Visit Extremadura, Spain’s Best Kept Secret

Visit Extremadura, Spain’s Best Kept Secret

A Road Less Travelled

Occupying the south western corner of the central Iberian plateau, Extremadura, the place beyond the Duero river, is a land of great natural beauty and cultural richness, a place of contrasts – and also extremes!

A land of snow-capped mountains, ancient forests, and open plains, copiously watered with the lakes and tributaries of two of Spain’s major rivers, The Tagus and Guadiana, Extremadura boasts some of the country’s most pristine natural landscapes

No less remarkable is Extremadura’s mark on Spanish history, stretching back millennia, with an abundant artistic and architectural legacy bearing witness to waves of Roman, Visigoth, Muslim, Jewish and Christian settlement

It’s no wonder, then, that after a glorious week of yoga so many of our visitors find themselves wanting to stay a few more days to explore Extremadura. Not that Trujillo isn’t bursting with cultural and natural treasures. And if you’ve joined us for yoga and walking, you’ll have experienced Extremadura’s wild side. It’s just there’s so much to enjoy in Extremadura!

For those of you able to make that extra time, or if you’re visiting Extremadura independently, this article will guide you through some of the best experiences Extremadura has to offer. We share our best recommendations combined with local knowledge to help you enjoy the best time on your visit to this magical corner of Spain

Journey Through Extremadura’s Cultural And Natural Heritage

Discover the rich cultural tapestry of Extremadura’s golden triangle in the UNESCO World Heritage cities of Mérida, with its ancient Roman ensemble, the monumental City Of Cáceres and the Great Basilica and Royal Monastery of the mountain shrine of Guadalupe

Explore the pristine natural landscapes and rich wildlife of Extremadura’s National parks: from the soaring cliffs, meandering rivers, and lush forests of Monfragüe Biosphere Reserve, to the rugged mountain landscapes of Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark, symbol of sustainable tourism

And indulge in a plethora of festivals, traditional arts and crafts and gastronomic delights, from the world-famous acorn-fed Jamón Ibérico to the delectable Torta del Casar cheese

Uncover a world of cultural and natural treasures in Extremadura, a destination that promises you an unforgettable encounter with the many colours of bygone and contemporary Spain

Cultural Heritage


roman amphitheatre, mérida, extremadura spain

Capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, which in its day encompassed modern day Extremadura and much of Portugal, ancient Augusta Emérita retains its power base as the seat of government of the Autonomous Community Of Extremadura

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993, Mérida’s archeological treasures include a Roman theatre and amphitheatre, a large circus, an extensive water supply system including an aqueduct, and a still intact bridge spanning the Guadiana river. Wandering through the City’s streets you will suddenly chance upon the many temples and shrines dedicated to the gods and goddesses of ancient Rome

If meandering through the ancient sites to marvel at their beauty and soak in their atmosphere is not enough, you can learn more about the history of Roman Spain in Merida’s National Museum Of Roman Art. Or take in a show at the city’s annual summer festival of classical theatre staged in the old Roman theatre

There And Back Again

AvanzaBus runs regular bus services from the Spanish Yoga Retreat’s base in Trujillo to Badajoz, stopping at Mérida

Vegetarian Mérida

veggie restaurant merida, extremadura, spain

Veggie food is not so easy to come by in Spain, so if you adhere to a plant-based diet you’ll be pleased to hear that Mérida has a fully fledged and quite excellent vegetarian restaurant, the

Shangri La, Calle Sagasta, 21, 06800 Mérida
Tel +34636752837


old caceres extremadura spain

Just 46km (28.6 miles) due west of Trujillo is the provincial capital Cáceres, Extremadura’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From Plaza Mayor pass through the the 18th-century Arco de la Estrella into the old medieval city, with its narrow streets filled with churches, palaces, mansions and fortified towers spanning and array of architectural styles from Romanesque to Islamic, Gothic, and Renaissance 

The City’s Moorish walls also contain the second largest water cistern in the world

Nearby, the Fundación Helga De Alvear (Calle Pizarro, 8) is Cáceres modern art museum, housing an excellent collection of works from Picasso to Ai Weiwei


Avanzabus run regular daily services from Trujillo to Cáceres central bus station

Barruecos Regional Park And Vostel Museum

11km west of Cáceres city is the Barruecos natural park, an area of fantastically shaped granite boulders surrounding a series of lakes, ancient man-made acquafers attracting a wealth of wildlife. The park is a great site for walkers, with well marked circular trails where you can enjoy the rugged beauty of the great rocky structures reflected in the park’s still waters

Within the park, the Vostell museum houses works by the German artist Wolf Vostell and other artists linked with the Fluxus movement

There is an excellent restaurant with a bar serving lunch and dinner:
Restaurant Museo Vostell
Carretera de los Barruecos, s/n, 10910 Malpartida de Cáceres
Tel +34 927 01 08 12


real monasterio guadalupe caceres spain

Nestled in one of the least accessible parts of Extremadura, deep in the mountainous terrain of the Villuercas-Ibores-jara geopark, the exquisitely picturesque village of Guadalupe is dominated by the Real Monasterio and great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady Of Guadalupe

The Real Monasterio houses important works from Spanish masters, including Velazquez, El Greco and Zurbarán, often dubbed the Caravaggio of Extremadura

A multitude of devotees congregates every year in September, walking on their knees to pay homage to Our Lady Of Guadalupe, patron saint of Extremadura, and crowned queen of the Spanish speaking world in 1928

The appearance of Guadalupe in the guise of an indigenous Mexican woman to the peasant Juan Diego in mount Tepeyac, Mexico city, echoes the vital historical and cultural connection between Extremadura and Latin America

Getting There

Despite its World Heritage Status, Guadalupe is poorly served by public transport, with one single daily bus service from Cáceres, stopping at Trujillo. Unfortunately the return bus leaves before the outward bus arrives, making an overnight stay obligatory

Nevertheless, Guadalupe is a must-see. Most of our people share a hire car or taxi (currently around €80-90 one way) for the 93km drive to this pilgrimage at the end of the world

Other Places Of Cultural Interest

Cradle Of Explorers And Conquistadors

History buffs may want to learn more about the impact of Extremadura in the founding of modern-day Latin America. Known as the cradle of conquistadors, Extremadura is also cradle to explorers and other men of relative peace. Though the origins of the individual characters span the region, two places stand out:

sunrise in Trujillo, Extremadura Spain


Founded by the Romans on Celtic settlements, and continuously inhabited for more than two thousand years, Turgalium reached its ascendancy as Torgielo under Muslim rule

Boasting Spain’s most beautiful town square and an old medieval walled city crowned by the city’s 9th century Moorish caste, Trujillo was the birth place of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Inca and founder of Lima, Peru, as well as Francisco Orellana, first European explorer of the Amazon and others

Home of the Spanish Yoga Retreat, you can read more about Trujillo here


Also of Roman origin, the town of Medellín in Badajoz provice is the birthplace of another notorious figure, Hernán Cortés, conqueror of the Aztec empire of Mexico

Despite the ravages of time and wars, Medellin preserves a worthy architectural ensemble, notably a Roman theatre, medieval castle, and a 17th century bridge over the Guadiana river. A Centro De Interpretación details the area’s historical and geographical features

Exploring Spain’s Natural Paradise

Monfragüe Biosphere Reserve

monfrague walking retreat

This most natural paradise, covering 18,000 hectares of towering cliffs and pristine lichen-drenched forests straddling the rivers Tagus and Tiétar offers you nature at its most pristine

Named Mons Fragorum, the fragrant mount, by the Romans, Monfragüe is a haven for birds and bird-watchers alike. In addition to the 340 species, including the black stork, settling here in each yearly cycle, the park is home to permanent colonies of black Egyptian vultures and Spanish imperial eagles. Deer and wild boar abound, while the more elusive Iberian lynx is more likely to spot you than you it

Numerous well marked hiking trails take you through the park’s visual splendours. Monfragüe is a favourite location for our yoga and walking retreats, our walks taking us from the Fuente Del Francés up to Monfragüe castle for aerial views of the park. You won’t need binoculars to see the resident black vultures hovering at eye level, but they’ll help you spot the less conspicuous smaller creatures which fill the park

The park’s main setting off point, Villareal De San Carlos, offers rural accommodation in traditional bungalows as well as two bar-restaurants and an information centre 

Getting There

If you’re not joining us for yoga and walking, Emiz runs buses from Trujillo to Plasencia stopping at Villareal De San Carlos on Mondays and Fridays

Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark

extremadura - location for yoga and wellness retreat Spain

Contiguous with Monfragüe and right on Trujillo’s doorstep is the mountainous region of Villuercas-Ibores-Jara. Designated geo-park by UNESCO in 2011 the park is a symbol of sustainable tourism

Geologically once part of the American Apalachians, and now continuous with the Toledo range, the park’s physical pinnacle, the 1601m Risco De La Villuerca offers views of the peaks and valleys of this achingly beautiful region

Dotted with remote ancient villages that time forgot, this is a very sparely populated and traditional area. It may come as a bit of a surprise, therefore, to find the Swiss-run restaurant Algo Así (something like that)

A Unique Dining Experience At Algo Así

Set in lovely countryside just outside Cañamero, Algo Así serve a set menu, expertly prepared essentially from home and locally produced fare. Plant based options are available with prior notice. Pre-booking at least 24 hours before is essential

Getting There

Like Guadalupe itself, the park has little in the way of public transport. However, roads are good and car hire firms plentiful

Walking The Ruta Isabel La Católica

A novel way of exploring the Villuercas is with Trujillo’s local ramblers group, Trujillo En Marcha, who organize a yearly trecking pilgrimage in September through the geopark

The route follows the old Ruta Isabel La Católica joining Cañamero to Guadalupe. It’s a three stage event, each stage a week apart and covering around one third of the trajectory, with a return to Trujillo by privately hired bus. You can join all or any of the stages individually

The final stage is set to coincide with  Guadalupe’s yearly homage to its patron saint. The most faithful arrive on their knees. You may be forgiven for finishing the route on foot 

Other Outdoor Activities


yoga and walking holidays in spain
If you enjoy total immersion in wild, natural landscapes with a minimum of people and an abundance of nature you’ve come to the right place. From high mountain passes with breathtaking views, to meandering rivers, ancient forests and traditional villages that time forgot, Extremadura’s walking trails have something for everyone, from the gentle stroller to the most experience rambler

Areas especially popular with walkers include

– The Northern valleys around Sierra De Tormantos, including Jerte, Spain’s cherry orchard, with its spectacular display of cherry blossom in the spring, and La Vera, home to Spain’s smoked pimentón (paprika). Both valleys are home to numerous gargantas, mountain springs such Los Pilones and Garganta La Olla (see fresh-water swimming below) and endless others

– Sierra De Gata and Las Hurdes: Extremadura at its most rustic and traditional

Monfragüe and Villuercas-Ibores-Jara National parks (see above)

– Extremadura also constitues part of the so-called Southern Camino to the Sanctuary of Santiago De compostela. Less well known among the pilgrim community, this is an ideal route if you who enjoy tranquility, nature and solitary landscapes

The route joins Huelva, in Andalucia, with Zafra in southern Extremadura. Here it joins the Via De La Plata (Silver Way), an ancient Roman road transporting silver from the northern mines to the southern port of Seville

– An alternative third pilgrims’ way has recently received some attention. Another historical Roman road, the Via De La Estrella (Starry Way) stretches west from Cáceres city via Alcántara to Segura on the Spanish-Portuguese border, within the International Tagus Biosphere Reserve. From here the Portuguese Via da Estrela takes the walker through Braga before crossing back into Spain for the final stretch to Santiago

For independent walking in Extremadura check WikiLoc, a website full of routes worldwide compiled by the people who’ve walked the walk

Bird Watching

real monasterio guadalupe caceres spain

If birdwatching is your passion, Extremadura is a dream: from the Spanish imperial eagle to the colorful European bee-eater, Extremadura’s skies are filled with a symphony of wings

Known international for its incredible bird diversity, Extremadura is an ideal birdwatching destination, attracting bird enthusiasts from around the world

Trujillo-based Martin Kelsey and colleagues organize scheduled and bespoke birding holidays and guided tours. Check them out at Birding Extremadura

Freshwater Swimming

Watered by the melting snows of the high sierras and the great arterial trees of two of Spain’s principal rivers, the Tagus and Guadiana, Exremadura contains as many as 175 bodies of water, large and small, and boasts the longest stretch of freshwater beach in all of Spain

From the cascading gargantas and natural bathing pools of the sierras of La Vera and Jerte in Cáceres province, to the spa waters of Alange and the popular beach resort of the Orellana reservoir in Badajoz, Extremadura offers the visitor a thousand and one ways to lie back and stay cool

Among our favourites are

1. Los Pilones

real monasterio guadalupe caceres spain

Centures ago, boulders carried by snow melts from the high mountains to the Jerte Valley below became lodged, the action of water eroding the granite into a series of basin-like shapes. These are Los Pilones. Translating in English as fountain or drinking pool, Los Pilones is one of Extremadura’s best loved bathing spots

Access to Los Pilones is on foot, starting from the Centro De Interpretación at the Garganta Nature Reserve along a forested path with wonderous views of the towering sierra and valleys below

Garganta La Olla

South of Jerte, on the thickly forested slopes of La Vera, Garganta La Olla rushes over the edge of the picturesque village of the same name. Towering mountains and beautiful gorges form the backdrop to deep pools, thundering waterfalls and natural sunbathing areas on the garganta’s rocky plateaus

Nearby is the beautiful Monaterio De Yuste, where King Charles I of Spain spent much time convalescing from the consequences of his lavish lifestyle. A few metres further along the same road is the exquisitely picturesque village of Cuacos De Yuste, one of the areas most traditional and best preserved

Playa De Orellana

Bordering the vast Orellana reservoir, one of Extremadura’s largest, Orellana beach on the inland Costa Alegre (Happy Coast) offers the visitor all the attractions associated with a large body of water: sailing, wind surfing, canoeing, fishing and even swimming

Designated special protection area (English: SPAs) the reservoir and neighbouring Sierra De Pela are considered a wetland of international importance, particularly for bird-life, with various species of eagles and vultures as well as the Black stork, Natterjack toad and species of otters, badgers and more

Getting There

There are no direct public transport connections from Trujillo. Los Pilones And Garganta La Olla can be accessed by bus from Plasencia and Navalmoral De La Mata. Merida has bus services to the village of Orellana la Vieja for access to Orellana beach

Sky Watching

Astrotourism is fast becoming popular in Extremadura, its lack of human light-pollution and relatively dry and unpolluted atmosphere providing the dark skies ideal for star-gazing

A number of groups running sky-watching experiences with both the naked eye and robotic telescopes from places including Mérida, Cáceres, Cañamero, Plasencia and hre in Trujillo. Check out Stargazing Extremadura for info

Festivals Everywhere

As everywhere in Spain Extremadura is awash with festivals. Local festivals like the annual summer feria celebrated in every village in Spain and special homages to the local patron saint, regional festivals like Extremadura day, national festivals like Easter, of course, and just festival festivals like Cáceres’ World Of Music Art And Dance (WOMAD), Badajoz’s vibrant February carnival and Trujillo’s National Cheese And Wine Fair

Since any half decent account of Extremadura’s festivals would fill a book, we’ll list our top three, just stopping to mention some of Extremadura’s querkier festivals you might like to enjoy

1. Trujillo’s Chíviri

Easter week in Spain is among the most celebrated, with sombre, though extravagant processions followed by all night parties

Trujillo’s Easter Sunday celebration is particularly gay, as the town celebrates the end of lent and start of spring with a colourful street party with locals, dressed in shepherd and shepherdess costume, dance to endless versions of a not-so-old song entitled Chíviri

Folk heresay has it that centuries past only the nobility could consume flesh during the 40 days of lent, paying the church a special levy to mediate with the divine presence. Thus, the end of lent was celebrated with the slaughter of lambs brought to the town square by shepherds, to be spit roasted and shared among all

No lambs are slaughtered nowadays. But the eating, drinking and dancing continues every Easter for day and a night

2. National Cheese And Wine Fair

Trujillo also hosts this annual festival in May, when the town square is filled with the whiff of cheeses from all over Extremadura, Spain, and a selection of guest countries

Extremadura has a remarkably rich variety of top brass cheeses, most made from ewe’s or goat’s milk using a traditional vegetable rennet extracted from local thistles. Apart from the famous DOPs (protected origin) Torta Del Casar, and Torta De La Serena, the fair offers a huge array of national and international hard and soft cheeses to enjoy with a glass – or two –  of wine

The Trujillo-based Finca Pascualte’s retorta had long a personal favourite of ours when it won the best Spanish cheese award 2017-8 in the UK’s World Cheese festival in Birmingham

3. WOMAD Cáceres

This festival of world music, art and dance, founded by peter Gabriel and colleagues in 1980, is celebrated in the city of Caceres in May following Trujillo’s cheese and wine fair. WOMAD Cáceres as a free bash, the big acts in the main square attended by smaller events in the plazas and historical buildings in and around the the old city

The central Paseo De Canovas turns to colourful marketplace full of arts and crafts as the smell of food and the sound of music pervades the city air

Other Quirky Festivals

jarramplas festival, Piornal extremadura spain

The Turnip Festival Of Jarramplás, celebrated in Extremadura’s highest town of Piornal in the northern Sierra De Tormantos, is designated festival of national and international interest

Tradition has it that a Jarrampla (thief) came Piornal to steal the residents’ animals but hadn’t betted on the fierce response he got from local people, who pelted him with turnips to chase him off.  Every January some young person has the honour of running through Piornal’s streets dressed as Jarramplás while being showered with a couple of tons of turnips as punishment

Not all turnips go to waste, as the town also enjoys them in local dishes during the festival

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Nixtamalization Of Corn: Ancient Secret Of The Americas

Nixtamalization Of Corn: Ancient Secret Of The Americas

Impossible to talk about beans (see previous post) without alluding to their twin sibling maize. Domesticated as long as 8700 years ago in the low-lands of what is now Oaxaca in southern Mexico, corn is not short on history. But when corn was introduced to the world by the Spanish, they left behind one vital ingredient

Nixtamal: Secret Of Ancient America

By reputation corn is considered a second-rate grain: relatively low in protein, high in carbs and lacking in key vitamins and other micro-nutrients. Think polenta, tasty only as its companion sauce

Now, consider Mexican tortillas fresh off the skillet. These also contain tasty fillings, but now they complement the delicious taste of corn which holds centre-stage. And with taste comes nutrition. This corn has more protein and a significantly greater range of vitamins and minerals. The difference? A 1500 year-old process unique to pre-colombian Central America: nixtamalization (more…)

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Authentically Mexican Black Beans

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Yoga Nidra: 10 Ways To Boost Your Physical And Mental Health

Yoga Nidra: 10 Ways To Boost Your Physical And Mental Health


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Yoga Nidra Benefits: Unlock the Power of Deep Relaxation

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Too often you find yourself constantly on the go, keeping up with the demands of work, family, and social life. But amid all this hustle and bustle, it’s important to your wellbeing to take a step back, switch off and relax. And a great, accessible way of achieving this is through Yoga Nidra

Nidra is an ancient yoga practice. Literally meaning “sleep” Nidra is a special kind of sleep: it is the sleep of the yogi: – a psychic sleep that takes you to a state of deep relaxation. As you lie down and follow the practice, you go through a series of steps to help you release tension and stress from your body and mind leaving you refreshed, rejuvenated, and better able to deal with life’s challenges.

With regular practice, Yoga Nidra will give you all the rich benefits of deep relaxation, from stress-reduction and improved sleep to physical health improvement including lowered inflammation, enhanced pain sensitivity and better cardio-respiratory health. 

So, if you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of Yoga Nidra, read on and discover how this ancient practice can help you stay cool in a hectic world.

Deep Relaxation Vs. Traditional Meditation

sitting meditation

While there are similarities between Nidra and traditional meditation, there are also some key differences.

Traditional meditation is concerned with quietening the thinking mind while remaining fully alert. To avoid drowsiness – a major obstacle to meditation – you remain upright, most commonly seated, throughout the practice. 

Yoga Nidra is different. The focus of Nidra is on deep relaxation, a place where the body and mind are completely at ease. Yet Nidra is also distinct from normal sleep. It is a “liminal” state at the very edge of sleep and waking. In this state, the body is able to heal itself, and the mind is able to process the events of the day. 

Since drowsiness is not a hindrance Nidra can be practiced in any position, seated or lying, making it rather easier to do for longer periods

Yoga Nidra is a guided practice. Your Nidra teacher will guide you through a series of steps to help relax your body and quieten your mind allowing your whole system to recharge and reset. 

The Science Of Yoga Nidra

Evidence for the mechanisms and benefits of nidra are based on what is known of the relaxation response. This is a natural response of the body, where the “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system predominates.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Comprised of two branches – the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – the autonomic nervous system (ANS) coordinates physiological responses to external and internal stimuli.

The SNS is responsible for the commonly known “fight-or-flight” response, activating when we encounter a threat or perceive danger. This response triggers a surge of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hotmones, increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and generally preparing us for action. While the fight-or-flight response is a survival imperative in the short term, chronic activation of the SNS can lead to heightened stress levels, accompanied by tissue damage and emotional dysregulation.

the PNS on the other hand, is responsible for the “rest-and-digest” response, helping us relax and recuperate after a stressful event

This system works primarily through a nerve known as the vagus (wanderer) which delivers rest and and repair signals to the internal organs to reduce stress and tension and allow the body to heal and replenish its resources.

When you practice Yoga Nidra, you’re able to activate the parasympathetic response to reduce stress and tension and reset all your vital functions to benefit your total physical and mental health.

Practicing Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a systematic, structured practice which you can follow. a nidra teacher will guide you, live or via pre-recorded script through a series of steps

The systematic, step-by-step practice of Yoga Nidra has been covered in my article what is yoga nidra? For convenience the steps of Yoga nidra are summarized below

Though Nidra schools vary in how they sequence and emphasize (or omit) the various elements, these can be broken down into five major steps. These are

  1. body scan
  2. working ith breath
  3. working with opposite feelings and sensation
  4. recalling images
  5. observing and abiding in silence

10 Benefits Of Yoga Nidra

yoga nidra benefits

Yoga Nidra has many benefits, physical and mental. While Nidra and Hatha Yoga share many common benefits, Nidra practices offer you an especially powerful to down-regulate your stress response at the same time as helping you foster health-promoting positive attitudes.

Both of these mental states lead to a reduction in sympathetic fight-flight reponses and circulating stress hormones, with rest-and-repair activity is actively enhanced. This is a deeply healing state where your body can rest and repair and your mind can release stress and trauma and enjoy deep calm.

Here Are Ten Major Benefits From Practicing Yoga Nidra

(click the tabs to open)

1- Lowered Inflammation

Though protective and essential for our survival, persistent or chronic inflammation leads to tissue damage and is harmful to the body

Persistent inflammation is a major cause of

  • blood vessel damage, leading to fat deposition and narrowing with consequences including heart attack and stroke
  • joint and other musculoskeletal pain
  • skin conditions such as psoriasis and more

Inflammation has also been linked to mood disturbances, including depression and anxiety

Yoga Nidra helps reduce inflammation by activating the rest-and-digest parasympathetic nervous system. Activity of the main parasympathetic nerve, the Vagus, has been shown to actively inhibit inflammatory cells by down-regulating the relevant genes


2 - Resetting of pain sensitivity

Pain is an unpleasant sensation experienced within the brain in response to numerous conditions. While we reasonably think of pain is a marker of tissue damage, this is only partially true

Pain may arise from a number of causes, including tissue damage and inflammation, which is accompanied by increased pain sensitivity

Pain may persist after an injury has repaired to become chronic

Pain perception is strongly linked to your psychological state. Fear, anxiety and depression heighten pain sensitivity, while optimism and positive relationships can lessen the sensation of pain

Yoga Nidra is beneficial in pain management in several ways. By inducing deep relaxation, Nidra up-regulates parasympathetic activity to

  • reduce inflammation
  • lower the stress response while encouraging positive attitudes


3 - Optimization of internal organ functions

By reducing arousal and shifting autonomic tone towards parasympathetic Nidra reduces circulating stress hormones and stimulates rest-and-repair responses, allowing your body to return to balance and optimal function

Notable benefits include improved management of

  • irritable bowel
  • acid reflux and gastritis
  • blood pressure
  • respiratory health

4 - Stress management and emotional resilience

Anxiety, panic and depression all benefit from Nidra practice

Deep relaxation reduces the perception of threat and enhances the feeling of safety to improve your mental wellbeing

5 - Better Sleep

As you learn to relax and develop greater resilience toward stress you will be better able to leave the day’s stresses and challenges behind and let your body and mind enjoy a good night’s sleep

6 - Enhanced creativity

Nidra is a journey from the physical body all the way to deepest layers of consciousness, the source of intelligence and creativity

Practicing Nidra allows you to tap into your creative source to help you become more insightful, purposeful, and resourceful in your quest to live your best life

7 - Improved cognitive brain power

Yoga, meditation and deep relaxation have all been linked with lifting brain-fog and increasing mental clarity. Improvements have been found in

  • cognitive functions including focus, memory and learning
  • executive function, allowing you to make more effective decisions


8 - Better personal and professional relationships

A cardinal feature of rest-and-digest is its association with social engagement

When the feeling of danger triggers fight-and-flight responses your brain is focused on immediate survival, a condition here competition and self-interest are advantageous

Yet we are social animals and thrive by creating communities which cooperate towards a set of common goals.

The condition for social engagement is a felt sense of safety. When mammals, humans included, feel safe they display social behaviours like grooming, sharing (and eating) food, and play. They also display greater sexual arousal, a point which has led to the parasympathetic nervous activity also being called feed-and-breed!

By actively fomenting a felt sense of safety Yoga Nidra will help you better connect with others, at home, at work and in your social activities


9 - Trauma resolution

A traumatic event can throw the brain into a state of hypervigilance and anxiety where the event may be repeatedly recalled and the brain is unable to fully let go and swtich off

There is some evidence of PTSD being associated with dysregulation of brain-waves

In his Polyvagal theory, the neuroscientist Stephen Porgess has also stipulated a possible link with our most primitive survival reflex of freezing in response to overhelm or terror

By stimulating brain waves associated with deep sleep, the so called delta brain waves, Nidra may help to regulate dysfunctional brain activity associated with PTSD

The deliberate creation of positive mental states may also help with the hypervigilance experienced by PTSD sufferers

10 - Manifestation of your heart-felt desire

A singular, if not universally practiced, step in Yoga Nidra is the element of sankalpa: an expression of a heart-felt desire through a short phrase stated at the beginning of the practice and reiterated at the end

Different schools may place more or less emphasis on sankalpa, some omitting it altogether. Nevertheless, it is an integral part of the Yoga Nidra tradition

Your sankalpa may be an intention for the practice, or it may be clear desire to see something (positive) happen in your own lifetime. it may be a personal goal, or a universal principle such as humans coming together to save our planet from overheating

The power of mind is a major part of yoga theory and practice. Mind, breath and vital air (prana) are manifestations of one pervading universal intelligence. Thus the disciplined, focused mind can direct prana towards a given goal. This is the basis of what we in West call manifesting

Whether or not you include sankalpa in your practice is a personal choice depending on how it resonates with your world view. Either way the regular practice of Nidra will yield all of the above and many more amazing benefits

And Yet More Benefits …

click the link to see how you can enjoy more fantastic benefits from practicing ha-tha yoga 

Yoga Nidra Resources and Courses

If you’re interested in practicing Yoga Nidra, there are many resources and courses available. You can start your exploration with on of the many guided practices available online.  Or you may prefer to attend a Yoga Nidra class at a local studio.

There are also many books and courses available to help you to learn more about this ancient practice.

Here are some YouTube resources for you to try


Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that can help you to unlock the power of deep relaxation. There are numerous schools each offering different styles of practice as well varying goals and objectives. Intention plays a relatively prominent role in the Bihar School founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. IRest Yoga Nidra has a more clinical perspective and is more oriented towards mental wellbeing.

By following a guided practice, you can enter a state of rest that is deeper than normal sleep. This can help to reduce stress and tension, lower blood pressure, and improve overall health.

If you want to experience the benefits of Yoga Nidra for yourself, start practicing today. With regular practice, you will surely find solace in a demanding and busy world.

What Is Yoga Nidra? Discovering An Ancient Practice For Modern Times:

What Is Yoga Nidra? Discovering An Ancient Practice For Modern Times:


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What Is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice used for centuries to help practitioners release stress and tension, enjoy greater physical and emotional health and connect with their deeper self.

Literally meaning “sleep”, Nidra is a form of deep relaxation that takes you to the edge of wakefulness and sleep. It is a yogic or “psychic” sleep in the form of a guided journey from the waking state to an experience of profound relaxation and peace.

In this article, we’ll explore what Yoga Nidra is, how it works, and how to practice it, as well as discussing some of the many benefits it has to offer you.

Why Practice Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is an ancient yoga practice known as yogic or psychic sleep. This is a form of meditation where you to enter a state of deep relaxation.

Nidra is a guided practice consisting of a series of steps starting from an awareness of the body and breath through stages of creative imagery to a state of complete repose where you can relax your body and quieten your mind

Yoga Nidra is different from normal sleep. It is a “liminal” state at the very edge of waking consciousness, just before you enter sleep.

Deep relaxation is essential for good health, allowing your body and mind to recharge and reset. Regular practice of Yoga Nidra has been linked to numerous health benefits, from stress-reduction and improved sleep, to lower background levels of inflammation, resetting of pain sensitivity, and significant enhancements in cardio-vascular, digestive and other vital areas of health and wellbeing

What Is The Difference Beteen Yoga Nidra And Meditation?

Yoga Nidra is often described as a form of meditation. While there are similarities between Nidra and traditional meditation, there are also some key differences.

Where meditation seeks to quieten the mind while staying fully alert, Nidra focuses on deep relaxation, a state of being where the body and mind are completely at ease. 

Traditional meditation is a discipline. It calls for focus and attention. Whether you are giving your attention to a single sound, image or idea, or nurturing the habit of staying present to the totality of sensations, thoughts and feelings inhabiting the here-and-now, there is effort to maintain your focus. The effort is gentle, patient and kind, but it is there. Meditation is normally practiced sitting to encourage mental alertness

Nidra lets you relax into a trance-like state close to sleep. It encourages you to let go of effort and is usually practiced lying down in a totally relaxed position. Nidra will yield its effects whether you remain awake or nod off into a snooze. As you follow the teacher’s voice, their instructions will be registered and processed whatever your level of conscious awareness

How Does Yoga Nidra Work?

Yoga Nidra brings about many of its benefits by stimulating the “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system regulates the activity of your internal organs to produce an orchestrated response appropriate for a given situation. The system consists of a flight-fight sympathetic portion in response to challenges and a rest-and-digest parasympathetic portion associated with safety and relaxation. The two systems work together, see-saw function, to produce a balanced effect (autonomic tone) appropriate to an ever changing physical, social and psychological environment

The stress response is essential not only for survival, but also to motivate you to be active and pursue your goals. Because we modern humans spend so much of our time in a state of arousal, our bodies use up resources with little time to replenish them and to repair the damage caused. As a result, we pay by suffering the diseases of our modern age: heart disease, obesity, diabetes and malignancy among others

It therefore becomes a wellbeing imperative to make time and space for activities which actively encourage rest-and-digest.

Thie parasympathetic system works largely through a complex, multi-functional nerve known as the Vagus (wanderer) to bring about rest and and repair, helping to reduce stress and tension in the body. When you practice Yoga Nidra, you’re able to activate this response to reduce stress and tension, reset all your vital functions and boost your total physical and mental health.

The 5 Stages Of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a structured, systematic practice. It is usually led by a teacher who may be physically present, in-person or on-line, or via a recorded script. Though there are numerous variations, Nidra practice falls into five main stages: following an initial preparation, the focus passes from body and breath onto various stages of imagery which eventually settle into the stillness of Nidra

Preparing To Practice Nidra

  • The practice begins with an initial preparation, where you’ll be invited to establish a conducive environment and a relaxed position to let you turn your attention inwards.
  • * Next, you state an intention (Sanskrit: sanklpa) for the practice. This may be achieve the deepest relaxation possible, or heal an ailment, or something that you would like to see happen to you, or some other person or group of people. It should be imbued with great feeling, and express a deep heart-felt desire. Your sankalpa will take the form of a specific phrase which you actively repeat one or more times.

Not everyone practices sankalpa. Swami Satyananda, one of the earliest teachers of Nidra in the West, places great emphasis on sankalpa, considering a central reason for practicing Nidra. Others may prefer to skip the practice.
Check out this short video about sankalpa by Yoga Nidra Teacher Leela Miller from

Yoga Nidra Practice

  1. The first is a stage of rotation of awareness around the body. You may visualize, feel (sense) or even name the various body parts as you try to connect with the life of your body
  2. A stage of breath awareness follows. Here you will practice various ways of connecting with the breath. A common method is to count the exhalations from 10 to 1, repeatedly
  3. Next you’re invited to work with feelings and sensations. This is most often approached using pairs of opposites, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, happiness and sadness. The practice encourages you to accept the pleasant and unpleasant with equanimity and is believed to balance and harmonize the two brain hemispheres.
    Working with opposites can help with trauma resolution. On the other hand, the practice may also trigger an acute traumatic state. In such instances it’s essential to desist and consider working through this under the guidance of a professional therapist.
  4. The fourth stage is one of visualization. Here you’ll create a specific set of images or experiences which foster a positive mental state. You may for example set a scene where you feel safe and able to completely relax, or follow a guided journey involving imagery.  such as a feeling of safety, 
  5. In the fifth and last step of Nidra you let go of imagery to watch the space immediately in front of you, observing it as a blank screen. Onto this screen, images may form and dissolve spontaneously, or it may remain a silent, empty space where you can enjoy the deepest level of peace and tranquility
  6. A negotiated return using the breath and gentle movements concludes the practice

Understanding the Stages Of Nidra

Nidra, And The 5 Sheaths 

Yoga Nidra is structured as a journey through the five layers of being. Ancient yogic texts (Taittiriya and Mandukya Upanishads) describe human beings as composed of three bodies consisting of five layers or sheaths:

  1. food sheath (sanskrit: Annamaya kosha) – the physical body
  2. energy sheath (Pranamaya kosha) – the vital force. You may be more familiar with prana as the chi of chinese medicine, from which it is indistinguishable. Expressed through the breath, though not itself the breath, prana is sometimes referred to as the vital air
  3. mental – emotional sheath (Manomaya kosha) – that aspect of the mind concerned with thinking and feeling
  4. intellectual – knowledge sheath (Vijñānamaya kosha) – the seat of higher intelligence including insight and creativity
  5. blissful sheath (Anandamaya kosha) – the deepest layer of individual being, it may be associated with the unconsciousness of deep sleep, or the superconscious state of spiritual enlightenment

The five steps of Yoga Nidra take us on a journey through these layers of being, from the purely physical all the way to the bliss of stillness

Nidra Practice Summary





Facilitates the practice

physical body


Clarifies and manifests your goals and values

energy body

Body scan

Embodiment takes you from thinking to sensing and anchors you in the here-and-now

thinking / feeling body

Breath awareness

Works through the breath to calm the mind

creative / intuitive body

Pairs of opposites

Improves emotinal balance and resilience

causal / blissful body


Nurtures positive mental attitudes and connects you to your creative source


Lets you abide in the healing balm of true peace


Clarify and helps manifest your intention


Helps you bring the benefits of Nidra to your daily activities

Benefits Of Practising Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra has a huge array of benefits, both physical and psychological. Nidra practices offer you a powerful tool to both down-regulate your stress response and also to help you foster health-promoting positive attitudes.

These mental states lead to a reduction in sympathetic fight-flight reponses and circulating stress hormones, while actively enhancing rest-and-repair activity. The result is a deeply healing state where your body can rest and repair and your mind can release stress and trauma and enjoy deep calm.

Yoga, mindfulness and deep relaxation, including Nidra, have been shown to exert a powerful and positive influence on the most common causes of illness and mortality of our day including

optimization of cardiac and respiratory functions

a lowering of blood pressure

reduction of bad and increase in good blood cholesterol

down-regulation of inflammation

improved digestion, bowel transit and elimination

more effective stress management concurrent with a reduction in stress hormones

improvement in mood, including relief from anxiety and depression

similar improvements in cognitive brain functions, including enhanced mental clarity and increased memory

and, of course, improvements in sleep

How To Practice Yoga Nidra

what is yoga nidra? A liminal state of deep relaxation

Before you practice Yoga Nidra, it’s important to prepare your body and mind.

Wear comfortable clothing, and make sure that the room is quiet and free from distractions. You can use props, such as blankets or pillows, to make yourself more comfortable.

If you intend to include an intention (sankalpa) in your practice, reflect on what you would like this to be, and turn it into a definite short phrase. Use this same phrase word for word each time you practice.

It’s a good idea to practice at the same time each day, as this can help to establish a routine and make it easier to relax.

A Starter Yoga Nidra Practice
1: Body Scan

Here, then, is a guided Yoga Nidra for you to try. This is a short taster practice involving a body scan to take you from thinking to listening and sensing.

You’ll find links to more complete Nidra scripts in the resources section below

Yoga Nidra Resources: Classes and Free Scripts

If you’re interested in practicing Yoga Nidra, there are many resources and courses available. You can find guided practices online, or attend a Yoga Nidra class at a local studio. There are also many books and courses available that can help you to learn more about this ancient practice.

Here are some YouTube recordings from three distinct Nidra schools for you to try