Yoga nidra for sleep
What is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is not your typical yoga practice in terms of a series of poses. At its essence, yoga nidra is a state of consciousness and is often referred to as “yogic sleep”.
It is practiced laying in savasana (corpse pose) in complete stillness and involves following a teachers voice as they guide you through a yoga nidra practice, designed to transition you through different states of consciousness.
It’s said that an hour long practice can offer the same benefits as 4 hours of sleep, a short 30-minute practice the equivalent of an extra couple of hours. Who doesn’t want that?
How does it help you sleep?
Recent studies show that the biggest benefit of a yoga nidra practice is reducing the physiological and cognitive symptoms of anxiety and stress. It was found to be more effective than meditation in terms of reducing anxiety.
With stress and anxiety being major contributors to difficulty sleeping, activating the relaxation response and soothing anxiety promotes better sleep and reduces insomnia.
The right way to pratice yoga nidra
There’s really no “wrong” way to do yoga nidra, all you need to do is follow your teacher’s instructions in your mind - you don’t even need to move your body. Some tips to get the most out of your practice would be:
Traditionally you would practice yoga nidra lying down in corpse pose, with feet falling out to the side and arms beside you, a little way away from your body, with palms facing up. However, you want to get really comfortable so that your body cam completely relax and there’s no desire to move your body once you start the practice. So use any supports your body needs - a blanket or pillow under the knees, support your neck and head or lay on your side or even sit propped up. Find what works for your body, where you feel completely settled.
Choose your environment wisely
Try and find a space where you are not going to be disturbed, make sure your phone is on silent or out of the room, lighting is soft and you have all you need to get comfortable. It should be somewhere you will not be interrupted so that you can completely relax.
Don’t fall asleep!
Although it is referred to as “yogic sleep”, it’s not really sleep but a deep state of relaxation, the aim is actually to not fall completely asleep during the practice. Set the intention at the start of your practice that although your body will be deeply resting, your mind will stay alert. It may well happen, in which case just accept that it was what your body needed at the time and don’t worry.
How often should I practice yoga nidra?
You can practice yoga nidra as often as you like. If you find it helps you to fall asleep you could practice it daily. If you don’t have the time to do a long practice daily you could try alternating between different lengths of practice, some of the shorter ones will be around 20-30 minutes in length, easy to fit in to a busy day (especially when they’re going to gift you the same benefits of 2 hours sleep).
What's the best time to practice yoga nidra?
You could try practicing yoga nidra at different times of the day. Although it would seem to make sense to practice just before bed when you want to aid sleep, you do need to try and keep following the instructions and set the intention that you will stay awake for the practice and not fall asleep until it is complete. This can be tricky and you may find you drift off completely rather than in and out of the different states of consciousness. Not one to beat yourself up about as you will have gained in sleep and will still feel benefits of your practice. However, to make the most of your practice, try to find a time where you’re not likely to fall deeply asleep during the practice but allows you space to wind down - maybe a couple of hours before bed and commit to staying in the calm space before going to sleep.
If you find it hard to stay mentally alert for the practice at night, try a morning or afternoon practice. The relaxation response of your yoga nidra will positively impact your nighttime sleep no matter at what time of the day you practice.
What should I know before I try yoga nidra for the first time?
The instructions can seem a bit “weird” when you first practice. You will be guided through a series of elements in the practice such as rotating your consciousness around the body, imagining different states such as hot and cold and rapid visualisations. Some of these might feel quite different to experiences of guided meditations. All you need to do is listen to the teachers voice and follow their instructions in your mind so just keep an open mind and go with it!