Yoga Nidra or “Yogic Sleep” is a form of guided meditation that involves deep breathing and reflection to promote a harmonious connection between body and mind. Because this meditative practice focuses on allowing the mind and body to rest while the consciousness is awake, it’s often associated with promoting deep sleep. The entire practice also happens in savasana, or the resting pose in yoga as it “remedies fatigue and causes the mind to stop”. Swami Satyananda Saraswati is the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga and often receives credit for combining ancient Indian yoga techniques to become what is now known as Yoga Nidra.
Whether you suffer from insomnia, anxiety, general stress, or discomfort, Yoga Nidra can help people of any age and ability relax and release tension before bedtime. Just as we rock a child gently to sleep to ease them into dreamland, adults also benefit from the act of laying down and quieting the mind before bed. Not only does Yoga Nidra meditation feel good, but science also backs up its benefits. In two separate published papers, researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice.
In another study, researchers analyzed short, 11-minute Yoga Nidra meditation for 30 days in a diverse sample of the population to measure its benefits. The group given the short meditation showed “lower stress, higher well-being, and improved sleep quality after the intervention” compared to the group that did not. Additionally, even six weeks later the positive effects of the treatment remained stable. By simply taking a few minutes before bedtime to meditate and focus on mindfulness, you too can reap the benefits of this free, body-enriching exercise.
While the goal of Yoga Nidra practice is to reach a deep level of relaxation and meditation that often leads to dozing off, the practice is only as deep as you allow it to be. Essentially, those that practice Yoga Nidra with the intention and goal of falling asleep are focusing on slowing down brain wave activity, which in turn lets the brain “turn off” and sleep. Some choose to use Yoga Nidra as more of a meditative exercise where sleep isn’t necessarily the goal. There’s even an entire subset of the practice dedicated to remaining awake. Both versions are powerful and both can lead to training the mind to relax and focus on the moment—a vital tool for anyone struggling with insomnia or sleep phobia who finds relaxing difficult.
We have free Yoga Nidra exercises on our meditations page to help in your mindfulness journey. Check out our 1-minute meditation or for more experienced practitioners, try a longer Yoga Nidra 20-minute meditation. There’s no wrong way to start, all that matters is your mindset. Come to your meditation prepared to let go of the nagging worries and woes of the day. You’ll want to ensure your space is calming and cozy (if the goal of your practice is sleep, this would be the bedroom).
Additionally, we recommend dropping the temperature a few degrees to signal to your brain that it’s nighttime and safe to relax. Before you reach for the thermostat, remember that your core body temperature is what we’re trying to cool, and a more efficient, cost-effective way to cool only your body temperature is through a cooling mattress pad. Together, a cooler environment and Yoga Nidra training can lead to your deepest sleep yet.