There are two kinds of people: those who can hold a tree pose for days and those who have unfurled a yoga mat one and a half times and whimpered through each downward dog. As a member of that latter group, when I first heard about yoga nidra for sleep, I was skeptical to say the least, because even though I love myself some zzz’s, the only part of yoga I can get down with on the reg is the savasana portion. Well. Learning from a meditation practitioner that yoga nidra, an ancient meditation practice, is basically just that, led me to change my tune.
“I’m someone who loves sleep, and I have had such a hard time with sleeping: My son is now 4, and I’m still not getting a full night sleep,” says Julie Sacks, certified vedic meditation teacher and founder of well-being company Vie. “And so, as a meditation teacher [I turned to] yoga nidra, which is an incredible meditation.”
Yoga nidra is a guided meditative practice that aims to nudge you into a half-conscious state of “yogic” or “psychic” sleep. It’s been around for thousands of years, and research points to this waking rest giving you the benefits of several hours sleep in a few minutes. Below, learn how it works.
Yoga nidra is meant to put provide your body with rest and rejuvenation
That’s regardless of whether you actually go to sleep or not. The point of yoga nidra is to put you in a middle-state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness where the body can reap similar benefits as it does from standard, conked-out snoozing.
“Essentially, we’re figuring out how to allow the body to fall asleep while keeping the mind awake,” yoga instructor Jana Roemer previously told Well+Good. “When we go into yoga nidra, we downshift into an alpha brain wave state. Here, [levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are reduced] and we go into a state of healing.”
Beyond invoking those benefits, it’s also possible to use yoga nidra as the road map that gets you to Real Sleep. And if your intent is to use yoga nidra as a sleep hack rather than a sleep supplement, there’s something else to remember:
It’s a breath-focused practice that can help lure you to bed
The meditation doesn’t involve any handstands or downward dogs because here, the only balancing act to work on is the introspective one of centering your breathing. That involves focusing on long, deep belly breaths to put you into a primed state of relaxation. And ICYMI, deep, mindful breathing is an effective method for reducing stress and putting you in the proper mental state for sleep. One of my all-time favorite sleeping hacks is the 4-7-8 technique, which essentially tranquilizes you by regulating your breathing. I rest (…) my case.
But it’s not just a long savasana sesh
When you’re practicing yoga nidra, you’ll mimic the savasana pose—but don’t confuse the practice as an extended savasana sesh. With savasana you’re allowing your body to completely surrender and relax. But with yoga nidra, you’re tuning in to the guided meditation and keeping track of your breathing.
Yoga nidra can be a soothing balm for the anxious mind
So all things considered, the ancient practice certainly seems as though it can help you—like a million tank tops have previously proclaimed—”Namastay in bed.” Or, on a rolled out mat. Whatever suits you best.
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