• When we think of yoga, we might think first of a exercises made to improve flexibility and increase mobility – but yoga has other important elements and benefits

  • Yoga nidra, for example, is a form of yoga that aims to help you switch off and have a restful sleep

  • Yoga nidra instructor Uma Dinsmore-Tuli shares her 3 tips for practising yoga nidra at home

Yoga nidra is a form of yoga that requires no physical movement whatsoever: anyone who can breathe, and anyone who has ever, even once in their lives, fallen asleep, can practice yoga nidra because it is a conscious meditation upon the process of falling asleep.

Yoga nidra literally means ‘Yoga Sleep’. It’s ‘The Sleep that is Yoga’, or ‘The Yoga of Sleep,’ or even ‘The Sleep of the Yogis’. Whatever way you translate it, yoga nidra is all about sleep. It is a meditation upon the experience of falling asleep. What actually happens during the process is a gradual settling of electrical activity in the brain.

Practising yoga nidra can cycle your brain waves down from the high-stress top levels of Beta, through restful reveries of Alpha waves and down in to dreamy states of Theta waves until you may, quite likely, come to rest for a while in Delta waves of deepest sleep, where vital repair and restoration happens. 

It will take you about 15 or 20 minutes a day and you don’t need to move a muscle to do it. This is the most accessible, simple and effective of all yoga practices, and it does not require a yoga studio or a yoga teacher or any special equipment or clothing. All that’s necessary is for you to find a space to lie down and listen. That’s it. Just a place to get horizontal (or at least to sit down), and to be able to listen to a recording of yoga nidra.

How to practice yoga nidra at home

It couldn’t be easier. You simply need a space large enough to lie down, and the capacity to hear a recording.

There are three steps to yoga nidra at home:

  • Build your nidra nest
  • Choose your recording
  • Lie down, listen and rest

1. Build your nidra nest

For best results, don’t just crash out higgledy-piggledy. You’ll get deeper quality rest if you take time to make a comfy nest in which to practice yoga nidra. The minimal equipment necessary is a mat or rug (or a sofa) to lay down on, a pillow for your head, and enough covers to keep you warm as you rest, because body temperature tends to drop rapidly during practice. And that’s it. Clearly if your intention is to fall asleep, then the very best place to practice is in bed, because then if you drop off you can just continue to sleep.

2. Choose your recording

Now this is where you need to get picky. You see, there are innumerable recordings out there in the insta-web world of wonders and horrors. And a lot of them are just random people reading out scripts they found in a yoga book – sometimes you can hear them turning the pages. Sometimes the people recording the yoga nidras sound so incredibly stressed that it’s actually aggravating to listen to them. And when it’s 3am and you are desperate for sleep, this is not good – you really don’t want to waste your precious time and energy listening to a dodgy recording that makes you feel more agitated then you were at the start.

3. Lie down, listen and rest

And then - here’s a paradox - even if you have found a recording with a voice you like, and it feels relaxing, a very terrible thing can happen at the end. You see, most yoga nidra recordings conclude with the cheerful voice announcing the end of the practice and telling you it’s time to rise and shine. Clearly this is not what you want in the wee small hours when you have finally dropped off.

If you want yoga nidra to help you get to sleep and stay asleep, it’s vital to choose a recording that is not going to wake you up at the end. There are many different free recordings out there in the world, of unspecified value, but the ones up on the yoga nidra network site (and there are eighteen languages to choose from) are reliable recordings produced by well-trained teachers.

The key here is regularity of practice. Try it for yourself! If you make a commitment to finding 15 or 20 minutes every day for a week to lie down and listen to a yoga nidra practice, you will notice what the differences are.

Further reading

How sleep affects our diet

Can you sleep yourself healthy?

10 ways to beat insomnia

How yin yoga supports my therapy