Nidra Yoga

For Better Sleep and Less Stress

By Sari Nisker Fox

When asked to write an article on Yoga Nidra, a.k.a sleep yoga, truth be told, it is not a regular self-care practice of mine. I add short Yoga Nidras into yang to yin classes I teach and regularly prescribe Yoga Nidra practices to clients when sleep issues arise and as a stress management technique.

The divine opportunity to include a consistent “sleep yoga” practice arose after weeks of late nights during the holidays, followed by the start of mandated online schooling at home. Everyone was feeling overtired, frazzled and was in desperate need of a nervous system reset.  I decided to turn my assignment into an invitation for the family to join me for nightly Nidra practices in January.

Yoga Nidra doesn’t require a yoga mat. Only a quiet setting, dim lighting, (soft music is optional), comfy clothes and space to get into a supported horizontal position on the back. This ageless guided practice incites a deep state of relaxation while staying lightly awake. Yoga Nidra is a way of surrendering into the moment, gently summoning the use of our imagination with guided imagery that includes a progressive muscle relaxation sequence, spotlighting each body part.

In a traditional Yoga Nidra practice, there are 61 body parts, including distinguishing the body as one whole piece.  The systematic method allows us to notice the quantity of tension our bodies hold and carry in our daily lives.  By enhancing each body part’s awareness, we can then choose to relax the muscle or joint through the medium of our breath. Our breath is the vital biofeedback that informs us of how our body senses muscle tension or, conversely, muscle releasing. As a connection deepens with the breath, we become more present in our bodies and less lost in our thoughts of the day and worries of tomorrow. Our being can experience more of what is in the now. My family has come to love guided imagery, such as visualizing the body blowing up colourful balloons with each inhalation and releasing them to the sky upon the exhalation or imagining the body is on a fluffy white cloud, and with each breath, feeling lighter and softer.

Adding backdrops to the body scan like the ocean or a sandy beach can help foster  “feelings” of calmness for our nervous system to feel in real-time!  In the end, I did most nightly Nidra practices solo and have been experiencing more peace within, less head chatter, more ease in falling asleep and a deeper slumber than when I skip it.   When we practice as a family, the kids get a few more wiggles out, and together, we enjoy a sweeter moment to cap off these long days. Win!

Sari Nisker Fox, Toronto-based mama of 2 gals, yoga & mindfulness teacher for almost 20 years, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur. As co-founder of The Yoga Weekend & a wellness advocate, Sari loves building community and inspiring self-care through movement and mindset practices.