We all know that lack of sleep is hugely detrimental, not just to our health but to our quality of life. Not getting enough sleep can impact our metabolism and hormones which then has a knock-on effect to our moods, weight gain, memory and can lead to serious health issues. So what if I told you that in just 15 minutes you can improve sleep and achieve the equivalent of a full hours deep sleep? Interested? I know I was when I first heard about this technique.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan and does this before bed to aid a good night’s sleep (1) and the US Army is employing it to help soldiers recover from post traumatic stress disorder(2).
I’ll quit teasing you now I’m talking about Yoga Nidra. Sometimes described as yogic sleep or conscious sleep. You may even have practised it at the end of a yoga class. That bit at the end where you lie down and have a mini nap.
Scientific studies have shown that people practising Yoga Nidra experience;
a reduction in tension and anxiety
an increase in the release in dopamine in the brain
and improvements in heart rate variability. (3)
as treatment for insomnia
to improve quality of sleep
as an intervention in treating chronic pain
it can be used to heal from traumatic experiences
and a recent study found that it may even reduce the symptoms of diabetes and help control blood glucose levels. (4)
So what is Yoga Nidra?
It is a meditation process that induces full-body relaxation, guiding your conscious mind to relax while the deeper levels of the mind– the subconscious and unconscious remain awake.
Yoga Nidra is incredibly restorative and it is said that practising for just 15 minutes is the equivalent of getting an hours deep sleep. (5) Yep, this is why I’m so excited to share this technique with you.
What does Yoga Nidra do?
It has the potential to restore your energy, counterbalance sleep deprivation, improve cognitive awareness, rebalance your metabolism and hormones (5) and quite frankly just feels bloody lovely.
Yoga Nidra engages the parasympathetic response, the rest/digest/heal part of our nervous system. This should be our usual state but many of us spend a high portion of our time in the opposite the fight/flight/freeze response.
When practising Yoga Nidra our brains exhibit theta brain wave patterns.(6) Those shown while we are in a deep meditative state or while asleep and dreaming. In this state we have an access point to the subconscious which governs 95% of our habits and patterns of behaviour. By accessing this state while also remaining conscious, so exhibiting alpha brain waves, we can gentle reorganise and reprogram our subconscious patterning.
How to supercharge your sleep in just 15 minutes
What could be better than a technique that allows you to supercharge the minimal rest and sleep you are able to grab? Yoga Nidra takes your mind through all of the rejuvenating brain wave patterns that would occur in an ideal nights sleep so if you are experiencing anything less than ideal night sleep at the minute this practice is definitely for you.
We all joke about how being deprived of sleep is a form of torture but actually the reality of this is so poignant.
This is exactly why I became fascinated to try Yoga Nidra and once I felt the benefits of practising I decided to study this technique so I could share it with other women who are also in desperate need of rest and rejuvenation.
I’ve got you covered
I am so passionate about this technique that I am including an entire chapter on it in the upcoming Embrace Fertility book and I have written and recorded a 15 minute ‘Supercharge Your Sleep’ MP3 for you which is one your bonuses when you join The Embrace Fertility Method or you can buy it as a standalone MP3.
When to listen
For many sleeping during the day is either impossible or undesirable as they wake up feeling groggy and disoriented. Daytime napping can also have a negative impact on your nighttime sleep.
Waking from a yogic nap is quite different, even if you actually sleep (your intention is to remain awake while practising) you are most likely to feel energised and clear headed on rising.
There is also the massive bonus of being able to achieve the benefits of an hours sleep in just 15 minutes.
I highly recommend squeezing this practice into your lunch hour or as soon as you finish work at the end of the day to give you a boost ready for the evening.
Or simply listen to the MP3 when you get into bed at night. This will allow you to clear your mind, release tension from your body and set you up for a much higher quality nights sleep.
The eight stages of a Yoga Nidra practise
Yoga Nidra has eight stages and each practise will include a minimum of four of them. You are completely guided by the practitioner throughout Yoga Nidra so do not be concerned if you find traditional meditation difficult. Your focus at the bringing of the session is simply to listen to the practitioners voice. You are guided to withdraw from the senses of touch, taste, smell and sight and focus purely on hearing.
I’m going to talk you through the eight stages of a Yoga Nidra practise.
Stage 1 – Settling
Here I will guide you to get comfortable; lying on your back, perhaps with your head and knees slightly raised on pillows. This stage will guide you from an awareness of your external body and then bring your focus inwards. I have started the recording with gently massaging the face, neck and shoulders as this helps ease tension from the body and will bring you into the present moment. I will then ask you to place your arms by your sides with your palms facing upwards.
Stage 2 – Intention, Sankalpa
At the start of each practice you will set an intention, known as Sankalpa. This is a short positive statement, an affirmation, of what you would like to be true in your life. A promise to yourself. Statements such as ‘I am enough, I am loved or I am energised’ are perfect. I will ask you to repeat this statement three times in your mind. The intention with the Sankalpa is to help us train the mind, to give us direction and guide our desires.
Stage 3 – Body Rotation or Rotation of Consciousness
Next I will guide your awareness around every part of your body. Simply follow the instructions and focus on each body part in turn. When I first started practising Yoga Nidra I found this stage a lot faster than the traditional mindful body scans I was used to but now I’m used to it I find it very quickly helps me unwind as it systematically relaxes the whole body by releasing tension.
Stage 4 – Breath Awareness
Stage four is bringing awareness to your breath, the subtle shift in your body as you breathe in and breathe out. You’ll be guided to give your attention to the subtle sensations you experience. Watching your breath will take you deeper into relaxation.
Stage 5 – Sense Perception
This is my favourite part. I will guide you to imagine your body feeling very heavy and then the opposite very light. This allows you to experience opposite sensations without judging or reacting and enhances emotional relaxation by stimulating the opposite hemispheres of the brain.
Stage 6 – Visualisation
Once you have been practising Yoga Nidra for awhile you can deepen your practice by including practices which guide you through various visualisations. This stage is designed to stir the mind and bring memories to the surface, some of which you may like to release. Stage six is not usually included in beginner practices and therefore is not included in the 15 minute MP3 but will be included in the longer Yoga Nidra MP3 that I will release later in the year so join the Embrace Fertility mailing list
so I can let you know when that is ready.
Stage 7 – Reinforce Sankalpa
Here we reinforce your Sankalpa, your intention, which was made at the beginning of the session. This will help remind you of the promise you made to yourself. The repetition allows the statement to sink deep into your subconscious mind.
Stage 8 – Externalisation
The final stage is important to guide you back to wakefulness. We will work our way back through breath awareness, body awareness, the environment around you and finally slowly moving the body.
We end with the Sanskrit mantra ‘Hari Om Tat Sat’ which is said to erase all suffering. The most beautiful description I could find was this “Hari Om allows the individual speaking it to remove their personal suffering and reconnect with the universal consciousness. (6) Hmmm yes please.
Why you should be practicing conscious sleep
Yoga Nidra calms the nervous system and guides us to reach the most profound level of relaxation possible. It can bring us back to ourselves and our innate well-being. It can allow you to release long held emotions gently.
It’s impossible to do it wrong, you just lie down and listen, allowing you to fully melt into the moment (so no trying to quell repetitive negative thinking or spend 40 minutes focused solely on your breath).
You set the intention to remain awake but if you fall asleep that is fine. It’s the same as when you go for a massage or acupuncture sometimes your body may be in need of the rest.
If you go decide to go deeper into the practice of Yoga Nidra and start listening to longer MP3s that include visualisations your body can also take you into sleep to move through the releasing process more quickly.
Ready to give it a try?
Relaxing, restorative, restful, three of my favourite words. The 15 minute MP3 I have created for you has the potential to restore your energy, counterbalance sleep deprivation, improve cognitive awareness and is the perfect excuse to take some time for you. Remember 15 minutes of Yoga Nidra is said to be the equivalent of 1 hours deep sleep. Happy dance or what ladies? Come listen now, the MP3 is part one your bonuses when you join The Embrace Fertility Method or you can buy it as a standalone MP3.