What Is Yoga Nidra?

What Is Yoga Nidra?

Writers need tools.

From favorite pens and computers to newsletter software and mug warmers, there’s a long list of things that help support us.

But what about rest?

I believe in rest not only because it helps our bodies feel restored and provides energy, but because a well-rested writer is in a better position to pay attention, be receptive to insight, and stay present.

So in addition to loose leaf tea, an organized Google Drive, and the notes app on my phone, I count yoga nidra as a non-negotiable tool in my own writing life.

I believe in rest not only because it helps our bodies feel restored and provides energy, but because a well-rested writer is in a better position to pay attention to her life, be receptive to insight, and stay present.

What Is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga nidra is a sleep-based, conscious relaxation and meditation technique. In Sanskrit, yoga means “union” or “oneness” and nidra means “sleep,” so yoga nidra is also known as “yogic sleep.”

If you’ve ever tried (and struggled) through traditional seated meditation, you’re in for a treat. Yoga nidra requires nothing more than lying down and listening to the voice guide you. That’s it!

Plus, yoga nidra is based on something your mind and body already knows how to do: sleep.

Every meditation helps guide you into deeper sleep states, while your subconscious mind is invited to stay awake and aware.

So how does this differ from a regular nap? Napping shuts everything down, including awareness, but a yoga nap is resting with intentional awareness.

This is a powerful distinction because not only will your physical body be restored while you practice yoga nidra, but since your subconscious mind remains awake, you’re able to do some deep work here, too, like uncover emotional patterns, release self-doubt, tap into your authentic voice, and set and plant intentions to support your creativity.

There are no poses to learn—all you do is lie down, which looks a lot like an extension of the savasana post you do at the end of a regular yoga class.

And to move you through progressive states of relaxation, each meditation combines breath work and body awareness techniques.

(It’s also believed that 45 minutes of yoga nidra feels like a 3-hour nap!)

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

In Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai, she writes: “Yoga nidra is not about doing more, it’s about doing less. Yoga nidra is about releasing the struggling and striving to get somewhere. It’s the art and practice of doing nothing to arrive exactly where you want to be.”

For writers, this is a wonderful reminder to stay in the present and focus on where you’re at right now.

I discovered yoga nidra around the same time I started writing my second book, and I’m so grateful I did. Between working full-time, raising a toddler, and dealing with the day-to-day, I didn’t have a lot of energy to devote to my writing. Yoga nidra helped change that. It helped me make peace with the things I needed to remove (like blogging, temporarily), gave me energy for daily writing sessions, and greater mental clarity.

General benefits of yoga nidra:

  • More balanced concentration

  • Digestion activated

  • Melatonin, serotonin, and oxytocin released

  • Heart rate slows, restoring normal blood flow

  • Reduced worry and stress

  • Increased mindfulness

  • Deep muscle relaxation

Creative benefits of yoga nidra:

  • Access brain states where creativity can flourish

  • Clears up negative emotions, thoughts, and habits (e.g. self doubt, fear)

  • Greater confidence in your voice

  • Clarity surrounding your ideas

  • Plant project seeds and set intentions to support them

  • Increased productivity

How practicing yoga nidra can help you unleash creativity. (via Wild Words)

Yoga Nidra and The Brain

By entering a conscious sleep state, yoga nidra helps calm the waves of your mind and triggers a relaxation response to help your brain balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems—the left and right sides of the brain.

When this happens, your brain activity moves from beta, a wakeful state with lots of brain activity, into alpha, a more relaxed state where serotonin—a mood-regulating hormone—is naturally released.

From alpha, you move into deep alpha and high theta—aka the dream state. This is REM sleep, where your thoughts slow down to 4 to 8 thoughts per second. Kids naturally experience theta activity in their brains, and artists spend time here, too. (All the more reason for writers to access these deeper brain states on a regular basis!) This is also the space where the structures of the brain can change, where we can release what’s not serving us, and gain more insight into our emotions.

Next up is delta, where thoughts reduce even further, organs regenerate, and the stress hormone cortisol is flushed out of our systems. But yoga nidra doesn’t stop there! The meditations take you even deeper, to a brain wave state called turiya that can’t be reached through conventional sleep.

Once all the cycles are complete, you’re gently guided back to a waking state. As you emerge from a yoga nidra nap and move about the rest of your day, you’ll notice a deeper sense of peace, calm, and even a surge of energy that can help power your writing.

When you practice yoga nidra on a regular basis, you’re doing something pretty transformative for your creativity.

When you’re more energized, you have a greater capacity to show up for your writing, your family, and your work in different ways.

A calmer, steadier version of your writing self will emerge, one who cares less about what other people are doing, and more about tending to her own stories.