Yoga Nidra – My Secret Weapon
Written by Fritz Nugent
Those that sleep well know the power of consistently good sleep. They recover from training and life stress more completely, think clearer, and even stay leaner than people with poorer sleep hygiene. I have written extensively about sleep before, but today, I delve into Yoga Nidra, my secret weapon.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga nidra, which is translated as “psychic sleep”, is a form of guided meditation where the practitioner guides participants through progressive relaxation exercises which date back to ancient yogic practices.
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
Within the past few years, research has begun to trickle in showing that Yoga Nidra affects many different areas of our physiology and psychology:
Several studies have indicated that regular practice of Yoga Nidra can help reduce stress, anxiety, and tension. It promotes relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a reduction in the “fight-or-flight” response. During stressful workdays, I listen to a 10-15 minute Yoga Nidra to calm down between shifts.
Improved Sleep Quality
Yoga Nidra has been associated with improvements in sleep quality. Individuals who practice it may experience better sleep, decreased insomnia symptoms, and increased feelings of restfulness upon waking. I have been practicing Yoga Nidra for almost three years, and even being a new parent, I can say that my sleep quality and duration are holding strong despite multiple nighttime wake-ups due to my baby (a big thank you to my wife, for without her I would not sleep a wink). And on the rare occasion when I can’t fall back asleep at 4 am after waking from the baby crying, I might listen to a longer Yoga Nidra recording.
Research suggests that Yoga Nidra can contribute to emotional well-being by reducing symptoms of depression and promoting a positive mood. The practice may help individuals manage and cope with their emotions more effectively. This one is completely subjective for me, but I do feel a more even emotional experience as my Yoga Nidra practice expands.
Some studies have explored the cognitive benefits of Yoga Nidra. These benefits include enhanced attention, concentration, and cognitive performance. The practice might also contribute to increased mindfulness and self-awareness. If I am feeling like I have 10,000 tasks and not enough time to complete everything, I’ll write everything down on a list to get it out of my head, and then I’ll complete a short Yoga Nidra to reset. This almost always clears my head and reinvigorates me.
Yoga Nidra has been investigated as a complementary therapy for pain management. Research indicates that it may help individuals cope with chronic pain by altering their perception of pain and promoting relaxation. When I badly injured my back almost three years ago, one of the recommended alternative pain management solutions recommended to me was Yoga Nidra. I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything. Yoga Nidra immediately helped me relax, and that decreased my daily pain, which I am certain helped me recover from the incident more quickly.
Yoga Nidra fosters a deeper connection between the mind and body. Practitioners often report heightened self-awareness and a greater sense of unity between their mental and physical states. If you have practiced yoga nidra, this makes perfect sense. If you have not tried yoga nidra, then this bullet point may seem weird. Try following a recording (or even better, a live experience), and let me know if this one makes more sense afterwards.
How is yoga nidra performed?
Performing Yoga Nidra is simple. Find a practitioner and listen to a track! There are many different practitioners on YouTube that you can explore. My favorite Yoga Nidra practitioner is Ally Boothroyd. You can try a short 10-minute Yoga Nidra by her here.
How do I utilize yoga nidra with my nutrition clients and athletes?
Over the years and after working with hundreds of clients specifically on nutrition and lifestyle-related change, I realize that everyone has stress in their lives, and a large percentage of people do not maintain stress relieving habits and activities in their lives. While exercise can serve as a psychological stress reliever, it simultaneously provides physical stress, which does add to our total stress equation.
When my clients ask what they can do to relieve stress besides training, I often suggest reading, writing, making artwork, meditation, journaling, playing an instrument, playing with their kids, going for a walk or hike, or yoga nidra. Basically anything that “fills up your bucket” while not emptying it somewhere else is a good stress-relieving activity. Yoga Nidra is my personal favorite recovery task that I recommend to everyone.
To people that have trouble falling asleep, Yoga Nidra before bed can help. To people who have trouble staying asleep, listening to a long Yoga Nidra in the middle of the night can help bridge the sleep gap, or maybe it just puts you back to sleep. Either way, a mid-night win. To those stressed out at work, I recommend listening to a short Yoga Nidra recording after lunch. You may find that you feel energized and refreshed afterwards!
Try it and let me know what you think! I’m currently accepting new online coaching clients – let me know if you’d like to work with me!