The Neuroscience and benefits of Yoga Nidra – the Sleep of Yogis

Rare is he who knows Yoga Nidra,

That sleep which is conscious,

The sun rise in the night!

His eyes are closed

But they are connected with the all-seeing inner consciousness…

Bhagwan Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji

Yoga Nidra’s aim is to shift one’s focus from the external to the inner self under the guidance of a yoga teacher or guru.It is a highly effective treatment for those suffering anxiety, insomnia, depression & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD).

Why it works…

Life’s stressors can often create hormonal imbalances in the body’s endocrine system. The active relaxation of yoga nidra switches-off the sympathetic nervous system, which often contributes to adrenal fatigue, & switches-on the healing qualities of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Though rest will always assist the body to heal, studies have shown that deep sleep coupled with yoga nidra is significantly more efficient in restoring hormonal balance than deep sleep alone.

This occurs via a slowing of individuals’ brain waves cycles.

The brain uses electricity to communicate from one neuron to another. When synapses, (the bridges between neurons), fire in unison, the synchronized electrical activity is called a ‘brain wave.’

Brain Wave Cycles
Gamma 30-100Hertz

(or cycles per second)

Associated with higher states of consciousness.
Beta 14-30Hz Wakefulness – normal, busy consciousness
Alpha 8-13Hz Wakeful relaxation, originating predominantly from the occipital lobes with eyes closed.
Theta 4-7Hz Occur when one is drowsy or during REM, (dreaming), sleep.
Delta 1-3Hz Occur during deep sleep.

Neuroscientists have found a correlation between an increase in alpha brain waves through meditation & the ability to reduce depressive symptoms as well as an increase in creative thinking, (interestingly, the alpha waves appear reduced when one is drowsy, asleep or relaxing with the eyes open). The brain can learn and change – neuroplasticity, so regular habits of behaviour & their associated thoughts & emotions have the ability to alter the architecture of the brain, directly impacting cognitive functioning & potentially increasing our brain volume!

In fact, it’s estimated that of 1 hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to the healing benefits of 4 hours of deep sleep. One study across a 6-month period showed the practice successfully lowered harmful cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate & participants’ levels of adrenaline & cortisol, the hormones released when one perceives a stressful situation. Another study also found that practitioners had increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter vital to optimal functioning of the brain & nervous system.

Therefore, regular practice of yoga nidra helps one…

The light within me recognises & honours the light within you all –

Donovan Stender & Sarah Howes