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Is Yoga Nidra the Key to Better Sleep?

If the various yoga techniques from the 
last article weren’t as effective as desired then trust that this technique is. Why? Just a thirty-minute practice equates to around two hours of deep sleep! 

Yoga Nidra, also known as “psychic sleep,” was pioneered by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who referred to the practice as “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states” – scientifically speaking, Saraswati is talking about attaining alpha and delta brainwave states.

How does attaining those states help you and what exactly happens anyway? Read on to find out more!

The Science of Yoga Nidra

Before unsatisfactory sleep was a thing, remember how moments before becoming comatose your mind would sometimes flow in unexpected and new directions? Actually, that moment is you accessing your unconscious mind – the state of mind, between waking and sleeping, that’s intentionally sought during Yoga Nidra. While on the topic of accessing states of mind, the entire practice is a journey from beta wave state (14-40 Hz) to alpha wave state (9-13 Hz) then into theta wave state (4-7.5Hz) and finally, delta wave state (0.5-4 Hz).

The reason for this induced switch of brainwaves is due to the fact that each brainwave corresponds to different outcomes. In a nutshell:

  • Beta corresponds to the active, thinking mind – this is the state you’re normally experiencing and starting the practice with

  • Alpha corresponds to the relaxed mind as serotonin is released. Fun fact: anxiety is more prevalent in those that are not often in alpha wave state

  • Theta corresponds to changes in neural pathways. In this state, the ability to learn or unlearn is heightened; children and artists actually experience more theta activity in their brain

  • Delta corresponds to the restorative state, as it enables your organs to heal and regenerate as cortisol is removed from the body. In delta, you experience only 1 to 3.9 thoughts per second!

Outline of a Typical Yoga Nidra Practice

If passing through those different brain waves seems like a challenge, know that it’s really not – especially since the practice is always guided. For clarification, a typical Yoga Nidra practice is performed something like this, while in Shavasana (Corpse Pose):

  • To start, an intention, known traditionally as a Sankalpa, will be set. This intention will likely be repeated throughout the practice, and if not, definitely after the practice

  • You will then be prompted to sense the body – every finger, every toe, and probably every limb, too! By moving your awareness throughout your body, a relaxation response will be incited, which scientifically speaking, balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (the left and right brain)

  • After scanning the body, you will be prompted to tap into your senses – do you smell something? do you hear something other than the guide? do you feel bored?

  • Moving on, you will be prompted to change from the external senses into the internal senses. For example, by visualising an abundant field overgrown with colourful flowers

  • Lastly, you will be prompted to start a reverse countdown – normally, it’s from 27 to 1

  • Throughout the practice, you will also be prompted to remain aware of the breath

Of course, every guided meditation is different so remember that the above is just an outline and some practitioners might exclude certain points.

Other Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Besides inducing a relaxing, physically and mentally, full-body experience, Yoga Nidra has other benefits worth mentioning. After all, you’re accessing not just one but several brainwaves!

A study in 2013 showed an increase in overall health for women experiencing psychological problems and menstrual irregularities. This may be due to the fact that by entering the unconscious mind preconditioned neurolinguistic wiring can be reprogrammed. Think hypnosis but less invasive (anyone else hesitant of hypnosis after watching Get Out?!).

That being said, Yoga Nidra is ideal for healing deep-rooted trauma which contributes to anxiety, stress, and in turn, insomnia. So what are you waiting for? Find a local practitioner near you or simply search online for (free) guided meditations!