By Lucinda Staniland
By now you’ve probably come across Yoga Nidra, one of the hottest trends to hit the Yoga scene in recent years. Everyone is doing it, from your trend-setting Instagram-loving best friend to your old-school internet-free great Aunt.
But what is Yoga Nidra exactly, and does it deserve its sudden popularity?
To the latter, I answer with an emphatic YES, which I trust will quickly become clear in the eight points below. And for an answer to the former, I turned to Swami Karma Karuna, leader of the Yoga Nidra Instructor Training at Anahata Yoga Retreat. She says of Yoga Nidra that,
“It is a systematic experience, with each stage serving a very specific purpose that works with different areas of the brain and the nervous system. Each stage also leads the practitioner progressively deeper into the state of pratyahara or sense withdrawal, through to dharana, concentration and gradually to the state of dhyana or meditation. Ultimately, it is said that Yoga Nidra can lead one to the highest state of experience.”
Why Yoga Nidra is The Hottest Yoga Trend
1. We’re desperately in need of restorative practices
After many years of a yoga and fitness scene dominated by fast-paced, high-intensity physical activity, we are finally catching on to the benefits of restorative practices like Yoga Nidra. Although it may not look like anyone is ‘doing much’ in Yoga Nidra, the physical and psychological effects of this subtle practice are just the ticket on for those of us who participate in our busy, stressful contemporary world (i.e. all us of, whether we like it or not). In fact, maybe ‘not doing much’—or in the case of Yoga Nidra, withdrawing from the world and enabling our consciousness to function at a deeper level of awareness—is exactly what we need to ‘do’.
2. It works (and science is starting to agree)
Although the benefits of Yoga Nidra haven’t yet been backed by large-scale, longitudinal scientific studies, the initial findings from small studies have been very promising and, perhaps more importantly, the anecdotal reports from Yoga teachers & students paint a compelling picture of the deep and wide-ranging benefits of the practice.
Yoga Nidra is thought to guide students to the threshold between alpha and theta brain waves. Known as the “hypnagogic state”, this is the place between sleep and wakefulness when your body is deeply relaxed but the mind is still conscious. It’s a powerful state to be in, allowing us to work with unconscious (and usually inaccessible) parts of our mind.
Recent research has found the Yoga Nidra can improve hormone irregularities, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, heart rate variables and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual trauma.
3. It’s infinitely portable & accessible
Yoga Nidra can be done almost anywhere, requires no special equipment and is very low cost. It’s the perfect option for people who usually find Yoga inaccessible—say someone with physical restrictions for whom an asana practice is difficult or even impossible, or a parent with small children who doesn’t feel they have the time, space or money to practice Yoga.
Yoga Nidra can be done on an aeroplane, in your office, or during a ten-minute break while your kid takes a nap or the dinner is in the oven.
4. If you teach, you can make a profound difference in the lives of others
Yoga Nidra techniques are currently being used to make lasting positive impacts in the lives of a diverse range of people—these techniques have been used to treat military combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, with those in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, in schools, hospices, prisons, retirement homes and with victims of rape and sexual trauma. And, of course, in your local Yoga studio. We can all benefit from the effects of this deeply healing practice, and by becoming a Yoga Nidra Instructor training you enable others to experience it too.
5. It can help manage all kinds of pain & suffering
Swami Karma Karuna says that the practices she teaches in her Yoga Nidra Instructor Training have been found to be effective in the management of a wide array of disorders, including “anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, addictions, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic fatigue, asthma, diabetes, fibromyalgia, breathing conditions, neurological conditions and motor impairment, chronic pain, stress issues and more.”
6. It’s a much-needed antidote to chronic stress
One thing that Yoga Nidra does particularly well is turning on the famed ‘relaxation response’, which is thought to counteract the toxic effects of our chronic modern day stress levels. Dr Herbert Benson, who coined the term in his book in his 1975 book ‘The Relaxation Response‘, defines the relaxation response as “the process of de-escalating the stress response and inducing relaxation through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.”
Swami Karma Karuna says that the practice of Yoga Nidra can;
“Allow us the opportunity to come back to centre so that we can manage the onslaught of life experiences and be healthy, happy and more present. These practices and spaces are like the water in the desert of a sometimes pretty crazy world and they are what keeps me inspired to do the work I do.”
7. It’s the perfect way to begin your home yoga practice
Struggling to get on the Yoga mat at home? Unsure what to practice or how to do it safely? Don’t have enough time? Yoga Nidra is safe, effective, very simple and doesn’t require a lot of time. It’s a low barrier way to get used to doing Yoga at home and establish a regular practice.
8. It might just change your life (and transform you inside and out)
Yoga Nidra can be much more than a tool for simple physical and mental relaxation, it can also have a powerful transformative power on the soul and psyche.
Swami Karma Karuna puts it like this,
“From the yogic as well as psychological perspectives, the roots of many physical, mental and emotional issues can be found in the unconscious and subconscious mind. The practice works directly on the mind to release impressions from the past and anxieties about the future. If the consciousness can be separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many ways, for example: to develop memory, increase knowledge, creativity, let go of old patterns, heal oneself or transforms one’s nature.”
Yoga Nidra & Restorative Yoga Instructor Training with Sw Karma Karuna, Sw Yogamani & Specialist Teachers
Friday 13 April – Sunday 22 April 2018 at Anahata Yoga Retreat, Golden Bay, New Zealand
This 9-day residential Yoga Nidra Instructors Training is a professional development course designed for yoga teachers, health and education professionals and anybody interested in a yogic immersion focused on relaxation techniques. The course includes a 3-month online training module.
Yoga Nidra, Basic Breathing Methods and Restorative Yoga are key practices to equip practitioners with yogic skills and techniques for self-support, as well as for clients and/or students. The methods taught in the training will assist in the release of deep muscular, mental and emotional tension, inducing calmness and clarity for a range of life and health situations.
Benefits include relief of chronic tension patterns, enhanced immune function, effective cellular respiration, reduced hypertension and mental and emotional tension, and a body-mind returned to a natural state of ease and equilibrium.
Anahata Yoga Retreat is a dedicated yoga centre high in the hills above Golden Bay and provides a sanctuary for learning and yogic immersion.