How many people would say meditation and sleep make strange bedfellows? A lot, I’d gather. Allow me to convince you that those people would be wrong!
Sleeping and meditating have the potential to blend together easily in the right conditions. With practice, it is very possible to be aware in a lovely meditative conscious space while the brain is in deep sleep. Enter the fascinating realm of Yoga Nidra, a centuries old practice, brought to us by people of India.
So what exactly is Yoga Nidra, you may be wondering?
Yoga Nidra is a sleep-based meditation designed to remove mental and emotional disturbance and rejuvenate the body. Yoga Nidra is composed of a structured series of breath, body and awareness techniques which progressively drop you into deeper brainwaves where your thoughts effortlessly move further away from you. It is in this gap between the thoughts that you can effortlessly experience restful meditation. The body can deeply heal and rejuvenate, excess mental stimulation ceases and you awaken energized and focused. The more we rest as the silence behind the mind, the less we are disturbed by its unhelpful chatter—even while awake. Like meditation, Yoga Nidra can be used for medical, restorative and spiritual benefits alike to support one’s own goals and intentions.
What makes Yoga Nidra unique?
Most styles of meditation simply involve observing and allowing thoughts from a place of silent stillness. However, Yoga Nidra effects shifts from the state of meditation with the use of intention. In Yoga Nidra you are free from identification with deep-seated thought patterns that are constantly shaping and creating your mind, emotions, and even your body. With the use of intention you can consciously plant a seed to shape and create the state of your mind, emotions and body from the subtlest states of being very quickly and easily. This style of Yoga Nidra I was taught by Kamini Desai, PhD, and John Vosler is called the Integrative Amrit Method (IAM). They say it is like making changes to water versus ice.
The big difference with this particular method is that the focus is on energy as the point of entry into meditation. This released energy in the body increases the healing potential available during an I AM Yoga Nidra™ and typically takes most practitioners into deeper states of meditation more quickly. That is why this style is often known as “the deep one”.
You can learn more about this method here: https://amrityoga.org/yoga-nidra/
Let’s look into the process of Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. Typically, one lies on a yoga mat on the floor with just a little padding under the head so that the spine stays in alignment. Something under the knees allows for extra comfort as well – some use a pillow or bolster for this. For those that cannot lie comfortably on the floor, a bed, couch or reclining chair are preferred. During yoga nidra body temperature may drop, so having a blanket next to you in case you need it is a good idea. Some people also like to use an eye pillow for extra darkness – I love eye pillows!. As the yoga nidra experience begins, you will be guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state…then go even deeper.
Ah…it’s sooo relaxing.
Now if you’ve read this far, let me tell you why I’m blogging on this topic today. Firstly, it is my three-year anniversary of earning my Yoga Nidra Certification. When I entered this whole yoga nidra thing seriously, it was early 2019, and honestly, I wasn’t sure why I was propelled to do it. But before the year came to an end, I understood. This brings me to the second reason. The following month, after earning my certification in September 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you can imagine, I had some big decisions to make and, naturally, anxious energy flowed through me night and day. So guess what? I used Yoga Nidra (sometimes twice a day) to calm my nerves and instill a state of calm. I had the direct and long-term experience to discover how effective it is. Through Yoga Nidra, I was able to relax and focus much more so than I was at that time able to with other forms of meditation I knew so well. To this day, I offer free Yoga Nidra every Wednesday to a growing online community. You’re invited! Just reach out.
Lastly, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to my teachers at the Amrit Yoga Institute. Check them out here: https://amrityoga.org/