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December 17, 2013

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Take a Yogic Power Nap.

Yoga Nidra, literally the “sleep of the yogis,” is a powerful meditation practice.

It’s basically an awesomely relaxing yogic power nap. Here’s how to do it.

Lie down on your back in savasana, corpse pose. Take a few deep inhales and exhale loudly through the mouth. Let your body and mind relax.

(It’s often said that savasana is the most difficult hatha yoga pose, although it is the most physically passive. The key is to relax your mind and still your body but not to fall asleep. Which is super challenging to do! Practice helps.)

Keep your mind alert and attuned to the breath coming in and the breath going out. The breath is your anchor to the present moment.

The Yoga Nidra method is to scan the physical body and bring your awareness to each small area, release tension and relax deeper and deeper. Stay at each point for a few seconds.

Starting with the right pinky toe, moving through each toe one at a time, to the top of the foot, sole of the foot.

Bring your awareness to the inner ankle, outer ankle, lower shin, upper shin, calf, back of the knee, kneecap, quadricep, lower hamstring, upper hamstring, right glut, perineum, left glut—then down the left leg with equally minute precision.

Bring your awareness to the lower abdomen, upper abdomen, diaphragm, left side of the chest, middle of the chest, right side of the chest.

Bring your awareness into the right shoulder, right bicep, right tricep, right elbow, forearm, wrist, palm of the hand, back of the hand, each finger one at a time, and the thumb.

Repeat on the left arm. Throat, back of the neck, jaw, chin, lips, tongue, cheeks, nose, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, forehead, scalp, crown of the head.

Relax every part, letting go of all tension, feeling your body melt into the ground.

Imagine your body is as light as a fluffy white cloud floating in the sky. Then, visualize your body as heavy as a boulder grounded in the earth.

It’s wonderful to spend at least twenty or thirty minutes practicing Yoga Nidra. If you fall asleep, don’t fret. As the Dalai Lama says, “Sleep is the best meditation.”

Nevertheless, try to stay awake, alert and energetic.

The best way to practice Yoga Nidra is by listening to a recording. Of course, there are tons available free online.

The result of this type of meditation is true rejuvenation. Take half an hour and give it a try.

Enjoy!

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Image: Riebart/Flickr Creative Commons

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom. She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting, and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!