What is yoga nidra? Nidra, meaning sleep, is a deep relaxation form from the yoga lineage, and a technique to awaken the conscious connection between the body-mind. Consider the practice to be a deep power nap, but you remain awake in the process... I know, it's a confusing concept! Understanding a bit more about your brain activity might help:
Beta Waves: dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.
Alpha: dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Theta: occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
Delta: slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the overall healing process.
Naturally, students will begin in the beta state as they step from their active lives to the practice mat and engage in a journey into and through Alpha and Theta to the deepest state of Delta, which is the Yoga Nidra destination itself. Although you are lying down during the practice, by no means are you doing nothing. An instructor will guide you through the practice, using techniques such as hypnotherapy, autosuggestion, and conscious relaxation. Near the end of the session, students reach Yoga Nidra, the deepest point of conscious relaxation. After a few minutes of silence and stillness, you reconnect with yourself and the world around you, using your experience to guide your interactions as you live in the world. Consider how powerful it would be to bring yourself into a deeply restorative and healing place at anytime! Plus, the benefits ripple out, benefiting all beings. Happy, healthy you, happy, healthy society.
So what are the benefits*? On the most basic level, practice reduces blood pressure, curbs stress and improves sleep quality. Research shows that practice can stimulate thyroid function, reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue and adrenal insufficiency as well as aid in the recovery of muscle fatigue and repair. The practice brings powerful psychological benefits as well, supporting the healing of deep psychological wounds. For example, adaptations of the technique are used to systematically reduce physical, emotional, mental and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD. Moreover, students and patients alike, find reprieve from symptoms of depression, anxiety and dependency. Not surprising that this can illicit a sense of relief and well-being.
Yoga Nidra is also a gateway to connect with your deeper self. It restores the body, senses, and mind to their natural function and awakens a subconscious awareness that allows you to feel no separation; an enriched connection to community and the universe. 42.6 million adults over 45 in the U.S. are suffering from chronic loneliness. How wonderful would it be to remove the overwhelming isolation epidemic that is happening in our society?
Not bad for a nap, huh? See you on the mat!
Watch for my Yoga Nidra Guided sessions offered at Healium Hot Yoga and Saffron Yoga Center. Upcoming events are always posted HERE.
*Little rabbit hole for you in this article published by the Scandinavian Yoga & Meditation School, "Pictures of the Brain's Activity During Yoga Nidra".