Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Most of the relaxation sessions on Gillian’s CDs are based on the ancient Indian practice known as yoga nidra or psychic sleep.

The many benefits of the deep relaxation practice known as yoga nidra deepen as you learn to let go more and more and move deeply into yourself. This is best achieved by regular daily practice with an audio recording, preferably at the same time and in the same place. Most yoga nidra recordings last for about thirty mins. I am always amazed when people- usually excessively stressed people- declare that they don’t seem to find the time to do it. A half hour practice has the rejuvenating effect of several hours sleep.

It doesn’t shorten your day, it lengthens it by giving you more energy and greater efficiency . When I was a single parent of three young sons, I found the practice invaluable as an enjoyable late afternoon recuperation strategy before the boys came home from school. They soon came to appreciate how much more easy going ‘mother’ was after her yoga nidra and positively encouraged me to do it whenever they detected any fatigue inspired irritability. I was ordered to go and have a yoga nidra!.

They did not feel the need to do it themselves in those days but much to my delight two of them have now incorporated it into their daily lives as an antidote to the stresses of young adulthood. In other words, it must not be seen as a practice best suited to women. On the contrary, men, once they do apply themselves to it, probably get even more benefit from it than women but don’t quote me on that!

Physical Benefits

Any machine needs to be stopped periodically for servicing and repairs. Seen as a machine, the body is no different. Yoga nidra slows down body metabolism and allows deep rejuvenation. Sleep has a similar function of course but is much less efficient because the unconscious mind continues during sleep to cause bodily tension.

In the conscious tension release process of a yoga nidra, heart and breathing rates slow down reducing blood pressure. At the same however, blood flow is increased because the blood vessels dilate when the body is relaxed. Cellular process of absorption and elimination are therefore made more efficient.

The relaxation of the entire muscular system brings relief to aches and pains caused by body stiffness and over exertion.

The endocrinal ( glandular ) system, which coordinates all the body’s functions and which becomes constantly overused and abused in the course of our daily activities ( especially the adrenal glands in their response to anxiety), are given a chance to recuperate and normalize bringing them more into balance.

Above all, regular practice of yoga nidra improves the quality of your sleep and can even reduce the time of sleep that your body usually seems to need. It is a brilliant antidote to any form of insomnia if done immediately before to going to bed.

Psychological Benefits

The mind as well as the body is rejuvenated by yoga nidra as it is given a rest from its daily barrage of external stimulation. Furthermore, yoga nidra, like meditation trains the mind to be more focussed. This overflows into daily life, reducing energy loss through constant undisciplined thinking.

Our body is a storehouse of mental tensions. In this sense, body and mind are inseparable. A lasting reduction in stress levels in the body helps to releases deep seated anxieties in the mind. During deep relaxation the boundary between the conscious and unconscious mind becomes very fluid.

Fears and anxieties surface painlessly, releasing you from their unconscious bondage. You are able in your state of relaxation to observe them coming up but you don’t get caught up in them. This is the secret of a less reactive and more balanced consciousness in everyday life.

There is something very special and mysterious about the interface between sleep and waking consciousness. Many spiritual traditions honour the special significance of interfaces as being opportunities for openings in consciousness. This is why sunrise and sunset, the interfaces between day and night, are understood as being the most appropriate times for meditation practices.

The interface between life and death is especially critical. It is seen as being a time when momentous awakenings of consciousness can arise. In yoga nidra you are surfing the interface between sleeping and waking consciousness. You may fall asleep several times during the practice. Voice guidance keeps bringing you back to a semi conscious state. This movement in and out of sleep can bring wonderful inner experiences which leave you feeling deeply refreshed, like a child awakening from a magic dream.

Spiritual Benefits

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
Joseph Campbell

In the inward journey the mind begins to connect with deeper levels of knowing and being. As a consequence, in your daily life activities you become more fully who you are instead of being a passive victim of external conditioning and tensions. Your intuition is sharpened and your self esteem and capacity for love is deepened.

There is no argument these days about the desirability of including some stress management strategy into ones daily life. Gymnasiums in particular have become very fashionable places in which to chill out after work. In keeping with our ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’ conditioning strenuous physical activity is perhaps the most popular choice when it comes to the release of tension in our body and mind.

As an overall tonic however, the most beneficial one in my view is a daily practice of yoga nidra and /or meditation. Given its many benefits, including ease and convenience, yoga nidra surely deserves to be a more important feature of our stress manage management palette of activities, at least as an optional extra.

The Buddha is said to have been asked one day if he was God. He replied ‘No I am not God’. He was then asked if he was some angelic being and again he said ‘no’. ‘What are you then?’ he was asked. He replied ‘I am awake’.

The primary aim of spiritual practices is surely to awaken us to our true nature. I can pay no greater compliment to yoga nidra than to say that it serves that end uniquely, powerfully and painlessly.