This type of yoga will help you sleep
If savasana is your jam, you’ll love what I’m about to share with you.
Two words: yoga nidra.
What is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is the yoga of sleep. But you aren't really sleeping. Instead you are in between sleep world and awake world in a light state of pratyahara.
Pratyahara is one of the eight limbs of yoga as described in the Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Patanjali translates as "withdrawal of the senses." When your senses are withdrawn, your awareness is acutely drawn inward. The one sense keeping you connected by a thread to reality is hearing, as you're listening to your host guide you through the nidra. That being said, I haven't remembered much of anything that was said during a yoga nidra.
As a side note, one thing I find kind of funny is that people who snore say they can hear themselves snoring and are aware of it. Weird, right? You're aware, but you're sort of asleep, too.
Speaking of snoring, are you still with me? I want to tell you more about this awesome practice.
The first time I did yoga nidra was at the end of my teacher training. After staying up late studying for the final exam, we all needed some quality rest. The instructor led us through 60 minutes of yoga nidra while her son played a lotus drum. It was rad. It was the most refreshing nap I’ve ever taken. But it wasn’t really a nap. I wasn’t really sure what had happened, I just knew I really liked it.
I did it again shortly after at the Kansas City Yoga Festival. The music wasn’t live and the group was much larger, but the experience was much the same. I was conscious? I think? Or was I?
The yoga nidra experience.
Here’s the best way I can describe the not-really-asleep-but-not-really-awake experience: You know that one time (or more than one — I won’t judge) in college when you woke up hungover and you had that moment when you weren’t really sure where you were or what happened and oh my gosh why the heck are there Skittles everywhere?
It’s kind of like that, but take away the weird Skittles thing and replace the hangover part with a more euphoric feeling.
It’s like you wake up but you’re not really sure what happened and whether or not you were asleep at all. You can recall things but it’s kind of blurry. And you feel strangely relaxed. Like you took a magic awake potion that’s much more effective (and less jittery) than coffee.
At least that's been my experience. Some people actually do fall asleep and I'm sure others have very different experiences. But I've never heard anyone say they didn't like it and I think most of us could use some rest (our bodies and our minds).
Yoga nidra treats loads of things like PTSD and anxiety.
When I saw that Richard Miller, PhD would be leading a yoga nidra workshop at the Yoga Journal LIVE! conference in San Francisco, I signed up quickly. I had to learn more. And I wanted to be able to teach this magic.
Here’s some information about his yoga nidra technique from his website:
iRest, one of the principal programs offered by IRI, is a research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation and meditative inquiry that:
- releases negative emotions and thought patterns
- calms the nervous system
- develops a deep capacity to meet any and all circumstances you may encounter in life
Research has shown that iRest effectively reduces:
- Chronic pain
- Chemical dependency
That’s pretty powerful stuff, right? So powerful in fact that Richard Miller has been hired by the military to help treat PTSD. You see, sometimes these patients can’t sleep. Yoga nidra helps give their body the rest it needs without actually requiring them to fall asleep.
Want to try it?
Take a class.
If you do a quick Google search for yoga nidra in your area, you’ll likely find something. These are usually special events or monthly classes rather than daily or even weekly classes.
If you’re in the Kansas City area, Sami Aaron and Patricia Gray from Being Onto Something led the yoga nidra at the Kansas City Yoga Festival, and they have more information on their website. They also have a calendar of events here.
But really, the in-person experience is better. If you have an opportunity to do a yoga nidra — take it! You may not know what happened but if your experience is anything like mine, you'll dig it.
Plus, it's a totally legal way to get high without any weird side effects. WIN.
Namaste, sleepy yogis.
My animals are the cutest