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Yoga Nidra Practices for Stress Relief and Better Sleep

by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD CIAYT(more info)

listed in yoga, originally published in issue 270 - May 2021

 

Have you tried Yoga Nidra?

This is yoga where you don’t move, and are skilfully talked into the fringes of sleep.

Total Yoga Nidra is a form of yoga that requires no physical movement whatsoever: Anyone who can breathe, and anyone who has ever, even once in their lives, fallen asleep, can practice Yoga Nidra  because it is a conscious meditation upon the process of falling asleep.

You don’t even need to pay any attention, just be there and hear the voice.  And rest. Very deeply. It’s the fastest growing form of yoga in the world, and it can help you sleep.

 

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Yoga Nidra and Sleep

 

Yoga Nidra literally means ‘Yoga Sleep’. It’s ‘The Sleep that is Yoga’, or ‘The Yoga of Sleep,’ or even ‘The Sleep of the Yogis’. Whatever way you translate it, Yoga Nidra is all about sleep. It is a meditation upon the experience of falling asleep. What actually happens during the process is a gradual settling of electrical activity in the brain.

Practising Yoga Nidra can cycle your brain waves down from the high-stress top levels of Beta, through restful reveries of Alpha waves and down in to dreamy states of Theta waves until you may, quite likely, come to rest for a while in Delta waves of deepest sleep, where vital repair and restoration happens. 

Any human who has ever, even once in their lives, fallen asleep, can practise Yoga Nidra, because all you need to do is to lie down and listen; and notice what happens, and be with just that.  And often what happens, when you meditate upon the act of falling asleep, is that – guess what? – you sometimes fall asleep. Not always, and not every time, but often enough to make it a pretty safe bet. And the more you practice Yoga Nidra, the more you can cultivate the capacity to drop off anytime you need, because you have been practising falling asleep.

Paradoxically, many traditional Yoga Nidra teachers will insist that the point of the practice is very definitely NOT to fall asleep. A lot of Yoga Nidra recordings are peppered with very bossy instructions like: ‘No Sleeping,’ or ‘Remain alert: the purpose of the practice is not to sleep.’ Sometimes they tell you to remain ‘awake and aware’ and guilt-trip those who drop off.  Often you are instructed to actively resist falling asleep so that you can cultivate a meditative awareness of your state of being. None of this pious nonsense is of any help if you’re sleepless for the fifth night in a row and you just want to S L E E P. Thankfully, there are ways of practising Yoga Nidra that don’t take the meditative high ground and try to prevent you from sleeping. Total Yoga Nidra is a hybrid contemporary form of the practice developed by the founders of the Yoga Nidra Network who see Yoga Nidra as ‘A gift to sleepless humans everywhere’.

It will take you about fifteen or twenty minutes a day and you don’t need to move a muscle to do it.  This is the most accessible, simple and effective of all yoga practices, and it does not require a yoga studio or a yoga teacher or any special equipment or clothing. All that’s necessary is for you to find a space to lie down and listen. That’s it. Just a place to get horizontal (or at least to sit down), and to be able to listen to a recording of Yoga Nidra.

You can practice anywhere, in cars or trains, or resting on the settee. Wherever you are, Yoga Nidra invites you to feel welcomed home to yourself…  So the most restful place to practice is at home…

How to Practise at Home…

It couldn’t be easier. You simply need a space large enough to lie down, and the capacity to hear a recording.

There are three steps to Yoga Nidra at home:

  1. Build your Nidra Nest
  2. Choose your recording
  3. Lie down, listen and rest

First- Build your Nidra Nest

For best results, don’t just crash out higgledy-piggledy. You’ll get deeper quality rest if you take time to make a comfy nest in which to practice Yoga Nidra. The minimal equipment necessary is a mat or rug (or a sofa) to lay down on, a pillow for your head, and enough covers to keep you warm as you rest, because body temperature tends to drop rapidly during practice. And that’s it. Clearly if your intention is to fall asleep, then the very best place to practice is in bed, because then if you drop off you can just continue to sleep.

Second - Choose your Recording

Now this is where you need to get picky. You see, there are innumerable ‘Yoga Nidra’ recordings out there in the insta-web world of wonders and horrors. And a lot of them are just random people reading out scripts they found in a yoga book – sometimes you can hear them turning the pages. Sometimes the people recording the Yoga Nidras sound so incredibly stressed that it’s actually aggravating to listen to them. And when it’s 3am and you are desperate for sleep, this is not good – you really don’t want to waste your precious time and energy listening to a dodgy recording that makes you feel more agitated then you were at the start.

And then – here’s a paradox – even if you have found a recording with a voice you like, and it feels relaxing, a very terrible thing can happen at the end. You see, most Yoga Nidra recordings conclude with the cheerful voice announcing the end of the practice and telling you it’s time to rise and shine. Clearly this is not what you want in the wee small hours when you have finally dropped off.

If you want Yoga Nidra to help you get to sleep and stay asleep, it’s vital to choose a recording that is not going to wake you up at the end. There are many different free recordings out there in the world, of unspecified value, but the ones up on the Yoga Nidra Network Site (and there are eighteen languages to choose from) are reliable recordings produced by well-trained teachers.

The key here is regularity of practice. Try it for yourself! If you make a commitment to finding 15 or 20 minutes every day for a week to lie down and listen to a yoga nidra practice, you will notice what the differences are.

Sweet Dreams, rest well, and give thanks to Total Yoga Nidra, the remedy of choice in an era of sleeplessness.

Resources

https://www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads

For free yoga nidra downloads in eighteen different languages,

https://www.yoganidranetwork.org/online-learning

For online courses in Total Yoga Nidra

https://www.yoganidranetwork.org/shop/sleep-well-total-yoga-nidra-half-price-offer-0

For a special half price offer on Nirlipta Tuli’s comprehensive and effective ‘Sleep Well with Total Yoga Nidra’ course. @yoganidranetwork

Free Live Online Good Night Nidras on Friday with Nirlipta Tuli. @umadinsmoretuliphd

Daily Free Live Online Community Support Yoga Nidra with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD

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About Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD CIAYT

Dr Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Yoga Therapist and Co-Founder of the Yoga Nidra Network, is a leading UK expert in the lesser known practice of Yoga Nidra, to bring about profound rest and healing.  A deeply restorative practice, Yoga Nidra is often referred to as 'Yogic Sleep', where you’re neither purposely asleep nor trying to stay awake. It is deeply restorative, nourishing and rejuvenating practice and has been known to drastically improve sleep. 

Uma has written four books on Yoga for women, including Yoni Shakti ( A woman's guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra) now in its 5th printing. She offers free Yoga Nidra practices online for people to experience in the comfort of their own homes.  Uma may be contacted via https://yonishakti.co/   https://umadinsmoretuli.com/

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