The Healing Effects of Yoga Nidra

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by Barbara Barnes

Yoga nidra, an ancient practice with roots in India, is an easy and powerful tool for self-awareness and emotional release. It is practiced in a state of consciousness that is slightly withdrawn from full outward awareness, and achieved by focusing completely within.  

When doing yoga nidra, participants rest comfortably in the corpse pose, known as savasana, and are guided through layers of internal awareness called pancha maya kosha. At the beginning of the session, an intention is set called the samskara, which acts as a roadmap for the unconscious mind. This gentle, guided process, either spoken or recorded, leads to deep relaxation, allowing individuals to become more and more aware of their inner world.

Yoga nidra offers time and space to explore what is happening in the moment, as well as an opportunity to release long-held emotions. As a part of a self-care routine, it can reduce tension and anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety such as headache, difficulty focusing, chest pain, palpitations, sweating and abdominal discomfort respond well to this kind of healing. Yoga nidra is often used to help soldiers and others cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A simple practice for all ages, yoga nidra is always a guided experience. There is no incorrect way to do it; simply follow the guiding voice. If concentration is lost for a moment, the guide will be right there to reconnect with the inner journey. Even if sleep comes naturally to a participant during a session, the unconscious mind will still absorb and benefit from the practice.

Varied lengths of practice can be chosen. Some experiences are 15 to 20 minutes, some as long as an hour. While there is evidence that a regular routine is beneficial when practicing inner work, individuals may tailor the length of a session to the time they have available for self-care on any given day. 

Yoga nidra offers an opportunity to observe ourselves and our emotions without becoming overwhelmed. Regular practice can lead to not only deep relaxation and stress relief, but also a sense of deep peace and calm.

Barbara Barnes, BSN, RN-Retired, MA/LMHC and owner of Lotus Heart Therapy LLC, offers therapy, consultation, groups and workshops. For more information, visit LotusHeartTherapy.com.