Establishing Aegle Mind and Aegle Yoga the past couple of years has resulted in a pretty fast paced, uncertain life and has, at times, left me feeling exhausted. One day, on a desperate whim scrolling through Insight Timer, I found a Yoga Nidra meditation that promised to re-energise and nourish me as much as a deep, restful sleep.
It was only a short practice, but I went deep, and after what felt like a few minutes, awoke to this feeling of total bliss and calm. For the rest of the day, and week even, I could feel the effects of this practice on my mind and body. I felt restored and rejuvenated! It is said that just an hour of Yoga Nidra provides the equivalent of four hours sleep and that is what it certainly felt like to me. And as I have continued to explore this practice over the years, I have experienced the same profound effects again and again.
So what is it? How does it differ to meditation? What are the benefits of the practice?
Yoga Nidra, a Sanskrit term meaning “yogic sleep”, is an ancient relaxation technique that brings you into a state between sleep and consciousness which promotes emotional and physical healing and self exploration. Research has been carried out on the brains of participants during a Yoga Nidra session which has shown that although they appear to be in a deep resting state similar to sleep, they are still completely conscious. This confirms meditation as the fourth major state, alongside, wakefulness, sleeping and dreaming. You can read more about this study here.
We live in a society that demands us to be online and connected 24/7, our fight or flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) is constantly activated. With this stress our body’s natural healing powers never kick in. Yoga Nidra offers us a way to enter the more healing, rest and digest state of being. For most people, relaxation involves lying on the sofa, watching a film or going to bed early. But unless you release all physical, mental and emotional tensions, you can never be completely relaxed. Complete relaxation relieves fatigue in the body, relieves depression, anxiety and headaches. The entire system is rejuvenated, boosting the body’s natural healing abilities.
Asides from feeling wonderfully rested, there are countless other benefits of practicing Yoga Nidra:
- Calms the mind
- Relaxes and rejuvenates the body
- Soothes the nervous system
- Reduces fatigue
- Lowers high cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves quality of sleep
- Treats depression
- Reduces pain
- Boosts concentration level
- Supports brain function and boosts creativity
So what should you expect from your first session?
Begin by making yourself as comfortable as you can for this relaxing journey. Hopefully, the studio will provide you with mats, bolsters, blankets and eye pillows for an extra nourishing experience. (I recommend wearing layers as the body temperature can drop a few degrees when meditating and you can get a chill) The first few times you practice you may fall asleep, and allow this, your body obviously needs the rest! But as best you can see if you can stay awake, listening to the words as they flow in and out of your conscious awareness.
After an initial settling in period, a personal intention is set for the practice, anything from rest to energy, clarity or insight. What is your resolve? What does your heart desire? What is your greatest longing in this moment? From this you can create an affirmation or a sankalpa which should be short, clear and framed as a positive.
Yoga Nidra will help you rest, restore, de-stress, increase awareness, undo bad habits, and eventually understand your true calling and higher purpose. And we all need more of that, right?
From this point, you will be guided through an awareness of body and breath and invited to visualise calming images or journeys that lead you to your highest purpose. Whatever the theme of intention of the class, you will feel deeply rested from your practice. It is said that a minimum of thirty minutes is needed to truly allow the body to enter the rest response and benefit. Longer than 45 minutes is considered an advanced practice.
Regular practice helps harmonise the brain hemispheres, promoting better mental performance. It is a great tool to have when you are feeling under pressure, burnt out or low in energy. In time you can begin to use this practice to work towards your goals and desires. I highly recommend finding a teacher and giving this form of guided meditation a go. Jennifer Piercy on Insight Timer is wonderful, especially if you are going to use it to help you sleep. Otherwise you can find me each week on a Tuesday evening at 6:15pm at Complete Yoga in Putney.
See you on the mat 🙂
Join Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.