Dear Ebonie, you seem to know everything about everything, and I've recently started doing Yoga Nidra when I'm exhausted / feeling keyed up and it's been brilliant.
It's 30 minutes of doing nothing but laying there perfectly comfortable listening to this woman and these sounds. And, like magic, I get up and feel like I've been completely reset, AND feel amazing for the following few days.
And I haven't a clue how it works. So, if you do know anything about Yoga Nidra, can you tell me why Yoga Nidra is such a powerful form of rest?
I do 30 minutes of it and I 1) feel completely reset, 2) feel like I slept for 30 hours, minus any too-much-sleep grogginess, and 3) like I've been put in a power station that lasts for days.
But I don't understand why it works. I mean, I'm not doing anything but laying comfortably for 30 minutes and listening.
Explain this magic to me please!
HA! I love this! For so many reasons. When I did my yoga teacher training way back in 2009 I felt this way too and I have an obsession with where science and art intersect, for me this is mysticism.
So, first up Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation, a method of Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) and an embodiment technique that has you connect with your physical self and bring awareness to your breath as you scan your body and tap into a state of relaxed consciousness somewhere between sleep and wakefulness.
Yoga Nidra translates to yogic sleep and it can feel like being suspended between worlds, in fact you are accessing the place that you also find yourself just before deep REM sleep, or as you are waking up in the morning.
So, what is actually going on?
Yoga Nidra literally changes the ‘fluctuations of the mind’ by slowing down brain wave frequencies.
In Yoga Nidra we feel calm and relaxed and brainwave studies show that when our brains are slowed we’re producing predominantly slower brainwaves, (When higher-frequency brainwaves are dominant, we feel wired or hyper-alert.)
When you start Yoga Nidra, your brain is generally in an active state of beta waves.
There are then four stages that you pass through during a 30 minute nidra session.
As you start to slow down and physically relax, stage one causes beta waves to lower considerably and then in stage two alpha, beta, and theta waves increase as does the production of serotonin.
When we follow the voice directing us to each body part, our presence rests into the present moment and alpha waves become the prominent frequency.
Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and emotional regulation. Alpha waves create a state that can be thought of as the bridge between conscious thinking and the subconscious mind. Often described as ‘Flow State’ alpha is the frequency range between beta and theta and is a highly desirable state to achieve, but can be difficult to maintain.
Activating alpha waves helps us calm down and promotes feelings of deep relaxation as well as improving memory, concentration, and resetting the prefrontal cortex.
The third stage is when we move into a predominance of theta waves.
Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation and can be accessed while still awake. The theta state is used for hypnosis, it’s a midpoint between asleep and awake, that twilight zone when you are fully internalised but aware. It can be thought of as the frequency where our subconscious resides and is where lucid dreaming takes place. In theta we experience vivid imagery, intuition, and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our fears, shadows or ‘stuff’, and also the gateway to our creativity and intuition..
In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on internal signals. Most people only experience this place fleetingly as they wake or drift off to sleep. Theta brain waves are responsible for creative solutions ‘dropping in’ and those incredible ‘ah ha’ moments that we wish we could manufacture by trying harder, but in fact require us to completely relax into a yin space.
This bit is yummy! Anandamide, the ‘bliss molecule’ which inhibits the formation of cancer cells, is produced here and it feels GOOD!
Apart from Yoga Nidra, ThetaHealing® allows us to access this place, too.
And finally we touch into delta before coming back through these layers to a refreshed awakened state.
Delta brainwaves stimulate healing and regeneration. They are low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat. Delta waves suspend external awareness and usually occur in deep sleep.
They are responsible for controlling all of the body’s activities that we are not conscious of.
Delta waves are required in order for proper bodily maintenance and regeneration of our organs and blood as well as producing and releasing essential hormones like DHEA, melatonin, and natural human growth hormones. Delta is the state where cortisol is removed from our system. Having a good dose of delta waves is critical to ensure that everything is in-sync and in good working order. Delta waves are generated only in dreamless sleep, (or Yoga Nidra) which is why deep restorative sleep and radical rest is so essential.
Delta brainwaves enable you to awake feeling refreshed and like you’ve slept well. If you don’t get enough delta waves, you may awake feeling groggy and like you’ve slept badly. They are also responsible for empathy, intuition or psychic ‘knowing’ (like when the phone rings and you know who it is intuitively without looking.)
The difference between deep sleep and Yoga Nidra is that you stay awake during this final phase. With such blissful relaxation and awareness, you are able to access your subconscious thoughts and process past memories in the present moment. Repressed and unprocessed grief can loosen their hold, tension, and grip, whilst we can learn to find a little more freedom and detachment from unhelpful habits and thought patterns.
This place is also sometimes reached in a guided breathwork practice or on a somatic journey.
Through regular practice of Yoga Nidra we can counteract the effect of stress and hyperactivity in the frontal cortex by accessing different parts of the brain that can help us regulate interoceptive awareness, and support a harmonious, restorative state and a greater balance between the different layers of body and mind (referred to as the Koshas in Yoga Philosophy.)
I hope this helps you understand, and then continue to make Yoga Nidra a priority.
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