How is yoga nidra used as a healing practice?
We explored what Yoga Nidra really is and the science behind this guided relaxation earlier. That gave us a detailed understanding of how this practice really works on different parts of the body, especially the brain and nervous system. The impact it has on the brain activity and the autonomic nervous system can be a determining factor to our health and well-being. This deep relaxation technique is also used as a therapy or as part of a treatment by many. It is especially useful in treating conditions such as heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and other mind-related disorders. For more severe diseases, it serves as an impactful relaxation for the patient and helps them calm their nervous system, muscles, and subsequently, their mind and body. Let’s explore how this works as a therapy.
What are the applications of yoga nidra?
Increasingly recognized by healers, psychologists and doctors, Yoga Nidra has many therapeutic applications. It is useful for both acute and chronic conditions, stress and anxiety related mental disorders (many studies have been performed on its psychological impact), physiological disorders such as hypertension, arthritis and asthma.) This practice also helps prepare pregnant women for the new phase of their life.
Diseases with a high psychosomatic component such as asthma, peptic ulcer and migraines have also responded positively to Yoga Nidra therapy. Yoga Nidra is also extremely impactful in behavioural problems. It has also reduced the distress and aggression levels among inmates. The benefits and applications are, therefore, tremendous and vast.
As a preventive measure, it can be practised by healthy, active people regularly as a means to relieve accumulated tensions, increase stress resistance and overall efficiency, and prevent the development of psychosomatic diseases.
For Psychological Disorders
During the practice, the subconscious mind is tapped and previously stored impressions and experiences (the source of the pain or disorder) can be overwritten. The process is facilitated by the use of specific images and archetypes (known as visualization) designed to liberate this subconscious material. Self-recognition and desensitization to painful memories follow spontaneously. For disorders like anxiety, the practice of this relaxation has been found to effectively reduce tension and improve the psychological wellbeing of anxiety patients. Autonomic symptoms of anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating, abdominal pain and nervous diarrhoea are also relieved.
Even for insomnia patients, regular practice of Yoga Nidra has proven to reduce the time taken to drop thoughts and stressors from the day and fall asleep. Yoga Nidra should be adopted in conjunction with a busy daily program which includes asanas and other physical activities. Gradually, dependency on sleeping pills, sedatives and late-night streaming videos reduces, avoiding more complications for the patient.
Substance Abuse and Alcoholism
Yoga Nidra reduces deep seated conflicts, tensions and stress in patients. This promotes a feeling of well-being and curbs the need to consume excessive coffee or turn to cigarettes and alcohol to help one relax and unwind.
Behavioural Conditions In Children
The relaxation and visualization in the process are also excellent therapeutic techniques for children with behavioural problems and maladaptive social and environmental responses. In studies conducted in the USA and Europe, hyperactive children who were taught Yoga Nidra displayed significantly decreased hyperactivity levels, improved attention span, decreased fidgeting, noises and actions, and reduced levels of skeletal muscle tension.
Yoga nidra for chronic diseases
Yoga nidra is applicable for bedridden, incapacitated and chronically ill patients of all degrees by:
- Relieving insomnia and sleep disturbances.
- Maintaining moderate pain outside the field of conscious awareness.
- Partially relieving feelings of despair and depression which often complicate the outlook in chronic disease.
- Decreasing the requirements for many types of drugs.
A healing practice for pain relief
The ability of Yoga Nidra to control pain was investigated in a study at the Presbyterian University College Hospital, Pittsburgh (USA), in which the need for analgesic medications was eliminated, or markedly reduced, among the 54 patients participating in the study. Two thirds of them suffered from headaches of either migrainous, muscular or tension types. The remainder suffered from a variety of conditions characterized by long term or intermittent pain, including gastro-intestinal pain (peptic ulcer syndrome), shoulder and neck pain (spondylitis syndrome), and lower back pain (slipped disc syndrome). At a follow up after 6 weeks of yoga nidra therapy, patients reported an average of 81% effective pain relief.
Yoga nidra during pregnancy and childbirth
The practice of Yoga Nidra throughout pregnancy helps to create the most favourable conditions for intrauterine growth and development. It is well known that stress liberates hormones into the mother’s blood which have an immense impact on the wellbeing of the infant. Thus, Yoga Nidra for stress itself is a big relaxation to expecting mothers.
Yoga Nidra also has an important role in the techniques of natural childbirth, such as the Leboyer technique, in which deep physical relaxation and spontaneous breath awareness form the basis for drug-free labour and delivery. In maternity hospitals where training in yogic relaxation practices is included in pre-partum medical management, expectant mothers experience less anxiety before the onset of labour and less pain during labour and delivery. The result is a confident, conscious mother who experiences a natural childbirth without undesirable complications, and a healthy baby who emerges into the external world relaxed and unscathed.
Psychosomatic Diseases and yoga nidra
Yoga Nidra therapy leads to conscious and subconscious recognition and analysis of underlying psychological factors, and initiates the release of suppressed conflicts. It is an important part of yogic and medical management for diseases including cancer, bronchial asthma, colitis and peptic ulcer. These are disease conditions in which psychological factors usually play a prominent role. Attacks of asthma, growth of cancers, exacerbation of ulcer symptoms or colonic irritation frequently arise out of complex psychological reactions to emotional insecurity, interpersonal stress, intra psychic conflict, hypersensitivity, rejection, frustration and suppression.
For asthma patients, the various stages and practices of Yoga Nidra, including deep muscular relaxation, psychic desensitization using visualization and imagery, and resolve (Sankalpa) have now been evaluated in clinical trials with children and adults with asthma. These studies have found yogic relaxation to be a significant and effective mode of therapy, improving the respiratory function, airways calibre and other physiological parameters. Of course, like other therapies, factors like age and severity of the condition in a patient, as well as other ailments influence the extent of impact and healing.
For cancer patients, Yoga Nidra is used in a few ways. It may be used to revive earlier life memories and experiences from the subconscious mind so that defective maladaptations can be recognized and corrected. This appears to bolster deficient immune defence mechanisms and create physiological conditions opposed to continued growth and multiplication of anarchic
tumour cells. It can be facilitated by using imagery and archetypal symbols to awaken deeply repressed memories and experiences. Another way it is used is in the awakening and mobilization of Prana (vital life force), and in developing its conscious direction throughout the body. In the Tantras, this is a specific therapeutic science known as Prana Vidya, which reveals
itself in the deeper states of Yoga Nidra. This system forms the basis of psychic, pranic and mental healing. The third application in cancer therapy is in promoting the development of the subconscious willpower (sankalpa shakti). In healing cancer, enormous, sustained endurance and willpower are necessary. In order to attain this, the sankalpa is practised during yoga nidra. The sankalpa is a personal resolution which is released like a seed into the subconscious mind at specific times during the practice of yoga nidra, when the experience of relaxation is deep and
the subconscious mind is laid bare and accessible.
Cardiovascular Diseases And Heart Conditions
Along with conventional medical therapies, Yoga Nidra plays an important role at all the various levels of cardiac ailments, from the acute post-infarction conditions in the coronary care unit to the management of cardiac insufficiency and angina pectoris, or to the rehabilitation of the former victim of myocardial infarction who is living as a ‘cardiac cripple’ at home. In such cases, Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation technique that relieves stress and tension accumulated from traumatic diseases. Someone who has gone through a severe condition or surgery or is living with it, also falls into the category of Psychological conditions as they will most often be dealing with stress, anxiety, worry, fears, etc.
Yoga Nidra also relieves the fundamental cause of cardiac strain and heart attack by reducing the load of environmental and intra psychic stress being relayed from the hypothalamus into the electrical conducting fibres of the heart via the sympathetic nervous system. As a result, heart rate, blood pressure and workload on the cardiovascular muscles are reduced.
Finally, as a preventive measure in cardiovascular management, Yoga Nidra induces a more relaxed mental attitude and emotional climate, enabling practitioners to successfully withstand the stresses of daily life without mishap.
Yoga Nidra, is thus, a preventive therapy as well as a cure in certain conditions. Making this practice a part of one’s daily routine can help manage numerous conditions and problems faced every day. Shvasa teachers are trained in taking you through a Yoga Nidra practice as both, a therapy to overcome challenges, and also a preventive, relaxation practice. Experience this by signing up for a free trial today.