December 18, 2023

The Science Behind Yoga Nidra and Why You Should Try To Include It In Your Lockdown Routine

Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation, a method of Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) that allows you to scan the body and tap into a state of relaxed consciousness as the mind settles in a place between wakefulness and sleep.

With the current ongoing global situation and its continuing effects upon our daily lives- our nervous system is revved up more than ever. In our new way of living there’s an unusual surge of overstimulation due to our reliance on technology and screens as a means of connection with loved ones and work, and in our efforts to learn, play and entertain ourselves. Therefore our Sympathetic nervous system is continuously switched on. The high levels of fear, stress and worry we are experiencing, results in even more activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

However too much of this can be linked with increased anxiety, poor sleep and general health problems, including a lowered immune system.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra

This practice involves a progressive movement of your awareness as you scan through different parts of the body. As you do this you will mostly likely experience and promote a sense of physical, emotional and mental relaxation. Yoga Nidra relaxes the mind at the same time as relaxing the body and helps us to clear out the nerve pathways to the brain. Through regular practice of Yoga Nidra we can counteract the effect of stress and hyperactivity in the frontal cortex by accessing different parts of the brain that can help us regulate interoceptive awareness, supporting a harmonious, restorative state and a greater balance between the different layers of body and mind (referred to as the Koshas in Yoga Philosophy)

When you start Yoga Nidra, your brain is generally in an active state of beta waves, a natural transitional experience as you start to slow down and press pause on your day. The meditative practice then takes you into an alpha state, the brain wave frequency that links conscious thought with the subconscious mind.

In alpha state Serotonin is released, which helps you to reach a transformational experience of inner calm. From this place fluctuations in the mind start to decrease and you begin to feel more at ease. The body moves into stillness and a deep feeling of tranquillity and relaxation occurs. Following deeper into the practice the brain will then begin to emit delta waves, mimicking what happens when we enter a deep restful sleep. The difference between deep sleep and Yoga Nidra is that you stay awake during this final phase. With such blissful relaxation and awareness, you are able to access your subconscious thoughts and process past memories in the present moment. Repressed and unprocessed grief can loosen their hold, tension and grip, whilst we can learn to find a little more freedom and detachment from unhelpful habits and thought patterns.
The practice
Yoga Nidra starts with the body placed in Savasana. The teacher will direct their students to move and rotate their awareness through the different parts of the body, relaxing each part in turn whilst remaining motionless. Like with any practice of meditation it is important to transition slowly out of it and take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Noticing the after effects on body and mind before you move back into your day.

We recommend that you try to practice Yoga Nidra at least once a week. (Heather and Ellie prefer mid afternoon!) It can be used to reboot your day, allowing the body and mind to recalibrate.

Yoga Nidra at Heather Yoga

We include Yoga Nidra in our 6 week Beginners Mind: An Introduction to Meditation Basics course and we also have our regular workshops such as  Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra, and flowing into Stillness: Vinyasa & Yoga Nidra.