This blog post would read differently if I were a yoga instructor.

As a therapist, I’m here to tout the wonder of yoga nidra when you can’t sleep.

True insomnia is rare for me, but I definitely have times when my brain is on anxious overdrive and sleep is elusive. I bet you do, too. Although I advocate putting the phone away well before bedtime and charging it in a room that is not your bedroom, I do keep an older-model Wi-Fi-only phone by my bed for this one purpose – yoga nidra through a meditation app. (I’ll recommend my favorite ones at the end.)

Yoga nidra translates to “yogic sleep” and is described as a way of getting quality rest for the brain and body while remaining conscious. (Me: you can stay conscious? I’m not certain I knew that.) It’s said that a 45-minute yoga nidra session feels like the equivalent of 3 hours of sleep.

This article by the Cleveland Clinic describes the 10 steps of yoga nidra, and in those steps, I see many things that, as a therapist, I appreciate. These are skills I help clients with within the session, so, for whatever part you are able to stay awake for, you’re practicing skills that can bring about greater attunement and mindfulness in your life. For example, I love that yoga nidra invites us to connect to our heart’s deepest desires, find our inner resources, become aware of our breath, welcome our feelings, witness our thoughts, and observe the core Self. I also love the tracks that encourage us to accept ourselves exactly as we are in this moment.

The part that zonks me out every time is the body scan. Following audio prompts, you simply bring your attention to each part of the body as it is named. I’ve heard the body scan described as running a cleaning cloth along the individual neurons in the brain, or like turning out the lights in a large home, room by room. I love that.

My favorite practitioner and the voice I listen to most often is Jennifer Piercy, who can be found on the free version of the Insight Timer app. If you are new to Insight Timer, download and install the app, then go to the “explore” icon at the bottom of your screen. From there, type in either “yoga nidra” (there are many, many tracks to choose from, including some specific to the IFS approach to therapy) or “Jennifer Piercy.” Jennifer’s specialty seems to be all things sleep, so move through her list until you find one specifically labeled yoga nidra. There are several. From her list, the tracks run about 20-30 minutes. If you’ve got four minutes, check out her Intro to Yoga Nidra on Insight Timer, which gives a more nuanced explanation of what yoga nidra is.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll explore yoga nidra tracks until you find one that speaks to you. Good night!

  • Lalah Manly