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Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast – Episode 37

37: Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up

This episode is about the power of Yoga Nidra.

We’ll start off with an introduction to Yoga Nidra, before looking at Yoga Nidra’s relationship to yoga philosophy. We’ll then dive in to the understanding Yoga Nidra’s impact on the brain wave states, and we’ll finish with a summary of the benefits in the context of everything that we’ve just learned.


Yoga Nidra is such an underrated, powerful, impactful practice. Yoga Nidra, “yogic sleep” is a powerful practice that guides participants into a state of deep relaxation while maintaining a state of heightened awareness. Through systematic and guided meditation, Yoga Nidra leads practitioners into the realm between wakefulness and sleep, allowing them to access a vast reservoir of inner knowledge and healing potential.

Yoga Nidra is well known for being a guided relaxation; the Queen of all repose, a nap, even a substitute for sleep itself. And it *is* all of those things. The thing is; it’s all of those things and much, much more.

As yoga teachers, it’s likely that we’ll attract people to the practice of Yoga Nidra through expounding on the benefit of rest and relaxation, and as such, that’s where much of our focus will lie. However, as yoga teachers it is important that we understand and embody the knowledge that Yoga Nidra is a secret door to liberation.

The Benefits of Yoga Nidra: Your free list of references

There are some huge, wild and bold claims out there about the benefits of Yoga Nidra. And most (if not all!) are probably true! Here are benefits of a sustained practice, and references:

Benefit: Yoga Nidra creates a deep restoration state that triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters including GABA, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, and the hormones DHEA, melatonin and Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

“Effect of meditation on neurophysiological changes in stress mediated depression”

Kasala, Eshvendar Reddy, et al 2014

Benefit: Cortisol and noradrenaline are reduced.
“The Neural Basis of the Complex Mental Task of Meditation” 
Newberg, A and Inversen J 2003

Benefit: The immune system is strengthened.
“Effect of Yoga Nidra on hypertension and other psychological co-relates; Yoga the Science”

Kamakhya, K 2005

Benefit: Reduce feelings of guilt and the tendencies to revert to self-sabotaging patterns.
“Psychological changes as related to Yoga Nidra”
Praktikum, P 2006

Benefit: Yoga Nidra creates positive changes across the following metrics:

  • Ability to manage stress
  • Sleep quality
  • Mental and emotional balance
  • Reduction of unhealthy habits
  • Cravings and impulsive behaviours

“Yoga Nidra, The Art of Transformational Sleep” Kamini Desai

Listen:Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up’ right here:

As always, we would love to know what you think of the Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast, do leave an honest review if you can, or drop us a message @yogahero_teachers

Listen to Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up‘ where you get your podcasts:

Thank you, and happy listening!


Previous Episodes of Yoga Hero: Teachers Podcast

Episode 43: Should yoga teachers care about money?

Episode 42: Should yoga teachers demo while teaching?

Episode 41: Should yoga teachers use Sanskrit?

Episode 40: The business of teaching Yoga Nidra

Episode 39: How to develop a consistent Yoga Nidra practice (even with a busy life)

Episode 38: A Yoga Nidra for yoga teachers

Episode 37: Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up

Episode 36:: How I Became a Full-Time Yoga Teacher

Episode 35: How to Become a Full-Time Yoga Teacher

Episode 34: Balancing having a job and teaching yoga

Episode 33: Balancing Parenting and Teaching Yoga

Episode 32: How to teach yoga workshops

Episode 31: How much to charge for your yoga classes

Episode 30: How to create your yoga brand

Episode 29: How to layer your asana classes with yoga philosophy

Episode 28: What’s your WHY as a yoga teacher

Episode 27: Setting up your own classes as a yoga teacher

Episode 26: How would you teach yoga if you weren’t afraid?

Episode 25: Do I need a yoga brand?

Episode 24: Tips for new yoga teachers

Episode 23: Define who you are as a yoga teacher

Episode 22: Yoga adjustments: Some important considerations

Episode 21: Tips for teaching yoga beginners

Episode 20: The joys of being a yoga teacher

Episode 19: Overcome imposter syndrome as a yoga teacher

Episode 18: Create your social media calendar

Episode 17: A complete guide to sequencing yoga classes

Episode 16: Do you need to teach a new yoga sequence each week?

Episode 15: Introducing yoga philosophy in to your asana classes


Transcript – Yoga Nidra: The art of sleeping to wake up

Hello, and welcome to For Yoga Teachers. This podcast has been created to help yoga teachers teach with passion, avoid burn out and earn a fair living.

This episode is about the power of Yoga Nidra. Our next episode; episode 38 will be a special guided Yoga Nidra for yoga teachers; which will expound on the practice and the state of Yoga Nidra whilst guiding you in to that state. Back to this episode; we’ll start off with an introduction to Yoga Nidra just in case you haven’t really come across it before; then we’ll look at Yoga Nidra’s relationship to yoga philosophy. We’ll then dive in to understanding of Yoga Nidra’s impact on the brain wave states, and we’ll finish with a summary of the benefits in the context of everything that you’ve just heard.


In my humble opinion; Yoga Nidra is one of the most underrated, powerful, impactful practices within the entire offering of yoga. I feel like I can’t overstate how simple it is to do, yet how profound the impact is on every aspect of your life. Graduates of our Yoga Nidra and Yoga Wisdom training know that I encourage trainees to set up an accessible daily practice, but – I’m a big believer in removing barriers – this daily practice doesn’t have to be an hour a day, it can be five minutes, two minutes! It can be on your sofa or in your bed or in your car. But, the value from Yoga Nidra is 100% in the doing, not in the intellectual understanding; and that’s why next week we’ll have our guided Yoga Nidra for you to do, for you to enjoy as many times as you wish.

Yoga Nidra, “yogic sleep” is a powerful practice that guides participants into a state of deep relaxation while maintaining a state of heightened awareness. Through systematic and guided meditation, Yoga Nidra leads practitioners into the realm between wakefulness and sleep, allowing them to access a vast reservoir of inner knowledge and healing potential.

Yoga Nidra is well known for being a guided relaxation; the Queen of all repose, a nap, even a substitute for sleep itself. And it *is* all of those things.


The thing is; it’s all of those things and much, much more.

As yoga teachers, it’s likely that we’ll attract people to the practice of Yoga Nidra through expounding on the benefit of rest and relaxation, and as such, that’s where much of our focus will lie.

However, as yoga teachers it is important that we understand and embody the knowledge that Yoga Nidra is a secret door to liberation. Let me repeat that; Yoga Nidra is a secret door to liberation.

Yoga Nidra, like yoga, is a practice and a state. The practice of Yoga Nidra is the practice of creating a nest, creating an environment, practicing pranayama and getting out of your own way. This is a practice as it’s something we can, in theory ‘get better at’.

The state of Yoga Nidra is, in Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s words ‘a form of awareness’. Think about that for a moment: A form of awareness. Take a moment to contemplate – what does that mean to you?

Yoga Nidra and Yoga Wisdom

Let’s take a detour for a second and think about the Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali. We know that Chapter 1, Sutra 1 is Atha Yoganusasanam; Now the teachings of yoga, or now the practice of yoga, begins. And Chapter 1, Sutra 2 is the definition of yoga; Yogas Chitta Vritti Nidrodhah; when we boil this down to something that’s super accessible for us as yoga teachers and for our yogis, we can transliterate the definition of yoga as: yoga is stillness of the mind. And what is stillness of the mind? Well, it’s no thinking. No thoughts. No deprecating self-talk. No over-analysing things that have happened in the past. No unnecessary worry about what might happen in the future. It’s a stillness of the mind. That’s the state of yoga; a still mind. Everything we do; all the asana, the pranayama, the yamas, the niyamas, the meditation; it’s all for a clear mind; a still mind. Hold this thought while we continue onwards.

Yoga Nidra and the Brain Wave states

As I mentioned earlier in the episode – Yoga Nidra is mainly talked about as being a relaxing experience. The reason for this is that it activates brainwave states similar to those in sleep, where the thinking, rational mind; the Beta and Gamma brain wave states – which we’ll talk about for a moment – are quietened, and we have the ability to disengage from our thoughts. And let’s be honest, even a little respite from the incessant-ness of thoughts feels like a holiday.

Brainwaves indicate the electrical activity in the brain, in terms of frequency bands. (You could understand a wave as being a ‘vritti’.) Each brain wave state has a purpose and a particular function, one isn’t better than another overall, but certain states are more preferable in certain contexts. Yoga Nidra guides us through the brain waves states from awake and thinking; analysing, assessing, in to slow, rich and relaxed brain wave states; mimicking sleep – and this is what makes us feel so relaxed.

Five Major Brainwave States

From highest to lowest Hz.

Gamma

Beta

Alpha

Theta

Delta

Beta

Being awake, and immersed in life, with attention directed to the outside world such as actively processing information, listening, problem solving, decision making, and so on. This brain activity makes it hard for us to hypothesise that there might be another set of brain waves, another way of feeling, another way of being. We are totally immersed in the doing, it’s hard to imagine that there’s a possibility of just being.

Gamma

Also associated with the waking state (and sometimes in REM) but also with a high IQ; they are important for learning, memory and processing information.

Alpha

Relaxed wakefulness – awake but without deliberate mental tasks – all the way through to dreaming; REM sleep. As such, it appears to bridge the conscious to the subconscious.

Brain activity is slowing down and thoughts have gaps between them and are less immersive; they have less of a pull. As such, it’s ever so slightly more accessible to imagine ‘there might be another way’.

In dreaming, you might talk to people who are no longer in human bodies, you may think you have skills you’ve never tried, you dream you’re in a relationship you’ve never been in. One minute you’re at home, the next you’re in the house you grew up in, the next you’re on holiday… reality is less fixed, more malleable. There’s more potential, more possibilities.

As the practitioner enters the Alpha brainwave state, they may experience a sense of overall wellbeing, as serotonin is being released in to the system.

Theta

The brain waves are slowing.

Theta brain waves are rare in awake adults, usually found in very creative adults but common in awake children.

Theta waves initiate finding solutions, gaining inspiration and retaining information.

Entering the Theta state consistently is associated with a thickening of the pre-frontal cortex, which itself is associated with a greater ability to make conscious choices rather than habitual, pre-programmed choices. Later, we’ll look at how one of the benefits of Yoga Nidra was ‘reduction of unhealthy habits’ – knowing that .

Delta

This is the lowest frequency of brainwaves – the vrittis (waves) are incredibly slow.

The delta response can have the effect of decreasing body awareness, a deeply relaxed state, but the body is still receiving and processing information – you know this because when the instructor calls you back at the end of the Yoga Nidra, you come back.

Because your mental activity – the waves – are reduced to almost nothing, this is an incredibly restorative state for the body. There’s only so much energy available to you at any one time, so when the thinking mind demands a lot, there’s little left for healing and restoration.

In summary, as we descend through the brain wave states: doing becomes being. ‘I’ drops away. The waves, the vrittis become more and more still. Yoga is happening.

Remember the definition of yoga according to Master Patanjali:
Yoga is the stilling of the mind.

Yoga Nidra is serving us by guiding us through brainwave states towards a still mind; it’s happening biologically!

Benefits of Yoga Nidra, with our understanding of what Yoga Nidra is, and how it works

There are some huge, wild and bold claims out there about the benefits of Yoga Nidra. And most (if not all!) are true!

Here are benefits of a sustained practice, and references for these are included in our show notes.

Yoga Nidra creates a deep restoration state that triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters including GABA, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, and the hormones DHEA, melatonin and Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

“Effect of meditation on neurophysiological changes in stress mediated depression” Kasala, Eshvendar Reddy, et al 2014

Cortisol and noradrenaline are reduced.

“The Neural Basis of the Complex Mental Task of Meditation” Newberg, A and Inversen J 2003

The immune system is strengthened.

“Effect of Yoga Nidra on hypertension and other psychological co-relates; Yoga the Science” Kamakhya, K 2005

Yoga Nidra creates positive changes across the following metrics:

  • Ability to manage stress
  • Sleep quality
  • Mental and emotional balance
  • Reduction of unhealthy habits
  • Cravings and impulsive behaviours

“Yoga Nidra, The Art of Transformational Sleep” Kamini Desai

Reduce feelings of guilt and the tendencies to revert to self-sabotaging patterns.

“Psychological changes as related to Yoga Nidra” Praktikui, P 2006

So, yoga teachers, I hope that’s given you some insight into what Yoga Nidra is, and how it works. If there’s one thing to take away from this episode, it’s that Yoga Nidra is so much more than just a relaxation; it’s a secret door to liberation. But it’s so easy; all you have to do, or all your yogis have to do, is get as comfortable as possible to allow for relaxation, and then be guided, and that’s it! It’s so simple, and in a world where everything is happening faster and faster, it’s a joy, an antidote to life, it’s simple and effective.

If you’re interested in our Yoga Nidra and Yoga Wisdom training; we have dates booked in for September 2024 at Yoga Hero in Leeds, all the details are in our show notes, and see you next week to put it in to practice!

And as always, happy teaching!