As Restorative As Sleep - Relax Yourself With Yoga Nidra
A yoga routine provides deep restoration to your body and the mind. And to make your practice more effective, it’s ideal to end your yoga sequence with yoga nidra (yogic sleep). In yoga nidra, we consciously take our attention to different parts of the body and relax them.
Yoga practices increase the energy levels in the body.
Yoga Nidra helps conserve and consolidate this energy and relax the entire system, preparing it for pranayama and meditation. It is, therefore, important to keep aside sufficient time for yoga nidra after yoga postures.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
- Cools down the body after yoga postures, restoring normal temperature
- Activates the nervous system to absorb the effects of yoga asanas.
Getting ready for Yoga Nidra:
- The stomach has to be empty of light before the practice. It is not recommended to practice Yoga asanas or Yoga nidra after a full meal.
- A comfortable clutter free space. A yogi's home is calm, comfortable, and clutter-free.
- Some people may feel a little cold after Yoga Nidra, so, it is a good idea to keep a light blanket handy.
Step-by-step instructions for a perfect yoga nidra:
- Lie down straight on your back in Corpse Pose (Shavasana). Close your eyes and relax. Take a few deep breaths in and out. Remember to take slow and relaxed breaths, and not ujjayi breaths.
- Start by gently taking your attention to your right foot. Keep your attention there for a few seconds, while relaxing your foot. Then gently move your attention up to the right knee, right thigh and hip. Become aware of your whole right leg.
- Gently, repeat this process for the left leg.
- Take your attention to all parts of the body: genital area, stomach, navel region, chest.
- Take your attention to the right shoulder and right arm, palms and fingers then repeat this on the left shoulder and left arm, throat, face and finally the top of the head.
- Take a deep breath in, observe the sensations in your body, and relax in this still state for a few minutes.
- Now, slowly becoming aware of your body and surroundings, turn to your right side and keep lying down for a few more minutes. Rolling over to the right side makes the breath flow through the left nostril which helps cool the body.
- Taking your own time, you may then slowly sit up, and whenever you feel comfortable, slowly and gradually open your eyes.
Note that Yoga Nidra is not about 'conscious effort' but 'conscious relaxation'.
For example, the moment you hear the word 'apple,' its image instantly flashes through your mind. You don't need to put in an effort to think whether it's small or big, red or green. The same happens during yoga nidra.
You don't need to 'concentrate' or 'focus' on what a leg is, or touch your nose. Nor do you need to physically move these body parts. You only need to gently take your attention to them, while taking deep breaths. The trick in yoga nidra is to: relax with awareness, remain effortless and consciously relax the body and mind.
It is quite natural to be distracted by random thoughts during yoga nidra. Do not try and curb them. If you fall asleep naturally, don't feel guilty once you wake up.
Yoga nidra is thus a joyous, effortless way to end your yoga practice. Let go, relax and enjoy the experience that follows.
"As refreshing as sleep, I fondly call yoga nidra my 'super nap'. In just a short while, it leaves me deeply rested and freshens me up in a way no tea or coffee does," shares Pritika Nair, an avid meditator.
This article is based on inputs by senior Sri Sri Yoga teachers: Dinesh Kashikar and Shriram Sarvotham.