What is Yoga Nidra?

People that practice yoga may be familiar with yoga nidra.  Those new to the practice have probably never heard of it before.  Yoga nidra has been practiced by yogis and rishis in India since ancient times.

Yoga nidra started to become popular in the west in the 20th century.  It is described by Satyananda Saraswati as the practice of relaxation, where the state of mind between wakefulness and sleep opens phases in the mind.  


Yoga nidra is a practice of meditation and relaxation.  It involves the student finding a state of consciousness between a sleep state and an awake state.  It should feel as if you are in a dream-like state.  The student following the practice of yoga nidra by shutting down the other senses and only uses the sense of listening.  The state of dream-like consciousness is achieved by following a set of instructions.  While in meditation the concentration and focus on a single thing are used to attain the meditative state.


What are the benefits?


Practitioners of yoga nidra report feeling more relaxed, restful and overall well-being.  Due to the deep relaxation of the dream-like state achieved during the practice, students also report that the practice eases insomnia, reduces stress, relieves anxiety and eases chronic pain.  Also, students report a heightened awareness and clarity, as well as a new determination to change bad habits and behavior patterns.


How is yoga nidra different from meditation?


When looking at the benefits mentioned above, you may think “What the difference?”.  Here is a list of a few differences between yoga nidra and meditation.


Meditation is characterized as follows:

  • Meditation is usually practiced in a seated position
  • During mediation, you place your focus on a single anchor
  • Meditation offers the student many states of consciousness in a single meditation.  For example, transcendental consciousness takes students into a higher state of consciousness.

Yoga Nidra is characterized as follows:

  • Yoga nidra is practiced lying down to allow students to completely let go.  Students can use anything such as blankets or pillows to make themselves more comfortable.
  • The practice is strictly guided and places you through a series of steps.  The instructions make relaxation during the practice easier.
  • During yoga nidra, students enter a conscious deep sleep.  Students move past the dream state into a deep sleep state.  But, your mind is awake and you are listening to the instructions.  


How does yoga nidra work?

The practice of yoga nidra takes the student through several stages to relax physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The stages are as follows:

  • Intention
  • Body awareness
  • Breath attentiveness
  • Emotional mindfulness
  • Conception
  • Re-integration (the process of waking up)


Each step takes the student in a deeper altered state of consciousness.


Practicing yoga nidra will allow you to quickly see changes in your life and allows you to ease into changing bad habits.  For more focus, relaxation and less anxiety, give yoga nidra a try.