Yoga nidra, the practice of yogic sleep, can help the mind and body to recover from the toll of everyday stresses
Yoga nidra is a powerful, yet simple way of achieving complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. The word nidra is a Sanskrit word meaning sleep and also refers to the practice of yogic sleep or dynamic sleep. This ancient mind-body practice was introduced to the West in the 1960s and has become popular once more in the increasingly stimulated digital world.
It differs from many forms of yoga in that it is generally practised in complete stillness, with the body lying flat or in a reclined position that allows total physical relaxation (similar to that adopted during Savasana, the final relaxation exercise at the end of a more dynamic yoga session).
Even a short practice can be beneficial, with recent research concluding that a 30-minute session of yoga nidra represents the equivalent of three to four hours of sleep, so it’s a great reason to indulge in the ultimate power nap.
Home practice to aid sweet dreams
Start by making yourself as comfortable as possible in your bed, finding a position where your body can completely relax. Make sure you’re nice and warm, but not too hot, and cover yourself with a cosy blanket or sheet. Ensure you won’t be disturbed. Cover your eyes with a mask or scarf, if needed.
Be still: Take a few minutes to lie in comfortable stillness to prepare your body and mind for the rest of the practice. Turn your attention inwards, blocking out the outside world.
Set an intention: Mentally set yourself a personal intention – a Sankalpa – for the practice. For example: ‘My body and mind deserve to completely rest.’
Breathe: Bring quiet, mindful attention to your breath – slow, deep and calm, yet natural, automatic and unforced. Rotate the senses around the points of your body. Create awareness and concentration by thinking of each point and focusing all of your attention on it while sending a message for it to physically release and relax.
Visualise an image or sensation if that helps. This is a suggested order around which to rotate the senses: third eye (the point between the eyebrows), throat, centre of the chest, right shoulder, right elbow, right wrist, right thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, little finger. Return to the right wrist and follow the points back to the centre of the chest, left shoulder, left elbow, left wrist, left thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, little finger, return to the left wrist and follow the points back to the centre of the chest, throat, and finally the third eye.
Repeat intention: Mentally repeat the intention you set at the start of the practice three times, with full awareness and feeling. Take a few minutes to allow any sensations to radiate across your body. Let them be.
End the practice: if you’re not already asleep, then gently shift your body position, if needed, and allow yourself to drift. Repeat the practice from ‘Rotate the senses’ if sleep does not come naturally at this point.
Find a class near you
As more gyms, yoga studios and independent classes begin to offer specific yoga nidra sessions, it’s worth researching what’s available in your area. Receiving guidance from a qualified, experienced yoga nidra teacher is a great way to get started and it will provide a safe and comfortable foundation to learn the techniques from which you can continue a regular practice.
Words: Simone Scott
This article was originally published under the title ‘Namaste in bed’ in Issue 18 – Great expectations