Yoga is one of our favorite ways to relax, but now there’s a practice that takes relaxation to a whole new level – and we’re always ready for upgraded relaxation.
An ancient form of guided meditation called yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is growing in popularity because it gives people the feeling of a few good hours of deep sleep in a fraction of the time, and all while eliminating one supposedly pretty essential step: the actual sleeping.
The way it works is that yogic sleep is basically a meditative practice where the goal is to reach a state of conscious sleep. That means that your body is in a state of deep sleep, but your mind is still awake. During the meditation, your brain goes into an alpha brainwave state, where stress levels are reduced and you go into a state of healing. It also helps that you’re basically using your mat as a bed for the whole session. People even use blankets and pillows to help them get extra comfy and relaxation-ready (um, where do we sign up?).
Now you might be thinking, “How am I supposed to achieve the level of deep meditation that will basically mimic sleep without, well, sleeping?” The answer: that’s where the guided meditation comes in. While you meditate, you focus on some of the things that you would normally focus on during a regular meditation, like breath, body and emotional awareness and visualization. What makes it different than meditation, besides the state of consciousness, are the steps you take to get there. Yoga nidra relaxes your body in layers, starting with your physical body and moving on through your energetic body and eventually reaching your bliss body.
Besides getting a great nap without actually napping, there are also a ton of long-term benefits to giving yogic sleep a go. For one thing, the practice places an emphasis on sankalpa, or intensions and goals, during your meditation. Basically, yoga nidra gives you the opportunity to meditate on these intentions and goals in a way that can actually help you achieve them in real life by opening up your mind to new ways of thinking. Yoga nidra has also been known to regulate your sleep cycle and help ease insomnia, lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, relieve stress, and heighten awareness and focus. It’s even been recognized by the U.S. Army as an alternative therapy in treating PTSD and chronic pain.
Clearly this yogic sleep thing has its perks and some pretty impressive credentials. Plus, we kind of like the idea of going to a yoga class where you don’t have to physically do anything. It’s a workout for your mind, which may not burn any calories, but it’s just as healthy as exercising your body. So grab your comfiest bolster and your favorite yoga blanket and head to a studio that offers yoga nidra for what we’re going to go ahead and dub the new power “nap.”