Yoga Nidra : the “Yoga of Sleep
Yoga Nidra is a gentle yoga that is quite unique compared to other types of yoga. You will soon understand why. This article will introduce you to its history, its origins, its characteristics, who it is for, how it is practiced and how it differs from meditation, sophrology and other such practices! Enjoy your reading!
- Origins and History
- What are its benefits?
- What are its principles?
- Who is Yoga Nidra for?
- The course of a session
- Meditation, Sophrology, Hypnosis, Yoga Nidra, what is the difference? How to choose?
- With which material to practice it?
- Where can I find a Yoga Nidra class?
- Which teachers to follow?
- To go further
Introduction to Yoga Nidra
- To begin with, this is a practice known to be particularly calm and gentle.
- This is a particularly ancient type of yoga.
- Very precise descriptions of this type of practice can already be found in works dating back thousands of years.
- Re-developed in the 50’s, it has been exported to the West a little less than Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga.
- Based on breathing and visualization, it induces a state of deep relaxation.
- Nidrā in Sanskrit is a feminine word that means “lucid sleep.” So it is normal to hear sometimes about Yoga Nidra in the feminine. However, the West being non-Sanskritist, it is most often in the masculine form that we hear about this type of Yoga.
But then where does it come from?
When and how did it develop?
And what does it consist of?
Let’s go for a tour of Yoga Nidra!
Origins and history of Yoga Nidra
- Its origins are so old that they are rather difficult to know precisely.
- However, this technique would come from ancestral traditions which would be similar to Yoga Tantra.
- Originally, the first meaning of nidrā means budding as seen in spring.
- It represents this capacity to renew the whole of nature, including our buried potential wealth.
- In Hindu mythology, it is associated with the constant state of Narayana, Vishnu asleep.
- It was developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in India, in 1940. It was then taught in India and in a dedicated school : the Bihar School of Yoga and finally exported to the rest of the world.
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
Many benefits come from its practice:
- Improvement of sleep: its practice allows to dive into a state very similar to the light slow wave sleep (stage 1 and 2 of the slow wave sleep) what makes clearly more rested and relaxed. Practicing it during the day makes it easier to find this feeling of relaxation at bedtime and therefore allows for a more restful sleep .
- Better management of stress and emotions: focusing on your inner self and your unconscious mind allows you to anchor yourself more easily and to get away from the worries of the outside world.
- Increased concentration: as with the previous point, directing your mind to the awareness of your body and mind also helps you to stay more focused because you are able to move away from those same daily worries.
- Mental and physical regeneration: did you know that practicing it for 20 minutes had the same effect as a one-hour nap? Now you have what to do to replace your usual digestive nap and avoid the afternoon slump.
What are the principles of yoga nidra?
- Lying down : wrongly called “sleep yoga“, it is practiced lying down and leads to a deep relaxation, not a state of sleep!
- Accessing one’s unconscious : this benefit is actually an indirect consequence of the practice related to finding and traveling in one’s unconscious.
It is the western recovery that has transformed it into a “method to sleep better at night“. Practicing it only for that purpose misses out on many other benefits .
In Yoga Nidra, the objective is to reach and explore thestate of Turya consciousness, which corresponds to lucid awareness. As a reminder, the different known states of consciousness are :
- Jagrat (the day before),
- Svapna (dream state),
- Sushupti (deep sleep).
Who is Yoga Nidra for?
- Accessible to all: the courses are accessible to all and do not require any particular physical shape.
- It is also suitable for people who may have physical health concerns , as it has the advantage of being practiced motionless.
- The only requirement is to find a comfortable lying position.
- For the rest, just let your teacher’s voice guide you.
- If lying down is uncomfortable for you, don’t worry, there are solutions to improve your practice conditions a little further down in this article.
However, it is not recommended for people with mental disorders. It can indeed increase certain symptoms, and sometimes even provoke a feeling of dissociation which can be violent for the yogi who is already prey to this type of symptoms.
To discover the other types of complementary yoga, go to the article “The different styles of yoga where Yogom presents the different types of yoga as well as their characteristics and benefits.
The course of a Yoga Nidra session
A session (between 45min and 1h30 generally) is composed of different steps:
- The installation: in a lying position, arms by your side
- Intention: we establish a Sankalpa (intention in Sanskrit)
- Desires: we identify what we want for ourselves, but also for others
- The body scan : by concentrating thoroughly on each of our limbs.
- Breathing: to feel the energies that circulate throughout our body
- Beliefs: be aware of them, to learn more about ourselves, including our limitations (the famous limiting beliefs that we often hear about in personal development!)
- Joy: recall of joyful memories, to relive that feeling of joy
- The ego: exploring it to better control it
- The exit: gently, to return to the world around us
Although the session outline is the same, teachers can use different processes to conduct it.
- Some use instruments or sound objects such as Tibetan bowls.
- Others will at the same time tell you a fantastic story and take you on a journey to the rainforest, the savannah or any other place you can imagine feeling good.
- It’s up to you to see what kind of guidance and atmosphere you prefer by trying different courses.
Meditation, Sophrology, Hypnosis, Yoga Nidra, what is the difference?
If one has only a vague idea of all of these practices, it is very likely that one will not be able to identify the difference between each of them.
- Meditation: it is practiced to anchor oneself in the present moment. It awakens the consciousness to allow the observation of thoughts, their acceptance. While Yoga Nidra is aimed at the subconscious mind in a state between dream and awakening. It can be practiced sitting, standing or even walking unlike Yoga Nidra. Moreover, the latter necessarily requires guidance, whereas one can meditate alone and without guidance.
- Sophrology: this mind-body method is based on relaxation techniques and physical and spiritual activation. As in Yoga Nidra, we focus on the breath to enter a state of deep relaxation. However, sophrology has a more physical dimension because it focuses on the emotions but also on the body tensions . It also has a psycho-medical dimension that Yoga Nidra does not have.
- Hypnosis: like hypnosis it can be used to influence the mind. However, the practice and goals are very different even though both begin with a guided meditation. You stay awake and aware, you stay active and you can regain control at any time. This is not always the case in hypnosis, where consciousness is suppressed and you sometimes don’t remember at all what you have experienced. In Nidra we look for the deep state of consciousness, while in hypnosis the therapist takes control of the conscious mind to explore the subconscious.
Every yogi, seasoned or not, knows Savasana, the reclining posture (also sometimes called corpse pose.) It is usually practiced at the end of the session to calm down, to center oneself and to mark the end of the exercise. In Yoga Nidra, it is used from the beginning, and for the duration of the session. It is then essential to feel comfortable in this position.
With what material should I practice Yoga Nidra?
To practice it, you don’t need much equipment. Nevertheless, some equipment can be useful for your practice to allow you to lie down more comfortably. A comfortable yoga mat adapted to your profile is the basis for starting to practice. The Bolster, blanket and blindfold can then be excellent assets.
- Which yoga mat to choose ?
Your first criterion in buying your Yoga Mat if you want to start Nidra will be comfort. The best yoga mat will be a thick, soft mat .
Have you ever thought about a wool mat? In addition to its softness, it will also insulate you from the ground and give you a warm feeling that is much appreciated in this type of yoga practice. The Yogom wool yoga mat is made of certified merino wool Oeko-Tex standard 100 and promises you a moment of cocooning just for you!
- The woolen Bolster: for a comfortable lying position
If lying down is not very comfortable, you may need to raise your knees a bit. The yoga bolster is perfectly adapted to this use for not to have a sore back. You can consider a wool bolster like the one from the Douceur Yogom range.
- The Bolster cover to fill yourself : The special solution for small budgets
Small budget? What if you turned to a do-it-yourself bolster cover? A ecological solution that values upcycling but also economicalwhich allows to make the bolster accessible to the greatest number!
- The Yoga blanket: not to be bothered by the cold
When you lie still but conscious for such a long time, it can happen that you feel cold. In fact, if you’ve ever practiced it in the studio, it’s very likely that your teacher has already offered you a cover. What if you decided to have your own? The Yogom wool blanket will help you relax deeply and gently.
Where can I find a Yoga Nidra class?
- It is taught in yoga studios, so you can try to find out at your usual studio.
- There is also the option of online courses as mentioned above. Turn on your computer, start the video, lie down, and let the teacher’s voice guide you.
- Workshops can be given outdoors which can be a very interesting experience.
Discover a free online yoga nidra class available in replay on Yogom’s youtube channel:
Which yoga nidra teachers to follow?
- The reference in France is Mr. Philippe Beer Gabel He regularly offers workshops and trainings in different cities in France. For those who do not know him, P. Beer Gabel is a pillar of Yoga Nidra in France. He discovered yoga in 2009 and everything followed quickly. He trained in Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga in 2013 in Rishikesh, India. Then he trained in Restorative Yoga in Canada with Bernie Clark . It is finally in Yoga Nidra that he finds himself, when he arrives in Ireland to be trained with Uma Dinsmore Tuli. Rich of his experience, he became a teacher in his turn and created his own pedagogy. He is not attached to any particular school, P. Beer Gabel simply prefers to explore the different lineages of Yoga Nidra according to his desires. He is now the major representative of Yoga Nidra in France.
At Yogom, we’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with two teachers who we highly recommend and who you can find on Instagram, among other places.
- @olivia.lines Yin yoga, Nidra and women’s yoga teacher
- @naturappiness yoga teacher
To go further
You liked this article but you are still hungry? Yogom proposes you some tracks to go further. Reading, retirement, but also training to become a teacher!
- Read about Yoga Nidra: discover the book Yoga Nidra, a technique of transformation written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, which will explain everything there is to know about it.
- Yoga Nidra Retreat: P. Beer Gabel offers Yoga Nidra retreats retreats for all levels throughout France (and sometimes internationally).
- Learn to teach Yoga Nidra: discover the trainings given by Philippe Beer Gabel (50h or 100h if combined with his Yin Yoga training) or Ram Jain (50h)