Yoga Nidra is a state of deep relaxation. My mother used to called this completerelaxation as if it were one word. It’s not hypnosis, more like a form of active sleep, where your body sleeps but your mind stays alert.
Mostly, you take on a witnessing perspective – witnessing the body, thoughts and breath, witnessing the peace.
One of my favorite relaxation resources is The Relaxation Response by Harvard Medical School researcher Dr. Herbert Benson. Written in 1975, it is still relevant today and contains fundamental details about how relaxation exercises help with stress reduction and anxiety.
In a unique program called iRest, Yoga Nidra is used to assist soldiers and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
By eliminating the fight and flight response and inducing serenity, it becomes counter-intuitive for people to use drugs or excess food, restrict food, or use any other self-harming behaviors.
At the end of almost every type of yoga class there is a pose called shavasana (or “corpse pose”) where you lie on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides. This is when Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is achieved. A teacher may use a combination of progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
I do a lot of guided imagery in my groups for people recovering from eating disorders and substance abuse. In this sleep-like state of Yoga Nidra, we can start shifting negative thought patterns, or advance through the stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance.
You can use the following resources to create your own Yoga Nidra practice:
- iRest practice sessions – downloadable audio recordings
- Health Journeys – Guided meditation and imagery