Yoga Nidra is one of the most relaxing forms of yoga, making it a great practice to help you develop better sleep habits. For many, good sleep is affected by busy lifestyles, poor health habits, overall stress levels and other external factors. Whereas a number of forms of yoga can help with these issues, Yoga Nidra is an easy start for beginners. This version of yoga does not involve heated rooms or holding difficult poses for extended periods of time. Instead, the entire session requires its recipient to only lie down and breathe.
Yes, that's it! Yoga Nidra is similar to a guided meditation, in the way that most of the process happens in the mind, which in turn calms the body.
How Does Yoga Nidra Help Sleep?
Even just a short Yoga Nidra meditation just before bed can greatly help in falling asleep. Our minds can be running or we may be feeling exhausted to the point of stress when it comes time for bed. Many people experience lower quality sleep in these cases, because the entire body is not fully at rest for a long enough period of time.
Finding ways to bring down your energy levels before bed can greatly help. Reducing screen time and not eating heavily before bed can produce this kind of relaxing effect on the body and mind. Add on a nightly routine by incorporating elements from our Be Calm Altyr Toolkit.
Yoga Nidra lowers your energy through intention and proven relaxation techniques. This yoga practice induces peace, deep relaxation, and rest states for the brain.
Understanding Brain States
Our brains operate in five states depending on what time of day it is and what we are doing. These states can be observed on an EEG. Essentially, each state is a different frequency range and affects the nervous system in different ways. We’ll discuss them all briefly but it is the theta and delta brain wave states that primarily Yoga Nidra helps for sleep.
Gamma waves are responsible for higher processing and cognitive function. Things like memory, learning, and perception occur in this waking state. This is also the highest frequency state, between 40 and 100 Hz. Too much gamma and we get anxious, and too little, depressed. Meditation is a great way to increase gamma waves and promote optimal cognition and REM sleep.
Beta waves, between 12 and 40 Hz, are most commonly attributed to waking life. When we are awake, we handle most of our tasks that require thought and logic, and our ability to focus on them is correlated to our beta wave state. Too much beta may produce anxiety or stress while too little pay results in lowered cognition or poor focus. Many use coffee or other stimulants to increase beta waves.
Alpha waves bridge the conscious and subconscious mind, between 8 and 12 Hz. This state helps center us and calm us in times of stress. Too many alpha waves may produce daydreaming or a lack of focus while too few can lead to stress and insomnia. To increase alpha waves, enjoy something that makes you relax and wind down.
Theta waves are slow, between 4 and 8 Hz, and occur during daydreaming and sleep. They help us feel emotions and connect with our intuition. This hypnotic state is associated with creativity, emotional connection, and deep rest. Too much theta can lead to inattentiveness and hyperactivity and too little can cause stress or anxiety.
The delta brain wave state is the slowest and associated with deep sleep. Delta waves, between 0 and 4 Hz, are deeply relaxing and restorative. Too much of this state, especially in our early years, can lead to brain injury or learning disabilities while too little may leave us unable to revitalize ourselves.
Altyr-ed States of Consciousness
Both theta and delta wave states are associated with deep and restorative states, something Yoga Nidra helps us achieve easily. By increasing theta and delta production in our minds, our bodies and minds can begin to reach those relaxed states, dropping deeper into healing, dream states, and profound yogic sleep.
When we are able to access these deep parts of ourselves, the healing experiences we may have are limitless. We access parts of our subconscious mind that we ordinarily tend to ignore during our waking states. By allowing ourselves to sink into them, our mind and body can communicate in ways they had not regularly been able to.
Experiencing Yoga Nidra under the guidance of a certified ALTYR practitioner can help open these gateways and allow for deeper mind body exploration.
While Yoga Nidra may look simple from the outside, it’s what’s going on on the inside that really matters. By allowing this time in space for your body to relax and heal, you are caring for a part of yourself that can often get neglected during your busy life. By nurturing these powerful brain states, we can maximize their effects on our body, mind and spirit. Getting good sleep leads to a happier, more productive waking life, full of energy and inspiration.