Yoga Nidra and Therapeutic Applications

Yoga Nidra deep relaxation as taught by the Bihar School of Yoga is a technique derived from an ancient Tantric practice, adapted to suit the needs of the modern mind and lifestyle. By simply listening to the instructions, the practitioner is guided into states of deep physical, mental and emotional relaxation.

Many mental and emotional health issues stem from prolonged stress states and the influence of stress hormones on the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. The ripple effect, may express as anxiety, depression, disharmony in relationships, inability to concentrate and so on.

During Yoga Nidra, the relaxation response is generated and brainwave pattern moves from beta (waking waves) into alpha (relaxation) waves, resulting in deep physical and mental relaxation as well as a myriad of benefits associated with turning on the parasympathetic nervous system.

Yoga Nidra also supports the development of pratyahara, withdrawal from sensory stimulation, allowing the practitioner a break from the constant over-stimulation of modern life. When the nervous system is soothed and the hormonal secretions balanced, the practitioner can view life’s challenges from a different perspective. Changing the mental frame can be transformational in mental health.

The signature stage of Yoga Nidra is the body rotation, which systematically guides the awareness across the sensory motor cortex, stimulating and then relaxing this area of the brain, further enhancing the relaxation response.

Baughman (1998) examined the effects of Yoga Nidra on five measurements of psychological functioning in an Australian female undergraduate population. Those who received the Yoga Nidra training from mid term to the beginning of the final exam period, a time of normally increasing stress, reported significantly lower levels of perceived stress, impact of recent life experiences, depression, anxiety and stress compared to the control group who did not receive any relaxation training.

Other studies on hypertensive patients have shown a significant decrease in blood pressures and an alteration in the levels of the stress hormones with regular practice of Yoga Nidra. An initial feasibility study at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (Washington, D.C.) on U.S. soldiers with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has shown that patients practicing the I-rest version of Yoga Nidra regularly experience fewer symptoms of stress and an improved quality of life.

As Yoga Nidra can take as little as 15 minutes to practice, it is a practical and powerful resource for stress management, as well as a therapeutic tool for persons who have experienced trauma, or are suffering from emotional or mental imbalances.

Swami Karma Karuna

Swami Karma Karuna, is director of Anahata Yoga Retreat, New Zealand, a Yoga Australia Senior Teacher and a Certified Yoga Therapist. An engaging international speaker, writer and teacher trainer with more than 25 years of experience, she imparts simple and powerful practices for a balanced and healthy life.