The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has formally recognized the importance of sleep and its effects on public health. In spite of a lack of sleep being linked to issues as diverse as lackluster job performance, hypertension, difficulty concentrating, diabetes and more, data gathered by the agency via its National Health Interview Survey notes that nearly 30 percent of adults slept an average of six hours or less each day.
How Yoga Nidra Can Help
While the factors leading to this lack of restful sleep — and its related sleep deprivationn— are varied, many people find that their sleep is restless or that they simply cannot fall asleep in the first place. Yoga nidra — often translated as meaning “yogic sleep” — is a sleep-like experience that can occur during meditation and that can lead to a better night’s sleep. During the three states of consciousness that can occur during yoga nidra — waking, dreaming and deep sleep — you can experience benefits such as peaceful energy, total body relaxation as well as a reduction in anxiety and pain.
Preparing for Yoga Nidra
The techniques of yoga nidra can be found in the Mandukya Upanishad. Some people — especially when they are first starting the process of yoga nidra — can benefit from a recording instead. Before getting started with the practice of yoga nidra, you need to thoroughly prepare.
First, give yourself plenty of time for a relaxed and unhurried experience. Choose a period when you have a long block of time to yourself — without pressing obligations that await at its conclusion, if possible. Clear out a space to lay a yoga mat as well as rectangular yoga bolsters or cushions, if needed. Use an eye mask or eye pillow to reduce the sensation of light. For a more permanent solution, consider installing room-darkening curtains or shades to help you focus during yoga nidra and to help maintain a restful setting for sleeping.
Yoga Nidra Techniques
Yoga nidra techniques can be loosely defined as the following:
Focus your mind to connect on that which you desire — perhaps well being, health or peacefulness — most of all. Use your entire body to feel this desire, experiencing and imagining it as if it were happening at that moment.
What is your intention during this yoga nidra session? You might want to explore a sensation, belief or emotion. Perhaps you simply want to rest and relax. Invite, welcome and affirm your intention with your entire being.
Look inside yourself and find that safe place where your feelings of well being, calm and security reside. Perhaps there is a particular person, place or experience that helps you feel this way. At any time during your day-to-day life or while practicing yoga nidra, feel free to experience that place to bring yourself back to center and calm.
Taking an unhurried approach, become aware of each of your body parts. Scan your scalp, forehead, neck and throat. Guide yourself to become aware of your eyes, mouth, nose, ears and jaw. Experience sensation throughout your fingers, your palms and up through your arms and shoulders. Perform the same gradual guided scan of each part of your body in turn.
Focus your awareness on your breath. Notice how it occurs on its own — with no help from you. Feel the flow of air as it naturally leaves and enters your throat, nose and lungs. Embrace the energy as it flows throughout your body.
Open yourself up to your feelings, withholding judgment or change. Embrace the sensations — like tension, warmth or heaviness — that you feel in your body. Notice any emotions like anger, worry or sadness, and answer these with serenity and feelings of ease instead.
Again, without judging your memories, thoughts or images or trying to change them, simply notice them. Welcome your thoughts and observe them. Experience the opposite thoughts as well, bringing them to mind and experiencing them as they occur.
Open your being up and experience sensations of bliss, happiness, joy and well being. Feel them originating from deep within your belly or your heart before they spread throughout your entire body and reach into the surrounding space. Radiate these feelings of positivity with your every exhalation.
Increase your awareness of yourself. Observe the identity of you — your personality and those traits that comprise you. Be cognizant of those feelings that arise as you experience your sense of identity. Give way to consciousness and awareness rather than thinking.
As your session of yoga nidra winds down, reflect on the sensations you acquired along your journey. Affirm the peace and awareness that lies deep within you regardless of the changes swirling around. Contemplate on ways to integrate this into your day-to-day life so you can retain a sense of equanimity.
Finish the session on a gentle note, allowing yourself to transition back to the present gradually. Take a few moments to reorient yourself and to feel gratitude for having this experience.
While many people fall asleep when they first begin yoga nidra, the goal is for you to use the techniques you learn to help you fall asleep at night. Teaching your body to let go of the day’s experiences and to relax makes all the difference in getting the sleep it needs.
If you’re looking for other meditation options, check out the Sol Tec Lounge.