Yoga Nidra translates to Yogic Sleep, but paradoxically it isn’t about sleeping, it’s about exploring different states of consciousness so we can wake up, so, Yogic Sleep is about Awakening.
Yoga Nidra describes a meditative state that is accessed between waking and sleeping, a state of consciousness between stages of awareness. It’s also known as ‘Conscious Sleeping’.
The timeless Upanishads, written around 3000 years a go in India, discussed consciousness in detail and explored the four states of consciousness.
The four states of consciousness:
2) Sleeping and dreaming
3) Sleeping and no dreams
4) Turiya – pure consciousness
The Mandukya Upanishad describes the “fourth state of consciousness” Turiya:
“Not with consciousness turned inward, not with consciousness turned outward, not with consciousness turned both ways, not a mass of consciousness, not conscious, not unconscious, folk consider the fourth to be unseen, in-viable, un-sizeable, sign-less, unthinkable, unnameable, its essence resting in the one self, peaceful, gracious without duality…”
It is Turiya that can be experienced in Yoga Nidra, or Turiya which can be expressed and experienced via Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra in terms of a guided session then is an exploration of consciousness; a form of guided relaxation and similar in nature to a guided meditation. It will usually be taken while lying down unless that isn’t possible then instead, seated comfortably.
The session is designed to assist the student to know that state of ‘yoga nidra’ and will guide the participant on a meditative journey, touching upon varying techniques to move through the states of consciousness, not fully awake or fully asleep, somewhere in-between.
This in-between space traversed while in Yoga Nidra has many beneficial qualities.
As we enter Yoga Nidra our brain waves can enter the ‘pre-sleep hypnagogic state’ – the transitional phase between waking and sleeping. It combines both Theta (REM sleep) and Alpha (Waking) states of consciousness. The brain can also reach Delta waves, which are the slowest brainwaves which are reached in dreamless sleep and deep meditation, a healing and regenerative space to be.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra include, but are not limited to:
• Stress relief
• Deep relaxation
• Decreases anxiety
• Increases awareness
• Emotional regulation
• Achieves homeostasis
• Calms the nervous system
• Improves endocrine system
• Promotes self-love and compassion
• Boosts creativity and inspiration
• Unblocks emotions and chakras
• Deepens relational connections
• Promotes optimal deep sleep
• Nurturing self and inward focus
• Fosters empathy and kindness
• Improves focus and memory boost
+ Yoga Nidra is an accessible form of guided meditation/relaxation, suitable for beginners
+ A Yoga Nidra session can be comparable to a few hours of deep REM sleep
The term Yoga Nidra was first used in the Mahabharata to describe Vishnu’s sleep between the Yugas (the Ages of Time). It’s also the name of a goddess who was asked by Bhrama (creator god) to wake Vishnu (protector god) so he could fight his enemies.
So when the term was first used it wasn’t a practise or technique but part of the Devas.
In Shivite and Buddhist tantric texts, Yoga Nidra is described as a place beyond words, a place to receive secret knowledge.
Ancient Yogic texts have used the term interchangeably with the term Samadhi, the state of bliss which can be achieved through Yoga.
The Yoga Taravali describes Yoga Nidra as a 4th state of consciousness – a state that arises.
Satyananda from the Bihar School of Yoga says he devised the practise, a way to access the 4th state that arises we know as Yoga Nidra and this was made widely and publicly known in the 1970’s.
Yuli is a registered Yoga Nidra Teacher, Yoga Nidra (40+ hours), accredited by Yoga Alliance Professionals. She has over 2000 hours of teaching experience having taught for 4+ years.