On Sunday at noon, I went to one of Athens's many yoga centers for a yoga nidra class. (I just wrote "noga yidra" and had to erase it. Thanks, Imitrex, for your charming effects on my brain.) My friend A. was about thirty seconds into her explanation of it when I decided it would indeed be for me.
As someone who's done yoga nidra twice, I don't feel equipped to aptly (or accurately) describe it. From a layman's perspective, it goes a little something like this:
1. Lie on your back on the floor, preferably on top of a yoga mat or comfortable, thin cushion.
2. Cover your eyes with a soft cloth or eye mask. (For people who can tolerate the smell, a lavender-infused eye mask is nice.)
3. Adjust your body so you are as comfortable as possible.
4. Listen for instructions.
5. 45-75 minutes later, you're done. You have not moved that entire time.
This yoga can be done by even those of us who aren't flexible or super-athletic. Let me reiterate: YOU DO NOT MOVE FOR AN HOUR.
The teacher (or kind British voice on the free mp3 recording) will have you get in position and relax first. Then you'll "rotate consciousness" (skeptics, just go with it) by focusing on one body part at a time. The "61-point" focusing exercise is repeated 2-3 times and really does leave you feeling relaxed and mushy and good. Then you are led through some relaxing breathing exercises and visualizations. The goal afterward is to feel more refreshed and ready to live life, as a properly done yoga nidra session is supposedly as restorative as four hours of deep sleep.
Interesting stuff. And it feels so good! It's also interesting to willingly put yourself in that stage that occurs between wakefulness and sleep, that lucid dreaming zone where it seems as if you're having an out-of-mind experience, watching how your brain works as your body calms down. It's really, really interesting. I promise.
I refer you to this Wikipedia link and really encourage you to read it. Yoga nidra is especially recommended for those whose brains race, who have chronic pain, who have been feeling stressed or anxious, and more. It takes awhile to get used to the practice, but I'm told by the yoga teacher and other practitioners that every time you do yoga nidra it helps you--and every time the session is different because you yourself have changed since the last time you practiced.