Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that induces deep relaxation that calms and heals.

Yoga Nidra is guided meditation in a reclining position.

Yoga studies have demonstrated an association between lingering in a deeply relaxed state and a variety of health benefits. An alternative name for Yoga Nidra is “yogic sleep.”

History of Yoga Nidra

Who developed Yoga Nidra? The famous, revered yoga master Swami Satyananda Saraswati developed Yoga Nidra. His book, aptly called “Yoga Nidra,” is the primary resource on this deep relaxation technique. He explains, “I decided to construct a new system, called Yoga Nidra, which would incorporate the essence of these Tantric practices without any of the complicated ritualistic drawbacks.”

Swami Satyananda Saraswati is the author of other respected yoga books including the Hatha Yoga classic companion: Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha.

How does Yoga Nidra induce deep relaxation?

Yoga Nidra induces deep relaxation in two significant ways:

  • First, your secretion of the neurotransmitter dopamine increases by 65%. The human brain naturally produces dopamine in response to many situations, but especially when something suddenly good happens.
  • Second, the blood flow to the parts of your brain known as the prefrontal, cerebellar, and subcortical regions decreases.

Tips for your first Yoga Nidra class

Here are some tips for your first Yoga Nidra class:

  • Arrive early to meet the instructor, confess it’s your first class, and give yourself time to arrange your space without rushing.
  • During class, expect to lay quietly for approximately 1 hour, which might make you cold and thus want a blanket.
  • Although you remain still during Yoga Nidra, the class may begin with gentle body movements.

Accessories for Yoga Nidra class

Basic accessories for a Yoga Nidra class are a yoga mat and blanket. Bring your own or call ahead about availability. You might like these additional accessories if you attend Yoga Nigra classes regularly:

  • Your own yoga mat or yoga towel (to place over the provided yoga mat).
  • A small pillow for your head.
  • An eye pillow to help you relax.

Yoga Nidra contraindications

Although the purpose of Yoga Nidra is to help folks heal, contraindications do exist, according to the University of Kentucky, and include

  • being beyond the first trimester of pregnancy
  • lower back pain
  • restless leg syndrome
  • seizure disorders

If you have any of these contraindications, check with your health professional before trying Yoga Nidra.

Click here for a free a Yoga Nidra class. I use this recording regularly and love it.

Yoga Research References for What is Yoga Nidra?

1. Big Shakti; Origin of Yoga Nidra; Dr. Swami Shankardev Saraswati; 2011.

2. University of Kentucky; Yoga Nidra Deep Relaxation.

3. Psychology Today; What is dopamine?; Phil Newton; 2009.

4. Brain Research. Cognitive Brain Research.; Increased Dopamine Tone During Meditation-Induced Changes of Consciousness; T.W. Kjaer, et al.; 2002.

Photo credit: Joseph Renger