A Cultural Need for Yoga Nidra

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that somewhere between 50 and 70 million American adults have some kind of sleep or wakefulness disorder. That’s kind of mind-blowing. Why the staggering number of people who can’t get to sleep or who can’t achieve an adequate quality of sleep?

A culture that demands continuous drive is certainly one of the culprits: find the answer; check the status; get the update; contribute to the discussion. With information at our fingertips 24/7, it’s hard to leave the electronics in another room. Unfortunately, a 2007 study published in PIERS Online showed that when we expose ourselves to cell phones, computers, tablets – anything with a light-emitting screen – we increase the likelihood that we’ll have a hard time falling asleep. Rather than change our lifestyle habits (because it’s fun to watch Netflix in bed, right?), we as a nation have decided that popping a pill is the wiser (read “easier”) thing to do.

For those of us who find yoga inspiring, energy-instilling, and life-giving, there is an alternative to the difficulties of maintaining a regular circadian rhythm. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is an unbelievably powerful technique that can help the body and mind rest or provide them with energy, depending on the intention of the practitioner. It is more recently being used to treat PTSD and is offering much-needed relief to those suffering from myriad types of trauma and suffering. At the same time, it is helping insomniacs find sleep and helping the drowsy snooze-button-hitters to wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Yoga Nidra works by bringing the focus of the mind to the Third Eye, the integration of both hemispheres of the brain, the balance of logic and creativity. It is in this integrated state that we can remain conscious and aware, yet attain deep relaxation.

There are many yogis who teach Yoga Nidra (practitioners recommend beginning with a trained teacher to guide you through the process), and plenty of audio recordings and streaming options online for anyone wanting to give this meditative and restorative practice a try. Truth be told, Yoga Nidra has existed far longer (and with fewer side effects) than today’s sleep-aid prescriptions. Find a mentor to guide you through a couple of times and see if the benefits aren’t just what you’ve been looking for.