Can you tell me what Yoga Nidra is please, and the role it can play in supporting our sleep?
Yoga nidra is most commonly translated to “yogic sleep” and is a practice that can be used for both meditation and sleep. Yoga nidra is a practice that guides the body, mind and nervous systems into states of great rest, using a variety of body, breath and awareness techniques we calm the mind and body so we can rest in a state of being. The state of rest that can be achieved through this practice is similar if not deeper than sleep itself.
I often use it in place of a nap to feel revitalised or to settle me into a deeper more restful night’s sleep. Other benefits might include; strengthening immune systems, assisting in regeneration of cells in the body, decreasing stress and effects of stress in the body, decreasing anxiety, an increased capacity for memory and higher brain function as well as deep healing for the mental and spiritual body.
Have you seen any recent change in peoples’ interest around sleep-supporting workouts and practices like this? If so, what do you think is driving this change?
There has been a spark of interest recently for practices that support quality sleep. From what I have personally experienced and seen in clients I feel a lot has to do with our current circumstances. On top of people being physically busy running around they have full schedules that don’t allow for much down time. Minds are busy and it’s not just with our work and home life but the content we consume. High screen times, news, social media and then with no real break or proper holidays the way they used too, the mind never actually gets to turn off.
The attendance in yin and yoga nidra classes plus, prescribing a lot of home practices for yoga nidra suggest people want to make a change. I know these practices have helped me in so many ways, with decreasing my anxiety and helping develop more restful sleep. It’s important to have a nighttime practice to separate our busy day and evening, it could be a shower, tea with a book or a simple relaxing practice but we need to start creating a healthy boundary between work and sleep.
Would you mind sharing a short, simple Yoga Nidra sequence our readers can try at home please? Or any sort of introduction to the practice, e.g. 3 x key poses?
Setting ourselves up for a great nidra. The best thing is that you only need 15-30 minutes! If you are using it as a mid day reset I would set a gentle timer in case you fall asleep but if your goal is to drift off you can rest into sleep after.
We will begin in a comfortable seat on a pillow or with our back against a support and begin to breath in for a slow full breath and our for a slow full breath three times once the breath is settled we will gentle close the right nostril and begin to breath in through the left nostril to the count of three then blocking the left we breathe out through the right for the count of three and repeat in left out right for eight rounds. Remember to breathe smooth and slow and that if this is stressful we can simply stay breathing in and out smoothly.
We will then move into a supported child’s pose. With a blanket or mat under the knees and a bolster or some pillows under the chest (this can also be done on the bed with pillows under you). Set a timer to relax the mind from thinking for 5-7minutes depending on how much time you have. While you rest here begin to settle an even breath inhaling count of 4 and exhaling for a count of four. This is called Sama Vritti breathing and can be done longer as long as it is nice and even with no stress.
Now set yourself up to REST! Tips to place a cloth or eye pillow over the eyes to go in deeper as well as placing a pillow or bolster under the knees for low back support. Once settled you will begin to breath 3 smooth breaths and start moving your attention to each part of the body starting from the toes making your way up to the head. If you drift off and wake again before your alarm goes off continue where you left off or start again from the toes. Once you make it through the body come back to the breath, a smooth Sama Vritti breathing.
There are many techniques and this is a great place to start! If you like to be guided try a class or record something on your phone to listen to when you need a quick rest. Enjoy your Yoga Nidra .
Sarah Routhier is a senior yoga teacher at BodyMindLife in Surry Hills and Bondi in Sydney. She is also a facilitator of 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training.
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