Yoga Nidra: Deep Rest in Yoga for Parents

As a parent, we struggle with getting enough sleep.  Our sleep is disrupted by kids waking us up in the middle of the night either to eat, go to the bathroom, bad dreams or just because they wanted to snuggle with you in your warm bed (aka: they got to sleep and you didn’t.)  

Luckily I learned about a very healing meditation practice you can do to feel refreshed and rejuvenated without taking a long nap.  Unfortunately, I did not learn about this until baby#3. As soon as I discovered this practice I knew it was going to help me be a better mamma.  I may not get to “sleep when my baby sleeps” but I can lie down for 20-30 minutes, listen to a guided yoga nidra practice and feel refreshed when it is done.  

“Yoga Nidra” means “yogic sleep”

“Yoga Nidra” goes far beyond deep relaxation to a place of natural peace and quiet that is tremendously healing.  It is the state between sleeping and dreaming.  You do this in a relaxation pose called, shavasana. This practice combines breathing techniques (pranayama), sensory training and control (pratyahara), and meditation (dharana, dhyana, and smadhi). This progression naturally leads us into conscious deep relaxation. It is believed that one hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to four hours of regular sleep (Goel, 2001). 

There are five different outcomes that can come with yoga nidra.  The desired outcome determines what approach you take. 

These are:

  1. Healing
  2. Transformation or shift in our emotional conditioning
  3. Improvement of cognition, memory, and focus
  4. Ability to achieve a sankalpa or our power of will and determination in an affirming statement we want to achieve.
  5. Spiritual Awakening

FAQ with Yoga Nidra:

  1. When should you practice?  When you can relax fully on an empty stomach (maybe mid-afternoon) or right before bed to help you relax and go to sleep.
  2. How often should you practice? As often as you can.
  3. How long is practice?  As little as 15-min and as long as 45-60 min depending on the approach.  
  4. What props do I need?  Anything that would support your body so it can relax and restfully.  Some people like to put a small blanket or pillow under their head, a rolled blanket or bolster under the knees and cover up with a blanket to keep the body warm as it rests for up to 45-minutes.  Anything to help you achieve relaxation in your physical body.

If it is difficult to settle into the practice, incorporate lifestyle choices that will support deeply relaxing such as less caffeine and using a slower asana (yoga poses) practice (e.g., yin, restorative, gentle) to invite more relaxation into your life. 

You can find Yoga Nidra practices for free on many online yoga websites such as Yoga International and YouTube.  I really like Rod Stryker’s Yoga Nidra practices and I can listen to him on his new app, Sanctuary, and on many other sites.  The App “Insight Timer” offers a variety of yoga Nidra practices and meditations to choose from. 

About the Author

Mary McCarthy has been teaching yoga in the Greater Des Moines Area for nearly 20 years.  She teaches yin and yoga Nidra the first Monday of every month at Plymouth Church in Des Moines from 5:15 – 6:30 pm.  You can learn more about Mary and see her teaching schedule at www.mary-mccarthy.com

 

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