05 May Why we practice Yoga Nidra + Friday online sessions
Hi beautiful people, it’s Claudia here. I’m here to share one of our obsessions with you today: Yoga Nidra. This practice of yogic rest has been in my life for a long time, but proved to be especially beneficial during specific phases of my life, including my fertility journey, postpartum, and now, during the pandemic. In this article, I’ll share with you not only why I love this practice, but also what science says about Yoga Nidra, plus I’ll invite you for our Friday online Nidra get-togethers. Read on!
Warning: this is a longgggg article. Save it for later or return to it as many times as you want if you don’t have the time to read it now.
I saved my personal Nidra story for the end. You are of course free to scroll down to read it first.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is the yoga of sleep: a yummy meditation that lets you float in that space between being awake and falling asleep. It’s the perfect practice to help you wind down and destress after a long day, reconnect with yourself and prepare yourself for a good night sleep.
It’s a guided meditation for conscious relaxation, with different stages that flow seamlessly into each other, and often include intention setting (or sankalpa) a connection with the breath, a variation of a body scan, connecting with different feelings and sensations, and some form of visualization.
We usually practice Yoga Nidra lying down, either on a yoga mat, in bed, your carpet: wherever you can be comfy and in peace. Make sure you’re warm and comfortable, so bring a pillow for under your head, have an extra blanket ready in case you get a little cold, and have your eye pillow ready if you have one.
Yoga Nidra and brainwaves
To fully understand the benefits of Yoga Nidra, it’s important to look at the main stages of brain activity.
The activity of the cells in our brain is called “brainwaves”, as their pattern looks like waves. We can distinguish between four different types, based on the speed of the brain cells.
Neuroscientists have clearly mapped the different stages of brain activity, or different brainwaves, with the different phases of the Yoga Nidra practice:
- The first stage, or the body scan, brings our brain in the Beta stage. This is an active stage: you’re still actively concentrating.
- The next stage, breath awareness, brings us to the Alpha stage. You can compare this to being relaxed with your eyes closed, without any active thinking.
- Then comes the third stage, or the feelings and sensations part of Yoga Nidra. This is the Theta wave stage. The exact same thing happens to our brain when we are in our dream sleep (also known as the REM sleep), which is very important for processing our emotions.
- The fourth and last Nidra stage, the visualization part of the practice, brings us in the state of Delta waves. In this phase, our brain enters the same stage as when we are in deep (NREM or non-rapid eye movement) sleep.
This is a-ma-zing! So even though you’re fully awake during the practice of Yoga Nidra, your brain enters a state of deep sleep, allowed you to rest, process and revitalize while being awake. Mind blowing!
Why practice Yoga Nidra?
Research shows that Yoga Nidra is a practice that can increase the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine levels by 85%. Dopamine doesn’t only help you feel good, it also improves motivation and concentration.
Yoga Nidra also lowers stress levels, and it improves blood pressure levels and heart rate variables. Research also says it can even stabilize hormone levels in women. In addition to that it can help with PTSD, anxiety and depression, making this an amazing practice for everyone.
Many people love practicing this type of meditation right before going to bed, because it lets them easily drift off to sleep. For others it’s the opposite: they actually get very energized by the practice and prefer doing it in the middle of the day during a break or instead of a short nap.
An invitation: weekly Friday Nidra sessions
Every Friday at 9 PM CET, we meet online, through Zoom, to practice Yoga Nidra together. Every week, I guide you through a different practice that helps you rest, reconnect and destress. We have created a beautiful intro offer for you all which allows you to practice with us 5 times for only 250 NOK (or 60 NOK per session).
My journey with Yoga Nidra
The first time I met Yoga Nidra was in an ashram in India, almost ten years ago. My husband and I were on a one-year trip around the world and we paused in an ashram in Rishikesh to deepen our practice and connect with other yogi travelers. One evening, after a long day of yoga, we would practice Yoga Nidra. I had never heard of it and was completely blown away by the practice. It felt like I had slept, even though I knew I was awake during the entire practice. I felt clear, too, and my whole body felt light yet it felt it also as if I had never been more connected with my body.
I tried to get a hand on as many Nidra recordings as possible and kept practicing at home. During my first yoga teacher training I got a chance to learn more about the practice and started creating Nidras myself. This was also in the midst of my three-year long fertility journey and it turned out to be the practice that helped me most during these difficult years. When I would feel disconnected or ungrounded, or insecure or sad, I would play a recording of a Nidra practice and would immediately feel more at ease. It felt so reassuring to have a practice available that would reconnect me with myself in just 20 minutes or so, and that would completely change my perspective.
That also came in incredible handy during my postpartum period. Not just during those hazy, tired first months, but also much later when the overwhelm of birth trauma started to weigh heavily on me. The Nidras were always there. And also now, during the anxious, uncertain phase of the pandemic. It’s the Nidra I always return to.
Will you us for a journey home?