Last updated on December 7th, 2023.
Doing yoga frequently is a great way to get some physical and mental exercise in, but there are multiple different kinds of yoga that you can do. One of these is called yoga nidra, a type of yoga that focuses on guiding the participant through deeper layers of the mind through sleep. It’s meant to help achieve the deepest state of meditation, without falling fully asleep.
Yoga nidra works as a systemic process, whether it’s spoken by an instructor or self-guided. The process guides the participant’s mind through deep layers of consciousness, until they arrive at the state that’s right between being asleep and being awake.
The following article is a more detailed explanation about how yoga nidra works and the science behind it. It also includes a brief guide on how to get started with yoga nidra and how long you should do it for.
What is The Difference Between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?
Yoga nidra and meditation are very similar. But the key difference between them is that during yoga nidra you are almost asleep, and during meditation you are fully awake.
Meditation is often used with yoga as a way to get some mental exercise in while you’re doing physical exercise. It involves focusing your mind and allowing any thoughts that you have to just pass through your brain.
During meditation, our brains go into something called the theta state. This is what our brains go through to get to the delta state, or the deepest sleep state you can get to while still remaining somewhat conscious.
It’s clear that meditation has many similarities to yoga nidra. They both involve exercising our minds and going into a deeper state of consciousness. However, the main difference is that yoga nidra gets us closer to a full state of unconsciousness, while meditation does not.
When practicing yoga nidra, you go into the delta state and allow your body and mind to rest and relax even though your consciousness is still awake. It’s meant to be done while you are laying down still rather than moving around, and mainly focuses on exercising and analyzing your mind.
What Happens in Yoga Nidra?
The main steps to yoga Nidra include:
- Connecting with your mind and body
- Welcoming and witnessing any thoughts you have
- Reflecting on your practice
The process is slightly more structured than the steps described above. But they are the main components when it comes to what happens in yoga nidra.
The first thing that happens in yoga nidra is that you will be asked to lay down and close your eyes. This allows you to more easily focus on your mind and body and makes it easier for your brain to reach the deepest state of consciousness. This same process is usually the same as yoga chitta critti nidorha, which also involves yoga nidra in the practice.
Spend the first few minutes of your practice connecting with your mind and body. Scan yourself from head to toe and analyze each part of your body. This is mainly to figure out how you are feeling physically, and if any part of your body needs special attention during your practice. It also helps to reduce tension so you can more easily relax.
Connecting with your mind means welcoming and witnessing any thoughts and feelings you have during your practice. This means allowing them to come into your mind and go, without judging them or acknowledging them too much. This step is meant to give you an idea of where you are emotionally and mentally.
After you have been in that state for as long as you want, reflect on your practice. Reflecting on how you felt during your practice allows you to analyze the thoughts and feelings you experienced while in the semi-conscious state. It can help you figure out where these feelings are coming from and how you can work to resolve them. Take as much time as you need coming out of your practice.
What Happens to the Brain in Yoga Nidra?
During yoga nidra, the brain goes into a semi-conscious state. This means that the brain is not quite awake, but also not quite asleep. This state is considered the deepest realm of unconsciousness that the brain can go without falling asleep.
The delta state is the state of consciousness where the brain isn’t fully awake, but it’s also not fully asleep. It’s awake enough to still have thoughts and feelings that come and go, but it’s meditative enough to allow you to relax and reduce tension in your body.
Letting the brain go into this meditative state has multiple benefits, including:
- Enhanced mental and physical health
- Improved sleep patterns
- Boosting resilience and emotional balance
Even just a few minutes of doing yoga nidra can help you gain the benefits mentioned above.
How Long Should I Do Yoga Nidra?
The standard length for a session of Yoga Nidra is about thirty minutes. However, you can also only take fifteen minutes to have a session if you need to. On the other hand, you can spend an hour doing a session if that fits into your schedule.
On average, a session of yoga nidra takes about thirty minutes to complete. This length of time allows the brain to go into a semi-conscious state and stay there for a while. It gives you an adequate amount of time to sit with your mind and body, and lets you get the full benefits of the practice.
But a session of yoga nidra can also last only fifteen minutes, or even as long as an hour. The most important thing is to choose the length of time that fits the best into your schedule.
How Do I Get Started in Yoga Nidra?
If you want to try out yoga nidra, then a great place to start is trying it with a guided script. The script is meant to help you generate any thoughts or feelings that you might have and guide you through how to make the practice the most effective.
If you have never tried yoga nidra before, then it’s recommended that you use a guided script for your first few sessions. These scripts are meant to help you get used to the process and generate any thoughts and feelings you might have during the session.
Once you are comfortable with the process, you can start doing yoga nidra on your own if you like. It’s a fairly simple process, but it can have immense benefits when done correctly.