The 21st century has shaped up to become the age of distraction; ours is a generation terrified to be left alone with their thoughts. The constant bombardment of sensory input combined with existential anxiety leads to days spent within the numbing cocoon of social media and sleepless nights ridden with anxiety, over-thinking and self-hate.
True rest is often confused with the numbing, thoughtless space provided by streaming platforms and social media. The mindfulness, willpower and conscious decision-making involved in truly resting are often forgotten, making sleep an extremely elusive commodity. However, developing awareness of what constitutes rest is not impossible.
Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is an ancient yogic practise which allows the body to transcend into a stage between sleep and wakefulness. This state of conscious relaxation allows for complete awareness of what mental, physical and emotional rest truly imply. It is an approach to rest that is imbued with mindfulness and involves complete attention of all your faculties to the task of resting your body and soul.
Now I understand that for the average millennial yoga, mindfulness and mental peace seem like impractical buzzwords. Yoga itself is usually misinterpreted as doing aesthetic headstands and impossibly difficult poses, and mindfulness and mental peace are usually understood as unachievable jargon. However, there is a need to remember that Yoga is not just a workout session you can book at a gym; it is an ancient discipline that promotes holistic development of the mind and body, and that it can be incorporated in one form or the other by everyone in their lives.
Sure, certain poses and yogic skills require years of training, but there are several others which can be performed fairly easily and can be incorporated into daily self-care regimens. Being a part of the latter, Yoga Nidra proceeds mainly through guided meditation and is a great tool for those plagued by disturbed sleep, anxiety and distraction.
In Hindu mythology, Yoga Nidra is exhibited by Lord Vishnu, who is shown as floating upon the eternal ocean in a state of deep restfulness, while being completely conscious of reality. This is symbolic of immense power, as Yoga Nidra is the deepest possible level of relaxation that one can achieve while being conscious. The ability to thus free oneself from the “Maya” or attachments of the world while being simultaneously aware of them represents one of the highest possible levels of spiritual strength and self-control that one can achieve.
While the Mandukya Upanishad claimed that Yoga Nidra led to “Prajna” or divine wisdom, in the present day this technique is suggested to soldiers suffering from PTSD, thus revealing the enduring nature of this practice.
There are several videos that contain Yoga Nidra instructions which you can listen to and follow, but the one I swear by is Swami Sarvapriyananda’s Guided Yoga Nidra for Sleep. Another important thing to remember about Yoga Nidra is that it’s not the same as sleeping and can be performed at any time of the day. Therefore, if you feel the need to gather your thoughts, or take a few moments away from a stressful day, Yoga Nidra can help you with the same.
However, doing this practice before sleeping is extremely helpful, as it will allow you to really prepare your mind and body to enter into a state of rest. Those who incorporate this technique into their daily routine experience better sleep, relief from chronic pain, stress alleviation and higher energy levels. It is also a great tool for learning how to practice mindfulness for beginners.
This practice can be understood as a complete cool-down for the mind and body. It enables you to emerge from the grasp of toxic thoughts and consciously dedicate some time for your own well-being. Therefore, if you are looking to exorcise insomnia and stress from your life, Yoga Nidra can prove to be a viable and useful practice. The calming tones of guided meditation are truly soothing for regaining balance after stressful times.
When you are feeling overwhelmed and out-of-control, this technique allows you to regain a semblance of control over your own actions. Therefore, Yoga Nidra is a perfect way to consciously rest in difficult and confusing times, and feel refreshed, energized and in control of your own actions.
Does anyone practice Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra is an ancient and enduring Yogic practice and has been used for the longest time by Yogis and those looking to control distracting thoughts. Presently, it is also used as a part of yoga for therapy while dealing with patients of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
How should I practice Yoga Nidra?
There are several reliable online guides, as well as audio and video aids which you can follow to understand the various steps involved in this technique. As it is a guided meditation technique, the use of yoga nidra audio is highly recommended. Click on the link below for a guided yoga nidra video for sleep - https://youtu.be/FlINp3FdVDs
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
Those who practice Yoga Nidra daily have experienced reduced anxiety, better sleep cycles, improved energy levels and increased concentration levels. Moreover, it helps you to reorganize distracting thoughts, and be mindful, well-rested and disciplined.
Written by Visakha Chowdhury
The author tries to walk the treacherous tightrope between 10.00 p.m. and 2.00 a.m. bedtimes, willfully falls to the dark side a bit too often, and miserably tries to claw their way back to an eye bag-less existence.
Find her on Linkedin.