Yoga nidra, in other words yogic sleep is an ancient technique from India. It is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping in which the body is completely relaxed. In other words, it is the practice of guiding your entire body and mind into complete relaxation. As it helps relieve stress, it has now spread worldwide. It is a simple practice because it is taught lying down, guided by a teacher. It is also appropriate for kids of all ages.
How Yoga Nidra differs from meditation:
With yoga nidra, while lying down, you move into a deep state of conscious awareness sleep, which is a deeper state of relaxation with awareness. It swings sometimes to the outside world through the senses while in others it slides into the sphere of sleep. With meditation, you sit and in a state of consciousness while focusing the mind and allowing thoughts to come and go.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra:
It is beneficial for both the body and the mind. It has been shown to increase focus and attention, alleviate sleep issues, tension, anxiety, stress, chronic pain and more.
Yoga nidra works with the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates processes of the body that take place without a conscious effort (heartbeat, breathing, digestion and blood flow). This system also includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Yoga nidra for kids can help them calm down after a long day, helping quiet the mind and calm the body. It can prompt better sleep. It also supports body awareness, interoceptive awareness (awareness of the internal senses). Even children with learning and behavior disorders benefit from a yoga nidra practice.
Stages of Yoga Nidra:
During the Yoga Nidra sessions, you are systematically guided through each layer of our being. Yoga Nidra brings balance to each level of our being, mental, muscular, emotional, or spiritual and that is when true relaxation occurs.
Below are the stages of yoga nidra so that you can prepare a new script for your child or student:
1- Initial Relaxation: It is the preparatory stage for the body to begin to feel comfortable. You move from external awareness to the more subtle, internal awareness.
2- Intention: You need to create a short statement based on your heart’s deepest longing. Training the mind, this stage gives you direction. It needs to be something we greatly desire to achieve.
3- Rotation of Consciousness: Your awareness is rotated through every part of the body. With younger children, the body parts are more general. With older children, you can focus on left side, right side, fingertips, hips, and so on. It is important to keep pace with the teacher’s voice. This systematically relaxes the whole body.
4- Breath and Energy Awareness: You are asked to draw your attention to inner sensations, to the breaths that you take in and expel out.
5- Sense Perception: You experience opposite sensations, emotions without judging or reacting.
6- Visualization: You are asked to mentally picture the images mentioned. You need to keep your powers of visualization sharp.
7- Sankalpa/Intention: It is about the intention which was made at the beginning of the yoga nidra session. The promise to yourself will sink deep into the subconscious mind.
8- Externalization: You move out of yoga nidra with breath and body awareness, body, and room location, finally by very slowly moving the body.
Tips for practicing yoga nidra with children:
• Create a calm atmosphere. Practice away from distractions and in a darker room. You can use a sleep mask to block out light if you need to.
• Have the child lie flat on his/her back. Cover up with a blanket since the body tends to cool down when it’s at rest.
• The length of the practice may vary depending on the age of the child. You may start with two minutes for a preschooler and do this for up to five minutes for a grade school child.
• At the end, you may encourage the child to talk about what he/she experienced or draw a picture of it.
• You can advise kids to give yoga nidra a few tries and tell them that quieting one’s mind and not doing anything is much harder than someone thinks.
You may like to add a relaxation story to your yoga nidra for kids. For some inspiration:
My Magic Wand – A Story about Changing Feelings