About a month ago, I challenged myself to practise yoga nidra every day for a week.
What is yoga nidra?
If you’re unfamiliar with yoga nidra, it’s a practice where you fully relax and follow guided instructions to focus your mind on different things. The yoga nidra scripts vary, but they often include elements like a full body scan, conjuring up sensations and visualisations.
Why yoga nidra, and why every day?
As any quick google search will tell you, yoga nidra is known for its relaxing benefits. It’s a great way to soothe the nervous system, destress and leave you feeling calm. I realise that none of that sounds very challenging. And in itself, it’s not. The practice is easy. You choose a recording – I like Ally Boothroyd’s videos on YouTube – or make one of your own, you lie down and make yourself comfy, and that’s it. But for me, it’s not the doing it that’s the problem, it’s making the time for it.
I work full time, which unfortunately equates to a lot of sitting at my desk, in front of a screen. I’m also studying for a PhD in education, which again, involves a lot of sitting at a computer. When I’m done with the screen, I’m desperate to move around. I’m ready for a strong vinyasa flow yoga class, a workout or at the very least a good walk. I find it hard to ‘justify’ relaxing in way that involves stillness, even when I sense it’s what my mind needs.
So this idea of practising yoga nidra every day came to me seemingly from nowhere, as the best ideas often do. I was out for a walk, reflecting on work and life, when it popped into my head – I should try doing yoga nidra every day. I’m not sure why this was the inspiration that struck me – although I’ve liked yoga nidra on the rare occasions I’ve practised it, I’ve never sought it out. If I’m honest, I’d probably taught more yoga nidra than I’d practised myself.
How was practising yoga nidra every day?
I loved it. I don’t think I should have been surprised by this, but I was. As the week went on, my enjoyment of the practice snowballed. I found it easier to settle in, easier to stay awake (mostly!) and easier to drop quickly into a deep state of relaxation. I also found it changed the way I felt the rest of the time. I sometimes struggle with anxiety, and yoga, movement and meditation are my main coping strategies for this. But after a few days of practising yoga nidra, I found myself feeling lighter. Some of the jittery undercurrent of my consciousness seemed to have dissolved away.
There were a few unexpected learnings for me too:
- Yoga nidra doesn’t need to take forever. I’m sure yoga nidra purists would disagree, but some of my most enjoyable practices were only 10 minutes long. I thought that I had to do at least 30 minutes for it to be a ‘real practice’, and I did enjoy a couple of longer practices, but the shorter ones felt just as beneficial.
- Yoga nidra isn’t only for bedtime. In fact, I found I was too tired to get the most out of it just before bed. Instead I tried:
- First thing in the morning. Although I struggled to convince myself to do this when I could just be snoozing, it turned out to be a lovely, gentle way to start the day.
- On my lunchbreak. This I found to be the hardest time. For me it’s always difficult to disconnect from work once I’m in the flow of it and knowing I had to get back into it in the afternoon made it hard to let go. That said, it definitely gave me a proper break in the day and let me reset my energy levels before the afternoon.
- After work. This was my favourite time to practise. After work I’d do yoga or a workout, then give myself time to practise yoga nidra before I carried on with the rest of my evening. It worked perfectly. It let me transition from productive mode into something more restorative and put me in a great mood to start my evening. I was much less inclined to ruminate over work stress in the evenings afterwards.
- The effects of yoga nidra are long lasting and cumulative. After a few days of the practice, I noticed I felt calmer. At times I would notice with surprise that my anxiety seemed to have dissolved altogether, albeit temporarily. It wasn’t a dramatic revelation, but more a gentle unfurling of something sweeter and easier.
The Big Question: Will I keep it up?
I think I will. Beyond these little challenges I like to set myself, I avoid giving myself too many ‘must-dos’ each day. But I do intend keeping this up as part of my regular practice. I’ve got too much from it to stop now…
Ready to incorporate more relaxation time into your own practice?
My free yoga teaching resource pack contains a couple of scripts, one for guided savasana and one for meditation which you might find useful to add a bit more relaxation into your own practice. Download it here.