With numerous benefits for both the mind and body, Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that has steadily gained popularity in the modern wellness world as a powerful tool for deep relaxation and meditation. Shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia and boost relaxation and rejuvenation, many wellness enthusiasts have turned to Yoga Nidra as a way to boost their overall well-being and benefit their sleep.
While Yoga Nidra shares similarities to both meditation and yoga, it’s a distinct practice with its own unique characteristics and benefits. And, it’s worthy of a spotlight!
Read on to learn what Yoga Nidra is, its wide range of health benefits, and how you can seamlessly incorporate Yoga Nidra into your daily routine to benefit your health and boost your sleep regime.
What Is Yoga Nidra?
The term “Yoga Nidra” comes from the Sanskrit words for “yoga” (union) and “nidra” (sleep), and it is often referred to as “yogic sleep.” However, it is not actual sleep, but rather a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Unlike yoga and meditation, which are more (physically and mentally) active practices, Yoga Nidra is a more restful and passive practice.
During this practice, you simply lay down in a comfortable position and listen. Once comfortable, you’re guided through a series of relaxation techniques, breath work, and visualizations that allow you to reach a state of deep relaxation.
Because it requires minimal physical effort and can be done from the comfort of your home, Yoga Nidra has become a trendy wellness hack, as it’s easily accessible to anyone looking to benefit their sleep and improve their mental and physical health.
Speaking of benefits, let’s get into it!
The Health Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Shown to benefit both the mind and body, Yoga Nidra may help to:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve sleep quality
- Boost creativity and productivity
- Increase self-awareness and mindfulness
- Promote deep relaxation and inner peace
- Enhance concentration and focus
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Relieve chronic pain and tension
- Improve digestion and immune function
- Improves overall health and well-being
Is Yoga Nidra the Secret to Restful Sleep? Bedtime Benefits You Should Know About
In addition to all the aforementioned health benefits, Yoga Nidra can be a particularly effective tool for improving sleep quality and promoting healthy sleep habits! Here are some of the health benefits of Yoga Nidra for sleep:
Soothes the Mind and Reduces Racing Thoughts
If you’re anything like other sleep-deprived individuals, you probably wrestle with a mind that just won’t quit. It’s always racing with thoughts and worries, making catching some quality shut-eye seem like an elusive dream. Lucky for you, Yoga Nidra can help.
Yoga Nidra provides a structured and guided method for relaxation that can help to quiet the mind and reduce mental chatter. By focusing on breathwork, body sensations, and visualizations, Yoga Nidra allows you to redirect your attention away from distracting thoughts and into a state of deep relaxation. This can help to reduce those feelings of stress, anxiety, and worry (the pesky ones that keep you awake at night).
In fact, by entering a deep state of calm, you can slow your brain wave frequency and help reduce your thoughts (from 35 thoughts per minute to 1-3), and your body slows the production of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) as the parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear.
Promotes a More Restful and Restorative Sleep
Yoga Nidra helps promote deep relaxation of the body and mind, which can, in turn, support more restful and restorative sleep. Here’s how.
When we’re stressed or anxious, our bodies can remain in a state of heightened tension (i.e., a state of fight or flight). During this time, cortisol (our stress hormone) remains stimulated, when it should normally be shutting down. This disrupts our circadian rhythm, making it difficult to fully relax and enter a deep sleep. But, research has shown Yoga Nidra can help shift your body into a parasympathetic state!
The parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system, is responsible for regulating many bodily functions during times of relaxation and rest. When activated, the heart rate slows, breathing becomes slower and deeper, and the body enters a state of deep relaxation.
A study published in the International Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that practicing Yoga Nidra was associated with a significant increase in heart rate variability, which is a measure of the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. In addition to this study, which suggests that Yoga Nidra can help to shift the body into a parasympathetic state, additional research has shown that a single session of Yoga Nidra is associated with significant increases in parasympathetic activity and decreases in sympathetic activity! Good news for your sleep health.
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Regulates Our Circadian Rhythm and Helps Promote a More Consistent Sleep Schedule
Regular practice of Yoga Nidra can help to reset the body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at consistent times!
So, how does this work? Well, as we mentioned before, Yoga Nidra helps promote relaxation by shifting the body out of a sympathetic stress state and into a calming parasympathetic state. Specifically, it does this by helping to reduce the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep, while increasing the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep.
By regulating the production of these hormones and neurotransmitters, we, in turn, regulate our circadian rhythm!
How Long Should I Practice Yoga Nidra For?
Good news! If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests Yoga Nidra may be a simple sleep solution.
According to Huberman, Yoga Nidra (a type of “non-sleep deep rest”) can enhance neuroplasticity, induce a state of calm, and elicit a “pseudo sleep” state. And, if your schedule is jam-packed, you’ll be happy to know it’s not something you need to do every day or for hours on end. Anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes has shown to be beneficial.
However, regular practice (one to several times per week) is ideal if you want to achieve the maximum benefits of this practice. Of course, the frequency of your Yoga Nidra practice will depend on your personal needs, goals, and schedule. Some people may benefit from practicing Yoga Nidra on a daily basis, while others may find that practicing a few times a week is sufficient. But, even practicing for just a few minutes can provide a sense of relaxation and calm!
How To Get Started with a Yoga Nidra Practice For Sleep
First, determine the time of day that will most benefit you. If you struggle to get a restful night of sleep, try pressing play on a Yoga Nidra meditation before starting your day. If your afternoon energy is low, find a time to lay down mid-day and recharge your energy with a 10 or 20-minute session. If your mind is buzzing at night, try a Sleep Yoga Nidra meditation to relax your mind and body and prep yourself for a peaceful slumber.
Because it’s a guided practice, all you have to do is lay back, get comfortable, and let a practitioner guide you through the practice.
This practice is about shutting off — let us guide you through the work!
If you’re ready to get started, get comfy and head to the FitOn App for these powerful Yoga Nidra Practices with DeAndre Sinette:
Snooze Away With Yogic Sleep
From relaxing your mind and body to reducing levels of cortisol to improving the quality and quantity of sleep, there are so many reasons to get started with Yoga Nidra. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to your Yoga Nidra practice for sleep. It’s important to listen to your body and find a frequency and style that works for you!