Last updated March 10, 2022
If you’re wanting a break from your yoga mat, but still want to practice yoga—Yoga Nidra may be calling your name.
Similar to other forms of yoga such as Hatha, Anusara and Kundalini, Yoga Nidra focuses on relaxation techniques to promote deep healing and restoration.
Instead of intense heat, or holding various yoga poses, this form of yoga uses one position that doesn’t change—Savasana, or corpse post.
Cozy up in your bed, lie on the couch or create a soft nook on your floor for some ultimate relaxation as you lie down and let your body relax. Allow yourself to slow down, center and set an intention, as these are the first steps in cultivating a practice.
How to Yoga Nidra
Known as yogic sleep or conscious sleep, Yoga Nidra can mimic the effects of several tranquil hours of sleep. In fact, this claim is one of the biggest reasons people have been flocking to try this trending form of yoga.
Unlike other types of yoga which can be self-guided or guided by a teacher, Yoga Nidra is almost always completely guided, helping to quiet the mind and body. It both rejuvenates, restores and relaxes the body by inviting it into a deeply relaxed state that’s both conscious and unconscious.
The catch—you’re not awake, but you’re also not asleep. Instead, you’re floating somewhere in between. It begins by tapping into your awareness as you walk through three yogic steps: Pratyahara, Pranayama and Dharana.
These pave the way for a deeper journey through the five Pancha Maya koshas. Similar to peeling an onion, each of the kosha layers provides deep passage through various parts of your body, soul and mind, ultimately guiding your body into a state of calmness.
What is Yoga Nidra?
During Yoga Nidra, the instructor will typically guide you to your truest self, also known as Atman, using the Pancha Maya koshas from Vedantic philosophy. The journey begins with bringing attention to the physical body, then moving to the subtle body and ending in a conscious sleep at your truest self.
- Annamaya kosha (physical body)
- Pranamaya kosha (energetic field)
- Manomaya kosha (mind)
- Vijnanamaya kosha (intuition and higher body)
- Anandamaya kosha (bliss)
While Yoga Nidra is a powerful tool for relaxation and reducing anxiety, it’s not meditation. Often, these two practices are categorized as interchangeable since they heighten your awareness. This could be further from the case.
The Cleveland Clinic interviewed a yoga therapist, who states, “There are overlaps, but there also are key differences. With Yoga Nidra, you are lying down and the goal is to move into a deep state of conscious awareness sleep, which is a deeper state of relaxation with awareness. This state involves moving from consciousness while awake to dreaming and then to not-dreaming while remaining awake—going past the unconscious to the conscious.”
She continues to explain one of the biggest differences is that Yoga Nidra is very structured and focused on reaching the delta state, while meditation is reaching the theta state. This delta state is reached by actively moving through each of the koshas, which invites you into a deeper state of rest to reach your true self.
Yoga Nidra is multi-layered and has techniques that offer self-exploration thus leading to clearness, peace and tranquility. Whereas meditation involves the exploration of the concentrated state of Dharana and Dhyana. Here the mind is focused on an internal object, phase or breath leading into the state of Dhyana—a state of awareness, yet pure bliss.
Powerful method of relaxation
The absolute best part of Yoga Nidra is that it’s easy to take on the road and is an excellent tool to help you sleep away from home. Download a meditation app or type in “bedtime Yoga Nidra” on YouTube and you’ll find a plethora of options to help you get some blissful zzz’s and recover during your trip.
There’s no equipment required. The only requirement is to keep an open and flexible mind as you practice Yoga Nidra. You may come to find the euphoria of this powerful practice is exactly what your body has been craving.