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The Yoga Sleep: Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is the practice of bringing your conscious state of mind to the place between sleeping and being awake. During a yoga nidra practice you’re “awake”, but not alert. This practice helps rest the brain and reset the nervous system. It’s helpful to reduce stress and can be used to help with anxiety.

Yoga nidra is a layer deeper than meditation. When meditating you’re awake and focusing on your body in it’s awakened state and learning how to allow your thoughts to come in and out without influence or judgement. In Yoga Nidra you’re at rest and allowing yourself to be in a purposeful relaxed state, trying to move beyond your thoughts.

Yoga nidra is a scripted, guided meditation to help give the brain an anchor of focus, to help practitioners be able to stay in the place between sleep and awake. The initial phase of the practice is to go through your body, part by part, tightening and relaxing these areas so you can notice how they feel, and then try to move beyond that feeling. The next phase is a visualization guided meditation, to give your mind something to focus on, it could also be considered guided dreaming.

Yoga nidra is an accessible practice, it just requires you to have a comfy place to lay down. If you’re practicing yoga nidra in a studio especially, get comfy before you practice. Use blankets underneath you as well as on top of you (typically your body cools as it relaxes). This practice is meant to take place is savasana or corpse pose, but if you need additional props, like a bolster under your knees, use more props! Just like with any practice, there’s going to be a learning period to see what works for you, but if you aren’t comfy at the start of a yoga nidra practice, you’re probably going to be focusing on the discomfort instead of relaxing yourself.

Theres a yogi tale that goes something like this: there was a guru meditating and he asked his helper to bring him some water, while the helper was away getting the water the guru fell into a deep meditative state, he was there so long trees grew around him, after a long time he came out of his reverie and his helper asked “guru, what have you learned?” And the guru said, “where is my water? I’m so thirsty!”

The moral being that its helpful to get rid of the physical, bodily distractions first, before you can move beyond them, so get comfy!

Ultimately the practice of yoga nidra is about discovering more about yourself, and learning how to rest well. A typical class last around 30-45mins and is said to be the equivalent of 3-4 hours of sleep. Practicing in a studio, and particularly starting a practice in a studio can help give you the time and space for dedicated practice and the benefit of being able to talk with your yoga teacher before or after about specific things that may come up for you during your practice. Yoga nidra can also be done at home, with the benefit of already being in a comfortable place or making space in your home feel more comfortable. Practicing three times a week is the average recommendation for yoga nidra, but more or less for your lifestyle.

If you feel tired, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, not your best self, try yoga nidra and give yourself the benefit of rest.

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