Updated: Sep 27
Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation also known as “yogic sleep” or “effortless relaxation”. It’s usually practiced lying down with a teacher guiding the session. The practice draws our attention inwards, and we learn to surf between the states of wakefulness and sleep, often following a clear order of audible queues, you'll be led through a body scan, breath practice, and visualisation. Perfect if you struggle with anxiety and sleep.
I found Yoga Nidra while studying for my qualification in pregnancy yoga. The Nidra was my favourite part of the training, the deep rest I experienced was like nothing else. I now think it's very similar to a soundbath, but of course quieter. and we use the voice to focus the mind and let go.
During practice, the body finds its natural state of equilibrium (homeostasis) he breath balances and becomes quiet.
Unconscious and conscious aspects of the mind reveal themselves, and cultivate a connection to deep blissful awareness.
We experience the ‘deeper’ features of yogic teachings that previously we perhaps considered intangible, such as feeling our interconnected wholeness and becoming aware of our true, unified nature – expansive, inclusive, and deeply restful.
Yoga Nidra takes us effortlessly into a state of harmonious, restful being. From here, we can be healed, restored, and connected to the self.
Who is it for?
Absolutely anyone can practice Yoga Nidra, but it has immense appeal for those who struggle to let go (I think many of us have ‘battled’ through meditation at times!). It also has immense value for those suffering from sleep deprivation, trauma, anxiety or depression (to any degree).
How do you practice Yoga Nidra?
In short, you lie down and have a rest! The teacher will guide you, usually for around 35 minutes. We start by setting an intention specific to you and what you might be journeying towards or need on that day. Then we draw on the breath and the body, calling in feelings of safety, rest, and home within the body.
Once the foundations of this have been laid, we gather concentration and sensory awareness by exploring the body and breath. This can be through visualisation, a body scan and journey.
Yoga Nidra can also help us reflect on the idea of the self, held in a safe space we might dive deep into how we truly are, what might be holding us back, and what are we still carrying.
Where does Yoga Nidra come from?
Yoga Nidra has its roots in a philosophy called Sankhya which was first written down around 700 BC. Over centuries, people practiced these teachings and expanded upon them – Patanjali and the Buddha being some of its more famous proponents. These teachings were further explored in the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta (meaning ‘not two’ – ‘non-dual’) and a century or so later, the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism.
This encompasses an incredible breadth of experience and practical guidance, all pointing us to a simple truth: at our essence, we are the stillness of awareness and this inner light, when explored, takes us into the macrocosm and the realization of our unity. The practice of Yoga Nidra becomes an experiential map of the history of meditation and encompasses all of these philosophies along its journey.