The WRONG Way to Practice Yoga Nidra

When I first started practicing Yoga Nidra in 2010, I thought it was a great way to deeply relax when I was feeling anxious and I’d often slip it into my afternoon schedule in lieu of a nap. By 2013 I was in a pattern of using Yoga Nidra as a sleep recovery technique in the middle of the afternoon. I would get halfway through the recorded practice, fall asleep, and be jolted awake by the end. I’d jump up grab a cup of coffee and race out the door for my evening sessions. For over a year I found myself in this daily cycle of falling asleep every single time I practiced it.

It wasn’t until I heard my teacher say that if you feel like you are going to fall asleep during yoga Nidra it means you actually need sleep, so turn off the recording and allow yourself to fall asleep. So I did that, for another year or so, never completing a yoga nidra practice. I then heard him say that Yoga Nidra is defined by remaining conscious while the body and mind sleep. I finally realized I had been wrongly approaching the practice and it’s intention. I literally was using Yoga Nidra in a way that knocked me completely unconscious and sent me into a progressive downward spiral of sleep deficit. For 3 years I had hijacked desperately needed sleep with a cocktail of half baked yoga Nidra and quick spouts of passing out mixed with a hefty dose of coffee. By 2016 I was diagnosed with severe exhaustion, the results of which forced me into a semi-sabbatical from teaching. I kept only the bare bones of sessions to keep the bank account happy. While all in all I loved my job, students, and my life, I was barely functional, and worse, barely able to enjoy my life fully.

"I heard my teacher say that Yoga Nidra is defined by remaining conscious while the body and mind sleep. I finally realized I had been wrongly approaching the practice and it's intention."

Then two critical things happened. First, I took Stryker’s in-depth yoga Nidra teacher training. I learned how to truly practice staying awake while sleeping. I discovered the intricacies of yoga Nidra as both a process and more importantly an end-state synchronous with enlightenment. I started practicing it in a such a way that I didn’t fall asleep. I begin to use it for healing, cognition, intention and transformation. I caught glimpses of the ever elusive “4th state” - beyond waking, sleeping and dreaming.

The second thing happened more recently. I read the book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, Phd. I discovered the scientific basis for my exhaustion and learned the biological imperative of good solid sleep. I adjusted my life around getting healthy sleep. I can’t tell you how deeply and significantly these two things changed my life. If there is only one book you read, read this one. If there’s only one yoga practice you do, do yoga Nidra. After 30 years of practice, nothing has ever been as easy or come as close to total body, mind, wellness for me then Yoga Nidra. It's a daily practice for me now and I'm awake for it.