Touch the surface
of Yoga Nidra
What is Yoga Nidra?
Don’t be fooled by the name: ‘yoga nidra’ does not involve any form of exercise or movement at all. In fact, put very simply, it is the practice of ‘doing nothing’.
We appreciate you might already think you’ve nailed that one…but let’s look a little more closely at what exactly ‘doing nothing’ really entails, and why it can be extremely good for you.
What happens when you do nothing?
You’ve already heard of meditation, which is arguably one of the most popular, formal approaches to doing nothing – including, importantly, not thinking.
There are many techniques and approaches to meditation, all of which can lead you into a state where you are neither awake nor asleep, and yet still present. You are not thinking, you are not dreaming, you are not even focusing on anything in particular – you simply are.
If you’ve tried meditation, then you might know how it can actually be really difficult to get to that experience of stillness of mind – or ‘bliss’ as some people describe it (it has different flavours for us all, at different times). Common obstacles are the frustrating chatter of a jumpy mind, or discomfort as you sit for lengthy periods, or being able to apply the meditation technique (such as staring at a candle, or counting as you breathe in and again as you breathe out), but not being able to go beyond the technique to the stillness and spaciousness that lies beyond.
If this struggle – this ‘resistance to relaxation’ – sounds familiar to you, or even if you haven’t tried meditation because it sounds awkward or woo woo but are interested in its benefits, then yoga nidra offers a different, and we think far easier approach, with all the perks.
It is a sublime practice, gaining popularity the world over, and ongoing research continues to prove its effectiveness as a means to ease anxiety, insomnia, negative thought loops, addiction, PTSD and other stress-related illnesses. It’s also an amazing aide to creativity, insight, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
What happens during a yoga nidra practice?
In short, you lie down and have a rest! But, the kind of rest-space you find yourself inhabiting is not the one you might slip into reading a book or watching TV – it is deeper and found only when all stimuli are gone from your experience. Drinking red wine, devouring a boxset, scrolling through Instagram, even attending a yoga class, these are all activities – they are things we add into our experience. There is nothing wrong with doing any of these things, but they are unlikely, in themselves, to allow you to fall into the depths of your inner stillness – the ‘you’ that exists when any thoughts about who you are and what you want and what you should be doing, are gone. We can only dissolve into this space when there is nothing to pull us away from it.
As you lie down, eyes closed, the teacher will guide you, usually for around 35 minutes, using a number of approaches that will coerce your mind into dissolving into the background, and then seemingly away completely. There is no ‘work’ to be done, just surrendering, listening, falling, allowing.
The practice draws our attention inwards, and we learn to surf between the states of wakefulness and sleep, where our body finds its natural state of equilibrium (homeostasis). The breath balances and becomes quiet, unconscious and conscious aspects of the mind reveal themselves, and we fall into an innate state of deep awareness.
Typically, as we linger in this state, various hits of emotions, thoughts and beliefs – often unexpected – start to emerge. Perhaps they are experiences or emotions that we’ve not had the chance to deal with, or perhaps we’ve found them too overwhelming and therefore chosen, on whatever level, to repress. With our body and mind rested ‘in neutral’ we are able to welcome and respond to these thoughts, feelings and beliefs in new ways. From this deep, underlying sense of ease we might effectively meet our uncomfortable memory or trauma and through a deep listening and welcoming, come to new understanding or resolution. Insight, creativity and resolution emerge effortlessly, like gifts.
At its most powerful, yoga nidra enables us to dive in and experience ourselves as open, expansive, un-bounded, unlimited awareness.
Experiencing this part of yourself is transformative: knowing that at your depths you are limitless and unbreakable, makes you feel…well, limitless and unbreakable.
Who is yoga nidra for?
In an increasingly exciting world, with endless information and activities at our fingertips, many of us find it hard to slow down, relax, switch off and rest. The natural pauses in our day-to-day lives when we might otherwise have caught glimpses of our innate stillness, have been filled in with scrolling, chatting, searching. Our brains are being constantly stimulated, and it’s stressful, regardless of what the stimuli is (even those adorable pictures of cute kittens are no compensation for a few seconds of middle-distance gazing).
Absolutely anyone can practise yoga nidra, but it has immense appeal for those who struggle to let go. It also has great value to those suffering from sleep deprivation, trauma, anxiety or depression (to any degree). It’s also perfect for anyone curious about the deep states of meditation they have perhaps read about or stumbled across themselves in practice, but never been able to revisit.
Our clients are often surprised and delighted by the power of this practice. Doing nothing really can change your life.