I think it’s interesting when people tell me they tried yoga once but didn’t care for it. I follow up with the question “Oh, really, that’s too bad. What kind of yoga was it?” And then I see the blank stare. 🙂 The truth is there are so many types of yoga classes available, it really is helpful to try a few styles to see which best suit your lifestyle, personality, and physical needs. It is absolutely true that intense vinyasa flows and long pose holds are not for everyone or every body. The practice of Yoga Nidra, however, is one that is accessible for all, from children to seniors. It’s easy to follow. It is not physically demanding. All that your body needs to do is lie down on the floor or in a restorative(restful) posture. If lying down on the floor is not available, you can do this practice seated. Finding physical comfort is just the beginning.
Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. While the yogi rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), or another easy posture, this guided meditation takes you through the pancha maya kosha (five layers of self), leaving you with a sense of wholeness. Some guided scripts may focus on self-esteem, body awareness, healing from trauma, etc. An internet search will produce hundreds of sample scripts, or check out a local yoga studio for a class. I think the teacher’s style, voice inflection and speaking pace really add to the unique qualities of a happy yoga nidra. In a class setting, be sure yo are close enough to the teacher that you can hear all the words and cues.
As you lie down, your teacher will begin speaking in a soothing, steady voice. You will let your body relax as will follow the voice and its instructions. The goal of the practice is not to fall asleep, but to be on the edge of awake and asleep, but understand that sleepiness happens and falling asleep is a possibility. It’s okay. The benefits of one hour of yoga nidra is compared to 3-4 hours of sleep. Some of the cues you may hear include bringing awareness to your breath, focusing on different body parts and sensations, releasing and relaxing from areas of tension. Why is it accessible for all ages or experience levels? Simplicity. Yoga nidra is always a guided practice, so there is no difficult thinking or movement changes to duplicate. A yoga nidra practice can be as short as five minutes and as long as an hour. If practicing at home, it may be useful to make yoga nidra practice a part of your daily bedtime routine. You can download a recorded yoga nidra script, practice right in your bed and then drift off to sleep. If adding a script to your day as an afternoon pick me up, a couch or comfortable seat will work. Set a timer if you need to be back to work or somewhere else in case you do fall asleep.
Yoga nidra offers a safe space to explore what you need in the moment, as well as an opportunity to work on releasing long-held emotions. During yoga nidra you may begin to experience an emotion you’ve been suppressing and become intimate with fears or obstacles to overcome. There’s no need to feel the emotion so completely that you become overwhelmed. These subtle awareness is akin to dipping your feet in the pool, rather than diving in. Over time you experience the emotion and associated feelings with more comfort (or clarity) which may offer the chance to move deeper into the practice.