I Did Yoga Nidra Every Day for 2 Weeks. Here's What Happened

I Did Yoga Nidra Every Day for 2 Weeks. Here's What Happened

Yoga Nidra, also called Yogic Sleep, is as old as Yoga itself. It is a thousand year old meditation and relaxation technique from India that works by taking you to the border state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. 

I recently completed a 14-day Yoga Nidra challenge. Ready to learn about this deep relaxation technique? I'll cover the method, benefits, and how to get started with your own practice.

HOW I DID IT

For those new to Yoga Nidra, a key difference from other meditation techniques is the posture. Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down in a supremely comfortable position, with your eyes closed. The meditation involves systematically scanning your body part by part, following a guided instruction.

Every day I practiced Yoga Nidra between 4 and 40 minutes each session. On average, I meditated for 20 minutes, mostly at bedtime. I did Yoga Nidra in the morning or afternoon on days when I was going out because this practice is not recommended with alcohol or any other mind altering substances.

Update: Since I first wrote this article and continued with my meditation practices, I have stopped drinking alcohol and have been happily alcohol free for over a year.

My Yoga Nidra Setup

I used various guided Yoga Nidra recordings, with and without visualizations: from YouTube, some of my favorite yoga teachers and on a free version of the Insight Timer app.

  • Finding the Right Fit: I tried different guided Yoga Nidra recordings, with and without visualizations, from various sources – YouTube, my trusted yoga teachers, and the free version of the Insight Timer app.This helped me find what works best for me.
  • Exploring Advanced Techniques: In some sessions, I practiced Chidakasha – focusing on the inner space in the middle of the forehead behind the Ajna Chakra (third eye) and observing whatever may show up on the inner screen. This can be more challenging, so it's definitely not necessary for beginners!
  • Keeping it Simple: I skipped advanced visualizations and setting specific Sankalpas (intentions). While they can be powerful, I prefer a simple approach for deeper relaxation. My go-to intention is "I am deeply relaxed, calm, and peaceful."

THE LEARNINGS AND INSIGHTS

  • The benefits were pretty much immediate: I noticed an increase in my energy level, focus and ability to get more things done while having more fun in the process.
  • My anxiety went down and I felt more calm.
  • I read that a 30-minute Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to 2-4 hours of quality sleep. While it does not fully replace sleep, I did notice that I needed less sleep than I normally do, while my energy was staying high throughout the day. I was waking up before the alarm and 6 hours of sleep felt sufficient.
  • I found that Yoga Nidra is the best way to fall asleep when I struggled with insomnia or woke up at night. I would just put my favorite noise-cancelling headphones on and played the recording.
  • Yoga Nidra went deeper after a physical activity. My deepest sessions were after surfing or lifting at the gym.
  • Increased Synchronicity: Various lucky events started to occur here and there without me doing anything special. I was just going about my day as usual.
  • Involuntary body movements: they do happen! It’s a known phenomenon one may experience during spiritual practices such as Yoga Nidra, meditation or breathwork. I felt muscle spasms and twitches in my legs. They say those are energetic releases of unresolved tension or energy blocks stored in the body. Felt a bit creepy and funky at first, but I just observed and let it do its thing. There was a sense of deep, profound peace afterwards.
  • Yoga Nidra + alcohol is a bad idea. During my 2-week experiment, I was especially sensitive to negative effects of alcohol on my overall well-being. Even a couple of drinks on the weekend felt like I was slightly poisoned the next day. It took me some time to get there, but I have been happily alcohol free for over a year following the experiment.
  • Experiencing the deep peace in a gap of nothingness. Yoga Nidra works by taking us into conscious sleep states, progressively moving through the same brainwave states as sleep, until eventually we disengage from the thoughts and self identification. It feels like completely letting go of the sense of self for a moment and becoming no one, nowhere. It is similar to what Dr Joe Dispenza, a famous meditation teacher and neuroscientist, describes as one of the key elements of his method.
  • Yoga Nidra is regenerative meditation. It works like an antioxidant for stress and can potentially have anti-aging effect on the body. When you enter  deeper state of Yoga Nidra, somewhere between Theta and Delta brainwave states, this is where true healing and recovery begin.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to find a growing body of scientific research that recognizes Yoga Nidra as a useful practice for the holistic treatment of both physical and mental illnesses. 

For example, according to this sleep EEG research, Theta and Delta activity tend to decrease as we age, and the tendency to stay in upper Alpha increases. "Yoga Nidra can help reverse this tendency and the sleep problems that can result. In Delta states of Yoga Nidra, human growth hormone is released, which enables the growth and regeneration of all the organs in the body, including the brain," Kamini Desai, PhD and yoga nidra authority, writes in her book Yoga Nidra: the Art of Transformational Sleep.

Yoga Nidra the Art of Transformational Sleep the Book

Can Yoga Nidra have real anti-aging benefits?

While we are still in the early stages of researching and understanding the long term effects of Yoga Nidra and other mindfulness practices, there's a strong neuroscience evidence that suggests that it helps us better manage stress. Chronic stress leads to physical and mental health problems so by learning deep relaxation in Yoga Nidra, we train our minds to regulate stress better. Delta brainwave states also reduce the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the system. Cortisol accelerates the aging process so the reduction of cortisol can reduce the rate at which we age.

Bottom line, learning to relax the body is powerful and Yoga Nidra is one of the best techniques for mastering the art of non-doing and simply being. I would recommend it as a daily mental wellness habit benefiting your health and well-being. 

Read more: The best eco-friendly sustainable yoga mats 

How to get started with Yoga Nidra at Home

Yoga Nidra is about letting go of any control and simply following the voice instructions as you are being guided deeper and deeper into a meditative state. Finding a meditation teacher whose voice you like and that helps you feel more relaxed is a great first step. You can attend a Yoga Nidra session at a local studio or at a wellness retreat like the one we did in Ojai.

Photo: the author is guiding a Yoga Nidra meditation at a retreat.

Can't make it to a yoga studio or retreat? No worries! The beauty of this powerful technique is its accessibility. You can easily learn how to do Yoga Nidra meditation at home and practice it in the comfort of your own bedroom. Here are some guided Yoga Nidra options to get you started:

  1. Find a comfortable quiet place where you won't be disturbed or distracted.
  2. Make yourself supremely comfortable. Lie down on your back in a position that support your body. Use a blanket or pillow under your head or knees for support if necessary. Feel free to use any props that help you relax deeper: an eye mask if practicing during the day, cozy socks, headphones to zone out of external sounds and so on. Make it your personal meditation cocoon leaving everything else aside for the duration of the practice.
  3. Set your intention for the practice: Start by setting an intention for your practice. This could be something like "I release stress and anxiety" or "I feel inner peace and calm."
  4. Listen to the meditation and enjoy your journey within. If you fall asleep, that's okay, simply come back to the sound of your guide's voice.
  5. Come back: As your practice comes to an end, slowly come back to your awareness of your surroundings. Take a few deep breaths and wiggle your toes and fingers.
  6. Rest: Take a few moments to rest in silence and enjoy the benefits of your practice.

Let me know in the comments if you practice or are interested in practicing Yoga Nidra and what your experience has been like. I will continue to incorporate it in my wellness rituals as I do see positive results when practicing consistently.

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