Yoga Nidra, also known as ‘psychic sleep’ is a deep relaxation practice from the Indian yoga tradition. We often equate ‘relaxation’ with activities like listening to music or walking in nature, or simply having a quiet time. Relaxation is something we do naturally, and we don’t need any special training or techniques. However, deep relaxation is something very different. It quietens your mind and releases physical tension in your body. In a state of deep relaxation, your heartbeat and breathing slow down, and your body and mind become deeply calm.
Yoga Nidra comes from the Indian yoga tradition. The technique could be described as a lying down form of meditation that uses the whole body as a focus of awareness. Practitioners say that with regular practice, yoga nidra, like meditation, can have profound physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.
Yoga Nidra is not quite the same thing as meditation. In yoga nidra practice you are lying down and the exercises help you move into a semi-hypnotic state, somewhere between being awake and being asleep. During meditation you usually sit with your spine as vertical as possible and remain alert and aware.
You can think of yoga nidra as a way of preparing for meditation; in the yoga tradition it is understood as being a practice of sense withdrawal that prepares you for moving into a state of meditation. It turns your attention inwards and helps your mind and body reach the calm mental state required to meditate effectively.
Meditation does not come easily to busy people. Most people find sitting still and silent for any length of time a huge challenge. It’s particularly hard if your mind is overactive, or your body is tense. Mastering the art of yoga nidra first will help you with this, and to eventually tackle the much greater challenge of relaxing the mind during a sitting meditation practice.