I would consider my first experience of Yoga Nidra as both mind-blowing and one of the weirdest experiences i’ve encountered on my yoga journey.
I was young at the time, regularly practicing yoga, and I had started to deepen my practice by trying all sorts of (what I considered to be) weird but wonderful classes from Gong Baths to Kirtan, Kriya yoga to crystal healing, eventually leading me to the Psychic Sleep, a seriously deep relaxation known as, Yoga Nidra.
Many years later and these ‘unusual’ practices are all part of my daily life and a major contributor to my overall well-being.
I remember the first Yoga Nidra session distinctly because immediately afterwards, I was blown away with the power of my mind!
I decided to join this session as my dear teacher who I had really grown to trust and respect, offered it as a special class in her beautiful yoga garden. She was incredibly enthusiastic about it which made me curious so I thought, ‘why not try this ‘yogi sleep’!?’ Plus, she told me that after just one 30-minute Yoga Nidra session, I would have the equivalent energy levels of having an 8 hour sleep – errrr, yes, please!
She led the session following the traditional format of Yoga Nidra, which I have detailed below in 5 easy steps, but simply put it starts with a detailed body scan, breath awareness, a sankalpa (positive affirmation) and a series of visualisations. For me, the most profound aspect of this session was the bodily-sensation visualization in which my teacher guided us to feel our body heavy, then light, hot and then cold.
It sounds simple, but I could not believe that my mind could control the bodily sensations that I was feeling. I was blown away by the power of my own mind!
After the Yoga Nidra session, I felt such a surge of energy and a complete realization of how powerful my mind actually is. If it can control all my bodily sensations, making me feel hot, cold, light and heavy all within a few minutes, without moving or changing the environment – purely just from my mind, what else was my mind capable of?!
I didn’t quite realise just how impactful this session was until I reflected upon it a few months later. This short 30-minute, meditation session, had rewired my brain, my beliefs about myself and my approach to life. I moved from truly believing that my mind and my thoughts controlled my emotions and actions, to discovering, that I can have control of my mind, my thoughts, my feelings and my actions – mind blowing, especially at a young age!
All this from a 30-minute meditation – who would have thought it?! Certainly not me, at the time.
It’s no surprise that I found a deep, deep connection with this form of meditation and just 5 months later, I found myself in India spending 23 days learning how to competently guide traditional Yoga Nidra meditations.
Since, then, it has been one of my favourite techniques to share with teens and adults. I realise that not everyone may feel the effects as vividly and profoundly as I did, but imagine if they did?!
Imagine if we can give our students the gift of realisation – a realisation that they have control of their thoughts, feeling and actions, realisation that they can control their own mind.
This was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received (all for $15USD in that little Yoga Garden). If you haven’t experienced Yoga Nidra yet, I highly, highly recommend it.
Whether you’re leading this for your yoga students, looking to explore this independently, or you’re interested to learn more about it, here’s an easy 5-step guide to Yoga Nidra:
1. Get Comfortable
Yoga Nidra can last anywhere between 20-90minutes so getting comfortable to avoid distractions, is vital! Lie in Shavasana, cover yourself with a blanket, place a bolster under your knees and a cushion under your head. Relax and settle down.
2. Detailed Body Scan
This is the first stage to get the mind into a focused state and the body into a sleep-like, restorative state.
Various teachers and schools guide this differently, but, it is a detailed scan of the entire body, focusing on each limb and joint at a steady pace to keep the mind focused and bring awareness into each part of the body.
Personally, I start with the right side of the body, from the right thumb to the shoulder, all the way down to the toes. Then the left side, the front of the body and the back of the body. Being very detailed, specific and consistent with my guidance.
- Breath Awareness
By this stage, you may well have a few of your students, particularly beginners, floating in and out of a sleep-like state (and there’s always one student in a full deep sleep) – don’t worry, this is completely natural.
Focus on each breath, counting each exhalation. Traditionally, you would start from 100 and count each breath, down to one but I often start at 10 – its just more achievable and often, actually creates more focus than starting at 100.
This is your positive affirmation. Typically a positive “I am…” statement. Usually I encourage my students to create their own meaningful affirmation before starting the Yoga Nidra session but often, I will create the sankalpa, especially if I am leading a theme based class or a teen yoga nidra session.
Once the sankalpa has been created, repeat it mentally 3 times.
There are a whole range of visualization techniques to accompany Yoga Nidra (I could, and often do, speak about this all day long), a couple of my personal favourites include:
** Body Sensations – being guided through body sensations, from feeling hot then cold, heavy then light, just like my first mind-blowing experience of Yoga Nidra
** Quick-fire visuals – this keeps the mind super-focused. Usually I focus on natural environments or elements – a snowy mountain, a burning fire, a gentle-flowing river.
Now that you have entered the ultimate relaxation, take some time there. Some teachers play soothing music or singing bowls in the background, but traditionally, this would be a silent space.
Afterwards, take the time to feel the profound effects, to sit in the relaxation, to just be and feel the energy and mental state that has been created.
You learn more about guiding yoga nidra and meditations for children, teens and adults here.