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Explore the Profound Effects of Yoga Nidra

This ancient practice is gaining in popularity and for good reason.
Photo: Shutterstock

Many Americans are stressed and anxious, and as a result, they aren’t getting good quality sleep. Fifty to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder. Almost 38 percent of those report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the past month.

Help is desperately needed. And help is here, in the form of yoga nidra. Read on to learn how you can use this unique guided meditation for deep relaxation and rest.

What is yoga nidra?

Yoga nidra, an ancient practice sometimes referred to as yogic sleep, is a meditation that guides you into conscious awareness of each part of the body for deep and effortless relaxation. Yoga nidra is not about falling asleep. Rather, it induces a deep state of relaxation and inner awareness that is as restorative as deep sleep. Although the goal of yoga nidra isn’t to fall asleep, it is possible to fall asleep if you are fatigued.

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Why have a yoga nidra practice?

Easy to incorporate into your daily life and taking just minutes to practice, yoga nidra offers many benefits, such as flushing toxins out of the body, aiding in both physical and emotional healing, and providing an opportunity to connect with yourself intimately, inside and out. A simple and effortless way to reduce stress, it can ease symptoms of various psychological conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Best of all, there is no wrong way to practice yoga nidra, and anyone can do it.

How to Prepare

Choose a quiet space where you will be able to relax without disturbance. It is recommended you do some light stretching, exercise, or a yoga practice before you start the yoga nidra meditation. Dim the lights and grab a blanket for comfort. This meditation is performed lying flat on the back in corpse pose (shavasana). Make sure you are comfortable, as you will be in this position for 20 minutes, possibly a little longer if you choose.

Step-by-Step Instruction

Lie in corpse pose with your arms by your sides, palms facing the sky, and feet gently splayed outward. Allow your eyes to gently close as you take a few deep breaths in and out. Relax and completely let go.

Begin by lightly taking your attention to your right foot. Keep your awareness there for a few seconds, as you slowly relax your right foot. Then, move your attention up to the right knee, the right thigh, and hip. With each part of the body, repeat the same process of focused awareness and relaxation. Once you complete all parts of the right leg, draw your awareness to the whole right leg and relax it completely. Take a deep breath in and out.

Repeat the above process on the left leg.

Guide your awareness up through all parts of the body, sequentially relaxing them: your genitals, abdomen, stomach, chest, back, right arm, and shoulder followed by left arm and shoulder, neck, face, and head.

Taking a deep breath in, become aware of your whole body, observing any sensations that arise. Relax here for a few minutes, letting all stress melt away and evaporate from the body.

After a few minutes of relaxation, slowly start to bring your awareness back to your body’s surroundings. When you feel ready, gently turn onto your right side, and continue to relax for a few moments.

Taking your time, gently push your way into a seated position. Take a few deep breaths in and out, and when you feel complete, slowly and gradually open your eyes.

Posted with permission from Art of Living Retreat Center

About The Author
Denise Everheart

Denise is a freelance writer, breath meditation coach, party planner, and recipe designer. She also contributes to the Art of Living blog. Follow her @everheartstudio4meditation and @celeplateyourlife on Instagram.