How is your sleep going? Do you sometimes find yourself over-working and getting by on minimal hours of sleep just to ‘maintain’ yourself? Or are you unable to sleep due to restless thoughts and over-stimulation of the mind? Do you lie awake at night, unable to shut down persistent mental images, replaying pictures of the days events and imaginings? How about waking up groggy and feeling unrested? You are in luck! What is to be revealed in the next few paragraphs is an easily implemented ancient yogic technique which will show you how to get four hours of deep sleep in only one.
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? I thought the same thing when I first heard about this simple sleep practice, but after trying it out myself and teaching it to others for years and years with amazing results I have become a true believer. The practice is called Yoga Nidra. If you have read my previous articles, you may remember it being touted as a potential aide for Post Tramatic Stress Disorder, weight loss, unlocking childhood genius and various other body and mind afflictions. These claims are true, but what is even more amazing is the versatility of this practice and the speed at which practitioners notice dramatic, life-changing results.
What is it?
The word ‘nidra’ is Sanskrit for ‘sleep’, loosely translated, yoga nidra means ‘conscious sleep practice.’ It is named as such because the guided meditation takes you into deep sleep states and is meant to train the conscious mind to remain aware while diving deep into the different levels of dream and sleep states. When this occurs, the brain and body are relaxed completely and the benefits of sleep are realized, but in a much shorter time span.
The amazing thing about this simple practice is its ability to not only accomplish what a good portion of the night does for many people in a short period of time, it goes further by providing deep healing, release of negative mental patterns and emotional disbondage from events that have haunted one for possibly years.
How does it do this?
Yoga nidra affects the body/mind much like hypnosis, but without making one unconscious. Instead, it leads the conscious mind to navigate different brain wave patterns like alpha, theta and delta – though alpha is the targeted state of yoga nidra. Swami Shantimurti Saraswati explains the different brain wave states in relation to yoga nidra like this:
Beta is a function of wakeful consciousness. It is agitating and it keeps the nervous system on edge. It is also the aging frequency; it dries you out.
Alpha is a deeply relaxed brainwave pattern when the nervous system begins to relax and the Autonomic systems kick in. You get the chance to really rejuvenate and rest.
It is possible to get into the Alpha state quickly by sitting quietly for five minutes, by breathing in and out of the Anahata Chakra(heart center). This breath has the affect of bringing the mind out of the head and into the body.
The Theta state usually occurs during sleep – it is the dream state. It is a dynamic state, but where consciousness of the physical body is lost. People realize they were dreaming when they wake up. People often thrash around in their sleep during this state. It is an important state for well-being as emotional tensions are released in this pattern.
Most dreaming involves the releasing of emotional stress and tension, but people can occasionally get prophetic dreams (dreams that predict the future) when the barriers of the mind come down and cosmic consciousness enters.
Delta is the state of unconscious sleep where the mind has no basis and consciousness has gone with the disengagement of the mind.
So, Yoga Nidra takes a person’s mind through all of the rejuvenating brainwave patterns that would occur in an ideal night’s sleep. Today’s busy western existence often doesn’t allow for this which is why deeply relaxing practices such as Yoga Nidra can make such a difference for people.
As Swami ji mentions, our society does not allow for many of us to obtain an adequate night of restful sleep, in fact many of us ‘sleep’ the whole night without truly ever resting the body and mind. How many of you have gone to bed, fell asleep and had dreams of being at work all night, only to wake up and have to ‘actually’ go- again, back to this same place? The mind never fully ‘relaxed’ or released the days events and was still in need of processing such information. Yoga nidra, which can be done any time of day, but can be easily implemented as a pre-sleep routine, will change all of that.
It is said, in the above quote, and by other proponents of yoga nidra, that when the subconscious mind is unburdened of worries, stress and processing, the dream world opens up to one where prophecy can be received, visions into the ‘future’ had and guidance received as to what is best to next engage in your life. We are all so used to sleep being a physical resting period alone, few of us really reach the complete relaxed state meant to be achieved by a full night of sleep. With yoga nidra you can get the benefits of four hours of deep sleep in only one hour, allowing the need for less sleep, and more time for other tasks and interests.
Yoga nidra for chronic insomnia
For those suffering from chronic insomnia, who have become dependent on sleep medications which don’t often work, yoga nidra can be a life-saver. Often times sleep medication only works to shut off the conscious mind while allowing the body to continue performing actions without the person being aware. This can be a frightening dilemma to ‘wake up’ to, when noticing that you have been up all night cooking or rearranging the house when you thought you were asleep.
This very situation was the case for a woman I saw who came to practice yoga nidra with me during some class sessions. Over the period of a number of months she relayed her predicament, where she took numerous sleep medications to no real benefit. She was destroying her life, finding herself cooking, cleaning and sometimes even driving unaware. Her chronic insomnia was ruining her life. She found relationships falling apart, jobs lost and sanity slipping. When she discovered and began practicing yoga nidra she immediately had a sense that this could work.
After a period of several weeks of regular practice, she started to notice herself feeling better, sleeping a bit more and not feeling so ‘out of sorts.’ She began to ween herself off of her medication. Now you must understand, this woman felt she hadn’t really had a good night of sleep in several years. So, the fact that after a few weeks only she noticed marked improvement was like a miracle to her. After less than a year she was feeling completely on top of things again, got a great job, moved and found love. To this day she shares the practice that ‘saved her life’ with others as being one of the best self-healing tools she has ever found. She also notes how it has dramatically helped to heal and shape other aspects of her life as well.
For New Moms
For new mothers, I can’t think of a better tool to have on hand than a yoga nidra CD. Those first few months of sleepless nights were a personal torment for me with my first child. I began to wonder how I could ever function again with having received so little sleep in so long and not seeing an end in sight. I remembered the yoga nidra practice I had taught others and the CD I had so often played for my growing baby when in the womb, knowing that the practice can connect a new baby to their ‘genius‘ self. I had been so immersed in new motherhood, I had forgotten about the technique until one night. When I started using the 20 minute practice to start gaining roughly 90 minutes of quality sleep – things immediately improved.
From then on out I vowed to do a yoga nidra practice every time the baby took a nap. My life transformed. I felt better than if I had taken regular naps. I was more energized and I felt that other issues were resolving themselves as well through the practice – a common result.
I have personally seen so many people’s lives transform with the use of yoga nidra practice. The studies are amazing, and more information can be found on in previous articles as well as on the web and in Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s book ‘Yoga Nidra.’ In order to practice, all you need to do is to obtain a guided meditation CD off Amazon and begin. After using one CD for a while, you may want to lengthen the practice or just change it up a bit. In this case, there are intermediate and advanced practices available as well.
How do you get four hours of deep sleep in only one hour? Yoga nidra, that’s how. If you want to get the full four hour benefit, practice one 30 minute CD twice during the day and see the results for yourself.
Written by: Stasia Bliss