Does yoga nidra really work? Yes, in so many ways

does yoga nidra really work? Small yoga class in studio with students laying on mats in savasana

Does yoga nidra really work? Getting yourself to a yoga nidra class—or practicing it at home—is absolutely worth your time and energy. Here are the top benefits you expect from giving it a go.

What is yoga nidra?

Does yoga nidra really work? Young athletic woman laying on royal blue yoga mat on hardwood floor with eyes closed.

If you’re looking for a workout from yoga, you might feel like yoga nidra’s way too easy. But consider this: even though yoga nidra has you laying on your mat in savasana, or corpse pose, the whole time rather than sweating it out, it’s absolutely doing positive things. Yoga nidra may work a lot like guided meditation, but it goes a little deeper than that. Instead of trying to focus on a single point, yoga nidra guides you through koshas. (Koshas are the different layers of the self.) Because of this, yoga nidra can help you develop greater awareness of your own being—and, many times, students feel like it helps them heal from past samskaras (or ruts and paths in thinking) too.

What are the top benefits?

Does yoga nidra really work? Woman laying on yoga mat in savasana with eyes closed

For all of its benefits, yoga nidra is well worth the effort it takes to work it into your routine.

Better sleep + help with insomnia

Just can’t fall asleep at night? Yoga nidra can help. Because your body’s not active during yoga nidra, you can indulge in a session even right before bed. It definitely won’t keep you up. In fact, it’ll help do the opposite. That’s because yoga nidra activates the third eye, or the pineal gland. This gland produces a lot of your body’s melatonin—a hormone that has a ton of benefits. One of the most valuable ones? Helping you feel calm, drowsy, and ready to fall asleep.

But just before bed isn’t the only good time for yoga nidra. It can bring you better quality sleep no matter what time of day you do it—and it can also feel as restorative as sleep too. It’s common to feel like a session of yoga was as restful and therapeutic as a long nap. Now, should yoga nidra replace sleep like so many websites say it can? Both yoga nidra and sleep lead to altered states of consciousness. But even so, they’re not interchangeable. Make sure you get to bed at a good time, regardless of whether or not you make time for yoga nidra.

Feeling less stressed + anxious

As a culture, we’ve glorified being productive, busy, and always on call. But at what cost? So many women walk around stressed 24/7, and the problem with that is that our bodies are living in a stress-state. When you’re constantly responding to stressors, you’ll end up living with higher levels of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones then start to cause imbalances of other hormones, like estrogen, progesterone, and also thyroid hormones. The end result is that we feel depleted and experience a wide variety of symptoms that make us feel unwell.

When you practice yoga nidra, your body decreases sympathetic nervous system activity—or your fight-or-flight response. Instead, your parasympathetic nervous system begins to function better. This is important because your parasympathetic nervous system helps you feel more at ease and relaxed, which lowers your stress response. (And helps keep other hormones better balanced!) It also results in better control of the vagus nerve. Greater vagal tone means improved digestion (including stomach acid) and cardiac function. As a result, your blood pressure and risk of cardiac function lowers. Another incredible benefit? Yoga nidra releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone that reduces stress and anxiety.

Improvements in pain + chronic pain

Nearly 70% of people with chronic pain are women, and many women find that a combination of things are needed to help limit the amount of pain they have to live with. Along with pharmaceutical methods, lifestyle changes can help with pain management. Yoga nidra is one of them.

How? Emotionally, a reduction in stress and anxiety can help with how much bandwidth you have to deal with the exhausting effects of chronic pain. But there are other ways yoga nidra will work too. Chronic pain sufferers often leads to ongoing muscle contraction, and this shortening and tightening of the muscles then contributes to or exacerbates pain levels. Yoga nidra helps counter this through the active and subconscious release of muscle tension.

What should I bring to a yoga nidra class?

Young woman stretching and smiling, fully rested

If you want to do yoga nidra at home, you’ll need to search for yoga nidra classes on YouTube or that are with a private studio. But if you found a yoga nidra class near you? (That’s great!) Bring your yoga mat with you. You can wear your normal yoga clothes. But you may want to throw socks and a cardigan or light sweater into your bag. For one, studios are often cold, and you won’t be moving and generating body heat like you would in a regular yoga class. Also, it’s common for your temperature to drop some during yoga nidra, which can leave you feeling chilly. Your instructor should be able to help you set up and get comfy, and studios have blankets and bolsters to help with this.

Cindy Hodits, RYT