While yoga has officially entered the mainstream, yoga nidra has not—not yet, anyway.
I love the practice, primarily for its efficacy in promoting relaxation and restoration, two states of being we so deeply need to combat the stressors of modern life. (Learn more in Stress vs Self-Care: How to Elicit the Relaxation Response.)
Yoga nidra also helps relieve sleep issues and insomnia, which plague too many people across the planet.
Let’s take a look at the 10 steps of yoga nidra to better comprehend the practice and integrate it into our own lives.
1. Introduce and Integrate Your Heart’s Desire
This first step is about connecting to your heart’s deepest desire.
What does your heart wish to see manifest in this life?
It could be anything—whether it’s to awaken spiritually, have greater compassion for yourself and others, or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle—your heart knows the way.
This is the step where we listen to it, and introduce its desire to the yoga nidra practice.
2. Bring Forth Your Intention
In the second step of yoga nidra, we set our intention for the practice.
What do you want to accomplish during this time?
Maybe you simply need a rest. Or perhaps you’d like to address an emotional issue that needs healing and attention. Maybe your intention is to let go of some of the stress you’ve been accumulating during the week. (Learn more in Svadhyaya: Spend a Lifetime Getting to Know Yourself & Deepening Your Yoga Practice.)
In this step, we bring forth our intention and welcome it with our whole being.
3. Acknowledge the Resources You Have Within
During this third step of yoga nidra, we bring our awareness to our inner resource—our place of safety and security which we hold within ourselves.
Where do you sense this inner resource resides? Is it in your heart center? Your solar plexus?
We all have a safe haven within each and everyone of us. You may want to imagine a specific person, who offers a sense of safety. It could be a place in your home like your bedroom or a specific activity you do at a certain time of day.
Wherever you can draw upon this feeling of security—drop into this place and welcome it into the practice, with your entire being.
4. Bring Your Awareness to Your Body
In this fourth step, we bring our attention and loving awareness to our body.
How does it feel in this moment?
Move all your awareness throughout the entire body, paying attention to each place and how it feels. Be with each sensation as it arises, with love and compassion. (Learn more in 6 Techniques to Staying Present.)
5. Focus on the Breath
The fifth step of yoga nidra revolves around the breath. Here, we bring our attention to our breath, feeling the sensation of the body as it breathes itself.
Be aware of the breath as it enters your nose, your throat, your rib cage, and your tummy.
Feel the rise and fall of the belly with each inhalation and exhalation. See the breath as prana, fuelling your body with life force energy.
6. Be Present to Your Emotional State
In this sixth step, we welcome our emotions—whichever ones are coming up—with love and compassion. (Learn more in Managing Your Emotions and Why.)
There’s no self-criticism or self-judgment.
We are simply witnessing the emotions, allowing them to be, just as they are. You may notice opposing emotions and feelings.
Again, simply witness and be with these opposing sensations.
7. Be the Witnessing Presence of Your Thoughts
This seventh step of yoga nidra is all about watching our mental pictures and images as they arise, and fall.
Your thoughts are like clouds in the sky, coming and going. Watch these clouds as they stay with you for several moments, or float quickly by.
Again, there’s no judgment. You’re simply paying attention to your thoughts with a kind, open attention. (Learn more in You Are Not Your Thoughts.)
You may want to see if there are feelings and sensations that correspond to your thoughts. Pay attention to these as well, welcoming all sensations in your body.
8. Feel Joy
In the eight step, we invite feelings of joy into our bodies.
Feel into a sense of deep well-being as it springs forth from your heart center and/or your solar plexus.
Welcome these joyful sensations, and then watch them flow throughout your entire body. Let these blissful feelings touch every space in your being.
As you exhale, radiate these joyful sensations outward into every nook and cranny of your body. (Learn more in Light and Dark: The Spectrum of Human Experience.)
9. Feel Profound Peace and Contentment
In the ninth step, we usher into our bodies, feelings of deep peace and contentment.
We are safe, we are loved, we are at peace.
Allow yourself to feel these sensations. Feel peace. Feel contentment.
10. Reflect on Your Yoga Nidra Practice
In the final step, we take a moment to reflect upon our yoga nidra experience.
Feel grateful to know that feelings of peace and joy are always waiting for us within.
Allow yourself to rest in this inner knowing, and reflect upon that inner knowing, which we’ve touched upon during yoga nidra.
You can integrate this knowledge anytime, anywhere—no matter what circumstance—good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, is arising.