Yoga, particularly Yoga Nidra, is something that we talk about quite often at team CHAMPS. And there are plenty of reasons why we can’t get enough of it.
Yoga Nidra isn’t about twisty, awkward yoga poses or downward facing dogs- it’s a much more accessible form of yoga which focuses on guided meditation and breath awareness. All you need is a comfortable place to sit or lie down and you’re good to go.
I practice yoga every single morning. It is something that really helps me start my days in a much healthier way – both physically and mentally. Instead of tumbling out of bed at the last minute, my body has a chance to get some blood flowing and manifest the energy it needs for the day ahead.
With each practice, I try to listen to my body and create a practice that works for where I’m currently at; this could be in the form of a gentle flow, deep stretching, or simply taking 10 minutes to pause and breathe.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogic Sleep or “effortless relaxation”, functions as a guided meditation that draws our attention inwards. We learn to surf between sleeping and waking, where our body can find a natural resting state. Our breath becomes balanced, our minds become quiet, and we fall into deep relaxation.
As we rest, we can take things further by turning our attention to our consciousness. From here, we can be restored and awakened to our deepest authentic self.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s actually much more simple to practice than you would think!
I often find that I prefer to lie down in a Savasana yoga pose during my sessions, as it allows me to engage in that deeper state of relaxation and calmness. It can be helpful to set an intention for each practice- this could be anything from taking a small amount of time for yourself, resetting your body and mind, or practicing some deep breathing. Whatever you decide on, bring your full awareness to your body and your breath, and focus on being in the present moment.
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
The benefits of Yoga Nidra really do speak for themselves. Almost anyone can practice Yoga Nidra and it is especially useful for those of us that have a hard time letting things go.
We can often notice physical, physiological and psychological benefits when practicing Yoga Nidra. During our practice, our muscles relax, and we can feel much calmer as we focus on our breathing.
A recent study found that Yoga Nidra was an effective tool in reducing both cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety for college professors, making it a valuable therapeutic approach to reducing stress levels.
Yoga Nidra also has the potential to improve our sleep. During practice, you will move through the layers of your being, gradually releasing tensions that prevent you going into deep states of recuperative sleep. This type of deep sleep is where the brain and body repairs and heals. By giving ourselves some relaxation time, we allow our bodies to do what they do best.
This in turn really does help us cultivate positive mental health and wellbeing. We tend to find that the healthier we feel, the happier we are, which can make a huge difference to our personal lives and beyond.
The impact of stress on our mind and body
When we talk about stress and its impact, we refer to the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. Sometimes low-level stress can be motivating and help us achieve things in our daily life, but the balance can be tipped fairly easily. Too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control.
If this stress is prolonged, it can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout. In today’s “always on” culture, it’s something more and more of us are experiencing.
Thankfully, there are a few ways we can pick up on signs of stress and stop this from spiralling out of control. If we start to notice a loss of motivation or confidence, tiredness, or even a dip in our performance at work, these could be signs that stress is taking its toll on us. Employers may notice more absenteeism, or higher volumes of grievances or nervousness, so be sure to be on the lookout for any key indicators in these uncertain times. Our Managing Through Uncertainty course helps you create and maintain psychologically safe workspaces during these uncertain times.
Stress can impact our mind and body in a variety of ways; it can increase our cortisol levels, change our behaviour and make us emotional, irritable, or withdrawn. Stress can also cause poor sleep hygiene, and memory loss, as well as causing physical changes to our bodies such as headaches, increased tension, and quickened breathing – to name but a few symptoms of stress! It therefore makes perfect sense to try and tackle these stresses, and Yoga Nidra has the power to do just that.
Yoga Nidra for stress
As many of us will already know, stress has the capacity to cause havoc with our brains and our immune systems. It’s something so many of us experience, that the CDC estimates that stress accounts for 75% of all physician visits, and 80% of all visits to primary care providers in the US.
So, how can Yoga Nidra help with stress?
Yoga Nidra triggers a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which helps relieve stress, anxiety and muscle tension as you relax into your practice. As your awareness of your body heightens, the better you become at identifying specific parts of your body that are holding tension. You can then tap into slow, meaningful breaths to relax these areas, and focus on cultivating a feeling of lightness in your body. This technique also has the power to reverse the negative impact that stress can have on our sleep.
From here, we can also bring awareness to our mental and emotional states during our practice. As we fall deeper into relaxation, we can better tune into our emotions or inner struggles without actually bringing up the pain of the associated memories. In this way, Yoga Nidra can facilitate the healthy release of negative emotions or fears, and provide clarity to any challenges or difficulties we may be facing at a given time.
One of the biggest benefits I gain from my regular Yoga practices is this sense of awareness and clarity about how I am feeling on that particular day. By tapping into those emotions or thoughts, I’m able to consider what I need to focus on that day to make sure I’m prioritising my mental health and wellbeing.
Yoga Nidra can also be beneficial for reducing workplace stress. A survey of healthcare workers demonstrated that Yoga Nidra managed to help employees deal with the demands of their work in a more positive way, which then led to an improved workplace environment. This is something that we aim to cultivate here at CHAMPS; by investing in your Mental Wealth and taking time to relieve stress, you can become more capable of dealing with life’s challenges and building a growth mindset.
I will slow down: A summary of the stress-busting benefits of Yoga Nidra
As Yoga Nidra becomes more popular than ever, it’s easy to see why so many of us are now taking advantage of the benefits on offer. By investing our time into a wellbeing practice, we have the potential to reduce personal and work-related stress.
If you’re keen to practice Yoga Nidra and you’re not sure where to start, our A Taste of CHAMPS resources can put you on the right track. We’ve created our very own free, online resources to help you relax, unwind and destress. Our free Yoga Nidra session with Hayley from Team CHAMPS can be found here. You’ll ideally want to practice regularly, and set a clear intention at the start or end of each session.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Yoga Nidra works hand in hand with My Mental Wealth™; a simple but powerful way to develop and maintain your own mental health toolbox. If you’re ready to invest in your wellbeing and turn it into an asset that drives you forward, My Mental Wealth can serve as an effective means to taking those Yoga Nidra benefits that bit further.
Whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced yogi, Yoga Nidra has the potential to offer something valuable to all of us. To find something that integrates wellbeing, restoration and relaxation so effortlessly is just too good to pass by! Yoga Nidra is something that I’ve completely fallen in love with, and it’s something that I really hope you will love too.