We all know how amazing meditation is for our overall health, yet so many people struggle to practice it consistently (guilty as charged!).
If that’s you, I have some good news. What if I told you there was a way to unlock the powerful healing benefits of meditation without actually having to meditate?
In today’s newsletter, I want to introduce you to a unique spin on meditation that I’ve been into since my college days called yoga nidra, which has many benefits similar to meditation and has been easier for me to incorporate into my schedule based on where I’m at in my life right now.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still a huge fan of meditation (shout-out to my Vedic Meditation teacher, Light Watkins). I have gone through periods where I practiced it consistently, and it’s been super useful for helping to clear out the mental clutter and step into a feeling of inner peace so I can show up strong and ready to do my best work.
However, if I’m being honest, meditation hasn’t been a regular practice for me lately. Rather than beat myself up about it, I have tools that I can lean on for that deep feeling of relaxation and calm—and yoga nidra is one of those tools for me.
What exactly is yoga nidra?
Yoga nidra is literally translated as “sleep yoga.” It’s a short, guided practice that can be done any time of day when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, unfocused, or sluggish.
The goal of yoga nidra is to reset your mind and body by bringing you into a state of relaxation that leaves you feeling energized, refreshed, and rejuvenated, as if you just took a nice, long nap.
In this week’s newsletter, I’m introducing you to the powerful restorative benefits of yoga nidra and answering questions about how to set yourself up for a successful practice. I’m also giving you my tips on what I do to get the most out of my yoga nidra practice.
But before we get into that, I bet you’re wondering…
What’s the difference between yoga nidra and meditation?
With meditation, you’re sitting down and awake, consciously allowing your thoughts to come and go. With yoga nidra, you’re lying down and listening to a soundtrack that prompts your brain to drift between a state of sleep and consciousness.
Meditation and yoga nidra both encourage the body to enter a parasympathetic (aka “rest and digest”) state. Where yoga nidra is a little different is that it allows the brain and body to enter a state of even deeper relaxation that is typically only achieved during REM sleep.
It seems that this combination of relaxation and conscious sleep has an additive effect on our well-being that’s extremely positive.
What are the effects that yoga nidra can have on my mind and body?
- Lowers cortisol levels (1)
- Reduces stress levels and stress intensity (2)
- Reduces anxiety symptoms (3)
- Increases dopamine levels (4)
- Improves sleep quality, sleep onset, and sleep duration (1)
- Can help with insomnia (1)
- Enhances immune function (5)
When is the best time to practice yoga nidra?
I find practicing yoga nidra most helpful when I’m feeling scattered or anxious, or when I hit a wall and can’t focus. If you can practice yoga nidra in the moment you’re feeling this way, great! If that’s not possible you can practice it preventively in the morning, on your lunch break, or at night before bed to bring the benefits mentioned above into the areas of your life when you need it the most.
My favorite time to do yoga nidra is when I have a long day of meetings or podcast interviews and need to take a mid-afternoon break to rest and reset my brain and body. After a yoga nidra session, I come back into my day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated like I just woke up from a solid three-hour nap. (Speaking of naps, yoga nidra is also a great alternative to napping if you aren’t one to take naps during the day!)
Where do you practice yoga nidra?
I typically do yoga nidra lying down on the floor of my office, but you can do it anywhere that works well for you. That could be lying in your bed, on the couch, on the floor, or even on the ground outside—anywhere that you can lie down comfortably in a horizontal position.
How long of a yoga nidra practice do I need to do to feel its effects?
Set aside at least 10-20 minutes for your yoga nidra practice. That will be enough time to come back into your day feeling all of its benefits. If you have the time and can fit it into your schedule, you can do a yoga nidra session that is up to 40 minutes long (see the links below for soundtracks).
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I. Pick a soundtrack. There are plenty of yoga nidra soundtracks out there. You will need to find one that you like and that works best for you. The yoga nidra soundtracks below have a guide that walks you through a full-body scan step by step, focusing on relaxing every part of your body.
- 10-Minute Yoga Nidra Practice: Perfect for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or scattered and only have a small chunk of time, maybe between meetings, to re-center and ground yourself.
- 20-Minute Yoga Nidra Practice: Perfect for when you’re on your lunch break or need a mid-afternoon burst of energy to get through the rest of your day. This is my favorite soundtrack to listen to when I need a reset before jumping into an afternoon of back-to-back meetings.
- 40-Minute Yoga Nidra Practice: Perfect for getting ready for bed or when you have more time available to devote to your practice.
II. My top tips for a successful yoga nidra practice:
- Pick a time in your day where you’re least likely to be disturbed.
- Find a comfortable room or spot to lie down.
- Put some pressure on your eyes—that could be an eye pillow or a t-shirt.
- Prop your head up with a pillow or blanket.
- Wrap a blanket around your feet to keep yourself nice and warm.
- If you fall asleep, that’s okay!
If you’re a believer in the power of meditation but do not practice it regularly, yoga nidra is an incredible alternative you can use to get similar results.
With yoga nidra, you’re getting the deep relaxation and calming benefits of meditation and the healing, restorative benefits of a good night’s sleep at the same time. It’s kind of like therapy for your soul, helping you take a pause and hit the reset button on days when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, tired, or anxious.
The best part? It requires minimal effort, movement, and preparation. All you need is a soundtrack that feels right to you and at least 10 minutes of your time, and you’ll come back into your day feeling more focused, refreshed, energized, and in an all-around better mood.