What Is Yoga Nidra?


Yoga nidra is a powerful meditation technique, that has many benefits for the body and mind and is easy to develop and maintain. For those reasons, yoga nidra is quickly becoming more and more mainstream. This practice, once reserved for “Ashram life” and advanced yoga trainings, is now growing in popularity as a main offering in yoga studios from New York to L.A. 

The reason for this demand is that yoga nidra seems to be an “antidote” for the high-paced digital world. Modern lifestyle has most people over-stimulated and operating from their sympathetic nervous system, a.k.a. “The fight or flight response”. Yoga nidra offers a way to deactivate this response, in exchange for the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest”, nervous system. 

Although you can sit up during this practice, it is usually done while lying in “shavasana”. This 30-minute systematic guided meditation begins with a heartfelt prayer, or an intention you might have for yourself or another. You are then invited to direct your attention into the different layers of your being. The layers consist of the physical, the breath, the mind, and the bliss bodies.

Bringing your attention to each of these layers induces a deep sense of relaxation and well-being which occasionally can lead you into a light "slumber". This light slumber is known as “yoga nidra”, a state of consciousness which is somewhere in between wake and sleep.

Whether you fall completely asleep during the practice (which is quite common) or not, you will start feeling more rested and restored. According to the highly accredited text - Yoga Nidra, “One hour of yoga nidra is as restful as a few hours of sleep.” So, it is also a great tool if you are feeling sleep deprived. 

Other benefits also include: deep relaxation throughout the body and mind, reduction or elimination of stress, anxiety, fear, anger and depression and an engagement of deep states of meditation. 

The Yoga Nidra map:

1. Set your intention.

2. Heartfelt prayer for yourself or another.

3. Physical body: Sense and perceive your physical body and arrive in the present moment by doing a body scan.

4. Energetic body: Count breaths, elongate breaths, and experience the sensation that arises from the breath work. This raises awareness of where energy is stuck and where it's flowing.

5. Emotional body: Invite the polarity of opposite feelings and sensations into your practice, like warm and cool, left and right, safety and fear. Often we experience emotions on this polarity. For example, someone living in fear desires safety. Yoga nidra teaches that you don't need the positive end of the polarity to be comfortable, safe, fearless, joyous, and vulnerable.

6. Body of intellect: Notice thoughts, beliefs, and images that arise in the guided exploration of opposites. They offer insight into your long-held belief systems and answer why we are the way we are.

7. Body of joy: Recalling memories that are pure joy and ease helps reset a mental baseline, and can alleviate anxiety levels while offering an ever-present sense of calm.


If you are interested in learning more about yoga nidra research visit: www.irest.us/research

If you are interested in learning more about the practice I recommend the following books:

Yoga Nidra: A meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing by Richard Miller, Ph.D. 

Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai Ph.D.

Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda

If you are interested in finding a practice on the go I recommend: 

The Insight Timer meditation app

A Yoga Unplugged collaboration - written by Jennifer Reuter, edited by Sarah Burchard