top of page

Life in the slow lane - Why Yoga Nidra is the gold standard

As the number of stress related illnesses rise, relaxation tools are in demand and thankfully there are a lot of them out there to choose from. Globally, practices like Yoga Nidra, Yin yoga and Restorative Yoga have gained a lot of traction and uptake. Wider applications beyond the studio space show just how accessible and versatile they are.

While they all work well as techniques to combat stress and tension, Yoga Nidra is perhaps the one practice that is the most simplest to engage with, the most profound in terms of depth and one of the easiest to implement at home. Its as simple as lying down, positioning yourself to be comfortable, removing distractions and following an audio recording of the practice. This makes great sense when we consider the time pressure and logistics of going to a studio for a class.

Lying down position for Yoga Nidra
Shavasana - the pose for Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra also known as yogic sleep is when the consciousness is maintained during the deepest state of sleep. The practice addresses the three-fold tensions that are muscular, mental and emotional. When the body has completely let go and stillness is maintained then the layers (koshas) of our existence can be traversed. Here is where the deeper aspects of the practice begin. Patterns that are trapped within the subtle bodies, that require energy to be stored, can be attenuated and their electrical charge eventually freed. The unearthing of these deeper psychic forces frees up the energy that binds them in our psyche and in doing so, brings a sense of renewal that is unsurpassed.

Lets take a closer look into the three: Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra.

Restorative Yoga - Propping for Peace

Props placed on different areas of the body
Props for Restorative Yoga

This approach typically includes propping the body in different areas in such a way that it can be supported to release into stillness effortlessly. The stillness induced initiates the bodies rest and restore mechanisms and awakens our innate ability to recuperate. It is a more passive approach but for those people who a highly stressed, perhaps dealing with an injury or in need of a still and quite space this can be a good place to start.

So, it helps to re-set the nervous system and as a counterbalance to sympathetic activity (arousal). A typical class may involve a few postures held for extended periods of time.

Yin Yoga pose for the shoulder
Yin Yoga - holding poses

Yin yoga is a popular form of restorative yoga. Its about holding postures for a few minutes each to work deeply with the connective tissue, waiting in the tension of the stretch to further release restriction in fascial layers. Also, considered as a counter practice to the more active and dynamic or Yang styles of yoga, balancing out the heating/activating effects and working with the more softer, feminine, quieter, yin side of our personality.

Some forms of Yin use music to enhance the relaxation experience and some take a more traditional approach. Here, following a system that works similar to that of acupuncture targeting meridians and their visceral connections with carefully chosen & sequenced positions.

Yoga Nidra - Awake and Aware in Sleep

Yoga Nidra has roots in the Yoga tradition that link it back to the three universal principles of creation, maintenance & destruction. Lord Vishnu represents the force of preservation and yogic texts describe this figure in repose and a state of deep bliss at the turn of one age (yuga) into another.

This depiction shows the state of Yoga Nidra perfected and positions it as a technique that one can use to reach one of the highest states of Yoga known as samadhi. While that might not be our focus if we are wanting to turn down our stress dials it still remains valuable in understanding the scope and agency that this practice can bring. After all who wouldn't like to create blissful states at will!

One of the ways Yoga Nidra has found its way into the mainstream is through the technique devised by Swami Satyananda in the 1970s. As a siddha yogi and adept himself who obtained maha samadhi, he was able to formulate the practice in a way that the maximum benefits could be derived for our modern age.

In devising the practice he was influenced by the system of Tantra, and the practice of Nyasa where awareness is placed in a special way to specific areas of the body along with chanting mantras. Swami Satyananda asked people to recite the name of the part of the body they were placing their attention on during the rotation of awareness through the body. Using the part of the body instead of a mantra made the technique of nyasa practical and easy to access. It enabled a meditator to relax the physical body so that their consciousness could penetrate the deeper layers of their being. He was able to retain the original intentions of the practice to lead a person to experience higher states of Consciousness or awareness and at the same time formulate a practice that everyone could benefit from.

Yoga Nidra Practice
Yoga Nidra Practice

The potency of this practice he was able to retain and transmit to others. When guided a particular way the state of pratyahara is sustained enabling the practitioner to reach well beyond the superficial levels of mere relaxation into the hidden dimensions of the mind.

In order to facilitate this kind of depth of awareness the teacher needs to be highly attuned to the practice themselves and to those they are instructing.

Essential need of today

Swami Satyananda also stated the yoga would become the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow. In our busy modern world relaxation is essential, to defrag from the enormous amount of inputs we receive not only at the level of the senses, but of the mind and emotions. Poor sleep has been identified as one of the top factors that impact on our ability to learn, to self regulate and has a significant effect on our mood. Yoga Nidra has a lot to offer in terms of making up for lost hours of sleep but also instilling the ability to consciously let go. The ability to hold our centre amidst the challenges of life is one of the greatest benefits of a regular yoga practice which includes Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is my ‘go to’ practice to restore and enhance energy levels and to navigate my inner world. It's said to be equivalent to 3 – 4 hours of deep sleep. I agree, sometime after the practice you feel a deeper sense of rejuvenation and peace. With repetition a tissue memory of the practice develops. This builds in us the ability to consciously relax at will and eventually leads us to being less affected by stressful situations in general.

Yoga Nidra that retains its original intention has the potential to transform us. Why would you not try to access its true depth? Just like digging for gold. Its not found by scratching here and there but comes when you dig one hole and dig it deep. Thats where the gold is and thats just exactly where Yoga Nidra can take us to!

Whichever practice you resonate with you can be assured that you are on the right track when it comes to finding healthy, balanced ways to bring ease and calm into your life. If you want to open the doors to your inner world and lean in deeper then Yoga Nidra is Gold!

Join us on the Yoga Nidra journey in April or learn to instruct and share this amazing practice in the upcoming Teachers' Training in June.

Make sure you spend some time in the slow lane.

Om shanti Pragyadhara


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page