Most yoga classes include a ‘sivasana’ at the end of class. Ideally this a minimum of 5 minutes long, but is rarely longer then 15 minutes. The purpose of sivasana is to give the body the opportunity to integrate the benefits of your yoga practice.
Without this calm time of integration we go on in our lives, perhaps feeling good, but without stopping. It’s this stopping and relaxing where most of the transformational magic occurs in yoga.
Yoga nidra is similar to sivasana but you go into your deepest level of relaxation without actually falling asleep. You stay here for about one hour.
We practice yoga nidra in our classes once every few months, and students love it. It is permission to give yourself time to stop and do absolutely nothing for a whole hour. Wow! When do we ever do that in ‘real life’ right?
Most people come out of a yoga nidra session feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. It can be challenging because the mind will wander, but once you let go of struggling with that, you settle into space of calmness in both body and mind. Physically there is usually a point where there is some discomfort, and once that passes, the body settles into great calmness.
If you have never done yoga nidra, it is easy to do at home. Lie down in a supported sivasana position (on your back with pillows under head and knees). It is most important to be comfortable because you will be laying completely still in this position for a full hour. You may want a blanket as body temperatures drop. Once comfortable, scan your body from head to toes and let everything relax. Allow your breathing to regulate, focus the mind on that rhythm if it wanders off, and just allow yourself to drift into stillness. Remember this is yogic sleep, but you do not want to fall asleep. The mind is alert and calm while the body rests. Set a timer or alarm if you are afraid you will fall asleep.
I have recorded a guided Yoga Nidra CD that we have a few copies left for sale at Peaceful Arts in Port Hope, Ontario. The CD includes a guided relaxation of breathing, body and mind. It includes a white light meditation, and a gentle guidance out of yoga nidra.
Whether you use a CD, try yoga nidra in a class or just use your own inner guidance, it is worth integrating this practice of stillness into your life. It can help improve your sleep, your focus and over-all well being.