I love leading Yoga Nidra and think it is an antidote to our modern, always-connected lifestyles. With the collective stress of our culture, our nervous systems are constantly in a fight-or-flight, sympathetic state. Yoga Nidra is an effective and efficient way to access the parasympathetic state, which is where healing happens. Amazingly, it fits right into our busy lifestyles because you can reap the benefits during your lunch hour once a week.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra, a full-body guided meditation, prompts the body to relax deeply while the mind remains inwardly alert. Yoga Nidra works by gently guiding you through four main stages of brain wave activity – beta, alpha, theta, and delta, achieving a “hypnagogic state” — the state between wakefulness and sleep. It’s that magical time just before you fall asleep when the body rests while the mind is still reasonably lucid. In fact, yoga and meditation experts believe that one 30-minute practice of Yoga Nidra equals approximately two hours of deep, restorative sleep. Who couldn’t use that?
Who Can Do Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is accessible to everyone, young and old, and off all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities. Instead of doing various poses throughout the practice, the student simply lies in savasana on their mat, most often with lots of props like bolsters and blankets to make them comfy and cozy. A lunch-time Yoga Nidra practice is perfect to rest, restore, and rejuvenate you for the rest of your day and week. You can practice it in your daytime attire, no yoga clothing is necessary.
What is a Yoga Nidra class like?
Once you are comfy and cozy, I will have you close your eyes and will prompt you to begin sensing the body and breathing in specific ways to incite a relaxation response. This relaxation response is what balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems – the left and right brain –allowing you to unwind into various, beneficial brain wave states.
I will invite you to set a Sankalpa or deepest intention for your practice. You’ll then be asked to scan your body and notice sensations. You’ll become aware of your breath and I will provide guided instruction as to how to breathe to drop deeper into your resting state. I will also lead you through guided visualizations. It’s at this point that you begin to drop deeper and deeper into those various brain waves states.
With practice you’ll begin to reap the benefits of the later stages of brain wave activity. In the theta wave state your thoughts slow down to only four to eight thoughts per second, allowing you space to learn enormous amounts of information in a very short period of time. This is also the state where you can “unlearn” things, like negative thought patterns by forming new neural pathways. The most restorative state of mind is the final delta wave state, where organ healing and regeneration takes place and the stress hormone cortisol is released. In this final stage you may experience a feeling of “thoughtlessness” or “The Gap,” as practitioners of Primordial Sound Meditation call it. You aren’t asleep but your body is deeply relaxed and you mind is quietly alert. It’s that delicious layer between wakefulness and sleep, consciousness and unconsciousness, where so much good happens physically and emotionally.
Many students fall asleep when they first start attending Yoga Nidra classes, and that’s OK. Once you’ve fallen asleep, however, you are no longer in Yoga Nidra. Don’t get frustrated or think it is a waste of (nap) time because the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to stay in Yoga Nidra and reap its restorative benefits.
What are some of the Benefits?
- Reduces stress and its negative physiological effects
- Reduces depression and anxiety
- Reduces reactivity, less “fight-or-flight” reactions
- Reduces chronic pain
- Improves quality of sleep
- Increases creativity, focus, and attention
- Creates new neural pathways in your brain
Contact me if you are interested in private or group classes. I’ll even come to your business to lead a class. Keep an eye out on the calendar for my complete class schedule.
“May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.” – Rochelle
About the Author
Rochelle Barcellona is an animal-loving, family-and-friends-embracing, yoga-meditation-and-ayurveda-teaching, happy red-headed yogi who owns Nourish Mind Body & Spirit in Northern California. You may learn more about Rochelle here. Rochelle may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and 916-353-5200.
(Photo of Rochelle courtesy of Bella Barcellona Photography.)