Doing yoga in your sleep? Sounds like my kind of yoga!
Now that I have your attention, let’s back up for a second. Yoga nidra is not doing yoga in your sleep. It’s another one of those ancient practices, aptly described as yogic sleep, a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping or the "going-to-sleep" stage. It’s a deep, meditative practice without the formalities of sitting in - what could be uncomfortable for some people - meditative postures. Instead, you lie on the floor like you do in savasana and go to work on your body, breath and mind.
For someone who has a lot of trouble falling asleep or having a full, restful sleep, this practice has really helped me calm my mind, soothe anxieties, and allows me to drift into a deep state of meditation. Yoga nidra has helped me accept the feelings that arise that moment right before you drift into sleep land, which as it turns out, is when I’m feeling the most vulnerable. Thankfully, yoga nidra helps to calm my mind and body and work through stress, accepting that these feelings may come and go but that they aren’t my reality.
The name of the game is conscious relaxation.
Let’s walk through how this works.
Lie down on your mat and close your eyes.
Start mindfully breathing. Deep inhale and exhale.
As with anything yoga related, set your intention. (I often focus my nidra practice on gratitude. Rather than “counting my sheep” to help me settle into sleep, I think about all of the great things in my day that I am grateful for.)
Release all tension in your body. Scan from the tips of your toes, to the tips of your fingers, and out through the top of your head. Let go of anything that is no longer serving you in this moment.
Find your inner drive. The best way I’ve had this explained to me is to find my happy place. (Very Peter Pan-esque, hey!) Is this place somewhere you’d like to revisit? Is it a feeling or state of well-being when you’re feeling your best? Concentrate on this.
Breathe into this space. Breathe in peace and gratitude and breathe out insecurities and negative thoughts.
As emotions or thoughts come up, acknowledge them. Mull them over, and let them go. A good method is to ask these thoughts or feelings what they need. Where do you feel these thoughts in your body?
At the end of your practice, come back to your intention for a moment. Breathe.
And slowly bring yourself back to a wakeful state, just as you would from the end of a meditation. Be gentle and give yourself the time to slowly come back.
The interesting thing about a yoga nidra practice is that you really do learn more about yourself. You learn about the thoughts and feelings that occupy your subconscious and you understand how to work with these thoughts and feelings rather than bury them further inside of you.
Now that you have a sense of what it’s about, you can catch a weekly yoga nidra class at the SATTVA School every Sunday from 8:30 to 9:30pm with some of your beloved instructors to go deeper into your nidra practice. You can also access a full guided yoga nidra sequence on SATTVA Online that will easily lead you right into sleep.