Yoga nidra is the practice of psychic sleep. It’s not 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 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.
Practicing yoga nidra provides the following health benefits.
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 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.
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.
Pro Tip: Take this step further by awakening other physical sensations, such as imagining the body hot and cold, or imagining pain and pleasure.
Pro Tip: Slowly guide your students out of Savasana, mindfully and gently. Have them reflect on their resolve before opening their eyes.
Explain the importance of the resolve. You might give your students a couple of examples so that they understand it should be simple, short, and in the present tense. Guide them toward repeating the resolve at the end of the practice and reflecting upon it just before coming out of yoga nidra.
As they’re lying down and deeply relaxed, some students may fall asleep. This isn’t ideal—yoga nidra is meant to be a state of “sleepless” sleep. Counter this by reminding them throughout the practice to remain awake with intermittent instructions, such as “remain alert,” “do not sleep,” and “tell yourself ‘I am awake.’”
Educate your students on the benefits of yoga nidra. Let them know that it’s more than a long Savasana but brings profound physical and spiritual relaxation and heals the subconscious.