Yoga Nidra Helps Anxiety, Insomnia, Migraines and More!

I have been learning and practicing yoga nidra rather intensely for the past few months.  Over that time, my sleep and stress levels have improved significantly. While I can’t say for sure that yoga nidra was responsible for all of these changes, the research actually supports these findings! Some days I practice for 15 minutes and others may be an hour. Regardless of the length, I feel refreshed and more focused after each practice. Read on to learn more and engage in a brief practice below.

The Practice of Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra, also known as “yogic sleep”, involves scanning the body and using the senses in guided imagery done while in shavasana (corpse pose). The goal of yoga nidra is deep relaxation while remaining alert and aware, producing a calm inner stillness. This inner stillness has been found in the research to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, migraine headache pain, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and improve sleep and well-being. Yoga nidra generates relaxation by shifting us into a parasympathetic or “rest and digest” state and by creating alpha brain waves, known to induce relaxation.

While yoga nidra practice can be any length, the average practice is 30 to 60 minutes long and follows these steps:

  1. Lie in corpse pose, flat on your back with arms by your side, palms facing up
  2. Set an intention for your practice such as “I am peaceful and relaxed”
  3. Connect to your inner refuge/resource, a place where you feel safe and secure
  4. Focus on the breath
  5. Rotate the consciousness to different parts of the body
  6. Recall opposite sensations or feelings, such as “heavy” versus “light”
  7. Engage in guided visualization where you will use one or more of your senses
  8. Revisit your original intention
  9. Reconnect with your surroundings

The steps above correlate to changes that occur in the brainwaves when the participant is following the instructor’s suggestions. I have recently been training in Yoga Nidra with Ally Boothroyd.  Ally leads a very effective 17-minute yoga nidra practice entitled “Nervous System Reset” below if you would like to give it a try!

Summary

The practice of yoga nidra is physically passive, but mentally active. You do not need to have any prior experience, nor do you need special instructions to engage in yoga nidra. You will derive optimal benefit by following the suggestions of the instructor throughout the practice.  However, even if you fall asleep during a yoga nidra practice (as I have many times!) you will still reap significant benefits from the practice. Try it and see.

 

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Research Links

Ahuja, N., Bhardway, P., Pathania, M., Sethi, D., Kumaer, A. Parchani, A.,…Padka, A. (2024). Yoga Nidra for hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaim.2023.100882

Ananda, D. N., George, L. S., & Raj, A. (2015). Effectiveness of yoganidra on quality of sleep among cancer patients. Manipal Journal of Nursing and Health Sciences. https://impressions.manipal.edu/mjnhs/vol1/iss1/8

Malviya, S., Saoji, A. A., & Pravalika, B. (2023). Yoga nidra for mental health: A systematic review of current evidence. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Healthhttps://doi.org/10.1080/19394637.2023.2290249

Merrill, K. C. (2018). Effectiveness of integrative restoration (iRest) yoga nidra on mindfulness, sleep and pain in healthcare workers. BYU Faculty Publications. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/5254

Moszeik, E. N., Von Oertzen, T., & Renner, K. H. (2022). Effectiveness of a short yoga nidra meditation on stress, sleep, and well-being in a large and diverse sample. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-0104-2

Musto, S., Vallerand, A. H. (2023). Exploring the uses of yoga nidra: An integrative review. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. https://doi.org/10.1111/jnu.12927

Nayak, K., & Verma, K. (2023). Yoga nidra as a mental health booster: A narrative review. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaim.2023.100842

Nuzhath, F. J., Patil, N. J., Sheela, S. R., & Manjunath, G. N. (2024). A Randomized controlled trial on pranayama and yoga nidra for anxiety and depression in patients with cervical cancer undergoing standard of care. Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.55871

Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Spence, D. W., Srivastava, N., Kanchibhotla, D., Kumar, K., Sharma, G. S.,…Batmanabane, G. (2021). The origin and clinical relevance of yoga nidra. Sleep and Vigilance. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41782-022-00202-7

Sashikiran, H. C., Shetty, P., Akashay, R. Venuopal, A., & Shetty, S. (2022). Effect of yoga nidra on the brain activity in individuals with migraine. Yoga Mimamsa. https://doi.org/10.4103/ym.ym_35_22

Singh, V., Krishna, N. R., Bhutia, T. M., & Singh, H. (2022). Effects of virtual iRest yoga nidra program on depression, anxiety, and stress of sedentary women during the second outbreak. Journal of Positive School Psychology. https://www.journalppw.com/index.php/jpsp/article/view/2161

Tanna, K., & Khatri, S. (2024). Effect of yoga nidra on oerceived stress in individuals with high blood pressure: A quasi-experimental study. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2024/65408

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Dr. Ruthann Russo

I love assisting people on their hero’s journey towards self-transformation. A passion which is born comes partly from personal experience – I view my own life as a series of self-transformations. I have 20+ years of education, training and experience, including being the CEO and founder of two health technology start-ups and global wellness consultant to Fortune 100 corporations.

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