Yoga Nidra: A Key To Relaxation

Are you too intimidated by the thought of doing yoga? Don’t let the title of this article, fool you—we won’t be asking you to get bendy.

Yoga nidra takes place while lying on your back, with arms at your sides, hands facing up, and your legs hip-width apart. If you can master this pose, then you’re already halfway there! Though its name literally translates to “yogic sleep,” yoga nidra doesn’t put you to bed. Instead, it brings you into a fully relaxed, conscious state of being. It feels a lot like that peaceful feeling you get right before falling asleep.

It’s an activity that anyone can do: you just need a few moments, guidance from a YouTube recording or app, and a place to lie down. Yoga nidra has been shown to benefit even extreme states of distress such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

When under stress, the brain operates at what is called the “beta” wave-length. In this range of neurological activity, our body is primed for “fight or flight,” keeping everything running on all cylinders. The further you get into relaxation activities such as yoga nidra—or for that matter, any other form of meditation—the further you fall into even deeper, slower brain waves:

Alpha: When leaving beta and entering this stage of relaxation, stress and anxiety start to slip away. Blood flow to the brain increases along with energy and feelings of happiness. You feel awake, though inattentive to anything in particular. You’re in the present moment.

Theta: This next state is usually experienced during dream sleep and deeper meditative states. It’s where our emotional baggage starts to show up, as our attention shifts from external surroundings to internal spaces.

Delta: This is deep, dreamless sleep and the deepest of meditative states. Your body is fully relaxed and able to focus on physical healing of bodily tissues. This stage allows you to grasp and experience concepts such as interconnectedness and empathy.

Yoga nidra is said to be able to guide you to a level even deeper than delta, that is known for “infra-low” brainwaves. These are tough to monitor and are believed to be at the very foundation of our intelligent brain functions.

The experience of yoga nidra is similar to that of “body scanning”, and involves the same process. During a practice, you are guided in shifting your attention from one part of your body to the next, without physical movement.

At first, you may find it strange to put your full focus on your small finger or second toe. With only a few repetitions, you may even begin to “feel” the activity in each part of your body, as you exercise the sensory-motor area in your brain.  

Who doesn’t want to feel more relaxed, promote healing, and feel connected to others and a sense of purpose? Find ten minutes before bed or first thing in the morning to experience this relaxation for yourself!