What? Did I sleep through the whole class? I hope I didn’t snore. I probably snored.
That was my first introduction to the practice of Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep.” I went to class, laid down on my mat, and then it was over. Great, I just spent $20 to take a nap. But I returned to the practice – who doesn’t love a nap – and I became hooked.
What I have since learned with more practice and study is that rather than sleeping, deep healing is occurring.
What happens in a Yoga Nidra class?
In Yoga Nidra, the student lies in Savasana throughout the class. Yes, Savasana the whole time. I knew that would get your attention. The teacher verbally leads you through a guided meditation experience that includes setting an intention, focused breathing, body relaxation, and visualization.
Anyone at any level of yoga experience can do Nidra. Among the many benefits are reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression; healing from trauma or addiction; addressing chronic pain; and enhancing memory and creativity.
But here’s what is really happening…
Listing all of our modern-day stressors stresses me out, so I will skip the details and simply state that in our lives we very rarely achieve a sense of deep mental and physical relaxation.
Have you noticed that when you go on vacation and get away from your daily life and distractions you feel calm, creativity begins to flow, ideas come forward, or solutions to problems suddenly appear? You feel rejuvenated and recharged.
The same thing happens in a yoga Nidra session. Our mind and body drift to a state similar to that just before actual sleep. When you “wake up” after a Yoga Nidra class, you haven’t really been asleep but you have spent time in a zone where the distractions and stressors peel away.
Setting your healing intention
One of the most powerful aspects of a Nidra practice is setting an intention, which you are asked to do at the beginning of the practice and then restate to yourself at the end. Your intention can be anything you want in your life, stated in the present moment as if it is already happening.
I am happy. I am healed. I release feelings of anger.
Whatever it is that you are working on—and we are all always working on something in our evolution as human beings—becomes the focus of your attention throughout the class. While your brain and body achieve a deep state of relaxation, this intention burrows inside of you, unburdened by distracting thoughts.
Slow down a minute
We are always on the go, always moving, and often our yoga practice reflects the same energy. We want to practice more, achieve “advanced” poses, keep flowing, and test the limits of our flexibility and our bodies.
Movement is important, yes, but so is stillness and relaxation. Find your balance and try the art of yogic sleep. Notice how you feel after class. Give the body the healing it craves. The worst that can happen is that you get in a good nap.
Photo Cred: Heart and Soul of Yoga