The Benefits of Nidra Meditation in Yoga Therapy
by Nicole McCray
Of course, all yoga has the potential to be therapeutic and healing. But yoga therapy utilizes specific yogic tools – postures, meditation, Nidra, breathwork, and more – to address the client’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
Yoga therapists receive specialized training that helps them assess their clients. They work with the client to address specific goals while considering any physical or mental limitations. While everyday stress and pain can be addressed in a regular yoga class, yoga therapy is tailored for the client’s specific needs.
Today, we’re going to look at the specific benefits of meditation and Nidra in yoga therapy.
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be defined in a variety of ways. It’s a state of mind as well as a practice. It can also be used as a devotional offering or a tool to strengthen your connection to God.
Many cultures and religions use meditation in a variety of ways. From a Christian perspective, we first find the word meditation in Genesis 24:63 when Isaac looked up at the stars. The word used is gey, meaning, to muse pensively: –meditate. It’s likely that meditation was used and practiced long before the text of Genesis was written.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening… Genesis 24:63
We understand this is an ancient practice found throughout the Old and New Testament as well as in our modern world [Michelle Thielen].
In essence, meditation is about bringing the mind and body into the same place at the same time. It’s about attention and awareness and being fully in the present. Yoga philosophy teaches that the present is our only true reality and that’s where we should be focusing our attention.
What is Yoga Nidra?
And with so many ways to define meditation, it only makes sense that there would be a variety of ways to practice it as well. Nidra is a meditative practice that is becoming increasingly popular among yoga practitioners and yoga therapists.
Yoga Nidra is often called yogic sleep. It’s a system of progressive relaxation that dissolves the deepest layers of tension in the body, mind, and spirit. It offers a release of the three basic types of yogic tension that are responsible for all pain and suffering – mental, emotional, and muscular.
Yoga Nidra provides deep relaxation and unique insight into the Self. It’s a type of guided meditation that leads the practitioner on a journey of expanded consciousness through an examination of the multidimensional self.
While traditional meditation is practiced in a seated position, Yoga Nidra is practiced while laying down so that you can maintain complete stillness and focus. The entire session is guided to help you explore the deeper layers of your inner Self.
The deep relaxation offered by Yoga Nidra quiets the brain and puts it in a receptive state. The guide or therapist then encourages the client to reveal and release deeply held, limiting beliefs. By releasing these beliefs, the client is more open to change.
The Benefits of Yoga Nidra in General Practice
The obvious benefits of Yoga Nidra include deeper relaxation and stress relief. Nidra meditation can also:
- Promote quality sleep
- Relieve depression and anxiety
- Improve focus and clarity
- Assist with reworking limiting habits and patterns
- Stronger connection to the present
- Experience with all layers of the self
- Connect intimately with Christ
The Benefits of Nidra Meditation in Yoga Therapy
Here’s a deeper look at the benefits of Yoga Nidra when used in conjunction with yoga therapy for mental and physical health.
Relieves Anxiety and Stress
Yoga Nidra is an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. When used in conjunction with yoga therapy, it is more effective than meditation for relieving both cognitive and physiological anxiety.
Elevated levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol are major contributors to inflammatory conditions like heart disease, chronic pain, sleep disorders, stroke, IBS, and chronic fatigue. Studies also show that Nidra can improve Heart Rate Variability, which further improves focus and sleep while promoting calm.
What’s more, when combined with neural therapy, Nidra can help to shift the balance of the autonomic nervous system toward the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of relaxation called the rest and digest response.
Promotes Healing by Slowing Down Your Brain Waves
During Yoga Nidra, the patient is guided into a state that is similar to deep sleep but remains conscious throughout. The brain enters a delta state of very deep relaxation and brain waves slow to a frequency of four to seven cycles per second, and eventually a delta state of 1-3 cycles per second.
Theta waves are known to be creative, inspirational, and supremely spiritual. When slowed even further to the delta state, the body enters a state of rest, restoration, and healing.
Reduces Chronic Pain
The body naturally wants to heal itself and Nidra gives it time to do that. Nidra takes the client from a state of doing to a state of being so the body can truly rest. By bringing the body into a state of yogic sleep, it gives the body time to rest, recover, and restore.
Not only does this reduce chronic inflammation and pain, but it also supports immune function. According to the US Army Surgeon General, Nidra is an effective intervention for chronic pain without the side effects of prescription drugs.
Helps Heal Trauma
In yoga therapy, Nidra is used to promote healing after trauma. In fact, research on the effectiveness of Nidra for PTSD was conducted on soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The results were so positive, Nidra has been incorporated into treatment programs across the country.
Improves Sleep and Reduces Insomnia
Insomnia and sleep disorders contribute to many emotional, mental, and physical health issues. Nidra is effective for reducing insomnia and improving sleep quality. With regular Nidra practice, the mind and body are trained to relax, fall asleep more easily, and achieve a deeper state of sleep.
Improving sleep also improves memory and focus. It lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also supports healthy weight management, immune health, and reduces inflammation throughout the body.
The work done in yoga therapy with consistent Nidra practice can help the practitioner achieve life-altering changes in their thought patterns, achievements, and relationships. Throughout history, yogis have used Nidra to improve clarity and connect to the wisdom of God. Whether practicing on your own or with a yoga therapist, the benefits of Yoga Nidra for mental and physical health are numerous.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3