Feeling overwhelmed with an overstimulated, over-stressed mind? You’re not alone. Many of us feel the pressure of daily stressors throughout our lives, eventually building up to make us feel like we might explode from the anxiety, overstimulation, and never-ending stress.
When we feel this way, it’s essential to take a step back and evaluate our needs to promote our overall health. Calming the mind is an excellent way to soothe and relax the mind and body, and yoga nidra is one way to do this. While it isn’t a catch-all for everything, it can be an excellent method for entering a state of deep relaxation and relaxing the mind.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga nidra takes a peaceful approach to the practice of yoga, deferring from the common types we see in the Western world, such as Bikram or Ashtanga. Instead of the upbeat pace and stimulating nature of other types of yoga, yoga nidra errs on the side of meditation.
It ties yoga and meditation together in a beautiful, seamless approach that allows you to take a step back from life and breathe. It encourages deep relaxation that walks the line between sleep and consciousness.
The practice slows your brain waves, inducing a sleep-like state called yogic sleep. The brain communicates this with your body, sending signals to your body and mind that you’re ready for sleep.
How to do Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra is an excellent addition to your day that won’t tax your body or mind. Instead, it can be incredibly beneficial after a poor night of sleep or a particularly stressful day. We recommend following a guided practice, as your instructor’s voice is helpful during the practice.
Here are the basics of how to do it:
- Lie on your back in Corpse Pose, arms resting at your sides, palms facing the sky, and feet lax. You can lie on your bed, the couch, or a yoga mat on the floor – choose the most comfortable option for you. Add pillows, blankets, or an eye mask to block bright lights to ensure you remain comfortable.
- Start by relaxing your body and mind through a conscious effort. If you’re new to this practice, we recommend following a guided session, as your instructor will talk to you throughout the duration.
- Choose a short resolve or resolution to repeat silently as you relax. Repeat the mantra several times, as the mind is open and receptive during this practice.
- Bring your mental attention throughout the body and senses, focusing on one body part at a time. Follow the guidance of your instructor, moving from point to point throughout the body in a rotation of consciousness. This part can make you feel sleepy but try to avoid slipping into sleep.
- Once you complete the rotation of consciousness, turn your awareness to the breath. Avoid changing your natural rhythm. Instead, simply observe your natural breath, counting each breath as you shift your focus to each inhalation and exhalation.
- Next, turn your attention to sensations, including physical or emotional feelings. Observe each feeling before letting it go, ebbing into unimportance as you release the emotional tension associated with the feeling. Generally, this part is done with pairs of opposites, including pain and pleasure or heaviness and lightness.
- Now, your instructor will begin to paint vivid pictures with their words. For example, think of a dark, starry night painted with deep, rich navy and midnight black hues. Pinholes in the blanket shrouding the universe let bright, white light in, creating the sparkles we see in the sky. A shooting star zips across the night sky, leaving a blast of light in its wake, gone in a mere instant. As your instructor talks, visualize the scene in your mind. This step can create feelings of peace and tranquility.
- In this step, you’ll return to your resolve or resolution. The mind is often open and receptive at this step, so now is an excellent time to repeat your resolve.
- Lastly, you need to bring your awareness back to your surroundings, slowly acclimating to external stimuli once again. Take your time in this step, allowing your body to glide gently through the stages to reach full awareness.
The Best Times to do Yoga Nidra
There isn’t a “best time” to do yoga nidra, as all of us have unique needs and expectations. However, you may find the practice particularly helpful in certain situations, including after a stressful day, when waking up in the morning, before bed, or after a poor night of sleep.
After a Stressful Day
Stress plagues many of us as we traverse the business of life, ticking off to-do tasks on our checklist, attending appointments and social gatherings, and staying on top of work tasks. Sometimes, this stress can overwhelm us, leaving us anxious and overactive.
While practicing yoga nidra with an overactive mind can be tricky, perseverance can provide the ultimate reward of grounded calmness. Take your time and let your mind take a break from the chaos of life by practicing yoga nidra for a few minutes.
When You Wake Up
Starting your day with an overactive, stressed brain isn’t ideal. While this is tricky to prevent, especially if you work a stressful job or are going through a stressful time in your life, yoga nidra can help recenter your mind before starting the day.
Incorporating even just 20 minutes of yoga nidra into your morning routine can help you feel calmer and clearer, setting your day off on the right foot.
After a Night of Poor Sleep
While yoga nidra cannot replace hours of quality sleep, it can help you feel more rested and prepared for your day. So, if you don’t get the best sleep one night, try practicing yoga nidra the following day to encourage feelings of peace and restfulness.
You might notice drowsiness while you practice yoga nidra. While falling asleep isn’t the goal of the practice, it can be a great way to prepare your body for rest. It can help your body and mind unwind from daily stress and relax the muscles for restful sleep.
How Many Times Should We Do Yoga Nidra?
You can practice yoga nidra as often as you like. Add a few sessions to your daily routine, like a morning session to start your day on the right foot and an evening session to end the day with calm and serenity.