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Yoga Nidra: A Powerful Meditation Technique

Yoga Nidra, commonly known as yogic sleep, is an immensely powerful meditation technique that is easy to develop and maintain.

While you rest comfortably in savasana, your instructor will vocally and systematically guide you through the practice. You’ll start at one end of your body and work all the way to the other. Yoga Nidra instructors speak rhythmically: “Right big toe, right little toe, top of the foot, the heel of the foot, calf muscle…”

By bringing your attention repeatedly to these sensations in your body, you become habituated and can even forget the sensation altogether. This forgetting of the space around you lets you draw your attention inward.

Benefits

Anyone can do Yoga Nidra: While not everyone can participate in intense vinyasa flows, everyone – from children to seniors – can practice Yoga Nidra. All you need to do is lie down on the floor, though it can be done seated if necessary.

You cannot incorrectly practice Yoga Nidra: All you have to do is follow the voice – whether instructor or recording – as it guides you. You’ll experience something new each time, which is great! And falling asleep is even okay, as you’ll still receive the benefits from your unconscious mind.

It’s a simple way to reduce stress: As you can imagine, feeling well-rested is life-changing, but Yoga Nidra also improves symptoms of anxiety and depression for many practitioners.

Yoga Nidra is easy to incorporate into your life: Since it’s always guided, you will experience less frustration compared to trying to clear your mind all on your own. Also, this practice can be as short as five minutes or as long as an hour.

It helps you learn about yourself more intimately: Yoga Nidra offers a space to explore whatever you need and come face-to-face with long-held emotions.

Structure

Start by setting an intention for your practice – whether your goal is to relax and rest or to dig into a particular emotion or sensation.

As you wait for your instructor to begin leading you, take a few moments to scan your body. Move your awareness from top to bottom, preparing for the guided meditation to follow.

Throughout the practice, be aware of your breath. Simply observe the natural flow of oxygen and the rise and fall of your abdomen. Notice the flowing energy that your breath stimulates throughout your body.

Welcome your feelings and thoughts without trying to change any sensations or emotions that are present. As you sense each one, try to welcome its opposite within your body. For example, if you feel worried, call up feelings of serenity. Experience sensations of joy or bliss that spread throughout your body.

As you transition back into your waking life, pause to take a moment of reflection and gratitude for the time you’ve taken to benefit yourself.

Join us on Thursday, August 15 from 8:45-9:30 p.m. for a Yoga Nidra offering! This class is designed to increase your self-confidence and help you overcome any negative blocks in the mind that prevent you from feeling positive and self-assured in your worth, talent, and abilities.

Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep Better

Are you having trouble falling asleep at night? Do you wake up for work in the morning simply exhausted from tossing and turning? You’re not alone – and it could be costing you more than you think. Research shows that consistent lack of sleep can lead to associated health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and diabetes.

But a good night’s sleep is within your reach thanks to, you guessed it, yoga!

Yoga practice doesn’t always have to be an intense, blood-pumping, sweaty workout. Some of the most amazing aspects of yoga are the subtle changes you experience through focused breathing and bodily awareness. I’ve found that taking a few minutes at the end of my day for yoga and meditation are essential to unwinding and relaxing before bedtime.

So, how exactly does yoga help us sleep better?

Yoga helps us get in touch with our breath. When you slow down and hold a pose, you’ll identify different areas of your body that are tense – think: shoulders, hips, back. The longer you sit and breathe through the pose, the better your chances of releasing that tension and gradually letting go. Plus, stretching in general has a wonderful calming effect.

Yoga reduces stress. Difficult and exciting events both bring stress into our lives. Whether you’re in the middle of a demanding season at work or preparing to marry the love of your life, you’ll likely experience stress. Practicing yoga mindfulness before bed will help reduce levels of cortisol (ie: the stress hormone), reducing the amount of time you spend tossing and turning.
Yoga helps us create a routine. If you’ve ever struggled with sleeping, you’ve probably heard advice like “go to bed and wake up at the same time each day” or “don’t look at your phone before bed.” While these practices may work for some, I’ve found that yoga has the most significant impact in creating a routine that works for me. Ten minutes of gentle yoga before bed can do wonders in setting you on the right path.

Yoga helps us handle uncertainty. One of the biggest culprits of insomnia is a restless mind. Often, my body is physically exhausted, but my mind won’t zip it! I’ll stress about additions to my planner, adding activities in tight spaces, upcoming events. Adapting to a yoga-before-bed practice helps me accept where I am in each moment. And, sometimes, where I am is…awake. This acceptance that I can’t sleep actually helps me be able to relax more. It’s weird, but it really does help eliminate the anger and frustration.

Looking for a few poses to aid sleep? Here’s a sample routine:

  • Hero’s pose | Virasana – take this opportunity to lengthen your spine and open your chest. Settle into your calming breath pattern and clear your mind.
  • Cat and cow– Roll forward onto your hands and knees, flowing between these two poses for as long as you like.
  • Child’s pose | Balasana – Sink your hips back and settle your chest onto the floor. Breathe deeply through your belly and lower back.
  • Legs up the wall | Viparita karani – This helps drain acid from your legs, decreasing symptoms of fatigue and soreness. Stay here as long as you like.
  • Supine twist– This is a great back stretch, helping you relax and prepare for sleep.
  • Happy baby | Ananda balasana – Gently rock back and forth on your back to massage your spine.
  • Butterfly pose | Suptabaddhakonasana – a supported butterfly can help you relax deeply while focusing on the breath.
  • Savasana- It’s called corpse pose for a reason! Use this as the final pose before crawling into bed, closing your eyes and freeing your mind from thoughts.

Looking to put this into practice? In addition to your personal practice before bed, join us on Sunday, February 25 from 12:30-2:30pm for a special workshop on deep relaxation and mindfulness. Join Brie to learn about meditation clarification and practice, restorative yoga poses, guided yoga nidra (“yogic sleep”), and tips for staying mindful in the busyness of everyday life.