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So you’re not into dripping and holding poses in a hot room? That’s all right. But don’t abandon yoga just yet. Did you guys know there’s a form of yoga where all you have to do is relax on a mat, rug, or even your bed? Are you interested right now? Keep reading.

It is said that this form of yoga is that a 45-minute session will leave you feeling as though you’ve taken a three-hour nap. Read on to learn how yoga Nidra could be the response if you’re looking for an easy, pose-free way to calm down and rebound from life’s stresses.

Yoga Nidra – Leading You To A Stress-free Life

Since yoga operates pragmatically based on our whole being, not just the physical body, it provides such a wide variety of healing benefits. Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a highly effective meditation technique that is also one of the most simple to learn and sustain. 

Yoga allows the body and mind to relax deeply. It not only refreshes the mind but also energizes the body. 

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a good way to end your everyday yoga practice. It is a simple relaxation technique that should be used at the end of every yoga pose series. 

It helps the body to calm while yoga poses keep it warm. Yoga Nidra requires you to focus your attention on various parts of the body and relieve them.

Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation that can be practiced by anyone. It has enormous benefits for those who find it difficult to let go, as well as those who suffer from insomnia, depression, burnout, and anxiety. It’s also very helpful and has a lot of calming power for everyone who needs to feel more at ease and reconnect with themselves on a deeper level. Yoga Nidra practice brings one into a peaceful, restful state of being. 

We can heal, recover and relax from this place. This sublime practice is gaining prominence around the world as more people become aware of its healing properties, and ongoing research continues to demonstrate its efficacy.

How Is Yoga Nidra Different From Yoga Meditation?

Slowing down and relaxing are key components of yoga Nidra. Meditation has the same impact. Although some people conflate the two, they are both two distinct behaviors.

Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation, but it is not the same. There are some similarities, but there are also some significant variations. 

In Yoga Nidra, you lie down intending to move into a deep state of conscious concentration sleep, which is a more relaxed state of awareness. It is something between meditation and sleep. This condition entails transitioning from waking consciousness to dreaming, then to not-dreaming while still awake. This practice is directed in the same way as some meditation practices are, but it is much more organized.

It is a method of transferring consciousness from our outer environment to our unconscious mind in a methodical manner. 

It induces a deep state of sleep in which our senses, intellect, body, and mind all relax. We are liberated from the constraints of responsibilities and logic. When this occurs, brain activity slows down and the body begins to recover. You remain at a waking level of awareness while focusing on the brain and allowing thoughts to come and go during meditation. 

How Did The Concept Of Yoga Nidra Come Into Existence? 

Yoga Nidra is a centuries-old Indian meditative tradition. Its origins can be traced back to Sankhya philosophy, which was first written down around 700 BC but has been taught orally since 1000 BC. 

Through the non-dualist theory of Advaita Vedanta and the Tantric theories of Kashmir Shaivism, these early teachings were practiced and built upon over millennia.

As previously said, the philosophy that underpins Yoga Nidra is Sankhya philosophy, a dualist philosophy that teaches that the spectator (Purusha) and the being observed (Prakriti), such as feelings, objects, emotions, and other beings, are separate. 

The path to happiness, according to Sankhya, was to become conscious of this dualism.

Centuries later, Advaita Vedanta philosophy and Kashmir Shaivism Tantric teachings established this to suggest that the “things” we encounter are not distinct, but rather a projection of our experience, and that we are bound to them.

Non-dualist ideologies allow us to feel this connectedness by examining artifacts in our consciousness.

Yoga Nidra Practice Today

Yoga Nidra is a form of mindfulness practice in which the practitioner’s body is totally relaxed while the instructor guides them verbally. A 30-45 minute session is normal, sometimes also done after a Yoga session. The student is usually taught while lying down and being guided by an instructor. The student will be led through many stages by the instructor.

It all begins with cultivating focus, asking oneself what we want out of life, and setting practice goals. Meditations on the body and breath assist in the development of an inner resource that promotes a sense of well-being.

The instructor then guides the student to concentrate their mind on their breath, body sensations, feelings, and perceptions, all while seeing and accepting what arises without being engrossed in the thoughts and sensations.

It’s a deceptively straightforward procedure. Yoga Nidra is attracting people who are overwhelmed by yoga postures or conventional seated meditation.

In less than 10 minutes, a simplified version of Yoga Nidra can be taught and practiced. 

Yoga Nidra can also be used as a simple method of meditation for those looking for a way to relax daily.

The Five Koshas And Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a relaxing activity centered on the five main bodies, or koshas, as described in the yoga doctrines. 

The physical, energetic, mental/emotional, higher intellect, and bliss bodies are among the layers, which are also known as sheaths. Each layer emerges one at a time, as defined in yoga Nidra texts, and then adjusts into place, rendering the practitioner undisturbed during the meditation.

The koshas can be thought of in the same way as consecutive numbers: there is a lack of consistency if one of them is neglected or dissatisfied. make it a point to pay attention to each layer and experience so that when you wake up from yoga Nidra, you feel at one with yourself.

The word ‘Pancha means ‘five.’ Maya means curtain, covering, presence, creative force, mystical power, mystery, as well as to comprise or pervade. 

‘Kosha’ is extracted from the root ‘kus,’ which implies ‘to enfold.’ It means sheath, shield, subtle body, wealth, lexicon.

The kosha’s “maya” is felt as both surreal and as an expression of universal unity. 

The term “Maya kosha” refers to the layers of enclosing sheaths that surround and protect our True Self.

Coming Back To The Point – What Are The Five Koshas?

1. First Layer – Physical Layer:

The physical layer, or annamaya kosha, is the first therefore easiest to recognize. The annamaya kosha, which literally means “food body,” contains all of your organs, joints, ligaments, and connective tissue. This kosha is something you can personally observe. You can see and feel it because it’s your body.

This layer is addressed in a yoga Nidra practice with a physical sensation similar to a physical exam. You could hear things like, “Relax your head, arms, legs, upper torso, back muscles,” and so on. The body is specifically addressed and observed. When approaching the next kosha, our mind and body are relaxed, we activate our subconscious thinking.

2. Second Layer – The Energetic Layer:

The pranamaya kosha, or “energy body,” is the second level. This layer is discernible, but it is far more subtle than the annamaya kosha. Our prana, or energy, passes through inner channels called Nadis and travels on the breath, according to yogic theory. 

While prana is often referred to as “breath,” it is not the same thing. It functions in conjunction with the breath, but it is more subtle. You may be requested to simply follow your inhalation and exhalation, or you may be asked to perform a practice such as Nadi shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing) without ever using your fingers. 

“Breathe into your right nostril,” for example. Take a breather. Exhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril. The goal is for some of the energy constraints in your body to release as you concentrate on your breath. Then, just like the physical layer, this layer vanishes. Let’s explore the next one.

3. Third Layer – The Emotional Layer:

The next two stages of relaxation, pratyahara, and Dharana, which are directly related to the mind, are included in this level. 

The manomaya kosha is one of the most intriguing layers since it is said that our feelings are stored here. When we are overcome by rage or terror, or when we are star-struck. The manomaya kosha reveals both voluntary and involuntary contact with ourselves and others in all circumstances.

We may try avoiding coping with this layer by forcing it down and ignoring it, but when our sentiments rise to the surface (and even beyond), we can reach a point in which we can no longer control our emotional and/or physical reactions. This is why yoga Nidra addresses this layer, allowing us to feel emotions without being controlled by them. In my Psychology degree, one of our Professors always told me that every emotion wants to be felt and for that reason I recommend it.

In Yoga Nidra, this is accomplished by a method known as consciousness rotation. This is basically a body scan in which you switch rapidly from one body part to the next while remaining conscious and detached. This helps to prepare the mind for the next step, which is to concentrate.

4. The Fourth Layer – Intelligence Layer:

The vijnanamaya kosha, also known as the “wisdom body,” is the smarter, more intuitive relative of the manomaya kosha. “Where did that come from?” you may wonder when something suddenly informative comes out of your mouth. Your vijnanamaya kosha is showing itself in this way. Your gut reaction is another example.

The boundary between subject and object starts to transcend at this stage, and duality begins to dissolve. A deeper understanding emerges as a result of the heavy focus.

It’s you who is watching yourself. Isn’t it a little strange? You can imagine yourself wandering through wetlands, witnessing large leaves with pale yellow flowers that become greater and greater until their yellow centers beam light across your entire body, from a heightened place of being where you and I are not different and not distinct. This describes the spiritual aspect of Yoga. And, like the others, this layer disappears completely.

5. The Fifth Layer – The Bliss Layer:

You eventually achieve samadhi as you begin to ascend the ladder towards realization. The anandamaya kosha, also known as the bliss body, is associated with this level. This inherent bliss exists at the heart of any being. It’s both total bliss and utterly indescribable. You are absolutely at one with everything at this point since you have fused with the source. The fusion of the Atman and the Brahman is this.

With just a sliver of distinction between you and what is sacred, this is the slightest tinge of the five koshas. In Yoga Nidra, the student must stay awake for this to happen. This is the real trick because when the brain is in the delta wave state, it is used to resting! It takes a lot of time and effort to train your consciousness in this way. However, as in any yoga practice, it takes time and commitment to see results. With each practice, this will get better.

‘Awareness cures,’ according to yoga. You might realize that you are so much more than your external (your aching head or sickness, for example), your energy (fatigue, for instance), or your emotions and opinions until you realize that you are made up of several layers and that you visit these levels many times per day (regrets and fears for the future, for example).

You can recognize that you have the opportunity to witness all of who you really are, as well as the world surrounding you, with respect. You may come into contact with your everlasting bliss and completeness.

How Does Yoga Nidra Benefit You?

This exercise entails a gradual shift in your consciousness as you scan various parts of your body. You will most definitely feel and foster a sense of physical, psychological, and cognitive relaxation when you do this. 

Yoga Nidra relaxes both the mind and the body at the same time, and it aids in clearing the nerve pathways to the brain.

In this section, we are going to elaborate on studies and articles we have found about its benefits. We wanted to make sure that Yoga Nidra is supportive in dealing with mental issues, but it is no substitute for therapy. 

Following Are Some Benefits Of Yoga Nidra:

  • The body is rejuvenated

The body enters a deep state of relaxation during Yoga Nidra. Regular practice allows the body to enter deeper regeneration and rejuvenation phases. The body functions become limited, the metabolism slows, and the hormonal function increases during this exercise. As a result, the body has the opportunity to start the healing process and remove the toxins from the system.

As a result, the body begins to conserve resources. This procedure relieves exhaustion and revitalizes the mind. You will feel refreshed and energized after the session.

  • Stress is lessened

Stress has become an unavoidable part of our lives. Some tension is good for you, and others aren’t. When unhealthy stress isn’t managed, it leads to physical and mental illnesses. Psychosomatic disorders could be the result of these conditions.

Stress puts us in a soothing activity zone, draining our energy and depriving the brain and organs of the resources they need. As a result, our capacity to think is greatly diminished in stressful circumstances, and we feel exhausted and lazy. As a result, we are unable to adequately interpret information and become confused about what is important and what is not. We gradually became aware of our subconscious as we practiced Nidra daily.

Yoga Nidra Has Some Scientific Benefits Too:

  • Improves ANS response:

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls many bodily functions, including metabolism, healing, and development. This device operates without the user’s consent. It is not possible to activate or disable it. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system are two subsystems of the autonomic nervous system.

Our muscles and heart receive energy and resources from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). It becomes active as a result of physical or mental stress. This subsystem’s primary goal is to assist us in dealing with tension.

The brain and internal organs such as the liver, kidney, and intestines receive energy and resources from the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). It’s turned on when there’s a sense of calm and quiet. This subsystem’s job is to provide the body with the resources it needs to heal, develop, and digest. 

However, in most people, the SNS remains active for much longer due to excessive stress and suppressed psychosomatic stress. And when we need to rest and recover, it remains involved. This obstructs the body’s ability to heal and repair itself, resulting in illness.

The parasympathetic nervous system is activated during Yoga Nidra practice. We teach our subconscious mind to let go of tension and remain calm and aware. As a result, Yoga Nidra aids in the rejuvenation of the body. You will boost the overall ANS control and reaction by practicing Yoga Nidra regularly.

Yoga Nidra Might Be Supportive in Curing PTSD

Check out this article from the Washington Post, which talks about the benefits soldiers had after from Yoga Nidra.

Oddly enough, the road to taking yoga Nidra to a broader audience led through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a military rehab facility located in Washington, D.C. at the time. Christine Goertz, an academic scientist at the Samueli Institute, a nonprofit research organization, teamed up with Robin Carnes, a yoga instructor who had taught yoga Nidra as part of a cardiac treatment program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in 2004.

Miller’s method was used as the foundation for a pilot study by her and Goertz to see if it could support soldiers struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings of a small survey performed with active-duty service members indicated that yoga Nidra may be beneficial in the treatment of PTSD in veterans.

According to Mona Bingham, a retired colonel who is studying yoga nidra at Brooke Army Medical Center, tools like yoga nidra can be vital resources for soldiers adapting to life after battle. She claims that “a lot of soldiers are returning [from combat] with physical, psychological, and moral wounds. “It’s not something that can be treated with medication.” She’s researching the impact of iRest on military spouses dealing with the tension that sometimes follows a deployment’s end.

A randomized, controlled trial with 150 participants was conducted at the Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Miami from 2009 to 2010 as a follow-up. Another research will start this winter at Chicago’s Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. The army is now providing Miller’s iRest yoga nidra practice to wounded veterans at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; Camp Lejeune, a massive Marine Corps base in North Carolina; and VA facilities in Miami, Chicago, and Washington, DC, based on the findings of the pilot report.

Soldiers also confirmed that some of their most alarming PTSD symptoms, such as hyperalertness, distress, and sleep disruptions, have improved as a result of these continuing lessons. Think about what it could do to you because you haven’t seen war.

Yoga Nidra Can Aid in Emotional Healing And Addiction

As you start to relax in Miller’s yoga Nidra class, you’ll be asked to conjure up your own unique Inner Resource, a perception of and feeling about a peaceful and secure environment. You should return to your Inner Resource to take a break if extreme feelings arise during yoga Nidra or at any other time. You could describe it as an inner safe place.

Charles, one of the men at Henry Ohlhoff North, is a frequent user of the technique. He was a former head chef who retired due to chronic back pain caused by a back injury. He became addicted to drugs and painkillers, and after three drug convictions, he decided to go to rehab rather than prison. Yoga Nidra has helped him reconnect with a part of himself that was previously untouched by addiction and chronic pain.

A friend delighted Charles with a birthday celebration that included alcohol when he was given his first weekend pass two months into his six-month recovery stay. Charles became agitated. He says, “I went out to my vehicle, put my head back on the headboard, and drove into [the practice].” “My breathing slowed down, and I was able to concentrate better.”

Leslie Temme, a researcher in Western Carolina University’s social work department, showed that respondents who practiced yoga Nidra had less depressive moods and a lower risk of relapsing into drug addiction in a study of 93 people at a chemical dependency recovery center. Yoga Nidra seems to help recovering addicts feel more at ease in their own bodies, deal better with stressful feelings, and make better decisions due to its focus on self-awareness.

Yoga Nidra May Lead To Positive Mental Health

Ferreira-Vorkapic and coworkers enlisted healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either practice Yoga Nidra meditation once a week for 45 minutes for 3 months or to a wait-list control group. Anxiety, depressive symptoms, fear, and psychological distress were all measured pre and post-training.

They discovered that participants who practiced either Yoga Nidra or meditation had substantial drops in anxiety, depressive symptoms, fear, and perceived stress when compared to baseline and the wait-list control group. On any of the psychological health measures, there were no substantial differences between the contemplative techniques.

To read the full study check out this research paper 

Yoga Nidra Could Help With PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) And PMS Depression

Women’s issues are generally overlooked in our society, particularly gynecological issues such as menstrual disorders such as excessive or scanty flow. Menstruation dysfunction is a common issue among women in their reproductive years. Amenorrhea (9%) and menstrual imperfection (33%) are common among incarcerated women; psychological factors, stress, and impoverishment have all been linked to menstrual irregularities.

The data indicated that learning and using a Yogic intervention program for patients with monthly irregularities who had psychological difficulties reduced their wellbeing, fear, and anxiety significantly.

Yoga Nidra For Adolescents

In the twenty-first century, adolescent well-being is a top priority for healthcare initiatives. A quantitative study was conducted on adolescent students aged 13 to 15, with the goal of determining the impact of Yoga-Nidra on several aspects of well-being. 

Thirty-six pupils were given 30-minute Yoga-Nidra sessions three times a week for a month. 

Satisfaction, psychological distress, overall quality of life, and emotional general well-being were the primary end measures. Before and after the intervention, these and other experiential characteristics of well-being, such as enthusiasm, attentiveness, quietude, clarity of mind, control over anger, self-confidence, and self-awareness, were assessed.

Yoga Nidra Can Be Supportive In Diminishing Anxiety

The purpose of this study is to see how Yoga Nidra affects stress and anxiety in college students. The research was carried out at Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya’s Yoga clinic. The practice time was 30 minutes, and it lasted 6 months. 

The results revealed a considerable difference in the practice group, with Yoga Nidra significantly lowering the stress levels of both male and female participants. Several more studies show that Yoga Nidra has a considerable impact on both male and female subjects’ anxiety levels.

Yoga Nidra Could Increase Mental Health Of Professors And Teachers

In this article, sixty college professors, both men, and women, ranging in age from 30 to 55, were assigned to one of three experimental and control groups: Yoga Nidra, sitting meditation, or the comparison group. 

Professors were evaluated twice over the course of the three-month study. Both yoga Nidra therapies appear to be a successful therapeutic technique for lowering anxiety and stress levels, according to pre-post outcomes. 

However, there was a trend towards the Yoga Nidra intervention being more helpful for anxiety, suggesting that it could be a useful strategy for lowering both cognitive and physiological symptoms of worry.

Yoga Nidra Might Help To Control Sugar

Diabetes is a metabolic illness that has become a major public health issue around the world. The participants in this study were 41 type-2 diabetic patients in their forties who were taking oral hypoglycemics. 

These participants were divided into two groups: (a) oral hypoglycemic plus yoga-Nidra (20 patients) and (b) oral hypoglycemic alone (21 patients). Yoga-Nidra was practiced for 30 minutes every day for 90 days, with parameters being recorded on the 30th day. 

Subjects on a Yoga-Nidra with medication regimen had better control of their fluctuating blood glucose and diabetic symptoms than those on oral hypoglycemics alone, according to the findings of this study.

What Yoga Nidra Is Not?

  • It isn’t just a form of relaxation: The word “Yoga Nidra” has become widely used to refer to any type of stress relief. Yoga Nidra is not just a relaxation form, even though it offers deep relaxation. Yoga Nidra is an altered state of consciousness. It’s a dreamless, deep sleep that you’re aware of.
  • It’s not just visualization: Even though directed visualization is often used in the practice of Yoga Nidra, the aim is to transfer focus from the external to the internal environment. Guided visualizations primarily aid in the activation and perception of our senses, as well as the movement of awareness externally.
  • It’s not just proclamations or autosuggestions: Although affirmations and autosuggestions may be used in Yoga Nidra to positively influence the conscious mind, it’s far more than that.
  • It’s not just reverie: It is the fun state of being lost in dreamy thoughts. Yoga Nidra may have a similar impact at first, but it is intended to take the mind into a much deeper domain.
  • It’s not just a dreaming state: At first, it’s possible to have a lot of complex dreams when practicing. Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, isn’t a lucid dreaming state. The senses and the cognitive processes are still completely present when dreaming. The thought patterns of Yoga Nidra come to a halt, our senses relax, and the mind remains clear and calm.

How To Practice Yoga Nidra What Are The Steps?

You cannot practice yoga Nidra by reading the steps, maybe you can but it won’t be as effective as conventional yoga Nidra guided practice. Follow a guided voice, use resources such as youtube if you cannot go to a yoga studio during these tough pandemic times. Checkout Yoga Nidra guided Meditation on YouTube

What To Remember Before Practicing Yoga Nidra:

Yoga Nidra is about ‘conscious relaxation,’ not ‘conscious effort.’

You don’t have to ‘concentrate’ or ‘focus’ on a leg or even touch your nose. You also don’t have to constantly move these body pieces. All you have to do now is focus your mind on them while breathing deeply. The key to Yoga Nidra is to relax with mindfulness, stay effortless, and relax the body and brain consciously.

During Yoga Nidra, it’s normal to be distracted by random thoughts. Do not attempt to restrain them. If you fall asleep on your own, don’t feel bad about it when you wake up. As a result, Yoga Nidra is a relaxing and enjoyable way to finish your yoga practice. Allow yourself to let go, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Conclusion

Many of us find it difficult to slow it down, rest, log off, and rest in an ever-expanding thrilling environment of endless knowledge and events at our fingertips. 

The changing of awareness via your body is the distinction between Yoga Nidra and Meditation. It is usually not done in meditation, especially in guided meditation.

Yoga Nidra combines the benefits of relaxing profoundly while still engaging in contemplative inquiry. The act of lying on the floor for meditation purposes feels nurturing and refreshing. It can even sound like you’re cheating on the power of asanas.! Don’t underestimate the strength of letting go.

A new way of emerging from the emphasis on welcoming and listening. We experience a profound sense of authenticity; we learn to fully trust ourselves, and as we grow to be good friends to ourselves, we improve our ability to listen to others. 

We eventually begin to ‘fall in love with ourselves again,’ as Derek Walcott puts it in his poem ‘Love After Love.’ This is a soothing, kind, and beautiful exercise.

Dr. Rai and Sumeet

“As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward.” ― B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life.

There is no denying that the breath and the mind are entirely linked. Therefore, we shouldn’t overstate the importance of breathing. The act of taking a breath is the act of living. It’s the one thing we couldn’t live without, but we seldom take the time to admire and appreciate it in all of its glory. So take a break from reading and take a deep inhale and exhale. Then, take a few more deep breaths and watch how a sense of calm washes over you. Be aware of your breathing is something I recommend to all of my patients. Become aware of how your thorax is expanding and shrinking. The breath has a magical quality. The state of our thoughts is a reflection in the form of our breath and vice versa. Therefore, we employ techniques like ujjayi breathing to regulate the mind by stabilizing the breath.

Ujjayi Pranayama (breath control method) is a delicate, whispering breath known as victorious breath or ocean breath. It’s like the sound of the air through the woods or waves on the coastline.

Examine the origins of Yoga’s pranayama, the physical and mental advantages of ujjayi breathing, and when and how to practice it.

A Glance At Ujjayi Breathing

Ujjayi is a Sanskrit word that combines the roots’ uj,’ which means great or high, and ‘jay,’ or ‘jii,’ which means to conquer. Thus, ujjayi is most commonly translated as “conqueror’s breath” or “victorious breath.”

Because of its peculiar sound, ujjayi is also known as ocean breath or Darth Vadar breath. The ujjayi diaphragmatic breath is distinguished by nostril inhaling. The duration of the exhaust equals the length of the inhale.

There is no breath retention between entire inhalations and full exhales. Instead, as the breath passes past the throat, a mild constriction of the glottis produces an audible ocean-like sound.

It might help if you imagine your ujjayi breath as rolling ocean waves. Long, fluid, and calm breathing is required. Your inhales are solid and whole. As the diaphragm falls, extend the belly out, fill the lungs, and blow the ribs wide.

Consider a gorgeous blue ocean wave that is growing and about to crest. Pay attention to the natural pause at the top of the inhalation and relish this little respite. Next, visualize an ocean wave rising and rolling over itself, collapsing into the vast sea and gently slipping back into where it originated when you begin to exhale, and the diaphragm starts to rise. Allow these breaths and visualizations to cycle until you can entirely focus on your ujjayi breath without using your imagination.

Roots Of Oceanic Breath

Pranayama is a word from Sanskrit that is made up of the root words “prana” (life energy) and “Ayama” (expansion). The root ‘Yama,’ which means constraint, is included in the second portion of the word.

As a result, pranayama can be translated as either growth of our life force or a breath constraint. Therefore, the fourth of the eight limbs of Yoga, pranayama, is an essential aspect of yogic practices.

The victorious practitioner of ujjayi pranayama is eventually victorious over life and death itself. When pranayama penetrates the heart, the yogi becomes almighty, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of the 15th century.

Patanjali’s Views On Pranayama And Ujjayi Breath

Patanjali, also known as Gonardiya or Gonikaputra, was the author or co-author of two great Hindu classics: the first, Yoga-sutras, a classification system of Yogic thought assembled in four volumes with the titles “Psychic Power,” “Practice of Yoga,” “Samadhi” (state of profound contemplation of the Absolute), and “Kaivalya” (state of profound contemplation of the Absolute (separateness).

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali explains how pranayama leads us to samadhi or complete absorption of the yogic practices. According to Yoga Sutra 2.49, the slowing of the breath occurs when we have established ourselves as secure and comfortable in our asana, or posture practice.

Pranayama, according to Patanjali, is the natural result of complete body harmony. As a result, some teachers believe that pranayama, particularly ujjayi, should not be taught. Instead, when the student is ready, this tiny breath will emerge organically. Teachers and researchers, on the other hand, disagree over Patanjalis intended meaning. Paying close attention to the breath, according to Yoga Sutra 2.5,  causes a profound feeling that is felt both externally and inside. 

This moment of calm, the stoppage of prana is described in Yoga Sutra 2.51-2.53 as the point when all of our mental illnesses are eliminated. The student’s breath persists, but they get wholly immersed in prana. As a result, the mind is prepared for intense focus.

How To Practice Ujjayi Breath

“Ujjayi Pranayama is a balancing and calming breath which increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat.” —Krishnamacharya

Remember to unwind before you begin. Don’t obsess over the procedure. Ujjayi breathing intends to help you lengthen and smooth out your breath. So think less and breathe more.

It’s best to begin in a relaxed seated position. Close your eyes lightly and sit tall.

Ujjayi breath is inhaled and exhaled through the nose with the lips closed — no air travels through the lips. It also helps to keep the body warm. The lips slowly close, and the focus is in your throat, even if the breath is traveling via your nostrils.

As though breathing in and out of a thin straw, you generate a tightness in your throat. Be aware of any stored tension in the teeth, jaw, throat, and neck while keeping a closed mouth position – let this go.

As you inhale and exhale, you can feel the wind tickle the back of your throat. This is linked to the timbre of the breath, which has been compared to the sound of waves, Darth Vader, and my partner dozing off. 

The tone and the audibility are smooth and consistent, with continuous, unbroken cycles of inhales and exhales; often, there is no discernible variation in sound between the in and out breath cycles.

Take a deep inhale and imagine fogging up a mirror as you exhale to practice ujjayi breath. Making the sound “haaaah” slowly as you exhale can assist. 

Slowly close your mouth while you are still making the “haaaa” sound. Then, continue to breathe in the same manner, with your lips sealed. The trick is to slightly tighten the back of the throat, making the airway smaller and causing the breath to drag up and down the windpipe. It takes some time to get used to it, so be patient with yourself.

Brief Version To Practice Ujjayi Breath For Beginners:

  • One hand should be on your lap/thigh, palm pointing up or down, and the other hand should be at the same level and in front of your mouth, palm towards you.
  • Exhale into your palm with your mouth wide open, as if you were heating a mirror/glass and feeling the hot breath on your hand. Keep your hand where it is on your next inhale and breathe in, generating the same sound.
  • If they can’t stretch the breath uniformly on both sides, shorten the more extended breath to match the shorter breath. At no point should you be out of breath or gasping for air. There is NO RETENTION; it’s like a never-ending sea of waves with no holding, wholly fluid and flawless. Optimistic.

SAMA VRITTI

Sama: same Vritti: whirlings, fluctuations, modifications.

The duration of the breath is the same as on the inhale as it is on the exhale, in addition to the steady tone of the breath. So you take a full in-breath and an out-breath in the same amount of time.

Using a clock is excellent practice; numerous excellent online/phone applications are helpful for that. Set your metronome to 75 beats per minute and inhale for four beats and exhale for four beats. It’s ideal to use an app that emphasizes/ punctuates the start of each new breath cycle.

The final touch is to breathe fully, profoundly, and thoroughly while maintaining an even tone and length of breath (air volume of breath). 

Within each cycle, spend the full inhale filling up, and the entire exhale releasing breath. Again, it should be smooth and easy, and you should attempt not to let the breath run out.

When To Practice Ujjayi Breath

You can do Ujjayi breath whenever you want. You do not have to be on your yoga mat to participate. If you’re on your yoga mat, though, remember that your breath generates heat in your body. So it might not be the best choice when you are doing hot Yoga. 

You might not want to add this aspect of heat to your body if you’re doing a Yin or Restorative yoga class. Instead, keep a gentle and smooth breath without making any noises. 

There may also be times in your practice when adding heat is unsuitable (for example, some pregnant practitioners find Ujjayi breathing to be too hot to maintain for a complete practice) or when breathing via the nose is impossible (e.g., blocked sinuses). 

Benefits Of Ujjayi Breath

Try to relax your thoughts and bring awareness to the current moment by managing your breath. Yoga practitioners believe that you can improve your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health by intentionally practicing breath control techniques.

Unlike other pranayamas, done when seated or lying down, you have to breathe in Ujjayi in every stance throughout the exercise. The Ujjayi breath’s consistency, tone, and depth help bring your mind, body, and spirit into the present. This unity gives your practice more depth and richness.

Integrating Ujjayi pranayama into your practice will enrich both your on- and off-the-mat experiences. The following are the advantages of Ujjayi:

  1. Physical Health

The technique is said to generate internal heat, which aids in the release of tight parts of the body, reducing the risk of injury during stretching. At the same time, deep breathing expands the lungs more than usual, increasing circulation and releasing toxins from the interior organs.

Additionally, a 2010 study found that the immune system is strengthened, and sleep is improved. Furthermore, this form of breathing aids in the management of high blood pressure and thyroid issues, as well as the rejuvenation of the nervous system.

Both nostril breathing and ujjayi have significant benefits when done correctly. Both of these things stimulate the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Our heart rate lowers and stabilizes when this system is triggered, our mood improves, and our immunological response becomes stronger.

According to a 2012 study from India, ujjayi breathing reduces sympathetic nervous system activity. It switches off our bodily response to stress by stimulating the vagus nerve.

  1. Flow Of Energy

More prana, our vital life force, enters the mind-body system with the Ujjayi breath. It removes the sluggish energy from the channels (nadis) through which it passes, assisting the body in overcoming exhaustion, stress, and negativity. Additionally, this pranayama promotes the transfer of energy from the root energy center to the crown.

  1. For De-stressing

The slow, concentrated, rhythmic character of the Ujjayi breath shows to help soothe the nervous system almost immediately when you’re feeling irritated, anxious, or worried. This breathing technique also regulates the cardiorespiratory system, according to studies. Stress, anger, and frustration can be relieved by restoring equilibrium to these two systems. It also helps to relax the mind and body. Check out this study for more data and how ujjayi breathing has helped people who are constantly agitated.

  1. Focus

The steady tone, and depth of the Ujjayi breath have a meditative character that helps us integrate our mind, body, and spirit with the present moment, making us more self-aware.

When this happens, mental focus and attention improve, Yoga poses flow more easily, stability improves, and we can hold postures for more extended periods. Sustaining the Ujjayi breath during your yoga practice, whether it’s Hatha Yoga, vinyasa yoga, or another discipline, allows you to stay centered, grounded, and integrated while keeping your thoughts at a distance.

  1. Helpful with Depression

As per Central Michigan University, Ujjayi breathing is a technique for calming your mind by focusing on your breath. This aids in the suppression of thoughts that could otherwise detract from your meditative state. 

Another study published in 2017 found a substantial reduction in depressive symptoms in patients with depression who were using or not taking antidepressant medication.

  1. Stress-relieving Treatment For Cancer Patients

Cancer and its treatment cause a slew of debilitating symptoms that are frequently unabated by conventional therapies. Pranayama, a set of yogic breathing methods, has been shown to reduce cancer-related symptoms and enhance life quality.

Seven scientists did a pilot study to determine the feasibility of pranayama and investigate its impact on cancer-related symptoms and quality of life. Four breathing methods were taught in weekly workshops and performed at home as part of the pranayama intervention. During two cycles of chemotherapy, the treatment group practiced pranayama.

  1. Meditation And Relaxation

The Ujjayi breath promotes body and mind relaxation. Vibrations in the larynx cause the constriction of the throat, which stimulates sensory neurons that signal the vagus nerve to calm the mind and body. This movement also applies light pressure on the carotid sinuses in the neck, resulting in a decrease in tension.

Ujjayi is powerful pranayama with numerous advantages. The slow, steady breath pattern also helps you let go during restorative postures and encourages sense withdrawal, easing you into a meditative state. Start using Ujjayi breath in your asana practice to feel its strength.

Effects Of Ujjayi Breath On Mind

Slow and steady nostril breathing may provide cardiovascular benefits in a 2013 study on the effects of ujjayi breathing.

  • It can improve the sensitivity of the cardiac-vagal baroreflex (The baroreflex, which controls heart rate, contractility, and peripheral vascular resistance, is the quickest mechanism for regulating acute blood pressure changes)
  • It might lower blood pressure and enhances oxygen saturation
  • It could decrease anxiety in yogis who are new to the practice.

However, when these new yogis tried ujjayi breathing, the favorable effects faded. For novices, ujjayi breath requires a lot of effort, which causes tension. Only use Ujjayi breath if and when it feels more soothing than slow nostril breathing without throat tightness.

Caution While Practicing Ujjayi Breathing

Avoid tightening your throat when practicing Ujjayi Pranayama. If you have a pulmonary condition such as asthma or emphysema, do not do any breathing exercise for the very first time without the supervision of a skilled and good teacher.

If you feel faint or dizzy, stop doing the activity. Always stay within your capabilities and restrictions. Before doing Yoga, see your doctor if you have any medical problems.

When Should You Use Ujjayi Breathing? 

In the west, ujjayi breathing has become famous as the preferred pranayama, particularly in the Ashtanga, Jivamukti, and Vinyasa lineages. Most instructors begin by asking you to perform ujjayi pranayama, which is as familiar as saying namaste at the end of a lesson.

Some teachers recommend perfecting ujjayi in a seated posture before applying it to asana practice. In contrast, others say that ujjayi should not be done during Asanas because it will emerge naturally when asana is no longer required. Just listen to your teacher and your body.

Conclusion

Your breath may be a wonderful person if you pay attention to it, guiding you in a variety of ways. The ancient yogis knew that the breath and the mind are inextricably linked. Ujjayi not only shines a light on your unconscious behaviour, but it also quickly creates a new practice, one that may calm, lull, and entice your body and mind into a state of enhanced and increasing calm.

Pranayama can help the mind and body in various ways and on a variety of levels, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Keep in mind to take it slowly. 

As you improve your breath control, build on your previous experience. You will begin to release your mind as you relax and breathe intentionally but naturally. Hopefully, this is clear, and you will include this pranayama into your practice. Consult an experienced yoga instructor near you to learn more about Ujjayi breathing and apply it to your yoga practice.

Sumeet and Dr. Rai

“Don’t stress too much, stay calm!” –  Haven’t you heard this phrase? I got tired of listening to this from various sources be it a doctor or a well-wisher or sometimes even a friend. I could never decode how not to be stressed when something goes wrong or when you are running on tight deadlines and so on. The concept of “Stress” has been in the limelight and as a clinical psychologist, I can recommend you to try the corpse pose to calm your mind and body. Continue to read to find out why it is important to turn to your right side while coming out of this posture.

While most of the Yoga asanas are meant to bring in mental as well as physical relaxation, Shava-asana or the Corpse Pose can be called the best of the lot. When broken down in Sanskrit words it means Corpse Pose and is also referred to as Mrtaasana retaining the essence of staying still as dead and allowing the body and soul to relax. 

Relax, Release, and Let Go!

It is often believed that the Corpse Pose is the easiest and needs little to no effort in mastering it. I would like to break that misconception as I found it hard to practice and found that many Yoga practitioners also felt the same way when they initially started practicing it. Shavasana is usually referred to as a form of meditation that is done after Yoga, exercise, or right before sleep. In a particular study that was conducted in the year 2009, a comparison was drawn between the effect of Cyclic Meditation (cyclic alterations of stimulating and relaxing the body parts) and an equal duration of Shavasana. Both of these are relaxation techniques and were assessed to study the effect and impact on a state of anxiety and performance in memory tasks. The results suggested that movement as a part of Cyclic Meditation enables performance in attention and memory tasks more than an equal duration of time in the Corpse Pose. However, conducting this study on participants residing at the Yoga Centre is considered a major drawback.

Follow these steps to get in the right posture for Shavasana

  1. Wear something comfortable and warm. You might want to drink a cup of hot tea if you like, before that. You cannot relax if you are feeling cold. So, prep yourself to stay warm. Feel 
  2. Spread the mat and lie down on your back. Alternatively, you could even lie on your bed, but it is recommended to lie on a flat surface with a mat or a blanket. Stay disconnected from phones or any other external disturbances. Silence the gadgets and set an alarm with a mild tune to just track your time.
  3. Keep your legs straight and let the feet fall on either side. It is not necessary to hold them stiff with toes facing upwards.
  4. Place your arms alongside your torso, not too close and not too far with your palms facing upwards. Try not to clench your fist and as you might retain the tension in your hands and around your neck. Relax your shoulders and jaw muscles too. 
  5. Keep the face-centered in alignment to the body and don’t let it fall on either side. 
  6. Once you are properly aligned, release any effort or tension in the body. Consciously feel a sense of gratitude towards each body part and feel every inch of your body by maintaining a focus between your eyebrows – the third eye or the mind’s eye. Silently thank each part of your body for helping you function the way you wish to and for carrying all your tension. Trust me, it works!
  7. Stay relaxed with a natural breathing style in this pose for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes, to begin with. Gradually you could extend to even a 20-minute window. 
  8. To release the pose, it is necessary to reawaken your body from stillness. With your eyes still closed try to wiggle your toes and fingers and stretch your legs and hands.
  9. While trying to get up and sit, it is always recommended to roll to your right side first and take support of your left hand to sit up. Rolling to your right side will reduce the pressure on the heart which is on the left side, leaving it open and free for the blood flow after Shavasana. Rub your palms and place them on your eyes and feel the warmth on your face. Now slowly open your eyes to a fresh state.

Modifications and Variations 

Though Shavasana appears like a short nap that one would take to relax the body, it is much more complicated when practiced. It demands you to stay consciously awake while being still and completely relaxed. After a small research, the common challenges faced in mastering this pose are detailed below.

A gush of thoughts!

It is easier to stay silent without talking than to silence your mind inside. A gush of thoughts has always been the biggest challenge for any individual who tries to practice any form of meditation. Especially the ones which are troublesome and uncomfortable. The moment you close your eyes to relax, your mind finds it restrictive and pops up different situations or questions and continues to work even harder. A 2010 study in which an iPhone app collected  responses from 2,250 adults worldwide revealed that almost half of  your thoughts have nothing to do with what’s going on at any given moment. The data also exhibited that people tended to be less happy when their thoughts did not bring with their actions.

The best way to handle this situation is to let your thoughts flow. Never try to restrict your ideas or feelings or thoughts running in your mind. The more you push yourself to avoid thinking the harder it gets, and you might even feel stressed instead of relaxing. Just like an ebbing river, the waves need to strike hard initially to find the calmness deep inside. Just go with the flow, it takes time but it will become better!

Physical Pain

Tuning our physical body to align with the calm state of the mind could be stressful if you have any prior concerns such as lower back pain, spondylitis, disc replacement surgery, etc. I found it hard to lie flat on my back due to lower back pain and was only focusing on the pain I was experiencing rather than achieving a relaxed state of mind. It is recommended to listen to your body and address pain if any while trying to perform the Corpse Pose. Try placing a pillow under your knees, to comfort your back and handle pain. If you are experiencing discomfort in the neck, slightly elevated with the help of a folded towel or a small cushion. Try to cover your eyes with an eye-pad if you find the light around you too harsh. Untie your hair, if you have a ponytail, and keep it open to avoid that prickly sense of a hair accessory while lying flat. 

Note that the smallest of physical discomfort could appear humongous while you try to relax. You might notice certain body parts will start itching, just breathe and repose. Everything is fine, this is your time.  

Sleepiness 

If you are totally relaxed physically and mentally, then you are halfway through mastering the challenging Corpse Pose. But here awaits the biggest challenge, you tend to doze off or start feeling sleepy. The Corpse Pose needs you to stay still and calm but remain consciously awake. Try to variate the breath by increasing and decreasing the pace and stay focused on that pattern to meditate and relax consciously. 

Benefits of Corpse Pose

Even during therapy sessions, I usually can perceive how difficult it is for my patients to calm down. This Asana can be a solution for a stressed mind. The Corpse Pose brings the body to homeostasis (a balanced state between the physiological and biochemical paths maintaining the stability between the physical and emotional levels). It is like rebooting your entire system and making it more productive and capable in this competent world. Let us understand some of the benefits of Corpse Pose.

  • Attaining a balance physically and mentally helps in the regular and harmonious functioning of body organs.
  • Regular practice of the Corpse Pose tends to improve the overall immunity of the body.
  • Helps to lower Blood Pressure.
  • Conscious breathing supports better functioning of the lungs.
  • Taking time to let the thoughts flow and to reflect thoughts on your inner self, help you to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
  • Helps you sustain your good mood as it releases the feel-good neurochemicals.
  • Physical alignment always aids in improving the posture over a period.

There are long-term mental health benefits too when you combine your exercise routine with the Corpse Pose as mindful meditation. In 2016, a study was conducted on people with clinical depression, and a massive improvement was noticed in their symptoms when they meditated for 30 minutes before using the treadmill twice a week for eight weeks.

It’s not easy to lie down, relax the breath, and silence the chatter in the mind. But disciplining the mind and body after a demanding activity builds resilience. Over time your results will get better, be patient, and don’t give up.

Srilakshmi and Dr. Rai

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