Yoga Nidra & Brain Waves

Yogic Nidra otherwise known as Yogic Sleep

 It is a  form of meditation where we access the parasympathetic nervous system.. Rest & Digest and then move into even deeper states of relaxation. 

In Yoga Nidra Meditation, we start by scanning and sensing the body. This triggers a cascade of physiologic events inducing a relaxed state in the central nervous system and a feedback loop between brain and body 

Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation where we move into deeper and deeper brain states.

A Brief tutorial on brain states

Beta brain state: an awakened state with lots of brain activity…here is where we start because this is typically where we are, where we spend most of our time in the commotion of the monkey mind.

Alpha brain state: a more relaxed state…serotonin is released, and a calming effect is induced. People who spend more time in alpha brain states have less anxiety and slower restorative brain-wave activity

Theta brain waves state: thoughts slow down 

  • Accessed through prolonged breath and meditative states
  • Mostly related to imagination, reflection and sleep
  • More active when we’re experiencing very deep emotions
  • When we let our imagination “fly”
  • Super learning occurs
  • Kids and artists experience more theta activity in their brains
  • Access The meditative gap of nothingness
  • Occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation
  • Our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition
  • The twilight state we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep.

Deep meditation produces theta waves, which are slower and lower frequency than Alpha waves. You know that  murky barrier between sleep and wakefulness, when you’re drifting in and out of sleep, and your thoughts feel dreamlike and difficult to remember? That’s a theta-dominant state of consciousness.

     Delta brain wave state: brain waves slow down even more

  • Restorative state
  • Organs regenerate
  • Cortisol (stress hormone) is being washed from  the system
  • A healthy level of delta waves is good for your immune system, sleep, and learning.
  • Related to deep but dreamless sleep. 
  • Very common in babies and small children. 
  • The older we get the fewer of these brain waves we produce with our ability to sleep and relax gradually getting worse over the years.
  • Related to unconscious bodily activities, like regulating your heart rate and digestion.
  • Good for creativity, emotional connection and intuition.

Very few of us in this culture actually make it to theta and delta brain wave states during awake or sleep.

As a result, our bodies are not powering down and restoring to the extent that is actually possible.

People who are depressed go to the depth of beta and alpha brain waves states, but rarely reach theta and delta states.

Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation where we move into deeper and deeper brain states.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra

  • More rest between emotions and thoughts
  • A sense of freedom as you move through your day well rested
  • Less triggered by your everyday life
  • Not a substitute for sleep
  • Some yogis suggest that 45 minutes of yogic sleep feels like 3 hours of regular sleep… restorative and restful
  • Wake up deeply refreshed & well rested 

What Science is saying

It is conceded that the sample sizes of the Yoga Nidra studies are small and more long term studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful.

In the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, it was found through research that Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Shyam Shah Medical College researchers measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. 

All of this comes on the heels of multiple studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression.

PTSD  is another area of study where Yoga Nidra’s psychological benefits have wide implications. At the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Amanda Hull is working to integrate Yoga Nidra, acupuncture, and qigong into the VA hospital structure.

Compelling research is happening at John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. Reported is “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity” after only eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practice. 

Women who were victims of rape and military sexual trauma at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, CA, administered Yoga Nidra by researchers twice a week for 10 weeks. The 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy “showed significant decreases in negative thoughts of self-blame and depression.” 

A 2013 study showed that practicing yoga Nidra improved anxiety, depression, and overall well-being for women experiencing menstrual irregularities and psychological problems.

There are many subjective reports of women who have had incredible success using yoga Nidra to help them manage pre- and post-surgical pain. 

Other successes science is uncovering is how yoga Nidra can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improve blood glucose fluctuations and symptoms associated with diabetes.

Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation. We can extrapolate that the explosion of studies supporting the benefits of meditation also applies to Yoga Nidra:

  • activates the relaxation response…the parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system 
  • improves the functioning of your nervous system and endocrine system, ultimately affecting the release of hormones and the balance therein. 
  • help cells regenerate and repair
  • decrease anxiety and improve your mood.

We all know the effects of an episodic sleepless night… grumpy day exhaustion that leaves us feeling ineffective and unable to think straight. 

Chronic sleep deprivation is another story. It has huge implications and profound consequences on your long term physical health. 

We will Circle back around to the topic of sleep and Yoga Nidra in July when, for the whole month, we focus on Sleep Wake Cycles. 

Stay tuned, and until then, let’s do a little Yoga Nidra Meditation. Access the meditation now!

Comments on Yoga Nidra & Brain Waves

  1. Hey all, we just posted a new blog post: Yoga Nidra & Brain Waves Plus a Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation. Go to the “Monthly” tab and click on May. This meditation can be done at any time of day. In the morning, it is a lovely way to center yourself and really get into the present moment in your body. In the evening, it is a nice way to segway to bedtime. Try one or both and see which time of day you prefer. Let us know how it goes.
    Breathe In ~ Breathe Out~ Peace In~ Peace Out

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