Yoga nidra (or yoga sleep state) is a powerful guided relaxation practice that can act as a natural stress reliever. Each time you practice yoga nidra, you’re stilling the waves of the mind through conscious entry into the sleep state. It’s a guided practice which takes us down into a deep brain-wave state, one that can’t be reached through conventional sleep.
While the practitioner rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation takes you through the (five layers of self). We start with sensing the body and breathing deeply to trigger our relaxation response. The relaxation response balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and balances the left and right brain. In the process, our brain shifts from beta, an awakened state with lots of brain activity, to alpha, a more relaxed state. In alpha, the mood-regulating hormone serotonin gets released, and this calms us down. People who spend little time in an alpha state have more anxiety than those who spend more time in alpha. Think of it like charging up the battery on your phone, if you want it to work properly you need to take time to charge it up. Shifting your brain from beta to an alpha state, starts a process of “powering down but re-charging,” or coming into a rest state with slower, restorative brain-wave activity. Thus, while in yoga nidra, there are some complex things going on at a neurological level and there are many benefits . Yoga nidra helps shift your brain into the zone between sleeping and waking states, which helps cells regenerate and repair and decrease anxiety and improve our mood. It’s like your body sleeps while your mind remains conscious and clear, but recharges. In our culture, very few people are going into these deep states of alpha, theta or delta on a regular basis. Many don’t sleep well at all and stay in the beta states, leaving them in higher thinking, or over thinking mode, which leave us tired, drained and depleted. Consequently, our bodies are not powering down and not getting the chance to restore themselves.
Brainwave studies show higher alpha, delta and theta brainwave power in those who practice yoga nidra. It means that they have learned to shift their brain waves from beta, (high levels of thought), to alpha and will be more relaxed when they need to. Studies show when in this state emotional integration and release happen here, and structures in the brain change. It helps cells regenerate and repair and decrease anxiety and improve our mood. It’s a restorative state in which our organs regenerate, and the stress hormone cortisol is removed from our system. When individuals are put under anaesthesia, they are put into a delta brain-wave state. People in comas are also in a delta brain-wave state, as this gives their bodies a chance to restore their systems and promote wellbeing.