Follow these simple steps to use yoga sleep, a restorative practice, to center yourself and better cope with stress.
Yoga sleep, also known as yoga nidra, is a relaxation and rejuvenation technique. This practice is almost always used at the end of a yoga class to seal in and solidify all the good results from the yoga poses, or asanas. Yoga sleep is a restorative practice that anyone can learn to use, with or without yoga experience.
The term yoga sleep doesn’t mean that a practitioner attempts to actually fall asleep although this does sometimes happen to beginners. Yoga sleep is a process in which one allows one’s physical body and chattering mind to be asleep in order to tune into a deeper consciousness.
Yoga sleep can be used after any form of exercise to allow the body, mind and soul to absorb the energy from the workout. Yoga sleep also proves helpful when trying to unwind, meditate or fall asleep at night.
Begin yoga sleep by preparing yourself and your environment. Wear loose and comfortable clothing. Turn off the lights and close the shades if possible. Switch off the phone and ask family members not to disturb you. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature—not too hot or too cold. Since yogic sleep causes the body temperature to drop it is recommended that you cover yourself with a light blanket.
Lie down on your back on a yoga or exercise mat or a blanket. Allow your legs and arms to be a comfortable distance from the body with the palms facing up. Gently roll your head from side to side and let it rest comfortably.
The first step of yoga sleep is to tense all the muscles of the body. Tighten and squeeze the legs, arms, torso and shoulders. Now lift the limbs and head from the floor a few inches as you tense all the muscles and then just drop the body down. Let all the tension go.
In order to further relax the physical body you will use the power of your thoughts. Have an internal dialogue with the parts of your body—instructing your body to relax in a systematic order. Beginning with your toes, concentrate your mind on relaxation.
Allow the feeling of relaxation to flow like liquid up through your feet and into your legs. Actually feel a sense of warmth flooding through you and melting away tension as it works its way up into your pelvis. The relaxing stream fills your torso, arms, hands and fingers.
Spend extra time focusing on any areas where you feel excessive tension and stress. Continue sending the relax message to all parts of your body until you feel the body tranquil.
Now that the body is relaxed, you will move into the layer of mind. Quiet the chattering thoughts by focusing solely on your breath. Watch each inhalation and exhalation. If you feel your mind wander away from you into idle thoughts just nudge your attention back to the breath as soon as you realize you’ve wandered away.
It’s important not to be hard on yourself. Do not judge whether you are doing the yoga sleep perfectly, just by attempting this practice you are succeeding in helping yourself to calm down.
Once you feel your breath slow down and deepen and find that your mind is quieting, you can now allow your mind to melt into your center. Let your whole being spin inwards into a place of quiet stillness.
Next, it is time to simply enjoy the light and relaxed feeling that is coursing through all areas of your self. Revel in the calm flow of your body, breath, mind and soul for approximately fifteen to thirty minutes.
Come out of the yoga sleep in a slow manner. Begin by bringing your awareness back to the physical body. Allow your thoughts to surge through the body from the head to the toes, feeling the insides of your body with your mind.
Slowly wiggle and stretch your body in all directions. Savor the feeling of your body waking from the deep and invigorating yoga sleep.
Take your time bringing yourself back into the present moment. Notice how you feel after your yoga sleep practice. Hopefully, you will feel refreshed and stimulated, ready to go back into the bustling world more centered and calm.
Enjoy your new relaxation and meditation tool that you can take everywhere with you. Experiment with different thoughts to relax the body. With practice, you will find your ability to relax at will improving even when you don’t have time for a full yogic sleep.