Yoga Nidra, a guided deep relaxation through ‘the yogic sleep’

A restoring practice that takes us into the borderline state between awaken and asleep.

Rio Otoya
Rio Otoya
Jul 18, 2019 · 3 min read
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Yoga Nidra session at Campus London, Google’s space for startups, in London, 2018

Yoga Nidra is known as the yogic sleep because it’s practiced lying down, in stillness, and because it induces a very deep state physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Nidra in sanskrit means sleep, as the practice induces the borderline state between awake and asleep.

This borderline mental state is known as Alpha, a restorative brainwave mode. In Alpha, our brain balances and produces serotonin (a mood regulator).

Nidra may be considered a self hypnosis technique, as it helps the practitioner reinforce any behaviour through mentally stating a resolve of their own choice.

In Yoga Nidra, we rotate the awareness around different body point and inner sensations, which activates different brain nerve centres. Yoga Nidra is not a substitute for sleep, however its is widely said that 30 minutes of Nidra may feel like 3 hrs of actual sleep.

Traditionally, Yoga Nidra is a form of Pratyahara or sensory withdrawal. A practice to disconnect from external stimulation and to connect with our inner space. Traditionally, Pratyahara the fifth limb of Patanjali’s Yoga (after Asana & Pranayama and Before the meditative practices).

Yoga Nidra was developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of the Institute “Bihar School of Yoga”. Yoga Nidra is rooted in the ancient tantric practice of Nyasa (to hold the mind in one point), which involved rotating the mind around different parts of the body (holding the mind in different points).

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Guiding Yoga Nidra with gPause at Google UK, July 2018, London

What to expect from a Nidra session

The session runs like a guided meditation, except that it is practiced while lying down in Shavasana (the “corpse” pose). The practice lasts for around 30 or 45 minutes with a life instructor of following a recording.

It must be practiced in a calm, quite space without any disturbance. The practitioners ideally removes any obstacles such as belts and jewellery and they may choose to cover their eyes and use a blanket.

People sometimes think they fully feel asleep and that that they failed at trying to remain conscious through the practice. But often this is only due to the deep relaxation, in Nidra you are never fully asleep, as your mind continues to be engaged

Practicing Yoga Nidra

If you are interested in practicing please check out my events page. Also follow me on Instagram for announcements, or leave your email here. This is available as group and 1 on 1 practice.

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Group shavasana after practicing in India, March 2018


Awesome session, friendly and welcoming to anyone attending for the first time. Great tone of voice and ability to really make you relax — Google Employee

Really enjoyed the tone of your voice and how it really put me into a relaxed state. Might be good to do a session like that at the end of the day so I can go home and sleep after :)

What I enjoyed the most the explanation of Yoga Nidra at the beginning & the first part about the body awareness were both amazing. :-)

Rio is a great facilitator. His voice is very calm, his instructions clear, and his explanations help understand the techniques and nuances. I loved the session and look forward to attending more.

I really liked the session. The problem for me was that I was really sleepy (slept only 4 hours the day before), so it was really hard to stay awake. But still, I did stay somewhat focused on the voice. I did feel well rested after the session.

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