We often associate yoga practice with flexibility, strength and the mind. Many people choose to practice yoga as a form of strength training, stretching or exercise. There are, however, less severe forms of yoga, such as a type of yoga that does not even require movement!
How? Yoga nidra!
But what is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is a form of meditation style yoga in which you remain in savasana (corpse pose) for a duration of around 40 minutes. Your instructor guides you through different visuals and types of meditation as you rest without accidentally falling asleep! Sounds the definition of yoga relaxation, right?
Yoga nidra works in that it activates our nervous system to engage in relaxation. It targets our frontal cortex, hippocampus, and moderates the amygdala in the brain. This results in being better able to control our emotions. Also, 20 minutes of yoga nidra is similar to getting 2-4 hours of regular sleep.
The hippocampus is responsible for memory and is associated with the regulation of emotion. As for the frontal cortex of the brain, this portion involves judgement, impulse control, social behavior, and problem solving. Finally, the amygdala is associated with instincts, emotions, and also memory.
During the practice, your instructor advises you to think of your life without judgement, and you will focus on your mind and body. This helps us to better analyze our lives in ways we might not normally, and make changes to how we do things to obtain better results in life.
Richard Miller, a psychologist, developer of iRest, commented this about yoga nidra: “It had a profound impact on me. It awakened me to my non-dual interconnectedness with the entire universe.”
Even then, do not stress yourself into meditating or thinking too hard during yoga nidra. Yoga nidra, in a sense, is the closest we get to sleep without actually falling asleep, like the transition from being awake to being asleep. More than forcing yourself to concentrate, you should simply be aware and see where the yoga nidra leads your mind.
Several studies down over the last two decades show that yoga nidra can have different positive effects and those who practice it regularly. Kamakhya Kumar, the department head of Yogic Science at Uttarakhand Sanskrit University in India, has done several studies observing the results of yoga nidra practice. These studies results include:
Besides Dr. Kumar, others have done studies on yoga nidra and its effects on the body and mind. The Standford University school of Medicine demonstrated that lowered blood pressure was experienced throughout the day as opposed to only during the yoga nidra practice. Another study in 1979 done at the University of Tel Aviv (Isreal) helped to reduce the levels of serum cholesterol in cardiac patients.
Other studies show results of not only reduction of stress levels, but of anxiety, depression and addiction. The Department of Defense studied the effects of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffered from PTSD. Done in 2006, this study observed how yoga nidra benefits in helping these soldiers, resulting in yoga nidra being incorporated into soldier treatment programs across the nation.
Yoga nidra is not only practiced in yoga studios, but also in: schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, military bases, and beyond!
In an article done by the Boston Globe on yoga nidra, yoga instructor Lees Yunits had this to say: “The world is so full of disease and unrest, we need tools to help us through the stress of our lives.”
Think of how true that statement is, when do we really just stop and analyze our lives? People nowadays feel they need to run non-stop, not even getting enough sleep because they feel they have so many things they need to do.
In my experience, savasana at the end of a regular yoga class is similar to a mini-therapy session between me and my subconscious. I never think of why I take the actions I do, what I really want, and how I feel. Between all my university courses, my internship, and maintaining a social circle, when do I just really relax and be one with myself?
And in that instance, that is only five minutes of corpse pose! Imagine 40! We cannot rush meditation, and in order to obtain the best results, yoga nidra is the best course of action to take.
Yoga may not be a practice that everyone enjoys, not being their style or feeling like there is no time in the day. How difficult is it to take forty minutes out of our week, or even month, to truly experience relaxation with ourselves? It may feel impossible for some, but if you are able to take a class, it is beyond worth it.
At Green Locus Yoga, we hold one yoga nidra class every month on the first Thursday of that month by Pam Valez! Pam took the 40 hour Divine Sleep yoga nidra training course, making her Green Locus Yoga’s yoga nidra expert. This is a pay by donation class, and we cannot wait to be a part of your yoga nidra experience!
Brogan, J. (2013, December 17). Yoga nidra is gaining credibility as a stress-reducing ... Retrieved October 20, 2016, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2013/12/17/yoga-nidra-gaining credibility-stress-reducing-technique/QTUhiX40B33l5HvHBzt3qO/story.html
Fiedler, C. (2014, March-April). Meditation on the mat: try yoga nidra for deep relaxation and profound healing. Spirituality & Health Magazine, 17(2), 30+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=tamp44898&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA358997782&asid=74a5392eeb87edc39e7c64902331203a
Frontal Lobe. (2016). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.neuroskills.com/brain-injury/frontal-lobes.php
Kumar, K. (2010). PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES AS RELATED TO YOGA NIDRA. International Journal Of Psychology: A Biopsychosocial Approach / Tarptautinis Psichologijos Zurnalas: Biopsichosocialinis Poziuris, (6), 129-137.
Meredith Schneider is a junior Mass Communications Public Relations major at the University of South Florida. Currently, she is interning with Green Locus Yoga, Meredith gets to combine her love for writing with her love of yoga! You can follow Meredith on Twitter.