Yoga nidra or ‘yogic sleep’ is an ancient but little-known yogic practice that’s becoming increasingly popular as both a form of meditation and a mind-body therapy for PTSD sufferers.
The guided technique induces a complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation through guided meditation – you are neither asleep nor awake and similarly, you are not concentrating nor hypnotised. As such, unlike exercise-based yogas, yoga nidra’s health benefits are more closely akin to those of meditation practices.
The simple five-stage process of yoga nidra begins with a body scan to engage the physical body, and incorporates meditation on the breath, the balancing of emotional states, visualization, and self-healing.
It’s a deceptively simple practice and so is appealing to people who might feel intimidated by yoga postures or traditional seated meditation.
Yoga nidra is performed lying down, typically lasts for 35 to 40 minutes at a time and is said to be as restorative as 3 hours of sleep. Practitioners say that it often brings immediate physical benefits, such as reduced stress and better sleep, but most importantly for those with PTSD, research shows that it has the potential to heal psychological wounds.
Jacqui Suttie, founder of PTSD UK initially practised yoga nidra to replace some of the sleep she was missing as a result of hypervigilance, ‘I felt an instant flow of energy after a yoga nidra session – I found it easier to replace the sleep I was missing at night with a yoga nidra practise during the day as my hypervigilance didn’t allow me to nap during the day either. I found it easier to practise alone, but knowing that my husband was in the room next door allowed me relax more fully.’
There are many different approaches to the practice, and each has its own value and purpose, but all yoga nidra represents a state in which an individual demonstrates all the symptoms of deep, non-REM sleep, including alpha, beta and delta brain waves (delta waves are most consistent with deep non-REM sleep, alpha waves indicate deep physical relaxation, and beta waves suggest alert functioning of the waking state.)
IMAGE: Samathi by Natesh Ramasamy
SOURCES: Defining Yoga-Nidra: Traditional Accounts, Physiological Research, and Future Directions, Stephen Parker, PsyD,, Swami Veda Bharati, DLitt,Manuel Fernandez, PhD6, The Luminescent, Kamakhya Kumar. 2008. ‘A Study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga Nidra’. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol. 7 (3) July 2008, pp. 401- 44., Heal You First, Yoga Journal, Boston Globe, 5809 Yoga,