The benefits of yoga know no bounds—the physical, mental, and spiritual practice has been linked to reduced stress, increased flexibility and muscle strength, boosted immunity, improved mood and overall well-being, and more. But Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, writes that one little-known practice known as yoga nidra can work wonders for your overall mental health.
"Yoga nidra is a powerful relaxation practice that can act as a natural stress reliever," writes the publication. "The ancient yoga practice helps you draw your consciousness inward so you can move into a more self-aware form of 'sleep.'" Translated to "yogic sleep," yoga nidra essentially helps your brain shift into the space between sleeping and waking states, allowing your mind to drift into a more collected, peaceful state. "It's the same process as meditation," explains tantra yogi instructor of kinesiology at Penn State University Michele D'Agostino.
"You are completely relaxed on the physical level, but the mind remains alert."
Practicing yoga nidra for just 30 to 120 minutes can help lower anxiety, depression, and stress, regulate blood sugar, improve back pain, ease rheumatoid arthritis, fight insomnia, and boost the production of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain by up to 65%. This last statistic comes courtesy of a 2002 study in which the researchers used brain scan imaging to measure the brain waves of those engaged in the practice. Additionally, subjects were deeply relaxed but not drowsy, and in a meditative state that lasted roughly 45 minutes.
If you want to try it yourself, lie on the floor in the Savasana pose and listen to a guided meditation like the one at the end of the Axe article, courtesy of D'Agostino. Additionally, consider the following while practicing yoga nidra:
1. Make sure you won't be interrupted before you start your practice.
2. Make sure you're warm—blankets are permitted.
3. Create an environment where you feel safe and secure.
4. Turn off your phone.
5. Make sure your family or roommates know so they don't interrupt you.
6. If you fall asleep, wake up and end the practice. You don't want to develop a bad habit of falling asleep during yoga nidra.
7. Get comfortable. Use props under your knees, a small pillow under the head, and comfortable clothing and socks.
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