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Yoga Nidra 101 - Is it Meditation and Why Should I Do It?

sleep yoga nidra Nov 04, 2019

Did you ever see "Yoga Nidra" on your list of yoga or gym classes and think what is that? Or maybe you showed up for class ready for a power workout, and they told you to lie on the floor, and you were like, uh, that doesn't burn calories. Well, let's say that Nidra CAN help your weight loss journey, reduce a ton of stress, leave you energized, promote a healing environment for your body, and helps builds space for new ideas and so much more.

 And the best part is that you do nothing but lie down and be super-duper comfy. Sign me up, right? But wait, there is more.



 Hey There, Alexa Z here. And today's show is sponsored by ME and my class "14 Days to Peace," learn to meditate from home in your jammies. If you want to check it out, you can go to and give the first day a free try!

My job is to teach you a bit and motivate you a lot. Today's episode is about Yoga Nidra, one of the least talked about yoga practices that date back to 1000BC.

 By the end of this episode, you are going to be searching to find a place to take a class, and if you can't find one, don't worry because you know I will have a treat for you at the end.

First, let me pay homage to two well-known teachers in the field of the Yoga Nidra technique that you may have heard of: Kamini Desai and Richard Miller. Both amazing professionals, both PHDs and both have excellent books on the topic that I will include in the show notes. The reason I mention them both is because people seem to separate their methods as very different. BUT I am NOT HERE to sell you on either one of them. I am just saying their approaches are a bit different. Still, today, all we care about is the outcome of the practice, and both teachers' results are amazing. Just like any class, you pick the teacher that resonates with you, and you will succeed.

Now I will tell you that I have read their books and done their meditations. But, I am personally trained to teach the method taught by Kamini Desai, so naturally, how I discuss the topic may, from a verbal perspective, sound a bit more Desai like and less Miller like but it doesn't matter for today's episode! Richard's method is called Irest (integrative restoration), and Kamini's is called Integrative Amrit Method. Go ahead and do your research. 

 What is Yoga Nidra – no matter how you look at it, you can't deny it is an ancient practice. It is often referred to as the "art and practice of doing nothing." Why? Because that is all that is required of you to lay down and do nothing but also hopefully without judgment. 

This practice is easy because it is based on something you already know how to do - SLEEP.

Let me describe what the class will look like:

  • Make yourself comfortable and cozy.
  • Follow the guide's voice like watching a movie, aware but not involved.
  • There is a guide. You are silent, and they do the guiding. Unlike regular meditation where you can sit and do it in silence without a guide, Nidra does have a guide.
  • The guide encourages you to leave the thinking mind and enter the being mind or non-doing mind.
  • You attempt to remain awake and aware - this is not easy, and if you doze off, nothing terrible will happen.

 What the guide is doing:

  • Eastern and Western sciences both agree that there is a physical, mental, and energetic state to our being. This guide is taking you through all of these parts of you.
  • Mimicking the path to a restorative state of sleep – the brain waves of sleep Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta
  • However, unlike sleeping and dreaming, which we approach with our unconscious mind in Yoga Nidra, we are staying awake and aware, therefore consciously being a witness to the feelings of those sleepy, dreamy states. Cool right?
  • The techniques are varied, there are many many ways that a class can be designed, but the order is essential. Think of it as first we address the physical body, then mental body, then the energetic body. 
  • You are taking the body into a place of deep restorative rest. Even though at times you may be doing a few things like holding your breath briefly or maybe tensing your limbs, it still is in a manner of non-doing. I kind of think of it as autopilot.
  • In sleep episode (6), we discussed how important it is to have a proper sleep cycle and how hard it is in this crazy world. In Nidra, we do it for you. You follow along; we take you down the wave path to restorative rest.
  • You have heard "heal thyself" that the body is the best healer; what we forget is that we need to give it the proper conditions to do its job.

 Yogis say that 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra is as restorative as three hours of sleep. Now, this doesn't mean you should do three sessions of Nidra, and in 135 minutes, you would get 9 hours or 540 minutes of rest. Do the math lol. But you will feel completely rested and restored after a session. Again, please note, meditation does not replace sleep it just assists in helping with better sleep.

Yoga means union or integration, and in this meditation, think of it as the two hemispheres of your brain are striving for unity. It is amazing. A lot of people ask me if this is like hypnosis, and the answer is no, they are different sciences. Although Yoga Nidra sort of passes through a hypnotic state, we are calming the mind to discover what lies beyond it (the answers lie within, right?), however, we are staying AWAKE. Hypnosis puts the brain into a deep sleep; it inhibits some parts of the brain and activates others.  

 In the absence of doing, energy is allowed to move around. My teacher described it (I will try and do her justice) like something flowing through a pipe. Let say you had a bad divorce, and you really hate your ex. Over time you think you are over it (think water freely flowing through the pipe) then all of a sudden something triggers you and bam a wall goes up right in the middle of the pipe all your anger and insecurities are right there again– you never really cleared the damn, you just knocked it over for a while. Nidra helps clear the blocked pipe for good.

I am going to mention one more thing that makes Nidra unique, and that is the use of Sankalpa, or let's use the word intention. You may hear your teacher ask you at the beginning of class to set an intention and repeat it to yourself a few times like "I am peaceful in the midst of chaos" or "I am free of anger and sadness" Or "I am healthy and strong" I am making these up. Still, the point is as we place our energy on our intentions, we can steer our lives in the direction we want to go. Where our attention goes, energy flows. More often than not, the teacher may not ask you, but in turn, choose a couple that would be nice for the class regarding health, peace, etc. Think of it as placing your attention on what you WANT to put it on, not just letting it go anywhere all willy nilly. I don't want you to overthink this part of Nidra. It is cool and unique, but if you go along for the ride, you will be just fine. Later if you so choose, you can look up Sankalpa and maybe create your own intention.

Remember how in episode 6 we said that sleep gets rid of stress, but when we don't get the proper quality and quantity of sleep, the stress isn't totally cleared, then we start to get a backlog? Think of Nidra as a meditation that is supercharged in clearing that backlog.

I could go on forever and ever, but this is Nidra 101, and truthfully, unless you feel you need to know the nitty-gritty, I think this is all you need to give a try. Any more, and you might start unnecessarily analyzing it.

Why I love it and recommend it to my students in conjunction with seated meditation:

 In my perfect world, I would do my seated meditation every day and Nidra a couple of times a week. Nidra has a lasting effect. There is a wonderful woman who teaches Nidra at my spa once a week. I have heard excellent testimonials from her students, and many of them only do this practice once a week! 

 Seated VS Nidra - When you sit and do meditation, you are calming yourself and your brainwaves. Sometimes it's difficult to relax and get really deep while you are sitting because you might fall off of your chair. The perfect solution is incredibly easy, Nidra. All you have to do is lay down and try to stay awake.

 My take on why it wasn't popular – well, meditation wasn't overly popular either until recently! Plus in a yoga studio, we like to sweat and love to use it as our exercise of the day.

 Bonus: In the show notes I will include a link to one of my own Yoga Nidras for easing anxiety and stress. Give it a try and see how it feel or look in the show notes for other resources. 

You can also check out YouTube and Spotify for ones by Kamini Desai and Richard Miller. 

 Next week we will start to begin our path towards stress-free holidays with an episode on "What is the point a silent retreat and how can you make own and reach vacation like calmness without ever leaving your home" Great to do with friends too.

Signing off from Annapolis, Maryland and the Tator Mobile.

Peace out




 Learn to Meditate Try Day One FREE

Free Yoga Nidra Download  (scroll to middle of the site)

More Nidra with Joan Livingston (This is her youtube channel. We studied together)

More Info on Kamini Desai and Richard Miller


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