Imagine you could give a gift to every man, woman and child on the planet. What would you choose? It’s a big question, and a tough one to answer, but I know for sure what I’d bring to the party.
I’d gift everyone with a tool to help access that quiet, still and perfect space deep inside. A tool that’s free, easy to understand and use. That doesn’t require any special equipment or prior experience. Best of all, this gift would deliver a beautiful slice of inner peace, promote self enquiry, compassion, and healing any time you wish (and requires no assembly!)
I’d love everyone to experience this gift. Maybe it sounds a bit ‘Miss Universe’ but I truly believe the world would be a happier, healthier and more peaceful place if we each had the power to relax deeply and tune into the utter perfection that resides inside each of us.
So what’s in the box?
Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation practice from the Indian yoga tradition. It teaches us to relax consciously on a soul-deep level, infusing positivity and hope for the body, mind and spirit.
The gift of relaxation? Is that all? (Yep, I’m a mind-reader too..)
I hear your scepticism. You already know how to relax, right? I promise you Yoga Nidra is different. Potentially life-changing, even.
Let me explain. Stuff you probably consider relaxing (like lying on the beach, trawling social media or catching up with a friend over coffee) can certainly feel lovely and rejuvenating. Thing is, these activities require our internal mechanisms to be switched ‘on’. While part of you is definitely relaxed, it’s business as usual for much of the body – the heart’s pumping away, the muscles are ready for action and the mind is busy thinking.
Yoga nidra is super-charged relaxation.
Deep, soul-nurturing relaxation, like that achieved in Yoga Nidra, is quite different. Yoga Nidra allows all the internal systems to hit ‘pause’ for a little while. It calms the brain waves, slows the heart rate, evens out the breath, softens physical tensions and quiets mental noise. You can use Yoga Nidra to manage a long list of issues such as stress, physical and mental tension, pain, anxiety and sleeplessness.
Can you imagine if even a small percentage of our population felt calm and relaxed??
It’s so easy.
The best part? You don’t need to do much to soak up the benefits. In fact, if you can lie still in Savasana (Corpse pose – yoga’s pose of relaxation) and listen to the Yoga Nidra instructions for 20-40 minutes, you can do this practice! Plus, many say the level relaxation achieved in a typical session is as refreshing as 4 hours sleep – YES!
Can you imagine the impact of more people feeling more rested??
Achieve your goals.
Yoga Nidra is also referred to as ‘sleep with awareness’ because the practice has us teetering on the edge of sleep – where we feel deeply relaxed, yet awake and aware. This in-between state is a perfect place to plant goals in the mind. In Yoga Nidra, such desires, or goals, are known as a sankalpa and is repeated silently in the mind within the practice. The words chosen should be arranged as a positive statement set in the present tense. Some examples of a sankalpa include:
‘I am relaxed and calm.’
‘I am living my true purpose.’
‘My body is healthy and strong.’
The ancient yogis say that if you tend to this desire or sankalpa frequently, it is bound to come true in your life – how good is that?
The first step in a Yoga Nidra session is to get completely settled in savasana, ensuring you are warm and comfortable. Then, your instructor may invite you to mentally repeat your sankalpa. Her voice then guides your awareness around different body parts, following a set sequence. When you hear the name of that part, the idea is to simply notice it and feel into it, as if touching it from the inside-out. There is no physical movement during yoga nidra, just awareness. (See, told you it was easy!)
Science behind the sequence.
The special sequence followed in Yoga Nidra mirrors a neuronal map of the physical body in the brain, known as the motor homunculus or ‘the little man’. Mentally sweeping awareness around this map facilitates a turning inwards, away from sensory distractions of our wakened state, creating an circuit of energy while simultaneously dissolving tensions. Aahhhh…!
Noticing the breath.
After taking your mental awareness around the body, you move to noticing the breath. Simply watching the breath moving in and out of the body helps to focus the mind and further settle the nervous system. Again, how easy is that?
Back to reality.
Toward to end of the practice, you’ll revisit your sankalpa, and bring awareness back to the physical body. After a stretch, a few deep breaths and perhaps a yawn or two, it’s time to sit up and re-enter your usual state of consciousness – your Yoga Nidra experience is complete.
Fancy unwrapping the gift Yoga Nidra?
If you want to amp up the calm in your life, I encourage you to try Yoga Nidra. I simply love it and use the practice regularly as part of my own ‘keeping calm toolkit’. Many studio classes include a Yoga Nidra practice, or you can use a recorded version like this one I made for you at home. Or, you could even have a friend read the instructions to you.
Here’s how to prepare for Yoga Nidra, your loving and very effective gateway to deep relaxation:
Wanna help me make the whole world a calmer place, through Yoga Nidra? Let’s cultivate a ripple of calm together – feel free to share this post and my free Yoga Nidra recording with anyone you know who could do with a dose of super-charged relaxation.
(And don’t forget to let me know in the comments what you thought of the practice yourself.)
PS: Is yoga the best relaxation technique for you? Take the ‘Calm Compass’ quiz to find out!