Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a deeply meditative and ancient practice consisting of lying in Savasana, or corpse pose, for 30 minutes to an hour while a meditation or yoga teacher guides you. Nidra is the Sanskrit word for "sleep."
A typical yogic sleep session can be supported by yoga props like bolsters and blankets and consists of entering a deep state of relaxation between sleep and wakefulness. Breath awareness and complete surrender are critical as the teacher guides you through focusing and releasing different parts of the body or mind that may hold onto tension or stress.
What Are the Origins of Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra was developed, studied, and practiced in India for thousands of years before being introduced to the West. The modern development of Yoga Nidra has been credited to Swami Satyananda, a student of Satyananda Saraswati. In the mid-twentieth century, Swami Satyananda wrote books and taught many practitioners the art of Yoga Nidra meditation.
Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist and yoga scholar adapted the practice to Western culture toward the end of the twentieth century. The practice became more prominent in Western mainstream culture after the success of a 2006 case study that used the yoga style to treat military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The veterans who took part in the study reportedly experienced a decrease in anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other acute PTSD symptoms when regularly practicing Yoga Nidra. Miller developed subsequent Yoga Nidra programs for active and veteran armed forces members to help combat PTSD.
This program, iRest is practiced and taught by thousands of people worldwide in many different organizations that support well-being. Based on current studies with iRest in the military, the Defense Centers of Excellence has approved iRest as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine, warranting continuing research for its use in treating PTSD. In addition, the U.S. Army Surgeon General has listed Yoga Nidra (based on research with iRest) as a Tier 1 approach for addressing Pain Management in Military Care.
What Are the Benefits of Yoga Nidra?
A routine Yoga Nidra practice has many benefits, including:
Helps manage chronic pain. The guided mind-body visualizations that occur during Yoga Nidra center around entering into any tense or painful areas of the body through the mind and mentally dissolving the pain and stress held onto in that area, such as the shoulders or lower back. In 2010, the Office of the U.S. Attorney General endorsed Yoga Nidra as a treatment modality for chronic pain.
Improves sleep quality. Practitioners find that Yoga Nidra helps calm sleep disturbances because it trains the mind and body to regularly enter a deep state of relaxation. You can listen to Yoga Nidra meditations on headphones or a speaker next to your bed right before you go to sleep.
Encourages relaxation. Daily life can be stressful, fast-paced, and may even promote a "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system response. Yoga Nidra allows us to experience the deep state of relaxation that our brains need to function properly and maintain our overall health.
Ready to try a practice? Check out the video below for a guided 20-minute grounding yoga nidra practice.
Join us for a Class
Mayuri leads Mindfulness and Yoga Nidra Classes on Sundays virtually. Check out the class schedule at https://www.mbodiedwisdom.com//events or join our practice membership for as little as $25 per month to attend 20+ live virtual classes and have access to over 100 on-demand restorative mindfulness, meditation, somatics, and yoga nidra classes ranging from 30-75 minutes each.
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