Yoga Nidra is my magic potion for sleep. Let me tell you why!
I am 29 years old my name is Daniel and I’m a content writer. In the past long working hours caused me tiredness, anxiety and worry. I went from pillar to post for a solution until a friend said, “why don’t you try Yoga Nidra? Yoga Nidra Benefits are amazing! ”
I read innumerable articles on Yoga for sleep. Soon, I understood it is an extremely simple and doable form of sleep-inducing ritual. Moreover, I can do it down on my bed or on the floor. All I have to do is relax each and every part of my body – as long as it is one by one. Anyone and everyone can do it! The best part is that it takes effect fast and before you know it you are resting relaxed and asleep.
I experienced the immediate benefits of Yoga Nidra! Thus, I will be discussing the advantages of Yoga for sleep.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Now, I know what you must be thinking! Is it the same as Yoga? Doesn’t yoga take time? What are Yoga Nidra benefits? No, it is not exactly Yoga. Yes, yoga takes time and may not appeal to all of you.
Originally Yoga sessions ended with Yoga Nidra. However, in modern times it is used as a sleep-inducing meditation as well. Not only that. I also learned, Yoga Nidra meditation can be practiced independent of other yoga poses (asanas).
Yoga Nidra = Yoga for sleep
The term Yoga Nidra in Sanskrit means yogic sleep or psychic sleep.
Yoga for sleep is an independent meditation practice. It is an easy and simple style of yoga. All you need to do is find a space, place a mat on the floor or a bed, lie down in a savasana (corpse pose), relax and go into a state of meditation. It is one of the easier asanas (poses) to develop and practice.
It is a relaxation technique to allow one to turn awareness inwards. Thus, one moves between states of wakefulness and sleep. Here, one’s body finds its optimal state of relaxation. Moreover, the mind gains access to deeper levels of consciousness and awareness.
Both, Yoga Nidra and Mediation are not the same, although they do have similarities. Both techniques aim to heighten awareness yet maintain to be different.
Yoga Nidra: Only done while lying down and is guided.
Meditation: Preferably done while sitting guided by self.
Yoga Nidra: one can do it lying flat on the back in Savasana (corpse posture). You go into a semi-hypnotic state somewhere between awake and asleep.
Meditation: One has the onus to control thoughts and emotions flowing through the mind and heart. You can do it while you are conscious. You are dependent on yourself to manoeuvre.
Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is simple to practice. It can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Yoga Nidra benefits you when you add it your bedtime routine.
Since you’ll be going to lie down anyway, there’s no reason not to do it. It is a guided technique, so you don’t need to worry yourself about focus or finding inspiration while practicing yogic sleep. Grab your earphones, perform the practice right in your bed as you doze off.
Start Yoga Nidra Meditation with shorter sessions of 10 – 12 minutes. Once you get a feel for it then gradually work your way up to longer sessions up to an hour. You choose the duration.
Note: In case you have a health issue, and you cannot lie down straight on your back – you can also do Yoga Nidra in a half-reclined position.
The first of the many benefits of Yoga Nidra helps you improve your thought patterns.
Ones patterns of thoughts are neural connections and tend to become stronger with the passage of time. Thus, it becomes tough to retrain your brain to think differently.
Yoga Nidra Meditation helps you develop an intention (Sankalpa – a conscious effort) to restructure or improve our thinking patterns. As a result, we enter a state of altered conscious awareness. This allows us to observe ourselves and our thoughts from a different perspective.
This fresh perspective with regular practice of Yoga Nidra meditation creates strong grounding to retrain our thought patterns.
We have good days and then we have bad days. When we’ve had a bad day, it is only natural for it to be accompanied with negative thoughts and feelings.
Challenging thoughts and negative feelings can surface.
Thus, by using yoga nidra meditation and understanding its benefits, we learn to recognize them rather than blocking them out. As we continue to practice yoga nidra meditation regularly, we gain a better understanding of our reactions. We are able to connect with our consciousness. Also we learn not to reject our thoughts and feelings but embrace them.
Performing the practice with an intention is important, whether it be connecting with yourself, or learning to push past the negative.
Therefore, allowing us to let go of unwanted energies, become more in-tune with our feelings and aware of the “self”.
Yoga Nidra benefits us when practiced regularly has great potential to help us alter our lifestyle. It develops us, enhancing our inner harmony and giving us the ability to appreciate life as we move forward.
Over and above, it has the power to help us see the world differently, enabling us to draw strength from our surroundings and live in the present moment.
There are days when our emotions and thoughts overwhelm the brain. This leaves our head filled with too much and there is not much room in the mind to carry out activities of daily living well.
We spend even more time thinking about what is next, be it work, stuff that needs to get done, about the next day, family etc. Our thoughts and worries of future leaves us stressed that we forget to live and enjoy the present.
Reducing stress means freeing up your mind. With a stress-free mind, the brain can can operate optimally helping us execute tasks and perform our duties at full capacity.
Memory also tends to get affected and we become forgetful when stressed.
Management of stress through regular practice of yoga nidra benefits us by filtering thoughts. In turn, this improves cognitive functions because our minds are clearer. Regular practice of yogic sleep reduces stress and increases dopamine release thereby improving memory and attention as well. Cognition can be enhanced through frequent practice giving us the capacity to perform everyday tasks effectively.
In yoga nidra, we allow ourselves to enter a state of natural rest. This allows our physical self to achieve relaxation and our minds quiet down.
When this happens, we become more aware of our bodily sensations and the tensions and worries in our mind. Inducing a deep sense of relaxation has transforming powers that is positive for the mind and body. Thus, Yoga Nidra Benefits us in our daily lives.
Ever had a beer or two, but found that it was not enough and you wanted more. How about not being able to put your favourite tub of ice cream down until you’ve finished the whole thing and still not feel satisfied. This is linked to a lack of serotonin, which lets you know when you’ve had enough of something. One of the factor for lower serotonin is stress.
When serotonin level in the brain is low, we turn to alcohol and other drugs to feel better. This can negatively affects our health and well-being or even turns to addiction over time.
Gaining pleasure or a ‘feel good factor’ through the consumption of drugs and liquor triggers dopamine release. Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system and helps us feel pleasure. Over time our body associates an external source such as alcohol with feeling good and is motivated to seek it out more. This behaviour can become re-enforced and we find ourselves seeking dopamine rushes. This can lead to addiction. Seeking a rush of dopamine is common in drug addicts and alcoholics.
Yoga nidra alleviates stress and increases serotonin levels. Good levels of this neurotransmitter reduces depression and regulates anxiety. Serotonin also plays a vital role in modulating mood and behaviour. Yogic sleep triggers endogenous dopamine. This is dopamine created internally without the influence of external sources such as drugs or alcohol.
Yogic sleep works on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It balances them out by calming the Sympathetic nervous system, also called our fight-or-flight response. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is good for relaxation and blood pressure.
Yoga nidra increases dopamine levels. Dopamine can encourage behaviours. When you set a goal for yourself and achieve it, you feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This is due to dopamine release. Dopamine is associated with reward and motivation.
For example, you are in school and your exams is three months away. You set a sort term goal to study one chapter a week for a month. At the end of each week you have someone test you. You do well every week and this makes you happy. This motivates you to continue the trend for the remaining two months before the exam. Your efforts pay off and the results of the examination leave you feeling euphoric. You are motivated to study harder seeing that you were able to remember whatever you learned earlier, and wanting to do well the next time too.
The reward is the feeling we get knowing we’ve done well, or achieving something. Here, we are motivated to repeat the behaviour of studying well, so we can be rewarded by the feeling of acing the exams. Dopamine helps you repeat those behaviours that bring feelings of reward and accomplishment.
Regular practice of Asanas is beneficial for women who suffer from menstrual disorders.
A study of 150 females with menstrual irregularities was conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. The study showed the effectiveness of yogic sleep on hormone profiles in subjects with menstrual irregularities. Women who practiced yoga nidra for 35 to 40 minutes each day, for five days of the week along with conventional medication experienced decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, depression and tension.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain. It is also a hormone and part of the brain’s reward system in humans. Falling in love, shopping, eating a delicious meal and other pleasurable acts triggers dopamine release.
A study in 2002 at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Denmark demonstrated the efficacy of yoga nidra on endogenous dopamine release. The study revealed yoga nidra increased endogenous release of dopamine by 65%. Endogenous means that the dopamine is produced and released within the person, without the aid of environmental or external factors such as alcohol, good food or drugs. This neurotransmitter also has benefits linked to memory and motivation.
Stress arises due to situational demands and is an emotional or cognitive response. When we are faced with situations that exceed our ability, the pressures of that situation can overwhelm us, leaving us distressed and anxious.
Stress affects both our mind and body. It leaves us feeling tensed and anxious, while physical symptoms can occur like increased breathing or our heart beating faster.
Yoga Nidra is proven to have a positive impact on stress and anxiety. Yogic sleep brings the body to rest, slowing down the nervous system. This initiates a relaxation response, naturally reducing stress.
A study (Ferreira-Vorkapic C, Borba- Pinheiro CJ, Marchioro M, Santana D. The impact of Yoga Nidra and seated mediatation on the mental health of college professors. Int J Yoga), published in the International Journal of Yoga, of 60 college professors aged between 30 and 55 demonstrated yoga nidra to be effective in reducing stress levels and anxiety of the college professors. The study concluded yoga nidra to have greater effectiveness against anxiety.
Another study on the effects of yoga Nidra on stress and anxiety on college students was conducted at the Yoga clinic of Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya. The studies concluded that the practice of yoga Nidra which is yoga fro sleep aids in developing our coping ability. It allows the practitioner to become aware of their inherent potentialities and is highly effective for reducing anxiety and stress.
You can easily manage the symptoms of insomnia through yogic sleep. It helps you to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Studies by the Department of Neurology and the Department of Physiology, AIIMS, New Delhi and the Department of Sports Medicine, AFMC, Pune, India showed that yoga nidra improves total sleep time and has positive effects on sleep latency i.e the time it takes for a person to fall asleep. It also concludes that yoga nidra practice is a great adjunct therapy for patients with insomnia to improve sleep.
A second study at the Helfgott Research Institute, National University of Natural Medicine, Portland, USA and Department of Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, State University of New York at Canton, USA with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, Wertheim School of Public Health, University of California, USA revealed yoga nidra to be useful for facilitating sleep, enhancing relaxation, reducing pain and easing anxiety.
Yogic sleep increases awareness and self-regulation. This gives the practitioner the capacity to lessen emotional reactivity.
A study at the John F. Kennedy University, California, USA of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in war veterans demonstrated that subjects experienced reduced anxiety and rage. Participants also reported increased feelings of relaxation, self-awareness and peace despite struggles with mental focus and intrusive traumatic memories.
Lastly, one of the biggest Yoga Nidra Benefits is restoring sleep.
Sleep is a natural process and lack of it adds to stress. It is important to get a good night’s rest to feel refreshed and rejuvenated the next day. Therefore, it is also important to understand that a good night’s sleep doesn’t dispel your troubles and tensions. Nidra, when translated means sleep. The human body knows how to rest and how to fall asleep.
So many of us have thoughts that flood our minds as we lay our heads down for the night. Some of these thoughts are deep, some are recurring and some of them just eat away at our peace of mind. Yoga nidra has the capacity to help restructure our thinking pattern. It helps us to ‘think about our thinking’ from another standpoint.
This enables us to let go of old habits of thinking and embrace fresher perspectives. The new perspectives of thinking help us see ourselves and our pre-existing thoughts differently. Ruminative thinking can also be managed through yoga for sleep. This reduces anxiety and worry enabling better sleep quality.
Yoga nidra teaches us to still our minds and feel the sensations of our body. When we begin sensing our bodies, combined with breathing in a specific manner, we initiate a relaxation response. This, in turn, acts on the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
Sympathetic nervous activity decreases, while parasympathetic (relaxation) function increases. This shift to parasympathetic dominance results in positive health, vitality and reduced anxiety.
In a study, practice of yoga nidra in the morning was found to increase parasympathetic drive at night leading to sleep being more restorative, thereby improving sleep quality.