setting, it is inviting you to truly feel and connect to your heartfelt desire. It is a goal that comes from your heart. It is what you deeply long for. Take your time with connecting to this feeling. Sometimes we have to really allow some time to acknowledge it. For example, we might strive for success in a material sense, and yet, our heartfelt desire might be to simply be loved, unconditionally. Or it could be as simple as feeling abundance in our life. I have written an article on Sankalpa, read the full article here.

A final word, be mindful that there have been books written on Yoga Nidra, so our article here is meant to be a brief overview. My writings are based on my personal experience and the feedback from you, my clients. For this blog, I have consulted the book “Yoga Nidra, a meditative practice for deep relaxation and healing” by Richard Miller. This can be borrowed from our studio library.

Thank you for your curiosity. If you have any questions, please ask, I’m happy to find an answer and have a conversation with you. And please let me know what other topics you would like to explore. I look forward to your comments and to connecting with you in the studio. Enjoy your meditation.

In calmness,

Bettina