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Yoga Styles 101: An Introduction to Yoga Nidra

by Alberto G. Güitrón

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Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that has gained popularity over the past few years. 

Also known as “yogic sleep”, Yoga Nidra is aimed to achieve deep physical, emotional, and mental relaxation. For that, you’ll go inwards and become aware of every part of your body. After one Nidra session, you’ll experience more relaxation than you would with any other type of yoga!

Sounds like a yoga style you’d like to try and possibly teach to others? Everyone can practice it, but if you want to be introduced to this fascinating style by experienced teachers and surrounded by beautiful landscapes, there’s a great selection of  Yoga Nidra Teacher Training you can enroll in.

Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look at Yoga Nidra, one of the most effective techniques to achieve complete relaxation.

But first, what is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is the practice of accessing the deep unconscious mind through guided meditation. It differs from other yoga styles in many aspects. First, the only pose you’ll be doing in Nidra is Savasana (corpse pose), which means you won’t be performing any physical exercise per se. However, you’ll be working on deeper states of your conscience.

Second, during a Yoga Nidra session, you’ll detach yourself from concepts like time and space, which will allow you to reduce brain activity and consequently start healing, removing toxins from your cells, refreshing the mind, and getting rid of emotional baggage.

Just like in deep sleep, the body and mind are completely relaxed, but the difference is that, while sleeping, your consciousness fades and it’s impossible to remember what happened; in Nidra, you’re observing everything. Therefore, Nidra isn’t just a relaxation technique but more a state of consciousness.

History of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra history

The history of Yoga Nidra can be complicated, as there’s much controversy about its origins.

The Sanskrit word Yoganidrā breaks down into “yoga” and “nidrā” (sleep), but there isn’t a unified agreement about the general meaning. And while some claim that is an ancient practice with roots that can be traced back to Sankhya philosophy, others disagree.

They say that although the term first appears in the Mahābhārata and later in the Puranas, it’s not describing a technique, but rather a particular god’s transcendental sleep. So, for them, Nidra is a modern relaxation technique created in the early sixties by Swami Satyananda.

For those who believe that Yoga Nidra is as old as yoga itself, Swami Satyananda is just the man who made it popular. It all happened when he adopted the Tantra practice of Nyasa Kriya, removed the Sanskrit mantras and made it accessible to everyone.

Today, Yoga Nidra is practiced worldwide and sometimes in clinical medicine is recommended for patients with menstrual abnormalities, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

Elements of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra elements

Yoga Nidra can be practiced any time, the session can be as short as 15 minutes (or it can last up to an hour), making it one of the easiest yoga practices to incorporate into your everyday life.

In Yoga Nidra, you’ll be guided with a systematic meditation to move through 8 different stages. The sequence can vary from teacher to teacher, but in general, it starts with you laying down on your back and finding stillness. Then, you’ll set an intention for the practice, a short statement that you’ll mentally repeat a few times as you focus on your breath.

The next part of the practice is very characteristic of Nidra: you’ll be asked to go inwards by being aware of every part of your body and follow the teacher’s instructions. There will also be a specific moment to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain to integrate opposite emotions.

Getting closer to the end of the session, you’ll be guided to visualize certain images and to remember the intention you set at the beginning of the practice. Afterward, you’ll gradually return to your natural state.

According to the Pancha Maya kosha system, there are 5 koshas (layers of the body). The first layer is Anna Maya Kosha (physical body), the second is Prana Maya Kosha (energy body), the third is Mana Maya Kosha (mental and emotional body), the fourth is Vijnana Maya Kosha (wisdom body) and the fifth is Ananda Maya Kosha (bliss body).

On a yoga Nidra session, you’ll go through the five koshas of your being. First, the body layer will be addressed as you scan your body; then, with breath awareness, you’ll connect with your energy body (Pranamaya); afterward, the focus on opposite sensations will stimulate your mental and emotional body; finally, the silence will help you nourish the layer of wisdom, as well as the bliss body, which is the experience of the soul itself.


Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra benefits

Yoga Nidra offers many benefits, especially when practiced regularly, starting with the fact that it's scientifically proven to lower stress.

During the practice of Nidra, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and the body functions become minimal, allowing the nervous system to relax and the hormonal function to increase.

You’ll train your mind and body to relax and enter a sleep-like state, which is believed to help you fall asleep faster and deeper when necessary. Plus, more sleep equals better health. 

It also improves memory as you’ll stimulate the functioning of the right hemisphere, which translates to better retention of information.

Moreover, it improves concentration since you’ll try to remain focused on the teacher's instructions and switch your awareness to different parts of your body.

If that’s not enough, a 2016 study showed that Yoga Nidra has positive effects on the menstrual cycle and psychological well-being. It helps to balance the functioning of the endocrine system, toning up the nervous system and reducing psychological problems. Some of the metabolic effects of Yoga Nidra include long-term decreased cortisol secretion and decreased thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Lastly, Yoga Nidra gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself by creating a safe space to become aware of your thoughts, accept them and let them go.

Who should practice Yoga Nidra?


Considering the benefits of Yoga Nidra, anybody looking for less stress and a calmer state of mind should join the practice. However, those suffering from insomnia, pain or tension in the body, hormonal imbalance, or depression, would greatly benefit.

And if you’re just looking forward to reconnecting with your inner being and experiencing a higher state of consciousness, this is definitely a good yoga style for you!

*Cover image credit: Yoga Vidya Mandiram

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