Written by: Kylie Feller, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
They say the answers are within us. But how do we access these answers? How can we tap into the internal wisdom and healing that exists within all of us? There are many approaches that can help with this such as hypnotherapy, internal family systems therapy, somatic therapy and also Yoga Nidra. The nice thing about Yoga Nidra is you do not need a one-on-one guide you can access yoga Nidra recordings any time and with practice, you also lead yourself into this place. Also, more yoga studios are offering this powerful practice.
Yoga Nidra is also known as dream yoga or yogic sleep. It is done completely on your back in Shavasana. It puts your mind and body to sleep while your consciousness stays awake. When you access this place of pure conscious awareness miracles can happen and spontaneous healing. Since this practice leads you to a deep healing space that exists inside all of us it has many positive benefits such as helping with insomnia, reducing stress and anxiety to healing trauma and accessing greater joy and bliss. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what would.
It is a practice that takes very little effort on your part other than a commitment to focusing and pushing play on the practice. In this busy world, a practice like this is needed to help the body and mind regulate and access greater states of well-being. We are so go-go-go that many people's systems are bordering if not in burnout, we do not make space to really allow our bodies to rest and reset thus anxiety and stress wreak havoc on our mind and body and lead to greater dis-ease.
Yoga Nidra To Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Yoga Nidra is also a great antidote to the fear and worry we have been in due to the global pandemic. Our nervous systems have been in a state of hyperarousal as we have all been in sitting in the unknown for a while. Many people's routines and habits have been interrupted and have led to a decline in mental health and well-being. We have been spending more and more time in front of screens for work, entertainment, and connection to friends and family.
Although sitting in front of a screen may feel relaxing it is still activating the nervous system, thus our bodies and minds are getting no chance to rest and recharge. We are being hit with activation from our environment and our daily lives and spending too much time in the sympathetic nervous system "fight or flight". This leads to increased stress, anxiety, inability to focus, a decline in memory, poor sleep, great irritation, lowered immune system and other mental and physical health challenges.
Yoga Nidra can provide the rest and recharge we need to be able to better navigate our lives and relationships. Although from the outside yoga Nidra may look like meditation it is much deeper there is a traditional science that underlies the process leading you to a trance-like state. It walks through to a very sacred space where anything is possible. It can feel a bit like hypnosis but it's completely safe and you are completely aware and conscious through the whole thing.
The Practice Of Yoga Nidra
This practice walks one through the different layers of the body and mind which is known as the Koshas or bodies or sheathes in Yoga Philosophy. The sheaths are described in the Taittiriya Upanishad a text from the sixth century BC. The five Koshas are layers that are said to encase the spirit or soul or atman. Therefore, this practice leads you to direct contact with your Soul and the Universe at large. When you touch into this place, you are forever changed.
Journeying Through The 5 Koshas Of the Mind and Body
1. Annamaya Kosha (Food Body)
The practice begins with the progressive movement of your conscious awareness to different parts of the body (Annamya Kosha). As you do this you allow each point in the body to take up one total mental awareness. As you do this it promotes a sense of physical, mental and emotional relaxation and connection. As you do this you begin to clear out the nerve pathways between the brain and the body. It begins to ease the mind and counteracts the effects of stress and hyperactivity in the frontal cortex supporting a more harmonious and restorative state in the mind and body.
2. Pranamaya Kosha (Energy Body)
This stage of the practice is connected to the energy body and the breath or prana. Although this layer often involves the breath it is deeper and more subtle than just the breath it includes the energy flow throughout you. You may be guided to notice your inhale and exhale or count your breaths backwards or simply to notice the movement of energy with your inhale and exhale. This stage helps you to slowly release yourself from the physical layer of your being.
3. Manomaya Kosha (Mind Body)
The third kosha is related to the “mind-body”. This layer involves our emotions and strengthens our ability to be with our emotions without needing to label them as "good" or "bad" or trying to cling or avoid any of them. In this level of practice often involves experiencing the opposites of emotions. You may be invited to feel and experiences opposites such as anxious/calm, fear/trust, warm/cold, light/heavy etc. As you do this you strengthen your ability to emotionally regulate and the feeling of wholeness begins to emerge as you open the door to non-duality.
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha (Intuitive/ Wisdom Body)
The wisdom layer of ourselves is a magical place to be, the core of our consciousness itself. It is here that you are aware of your dream state within alpha, theta and delta brain waves. This state is often explored through the practice of visualizations where you may be guided to explore different aspects of your subconscious mind. This part of the practice taps into what is also known as the witnessing part of yourself where you can illuminate all aspects of yourself the consciousness and unconscious, the light and the shadow which allows for greater acceptance, understanding, integration and deep healing.
5. Anandamya Kosha (Bliss Body)
The fifth state the anandamya kosha involves total release into a blissful state of being. It connects you into source or the divine. Once you reach this place in the practice there is normally silence for a few moments so you can simple BE in this place. There can be the feeling of being held or embraced by the practice or the universe in this stage of yogic sleep which can feel like bliss and oneness.
After this stage, you will be brought slowly out by moving back through the koshas. Often there is a feeling of wholeness and unity between your body and mind. You can take this state of peace and connection with you into your day and life.
Brain Waves and Yoga Nidra
Another interesting layer of the practice to understand and explore is how we move through different brain wave states in the practice. The understanding of brain waves further deepens our understanding of how this practice holds so many benefits and healing for the mind and body.
We have five major brain waves states and yoga Nidra helps tap into each one but with conscious awareness so you can experience each one. Brain waves are when groups of neurons fire together in a certain way to send a signal to another group of neurons, this creates a pattern known as brain waves. These electrical patterns are connected to different types of brain activity and states of consciousness.
1. Beta Brain Waves
When you begin Yoga Nidra your brain is active in beta waves. Your waves will move from high beta (12-25 Hz) also known as the “monkey mind” which is connected to higher levels of stress, anxiety and the production of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. You will slowly move to lower beta (13-15 HZ). Lower beta is a good place to be where the body can process and complete normal bodily functions with ease.
2. Alpha Brain Waves
As you move deeper into the practice of yoga Nidra your brain will start producing Alpha brain waves (8-13Hz). This state is where we can be in relaxed alertness, in this state you feel calm and relaxed and is associated with a meditative, pleasant state, almost like “floating”. Serotonin a hormone that can enhance one mood is released in this brain wave state. It has been shown to increase creativity and reduce anxiety and depression.
3. Theta Brain Waves
From alpha, you move into deep alpha and theta brain waves states also known as “dream state" or REM sleep. You then move into Theta Waves (3-8Hz) which occur in a sleeping state or for some in deep meditation. In this brain wave state, your right brain hemisphere is more active as you enter the subconscious brain that is associated with hypnosis. In this state, you are able to process emotions and have access to your intuition and vivid imagery not available to you in the normal conscious waking states. These brain waves are also connected to greater creativity, learning and can connect you more deeply to yourself.
4. Delta Brain Waves
The next stage of yoga Nidra is the Delta Brain waves (0.5-4Hz) also known as deep sleep, but one is consciously aware. This state is also known as Anandamaya kosha or The Bliss Body. This is the state of self-realization or samadhi and it is in some ways indescribable. In this stage, you merge with source and can experience the feeling of oneness.
5. Gamma Brain Waves
In this final stage of yoga Nidra, you may also access Gamma Brain waves (40Hz+). This is considered a peak state experience and is associated with spiritual awakening. In this state, there is a deep level of compassion, empathy and cognitive power. Gamma waves have been found in Tibetan Buddhist monks, talented musicians, top athletes, and those reaching high levels of performance in their field. Dr. Joe Dispenza has been studying the benefits of these brain waves and how they may have profound positive effects on people's behaviour and attitude. Research has shown that gamma brain waves can help to heal panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety, trauma, depression, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
As you can see there is a huge amount of benefits for your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health that can be gained from this practice. It not only decreases and heals the damage chronic stress can put on your mind and body but also opens the door to greater healing and all you have to do is lay there and make the commitment to stay aware and awake.
Top 10 Benefits Yoga Nidra
Provides relief for depression and anxiety
Has been adopted to help heal trauma
Releases tension and pain
Boosts creativity, compassion and empathy
Promotes better sleep – 45 minutes of yoga Nidra is equivalent to 4-5 hours of restful sleep.
Develop a deeper connection with yourself and your Soul
Helps with emotional regulation
Promotes more joy in your life
Helps you to be able to enjoy your life to the fullest
If you were going to add one self-care practice to your daily schedule Yoga Ndira would provide you with the most benefits. Since it has the ability to bring more balance to each level of your being (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health) in one practice.
How To Start Practicing Yoga Nidra
Anyone can begin to practice yoga Nidra, you need no previous experience. Some yoga studios offer this practice, sometimes in combination with restorative or yin yoga practices. You can also access many different online recordings of Yoga Nidra. The free app Insight timer has a number of great guided yoga Nidra practices. You can check out my page Kylie Feller and some other amazing teachers are Jana Roemer, Tanis Fisherman and Richard Miller. I also have a podcast Your Best Chance where I go into more details about yoga Nidra if you would like to know more.
Kylie Feller, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Kylie Feller, M.A., is a registered clinical counsellor and life coach. She specializes in helping people understand and heal trauma while connecting them to their own innate healing force, their True Self. She believes that there is nothing people cannot heal and that all individuals can thrive and flourish if given the right formula. She has also launched an online program to help individuals navigate dating in a way that promotes greater growth and healing called, Swipe Right into Loving Yourself. She is a trained Internal Family Systems therapist, Empowerment Coach, Akashic Record Coach, Reiki Healer, and Yoga Teacher. She works with individuals one-on-one online helping them to access inner transformation so they can truly succeed in all levels of life.