“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Rumi
Do you feel stressed on a regular basis? If so, you’re not alone. According to this article by the American Psychological Association, nearly 1/3 of Americans are living with extreme stress.
This excess stress doesn’t just affect our emotional and mental well-being — it is also directly linked to our physical well-being. In fact, excess stress impacts our chances of heart disease, obesity, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and more.
Psychologist Russ Newman even states that: ’’Stress in America continues to escalate and is affecting every aspect of people’s lives — from work to personal relationships to sleep patterns and eating habits, as well as their health.”
But while most of us can agree that we would love nothing more than to feel more relaxed and less stressed, how do we go about making that shift?
One powerful way to get rid of the stress that is weighing you down is by practicing Yoga Nidra.
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Also referred to as Yogic Sleep, Yoga Nidra is essentially the practice of entering a state of really deep meditation.
Have you ever noticed that you can sleep for seven or eight hours every night and still wake up feeling lethargic? While this sometimes has to do with our diet and exercise, it is also related to the quality of sleep that we are getting.
Amrit Yoga explains it like this: When we sleep, everything shuts down, including our awareness; relaxation thus remains incomplete.
But in Yoga Nidra, we enter into an entirely relaxed state by remaining aware of the different parts of the body and our surroundings. This allows us to quiet our minds and bring to the surface anything we need to release.
Benefits Of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a practice like anything else, but for some, one hour of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent to several hours of sleep. That’s because when we allow the mind and body to relax fully, we also give it time to rest and recharge.
Yoga Nidra also balances the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. This in turn leads to decreased stress and increased calmness and clarity.
Incorporating Yoga Nidra into your daily yoga practice is a wonderful way to assimilate the effects of the asanas. And because Yoga Nidra is by nature so calming, it is also a wonderful way to quiet the mind and prepare for meditation.
How To Get Started With Yoga Nidra
Before you get started with Yoga Nidra, remember that it is a practice. In the beginning, you might find that you fall asleep, rather than keeping your awareness. Alternatively, it is very possible that your mind won’t turn off at all, instead filling your head with all of life’s daily worries and stressors.
If you do find that the same thoughts keep popping into your head, take a moment to listen to them. Similar to a child who keeps saying, “Mommy, mommy,” sometimes the only way to enter into Yoga Nidra is to acknowledge the thought and then sweep it aside.
The key is not to dwell or let your mind get lost in its maze of thoughts, but rather to allow yourself to observe the thought that keeps coming up and then move on.
Once you are ready to begin practicing Yoga Nidra, here are a few steps to follow:
1. Get comfortable.
Yoga Nidra is a great time to use props in your practice, whether that means bolsters, blankets or even pillows. You want to allow your mind to relax deeply; if you are uncomfortable, that is all you will be thinking about.
2. Begin diaphragmatic breathing.
Slowly inhale and fill your diaphragm as fully as possible. Extend the exhale for as long as the inhale. Diaphragmatic breathing is a fabulous way to calm your mind and body any time you are feeling stressed, whether or not it’s before Yoga Nidra.
3. Slow down the mind and the body.
Begin at the third eye center, then move to the throat, the heart, the right shoulder, and the right elbow, working your way along your joints until you have observed each finger. Then repeat the practice on the left side of your body, your torso, your right leg and your left leg.
This is sometimes referred to as 61 point meditation, and you can find a full guide to the practice here.
As you bring awareness to each part of your body, also breathe into each spot, perhaps even sending a mantra or intention. You’ll find this practice deeply relaxes the body. But because it also takes a slight amount of concentration, you’ll be able to quiet the mind while remaining aware.
4. Stay in this relaxed state.
Maintain this feeling for as long as you like, observing your body and its surroundings.
5. When you’re ready to awaken…
When you feel like arising from Yoga Nidra, gently roll over to your right side and ease into a sitting position. Stay here as long as you like.
When you’re just getting started, it’s not a bad idea to set a timer for 10 minutes just in case you do doze off. Additionally, avoid practicing Yoga Nidra after a large meal when you will be extra sleepy.
If you feel stressed and lethargic on a daily basis, try incorporating more Yoga Nidra into your life. You might find it is the natural solution your mind and body have been craving all along.