Yoga Nidra

The word nidra means "sleep" in Sanskrit, and yoga nidra is often referred to as "yogic sleep." Yoga Nidra is a state of deep relaxation that helps physical and mental well-being.
Yoga Nidra
Year founded
700 BC

What Is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra, also called "yogic sleep" is essentially a technique used to meditate, slow down the racing thoughts in the mind and bring you to a state of deep, replenishing relaxation. Yoga Nidra is a relaxation technique similar to pranayama, where you're in a state of consciousness and you focus on your own body.

When Was Yoga Nidra created?

The practice of yoga has been around for centuries and the origins of Yoga Nidra are first noted around 800 to 300 BC, being mentioned in the Upanishads and the Mahabharata.

More recently, around the middle of the 20th century, Swami Satyananda Saraswati is considered as the yoga nidra modern reference who taught the way it is still practised today. His teacher was Swami Sivananda, founder of Sivananda Yoga.

He wrote a book "Yoga Nidra" where he explains the theory of Yoga Nidra in both yogic and scientific terms and includes class transcriptions of the practice.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati wrote dozens of books and in 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga.

Richard Miller, a US clinical psychologist, has worked on rehabilitating soldiers suffering from PTSD using Yoga Nidra. He created the Irest methodology, he is the president of the IRI ( Integrative Restoration Institute) and has worked on the benefits of yoga and yoga therapy for more than 40 years.

Who Is Yoga Nidra For?

Absolutely anyone can practice yoga nidra, you can practise even if you are a beginner or unfit.

It is suitable for those who have never practised yoga before, right up to yogis who have been practising for many years.

What sets Yoga Nidra apart from some of the other forms of yoga is that you don't need to be fit or flexible as you don't move at all: ideal for people with mobility issues, following surgery or injury and more. It's also great for young people and the not-so-young. It really is an all-encompassing for of yoga that truly anyone can do.

Practice Yoga Nidra Online

You don't need any special equipment to practice yoga nidra. Not even a yoga mat.

In fact, you most likely have everything you need right at home. With Yoga Nidra, all you need to do is lie down in a comfortable position.

Yoga Nidra is known to help fall asleep and sleep well - so practising online is ideal for this type of yoga. You don't have to get up and change after the session, or walk, catch a train or drive. You can just get into bed!

We offer live-stream Yoga Nidra classes many times a week, so you can practise with a real-life teacher from home.

Set up your yoga mat and use a few cushions for extra comfort. However, if you find you can't fully relax on a yoga mat, you can practice Yoga Nidra on a comfortable couch or even in bed. If there is no other way for you to get comfortable, you can even get into a comfortable reclining position in a chair.

Just be aware of the room or space you want to use for your Yoga Nidra session. Isolate yourself, it's not possible to relax if people are walking around you, or if the TV is on... Avoid noisy or high-traffic areas as well, as you will be distracted and won't be able to get the best out of your session. Make sure the room is warm, without being too warm. Choose a room with a wooden floor or carpet to avoid getting the cold from tiles. Reduce the light and get as comfortable as you can. Don't forget to kick your pet out of the room!

What to wear in a yoga nidra class?

Ensure the clothing you are wearing is comfortable and keeps you warm. As you are lying still on the ground it can get cold - depending on the type of flooring you have. It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing that is not constrictive in any way. Choose loose trousers instead of leggings, and wear a jumper and enough clothes to not get cold. avoid oversize clothing though as you don't want any lump in between your body and the ground.

If you are practising online from home, just wear your pyjamas and cover yourself with your duvet so you can go straight to bed afterwards!

What to Expect In A Yoga Nidra class?

Even though Yoga Nidra does not involve any movements, besides breathing, knowing what to expect will ensure you have a positive experience. Some of the things you should look into before you start include:

Main Poses - There is really only one main pose for Yoga Nidra and that is "the corpse pose", otherwise known as the Savasana pose, the last asana of a usual yoga class.

In essence, all you need to do is lie down in a supine position and relax. Avoid having the head tilted back by using a folded blanket under your head, and position your arm and legs slightly away from your body, palm of the hands facing the ceiling. Cover yourself with a blanket to help you feel warm and secure, ready for the guided meditation.

The Pace - The beauty of Yoga Nidra is that almost anyone can do it. There is no pace to concern yourself with as you will be in a still, supine position for the duration of the session. Tune in to the teacher's voice and let go.

The teacher is likely to use a medication technique to relax every part of your body, running a full body scan, and giving you visualisation clues for you to focus on different parts of your body.

Class/Session Duration - Sessions last 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 45 minutes. The longer you stay the more benefits! It is being said that a 30-minute Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to 2-4 hours of actual sleep.

Fitness Level Required - You can be as fit as a pro athlete to do Yoga Nidra or it may have been weeks, months or years since you last really exercised. People of any fitness level can engage in a Yoga Nidra session. It can be challenging for some people to stay still, in that case breathing or shaking gently the linbs can help.

Step By Step Yoga Nidra Stages

The first and most obvious step for Yoga Nidra is lying down. Always lie down with bent legs and ensure your lower back is flat on the floor. You can use a bolster under your knees and a folded blanket under your head. Once you achieve maximum comfort, there are 3 main steps that our teachers will take you through.

Stages of Yoga Nidra:

1. Achieving Full Relaxation: Feel each breath as it enters deep into your body and feel each breath as you exhale. You can then decide on your reason for engaging in your Yoga Nidra session. It could be that you want to fully relax, or tap into a particular emotion. The reason for your session is entirely up to you and may change every time you enter a Yoga Nidra session.

2. Become Aware Of Your Body: Visualize your body starting with the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Focus on your breathing as you visualize your intentions. Tap into feelings that you may have buried deep into your psyche. Harness the positive feelings and release any negative ones.

3. Slowly Exit The Session: Once your Yoga Nidra session is over, don't automatically open your eyes. Gradually become aware of your body exiting the session while slowly becoming aware of your surroundings again.

Mantras & Breathing Techniques Used In Yoga Nidra

Some teachers start the session by chanting "Om" or "Aum". It is one of the most popular mantras, symbolising supreme wisdom, immortality and eternity. Join the teacher in chanting the 3 Oms if you wish; it's an excellent way to start working on your breathing and evacuate any tension.

Breathing techniques

The breathing techniques used in Yoga Nidra are very similar to the ones used in all yoga sessions. For the most part, breathing during yoga focuses on each breath with the yogi being conscious of each breath entering the body and exiting. Some of the main breathing techniques include:

Shallow Breathing: This involves being of each breath up to the region of your collarbone.

Middle Breathing: Feel each breath as it enters your chest region.

Deep Breathing: Focus on each breath as it enters deep into your abdomen.

The teacher will guide you through the different stages of breathing during the session.

The Benefits Of Yoga Nidra

Yoga is known to have an impact on the nervous system, and many experts suggest the following benefits of Yoga Nidra and meditation in general:

  • Fall asleep faster
  • Improve the quality of sleep
  • Reduce stress and the sensation of pain
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Lower instances of depression
  • Improve your overall sense of well-being
  • Boost your confidence and self-esteem
  • Slow down your heart rate
  • Alleviate negative feelings
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Increase your overall awareness

If you like Yoga Nidra, you'll also like these yoga types:

If you enjoy Yoga Nidra and deep relaxation and meditation, you might like these forms of supported yoga practises as well:

Why not try them and see if you like them?

Best Yoga Nidra Books

Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati - published by Nesma Books

Miller, Richard. The iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma, New Harbinger, 2015.

Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation & Stress Relief by Julie Lusk

Yoga Nidra Meditation by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

Best Yoga Nidra YouTube Videos

30 minute Yoga Nidra for deep rest

Yoga Nidra 20 Minute Guided Meditation

Yoga Nidra - Swami Niranjananand Saraswati - 30 minutes

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