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
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.
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
- body scan
- working ith breath
- working with opposite feelings and sensation
- recalling images
- observing and abiding in silence
10 Benefits Of Yoga Nidra
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
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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.