What is yoga nidra?
You may have heard of yoga nidra—a yoga practice that is becoming increasingly popular around the world.
But what exactly is this “new” form of yoga? To answer that question we dive deep into your brain’s functioning.
The broad definition of yoga nidra
At the broadest level, yoga nidra is a deep, meditative state that is accessed through a guided lesson. It is one of the deepest relaxation states that humans can enter while still being awake, and its benefits include better sleep, reduced stress, increased energy, and better awareness.
Many people describe yoga nidra as a power nap on steroids—a way to push your body’s “reset” button. The most common reaction to the practice is shock at how rejuvenating and revitalizing it is. Often people say they feel as rested after a 45-minute session as they do after a 3-hour nap!
Yoga nidra is not “yoga” as many of us know it. By that we mean that it isn’t a series of poses that you move through on a mat where you start on your feet and end in downward dog.
Instead, yoga nidra skips most of this and goes straight to the savasana pose—the one for deep relaxation after an invigorating class.
How does it work?
Yoga nidra works with your brain waves to induce your body and mind into a state that is somewhere between being awake and being asleep.
This is a full-body meditative and relaxation practice. As a result, it takes a while to dive in fully.
For anywhere from 20-45 minutes a teacher will guide you through several states of consciousness to help your brain achieve a new type of relaxation. As you move through these stages you’ll experience a deep stillness unlike anything you’ve felt before.
What is a yoga nidra class like?
Unlike other yoga classes, which go through a series of poses, in yoga nidra you remain in one pose the entire time. You’ll start and end the class in a fully supported savasana pose and will be guided through several different brainwave states:
BETA (the “physical” body): The beta brain state is your normal, waking state that you walk around in every day. When you enter the class you will already be in this state, maybe thinking about the meeting you have tomorrow or what to eat for dinner.
ALPHA (the “energy” body): As the class starts, your teacher will work to first guide you to the alpha state. This is a relaxed quiet state that you probably feel after your normal yoga class in a quiet savasana; the thoughts flow quietly and freely. Through pranayama breathing and other techniques, your teacher will help you enter the meditative state.
THETA (the “mental” body): After calming the mind and getting to a quiet space, your teacher will then guide you through to the theta wave state—the same state of brain activity that occurs while you wake up or drift off to sleep. Your teacher will likely use guided imagery to help you reach this wave area, a tactic that makes sense since it is the same time that we naturally begin to experience imagery in the form of dreams.
DELTA (the “intellectual” body): After theta you will move even deeper into the delta wave state, one reserved for deep, dreamless sleep and the comatose. This state, which consists of slow brainwaves of 0.5 to 3 HZ, helps our bodies restore and our brains calm down and relax, helping to heal and increasing our empathy.
INFRA-LOW (the “spiritual” body): Finally, you will enter the Infra-low wave stage, known as the “spiritual” one. There is very little known about these brain waves scientifically and the effects are difficult to measure, but many report it as a state of pure bliss. As Karen Brody, founder of Daring to Rest writes in Yoga Journal,
“This state is sort of like a complete loss of consciousness, but you are awake…[you’rable to rewire your thoughts and emotions because your subconscious mind in this fourth state is fertile, more open to intentions and affirmations, than it is when you are in your waking state. As a consequence, in your everyday life, you begin to rest more and more in the space between emotions and thoughts, and this resting in this space gives rise to a sense of freedom, where you are not triggered so much by the stuff in your life.”
After being coached through these five stages, you’ll make a slow return back to the normal waking state.
What do I need for a yoga nidra class?
If you are going to go to your first yoga nidra class, know that you don’t need to do anything special to prepare for it. You should:
Bring a water bottle and a mat (if the studio doesn’t provide it)
Wear comfortable clothing
Drink plenty of water beforehand
Your studio should provide all of the bolsters, blankets, and cushions that you will need to fully relax in this special kind of yogic meditation.
Interested in yoga nidra?
If you’d like to try out a yoga nidra class, look no further than The Conscious Club! We have two different yoga nidra classes per month and have everything you need to feel fully relaxed, including mats and bolsters. To book your class, click here or give us a call at 020 778 1038.