More and more people are interested in Yoga Nidra. A particular style of yoga, also known as "Sleep Yoga". Here, you don't need to be in shape to practice. Instead, the goal is to stay still and travel within your consciousness, to achieve relaxation. Would you like more information about this type of yoga? It's a good idea! Today, I invite you to discover its history, its definition and its benefits.
Yoga Nidra: What is it?
The Nidra is also called sleep yoga. Indeed, the term "Nidra" means sleep in Sanskrit. It is in fact a form of relaxation and meditation, more than a postural yoga practice.
Nidra Yoga is generally practiced in a lying position on the back (Savasana posture). You can also adopt any other comfortable posture where you can stay still. A Nidra Yoga session is mostly done through the teacher's voice. He guides his students during relaxation exercises of the body and mind, visualizations and meditations.
But what exactly is Yoga Nidra? Throughout your session, you will be invited to lie down, with your eyes closed and totally motionless. In this way, your body will be completely at rest. This will help your mind to slow down.
Little by little, through the indications of your Nidra yoga teacher, you will be led to a state of deep relaxation. However, you will not sleep (although this can happen). You will remain perfectly lucid.
During the session, your teacher will guide you to a state of being on the verge of sleep. This facilitates the withdrawal of the senses or pratyara. An essential notion in the philosophy of yoga.
Finally, a Nidra yoga session consists mainly in moving away from your thoughts, as in meditation, in order to reach well-being, unity and return to oneself. You will then be able to focus on yourself and on the present moment. This, while distancing your attention from futile things or annoyances. The watchword is "disconnect".
Yoga Nidra is therefore a moment where one is free of all intention and objective.
Yoga Nidra session
A Nidra yoga session lasts an average of 30 minutes to 1h30. You can practice it in a yoga studio near you. However, it is also possible to practice directly in your home, using videos or CDs.
In addition, this type of yoga is usually practiced with props. There are bolsters, blankets or cherry pit cushions (to be placed over the eyes). They help the body to relax completely and not get cold during the session.
Who is Yoga Nidra for?
Yoga Nidra is recommended for people who are very mentally agitated, as it allows a slowing down of the flow of thoughts and a deep relaxation. It is also practiced in companies. Indeed, it is appreciated there, because it can be practiced in any outfit and helps to fight against stress. In addition, it allows a renewal of energy, a better concentration and therefore to improve productivity at work.
Moreover, Yoga Nidra is ideal for people who suffer from insomnia or sleeping difficulties. Indeed, the sessions help to facilitate falling asleep at bedtime. Moreover, it is said that 30 minutes of this type of yoga is equivalent to two hours of sleep. It is therefore ideal for recovering from a lack of sleep.
On the other hand, Yoga Nidra can be practiced at any age, whatever your level of fitness. This, without any pre-requisite. The magic of this type of yoga is that there is no way to miss your session or to qualify it as good or bad. In fact, you don't have to do anything during your sessions, just press pause and relax completely. In this age of hyper-stimulation and multi-tasking, it feels great!
How does a Yoga Nidra session take place?
To begin, the student is often invited to practice a few gentle yoga postures in order to begin to enter into practice and relaxation. It is also possible to practice breathing exercises. This is a way to make the transition between our daily life and the session in order to dive more easily into a state of relaxation.
Afterwards, we lie down in Savasana or another comfortable position, with our eyes closed and try not to move any more.
To begin, we say our Sankalpa several times mentally. The Sankalpa is our dearest wish, an ideal that we wish to reach, a realization that we wish to accomplish in the future. It is usually a short, precise, positive sentence, stated in the affirmative and in the present tense. It is a kind of resolution that one makes for oneself.
Relaxation and visualization: the heart of a Yoga Nidra session
Then, the teacher guides us to release each part of the body, mentally placing our consciousness in it. This is called the rotation of consciousness. This exercise allows the body to relax while keeping a clear mind so as not to fall asleep. Similarly, we will sometimes be led to count our breath to gauge our state of attention during the session. We are not trying to fall asleep, but to relax.
The session may or may not focus on a specific theme. In all cases, we will then be taken on a visualization: it is a kind of guided meditation where we turn our gaze towards ourselves. These exercises will sometimes bring out information or emotions that we will be able to observe to learn more about ourselves.
Usually, the session ends by declaring one's Sankalpa again before gently returning to consciousness, moving every part of the body. Hands, feet, head etc...
A Yoga Nidra session can also be guided by music or mantras.
Yoga Nidra for sleep: a precious tool for your sleep?
Finally, Nidra is a form of deep relaxation. It allows you to relax completely. This practice is therefore ideal to promote sleep. Indeed, even if the goal is not to sleep during the session, Yoga Nidra has benefits on falling asleep after practicing.
Thus, people who suffer from insomnia or difficulties falling asleep find many benefits. Therefore, Yoga Nidra is also useful to fight against the repercussions of insomnia on health: weight gain or loss, depression or even certain pathologies that can occur during a sleep deficiency. Even if of course it does not replace medical care, it can bring a better well-being in this situation.
The benefits of Yoga Nidra
It's a fact: this type of yoga is useful for better sleep. However, it has other benefits as well. Here they are:
- Letting go: It allows you to observe what you can't control, and let things go effortlessly.
- Reduce stress: It helps to put aside difficulties or worries. It is a valuable ally in helping to take a step back from certain situations. In this way, it teaches us to take things more philosophically.
- Emotion management: Nidra Yoga allows us to stop reacting to over-stimulation of our mind, to distance ourselves from what tends to overwhelm us.
- Strengthens our defenses: since sleep is very important for the functioning of the immune system, this practice helps to stay healthy.
- Getting back in shape and morale: taking a moment to take a break allows us to regain our energy. After a session, we feel ready for the rest of our activities. It is possible that our results will be more positive and above all that we will feel happier.
- Eliminates tension: Through the complete relaxation of the body, Yoga Nidra helps eliminate physical and mental tensions.
- Self-knowledge: this practice also allows us to get to know ourselves better, it can be useful for personal and spiritual development.
The History of Sleep Yoga
Yoga Nidra is a very ancient type of yoga. Descriptions of this type of practice can be found in books dating back thousands of years. We can therefore affirm that the origin of Yoga Nidra goes back to a very distant time, to the origins of Yoga. This technique is inspired by an ancestral tradition that comes from the Yoga Tantra.
Subsequently, the practice of Yoga Nidra as we know it today was developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in India in the 1950s. In his youth, Swami Satyananda traveled extensively to develop his understanding of yoga. In particular, he was guided by Swami Sivananda for twelve years.
His goal was to share the essence of Tantric techniques while adapting them to modern civilization. It is thus he who contributed to make them accessible to the greatest number, while preserving their depth and their benefits. He believed in particular that the practice of Yoga Nidra could lead away from suffering.
The history of Yoga Nidra goes back to the 1940s, when he was a student of Sivananda in Rishikesh, India. During a class given by his master, Swami Satyananda fell asleep while people at his side were chanting mantras. When he woke up, he became aware that he remembered his mantras as if he had been lucid during his sleep. He understood that consciousness can last beyond the physical body, and so he became interested in the notions of subtle bodies.
You now know a little more about the practice of Yoga Nidra and its history. A practice that will allow you to relax and forget your to-do list. Are you ready for your first session?