There is a Sanskrit term saṃskara. It loosely translates as mental impression. Broadly, mental impression are things that can keep us stuck. These mental impressions can lead to negative emotions and reactions, thus keeping us bound in stress and anxiety. This stress can even manifest in the body in many ways. Stressors are abundant in modern life especially in today’s world with the pandemic and other current events that are out of our control.

Enter Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is the practice of the 5th limb Pratyāhāra (detachment) of Aṣṭāṅgayoga or the 8 limb path. It is a practice of one posture, śavāsana or corps pose. Yoga Nidra means sleeping yoga, during a Nidra session you will be guided through a body scan and find a deep state of relaxation, helping you feel calm and centered.
Here are 5 good reasons to practice Yoga Nidra:

1. Anyone can practice it.Literally anyone! It is good for all levels and all conditions. Generally, you practice Nidra resting on the back, but some find it better to lay on the side. The use of props can also make it a more comfortable experience. It is easy to do and there is no wrong way to do it. You can even practice it in bed.

2. Nidra Helps you sleep better. If you suffer from insomnia or have had a bad night of rest. Nidra will help! Through this calming practice you will reach a deep state of relaxation. Practiced in the evening you will sleep better. Practiced in the day hours you will feel recharged and centered. It helps train the mind to let go of the days busy tasks and monkey brain and allows to body to rest in much the same as as sleep can.

3. Helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. It is sometimes known as the rest and digest system. Most of our days we are in a hyper-stressed state. Our body’s coping mechanism is to turn on the sympathetic nervous system. In prehistory this was important to keep us safe and ready to fight or run in case of danger. Life’s stress of today generally aren’t life threatening, say if you need to meet a dead line for work. Nevertheless the body’s coping mechanism  reacts the same as if you are being chased by lions. The parasympathetic nervous system  slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity to help us digest our food, and recuperate from stress and physical exertion. Harvard University studies suggest that when we are stressed, our body releases chemicals that temporarily improve performance. Cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones increase heart rate this is needed to have our brain activates work better and brings energy to the limbs to have the ability ready to run if needed to flee a danger. The body is able to recover from acute stress via a natural feedback loop with the brain. Yoga Nidra helps with this to help signal to the brain to stop producing the stress hormones so we can rest and recover from the stressful event.
  1. Withdrawal of the senses (Pratyāhāra). 
    Āsana practice is yoga’s physical practice. We need to keep the body strong and limber. Yoga Nidra is the practice of the withdrawal of the senses. This deep relaxing practice of Yoga Nidra brings you to a semi-conscious state, where your body can rest and you almost lose body sensation for a brief moment. This allows us to mentally and physically do a “factory boot” of our system. You will leave feeling  a deep sense of calm, renewed and refreshed. Some people even feel Nidra help with their creative process that if often neglected in today’s highly logically oriented world.
  1. It’s an easy way to learn how to meditate.
    Yoga Nidra practice is quite simple. While laying in śavāsana you will be guided  to a deep state of meditation. Where you can learn to slow down the mind a bit and get to know yourself intimately. It is a meditation practice. Even though a seated meditation is a good practice, it can be hard to find a comfortable place and direct your mind away from thoughts or hold your attention on the breath. Nidra is guided so all you have to do is allow yourself to be taken to a deep place of relaxation. The practice can be a little as 5 minutes but can be as long as you like. 
There is a wealth of information and studies done on how relaxation techniques are beneficial to our heath and feel-being. The yogis have been aware of the benefits for centuries and now we can benefit from this too. If you are looking to reduce stress, and have a sense of calm and centeredness yoga Nidra is for you. 

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