Most people know yoga for the excellent physical exercise that it is, and for those who regularly practice yoga, they understand the mind-body connection.
Yoga Nidra is different.
Nidra is a term for “yogic sleep” and while you don’t exactly fall asleep, you do go into a combined alert awareness and deep relaxation state. Practitioners of nidra experience both alpha brain waves and eventually theta brain waves.
It is in this state that your brain is able to tap into your own intuition, creativity, and health.
Yoga Nidra is practiced in a prone position, sometimes with a bolster under the knees to alleviate any lower back stress you may experience as you can expect to be in this position anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour depending on the class you’re taking.
The first time I left my Yin/Nidra class I wondered if I had just paid $15 to take a nap at the yoga studio. Because that is almost what it felt like. And yet I felt lighter, more energetic, and much more inspired than I had felt in a very long time.
My instructor took us through a series of breathing exercises to get us to focus on our breathing in a meditative way. Then she took us through a couple of simple instructions before going into a visual guided imagery of my body. This helped me to stay focused on my body and kept me from wondering what my kids were doing, whether my client was going to be happy with my last draft, and what we were going to have for dinner.
That kind of mind-chatter is what keeps us in our usual beta brain wave state. Beta brain waves are where we live during the majority of our waking hours. Beta waves indicate a strongly engaged mind. When we’re awake and talking and interacting with others, we’re experiencing beta brain waves.
As we begin to relax into our yoga nidra, we move from beta brain waves to alpha. These represent non-arousal. These brainwaves are slower, higher in amplitude. We experience this after a job well done. After we have completed a difficult task, taking time to pause and reflect on that task often takes us into the alpha state. That person walking in the garden after their presentation is often in an alpha state. This state is linked to reduced stress hormone production, lower blood pressure and decreased heart rates.
If you only get into the alpha brain wave state during yoga nidra, you are working to counteract the daily effects of stress in your life. This is an excellent reason to practice nidra.
Yoga nidra will then progress to a state of deeper relaxation, to the theta brain wave state. In this state, your brain waves have an even greater amplitude, but a slower frequency. When we daydream, we are frequently in the theta state. Even experiencing driving hypnosis where you don’t remember how you drove from one place to the next is often done in the theta state.
In yoga nidra, the theta state is closest to sleeping without sleeping you can get. It produces deep relaxation and is the surest way to connect with the subconscious. In this state, it is possible to have the logical left brain connect to the intuitive right brain.
One of the purposes of yoga nidra is to balance the left and right brain activity. The very least you can expect to achieve from reaching the theta state in nidra is a sense of very deep relaxation.
By repeating the practice, you can connect to your inner self for healing, for transformation, for inspiration. It is in this state that you can often find your hidden inner potential.
For anyone who has never tried yoga nidra, give it a chance. Don’t concentrate on anyone else in the room. All yoga practice is individual even while done in a studio with other people in the class. You will get out of it what you put into it.
For me, I have found my creativity has increased many times over since I have begun a regular nidra practice.