Yoga Nidra: relaxation between sleep and wakefulness

Yoga Nidra is an ancient relaxation technique designed to expand perception and consciousness. If you stay alert, you may experience a state of sleep and wakefulness.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra (in English: “The conscious yogic sleep”) is a method of deep relaxation. Unlike dynamic, demanding yoga directions, Yoga Nidra is more like a guided meditation. Meanwhile, you lie motionless on your back in the so-called dead position (Savasana).

Tanja Seehofer, consciousness researcher, mental coach, human geneticist and Yoga Nidra teacher for more than ten years, describes the relaxation method as expanding consciousness and training the senses. “Hearing, feeling and perception are in focus here,” she explains in an interview with the star.

How is a Yoga Nidra class?

“An important starting point is mindfulness,” says Tanja Seehofer. Once you have placed yourself on your back, you should concentrate on the sounds in the room and outside to slowly calm down.

Then each participant sets a so-called Sankalpa for himself. “A positive intention or a wish formulated as a simple sentence,” explains the expert. You should not choose a new confirmation every hour, but keep the sankalpa until you consider it fulfilled.

Thereafter, practitioners’ perception is directed at different parts of the body in a particular order. “It must be done without effort and without thought, you just have to be encouraged to focus here,” emphasizes Tanja Seehofer. Next, the attention shifts to the breath, which should further increase relaxation and mindfulness.

In Yoga Nidra you lie in the so-called equal position: your eyes are closed, your arms and legs are spread out so that they do not touch your body.

In Yoga Nidra you lie in the so-called equal position: your eyes are closed, your arms and legs are spread out so that they do not touch your body.

© fizkes / Imago Images

The next phase concerns the level of emotion and feeling. “Different feelings and sensations are aroused, experienced again and perceived,” explains the consciousness researcher. It happens on the one hand with so-called pairs of opposites such as heat and cold or heaviness and lightness, and on the other hand with images from everyday life. According to the expert, visualization strengthens the imagination and intuition. The teacher also mentions expressions that have been stored negatively. These should be brought to consciousness so that they can then be more easily processed.

In the next step, the teacher leads through an imaginary journey where only positive images are evoked. This “creates pleasant emotions that are connected neurally in the brain,” says Tanja Seehofer. In the end, the mind of the practitioner is very receptive to the sankalpa. Finally, the teacher brings the participants back to the present by bringing the consciousness back to the breathing and the sounds.

What is special about Yoga Nidra?

During the Yoga Nidra class, the frequency of the brain waves changes, the expert explains. When awake, the human brain generates beta waves. In Yoga Nidra, it is alpha waves, a “state of highest consciousness where the mind is awake and the body is deeply relaxed,” says the yoga teacher. The participant often perceives this as a state between being awake and sleeping.

Yoga students lie on the floor with their eyes covered

To completely relax, the eyes can also be covered.

© ZUMA Wire / Imago Images

“During the yoga nidra journey, the alpha frequency increases more and more and then remains until the end”. An extraordinary phenomenon according to Tanja Seehofer. You can have better access to the unconscious and intuition via the alpha waves. The waves can only occur when the participants remain awake, motionless and consciously follow the Yoga Nidra journey.

What should I consider when doing Yoga Nidra?

“A yoga nidra hour requires time, silence and absolute calm,” says Tanja Seehofer. The therapist must lie motionless and relaxed on the floor without arms, legs or hands touching the body. The eyes must be closed and the room must be darkened. You should also dress warmly enough. “If you are cold while doing it, it distracts you,” the teacher emphasizes.

What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and meditation?

The consciousness researcher describes the relaxation technique as “an easier form of meditation”. Since the practitioner is supervised by the teacher, it is easier to follow the process. “You really have to do nothing but lie down and listen,” the expert sums up. This is easy to do even for beginners. A yoga nidra journey also allows you to reach a deeper state of relaxation.

What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and hypnosis?

During hypnosis, the brain can also be permeated by alpha waves, but only temporarily. That is why, “consciousness expands further during Yoga Nidra,” explains Tanja Seehofer. In case of hypnosis, verbal instructions are given. It is different with Yoga Nidra: Here the teacher must announce with a monotonous voice so as not to affect the practitioner on the different emotional levels. Each participant must perceive the Yoga Nidra journey individually.

How does Yoga Nidra affect health?

Tanja Seehofer lists a number of positive effects that Yoga Nidra can have on the physical and mental health in the long run. Although you can feel the relaxation right after the lesson, it is important for the long-term effects that you exercise regularly. If you practice the relaxation method continuously, you may notice the following effects, among other things:

  • physical, mental and emotional relaxation, stress reduction
  • increased concentration and more energy during the day
  • better sleep
  • Soothing and deepening breathing
  • Stabilization and strengthening of the immune system
  • Reduction and strengthening of the heartbeat
  • improved body awareness
  • Training of consciousness and intuition

Can I practice Yoga Nidra at home?

The consciousness researcher especially advises beginners to practice Yoga Nidra with instructions from the internet. “I would take a class with a trained teacher to start with,” she says. For the relaxation to really work, the teacher must guide and accompany the journey professionally.

Yoga teacher Tanja Seehofer

Tanja Seehofer has been teaching Yoga Nidra for more than ten years.

© Tanja seehofer

In addition, a yoga studio “guarantees a place of rest and complete silence”. As a starting point, you can also practice Yoga Nidra at home. The expert recommends asking a trained teacher for tips for CDs or YouTube channels. Tanja Seehofer also offers her own Yoga Nidra CD.

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