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Yoga Nidra 101: The Practice of Psychic Sleep

Two yogis rest in corpse pose as they experience yoga nidra.

Yoga nidra is an ancient practice that has long offered its participants a myriad of benefits. At its most basic definition, yoga nidra is the practice of psychic sleep. It’s not technically an asana, but a conscious state that flirts on the border of sleep.

 Deep transformation can happen in yoga nidra because you can set a resolve that permeates into the subconscious through the practice, bringing powerful potential for healing and self-growth.

Yoga nidra is sort of like a very long Savasana (Corpse pose). Here, you lie on your back, get comfortable, close your eyes, and settle in.

However, yoga nidra is a much longer practice and can sometimes last for an hour. And you are not left in silence, but guided through the practice by a teacher who directs your awareness throughout your body, breath, senses, emotions, and to archetypal imagery.

The 7 Stages of Yoga Nidra

  1. Make a resolve or affirmation.
  2. Rotate your consciousness throughout the annamaya kosha (physical body).
  3. Bring attention to the breath to connect to the pranamaya kosha (pranic body).
  4. Become aware of sensory input to tap into the manomaya kosha (mind body).
  5. Direct your attention to the chakras and psychic symbols to connect to the vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual body).
  6. Repeat your resolve to connect to the anandamaya kosha (bliss body).
  7. Gradually return to your normal level of consciousness, concluding the practice.

Making an Affirmation

The affirmation used in yoga nidra goes far beyond positive thinking. It should be a resolve for your betterment and a short sentence that you want and believe will surely come true.

It should be the same each time you practice, too. Something like “my body is healthy” would be great for someone who’s sick, or “I am lovable” for someone who’d like to improve their self-love. 

And it should be in the present tense. Our resolve settles into the subconscious through the practice of yoga nidra, enabling deep and profound changes in your self-perception and the body.

Why Practice Yoga Nidra?

Practicing yoga nidra can be incredibly beneficial–not just to your practice but to your mind, body, and overall health. Some say that practicing yoga nidra or psychic sleep can provide the following health benefits:

  • Brings deep relaxation
  • Withdraws the senses (pratyahara)
  • Resolves bad habits
  • Releases body tension
  • Helps you fall asleep
  • Brings connection to the inner self
  • Taps into the subconscious
  • Can aid in physical healing

What is the Perfect Timing for Yoga Nidra? 

Yoga nidra can be practiced at any time, except right after eating, as you may be more inclined to fall asleep then.

You may consider practicing in the morning, after asana or meditation, or before you go to sleep. It makes a nice prelude to sleep by relaxing the body and unwinding the mind for deeper, more restful slumber.

Yoga nidra, as practiced by the yogi in this image, is a practice in psychic sleep.

The Step-by-Steps of Yoga Nidra 

Yoga nidra is typically a guided practice. Below you’ll find the skeleton of a full yoga nidra session. Repeat instructions and elaborate as needed.

Use a chanting-like tone that is smooth and affectionate.

Give a pause between each instruction and don’t be afraid to repeat. Your students will drift in and out of consciousness. When directing their awareness around the physical body, do so quickly—just long enough for them redirect their attention and mentally recite the body part name.

A Guide to Yoga Nidra Practice 

1. Lie down on your back for the practice of yoga nidra. Bring your feet as wide as your mat. Rest your arms by your sides, away from your body, and palms facing the sky. Get completely comfortable. Adjust yourself so that you are comfortable on the floor. Close your eyes. Now find stillness. Do not move throughout the practice of yoga nidra. Keep your body still and relaxed. Release any tension from your body and find complete relaxation.

2. Stay awake throughout the practice of yoga nidra. Tell yourself, “I will not sleep. I will remain awake.” Simply follow my voice throughout the practice but do not try to intellectualize my words. Kindly follow my voice as I guide your consciousness throughout your body.

Now decide upon a resolve. Find a simple resolve, an affirmation. Find a resolve for yourself. Choose a resolve in the present tense. It should be clear, direct, and simple. This resolve will surely come true in your real life. It is bound to happen in your own life. Fix your resolve and use this resolve now and at the end of the yoga nidra practice. Now mentally repeat your resolve, knowing that it will most certainly fructify.

3. Bring your awareness to your physical body and become aware of your physical body. Remind yourself, “I am listening to the instructions, I am awake.” Follow my voice as I guide your awareness to different parts of the body and bring your full awareness to each specific area. Do not concentrate too much but move your mind quickly. If I move too quickly, don’t worry, direct your awareness where you next hear my voice.
After I say a body part, mentally repeat the name of that body part. Right thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, fifth finger, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist, hip, thigh, knee, calf muscle, ankle, heel, sole of the foot, right big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe. (Then repeat on the left side.)

Pro Tip: Depending on how much time you have, you can follow the structure of right side, left side, backside, and front; getting as detailed as you like with the inner parts of the body such as organs and tongue.

4. Feel your body get very heavy. Awaken the feeling of heaviness throughout your body. Become aware of your whole body heavy on the floor. Now awaken the feeling of lightness. Feel your body being very light. Feel each part of the body very light. Repeat to yourself, “I am not sleeping.”

Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier helps women to bring their bodies back into balance, whether they’re struggling with hormonal imbalances, period problems, digestive troubles, skin conditions, anxiety, depression, preparing for or recovering from giving birth, or any other dis-ease. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in ayurveda: a holistic system of healing from ancient India. Julie is a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) as well as a Certified Massage Therapist. She studied each of these modalities in the US and straight from the source in India. Connect with Julie at trueayurveda.com or on IG at @juliebernier.