By Masumi Goldman
Many people crave the calming, healing effects of meditation but have convinced themselves that they don’t have the patience or focus to sit still. If you happen to fall into this camp, yoga nidra might be the perfect practice for you.
Also known as “yogic sleep,” yoga nidra is a guided form of relaxation that doesn’t require any knowledge of breath work or any previous meditation experience. As you lie on your back with your eyes closed, an instructor leads you through a number of mental exercises and visualizations. The goal is to find deep, restorative rest in the physical body while the mind remains awake. Although sessions will differ from instructor to instructor, there is often a similar structure to each practice. You will gaze into the space between your eyebrows and create a short, positive resolve, or sankalpa, that reflects your heart’s true desire for your life. You will repeat this resolve in your head to internalize it. You will then begin to find deep relaxation as you systematically bring awareness to different parts of the body. Depending on the length of the practice, your instructor may guide you through other relaxing exercises and visualizations that will bring you deeper into your yoga nidra journey.
By the end of the session, you will have traveled into a state of consciousness that hovers somewhere between waking and sleeping. You will complete your session by repeating the sankalpa that you created at the beginning of the practice. Your sankalpa, which has been planted deep into the subconscious mind during yoga nidra, will be fulfilled in time. It’s an experience that you don’t want to miss. Whether you journey into space or find yourself walking on a secluded beach, you’ll rise from your session feeling refreshed and renewed.
You can find a yoga nidra class at a local studio, or you can download a pre-recorded session onto your phone. Here are some tips to consider for your yoga nidra session
- Practice in a dim room away from harsh sunlight. Although you will not be sleeping, your environment should be conducive to finding rest. Shut the curtains, turn off any bright lights, and find a peaceful place to practice.
- Cover your body with a blanket at the start to stay comfortable. As you begin to relax, your body temperature will drop.
- Don’t rush to find stillness. If you lie down and realize that you need support under your knees or your head, go ahead and get a bolster or pillow. Your instructor wants you to be comfortable and relaxed, so take any extra time that you need.
- If you fall asleep during your yoga nidra session, don’t feel guilty or berate yourself. Keeping the mind awake is no easy task when you’re being guided into a blissful state. Recognize that you’ve done something good for yourself, even if you fall asleep.
- Try yoga nidra at different times of day to see what works best for you. See how you feel in the morning versus the evening. If you are too tired to practice late at night, try practicing before dinner. Play around with timing, and take note of what feels best.
- If you can’t lie down, don’t let that stop you from practicing. Yes, yoga nidra is traditionally practiced in savasana, but that’s not always practical. Go ahead and try it in a chair, or maybe even seated on the floor while leaning back against a wall. It still works!
Masumi Goldman is a former Wall Street analyst, MIT graduate, wellness advocate and writer, yoga teacher and co-founder of the Two Fit Moms® brand. In addition to representing her own wellness brand, Masumi is a spokesperson for Gaiam and represents their yoga apparel line in Kohl’s department stores. You can connect with Masumi on her Instagram page @masumi_g.
Photos by Chas Kimbrell