Updated: Nov 14, 2022
First, you might be thinking, what the heck is yoga nidra?
Or you’ve heard of it, but are a bit confused about what it is (which is totally normally, by the way).
In a nutshell: Yoga nidra is a guided meditation that is believed to help aid in physical recovery, heal traumas, overcome limiting patterns, help us reach the state of samadhi, and more!
And so, of course, my skeptical and scientific mind wanted to know:
Is the hype real?
In this article I’ll share a bit more about what yoga nidra is, what it’s supposed to do, and what I noticed first-hand after practicing for 75 days.
What Is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga is most commonly translated as union and usually (and very broadly) refers to the practice and state of uniting with the true self. Nidra means conscious sleep. So yoga nidra is most commonly translated as “yogic sleep” and refers to a sleep-like state where one can experience union with the true self.
The practice leads practitioners to a state where the body is so relaxed it seems asleep while the mind remains conscious, awake, and alert. In this state between waking and sleep consciousness, there are no longer any thoughts, the body and mind are still, and ego identification has subsided.
In one of the first and most famous yoga nidra studies in 1974, Swami Rama of the Himalayas was connected to an EEG (electroencephalogram) as he practiced yoga nidra. He was observed to physiologically enter deep sleep for 10 minutes as indicated by his brain exhibiting delta waves, a sign of deep sleep. However, he was able to recount verbatim the conversations that occurred in the lab during those 10 minutes, signifying his retention of consciousness while seemingly in deep sleep.
This state of physiological relaxation and simultaneous alertness is a deep state of meditation that is believed to have many benefits.
Is Yoga Nidra a Practice or a State?
Like “yoga” itself, yoga nidra is ultimately the name of the state that one arrives at but it’s also come to mean the name of the practice to get to the state of yoga nidra. In other words, we practice yoga nidra to get to yoga nidra. In some of the earliest descriptions of yoga nidra, it was essentially synonymous with the state of samadhi.
What Is The Practice Like?
There are several types of yoga nidra that vary by their tradition and lineage. What is common among most types of yoga nidra is that the practitioner lies down and is guided through a meditation that directs their attention to specific points in a certain sequence that allows them to relax deeply and for the brain waves to slow while helping the practitioner stay alert. It is not uncommon for the practitioner to experience sensations, have visions and memories, or to fall asleep.
Because one part of the practice typically involves scanning your awareness through different parts of the body, yoga nidra is commonly thought to be just a type of body scan or relaxation meditation.
While it does make you feel relaxed, yoga nidra can have many more benefits as it can help you enter a deep state of meditation.
For those who want to reap benefits beyond relaxation, yoga nidra practice can include equanimity practice, the use of intention, and specific meditations designed to help overcome mental and emotional barriers. This is the type of yoga nidra I love to share and that you can read more about here.
And so while even most experienced meditators and yoga nidra practitioners may never exhibit delta brain waves while staying conscious and alert that signify that “true” state of yoga nidra, the practice still has many potential benefits.
Potential Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra’s reported potential benefits include:
Aids in learning (check out Dr. Andrew Huberman if you want to learn more on this)
Is believed to make the state of samadhi more accessible to yoga practitioners
Helps recover from lack of sleep & aids in sleep disorders
Healing and restoration of the physical body
Injury and disease prevention
Alleviating the symptoms of mood imbalances (anxiety and depression), addiction, PTSD, & trauma
Increasing creativity, wisdom, insight, & problem solving
Increasing experiences of joy
Enhancing clarity around life purpose
Cultivating emotional peace & balance
Releasing limiting habit patterns
My 75-Day Experience
What I Did
First—full disclosure (#satya #truthfulness)—I did not end up doing 75 consecutive days because #lifehappens. But I did at least every other day or more frequently for a total of 75 practice days within 90 days.
I did one of several yoga nidras from my yoga nidra training from the lineage of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda Saraswati whose yoga nidra practices are inspired by Tantric texts.
I logged how I felt before and after, what I noticed during, which practice I did, and what my intention was.
What I Noticed
Before and After:
After about 90% of my yoga nidra practices, I felt more energized, excited, optimistic, hopeful, positive, centered, and calm, no matter how I felt before the practice.
About 70% of the time, I had insights and visions and got clarity around questions and what was important to me. I had interesting and surprising things happen in my physical and energy bodies (I’ll leave it at "interesting", you can try it for yourself and see what you experience ha).
What I noticed in daily life:
I generally felt more hopeful, optimistic, and excited about life. It also seemed as though my inner self and my circumstances were aligning in the direction of my intention. I observed that beyond the completion of the 75 days when I took a break from the practice, I noticed less progress towards my intention and less clarity in my daily priorities (and so I started up the practice again—more on that next!)
Between the immediate benefits I felt after the practice, the energy towards my intention, the sacredness of the practice time and space, and the luxury to just let go and be guided, I have come to maintain and look forward to my still regular yoga nidra practice. It has stayed a valued and respected part of my holistic lifestyle yoga practice that I do a few times a week.