Ahead Of Yoga Day, Study Reveals Benefits Of Yog Nidra, Also Practised By PM Narendra Modi

Yog Nidra is performed while lying down in what is called the 'Shava Asana' or the supine pose.

Ahead Of Yoga Day, Study Reveals Benefits Of Yog Nidra, Also Practised By PM Narendra Modi

The study was conducted by scientists from AIIMS and IIT Delhi.

A day before the 10th International Yoga Day, a new and detailed scientific study has revealed the benefits of Yog Nidra or yogic sleep. Researchers say it helps in deep relaxation and the results are also visible in brain scans. 

Yog Nidra is also practised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a big votary of yoga. "Whenever I get time, I practise Yog Nidra once or twice a week. It furthers overall well-being, relaxes the mind and reduces stress and anxiety," PM Modi has said.

Professor Rahul Garg, a computer scientist with interests in Yogic Neuroscience and the lead researcher for the study from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, says, "One is aware that PM Modi sleeps very little and is still super energetic and alert. This could well be because he practices Yog Nidra effectively". 

Scientists from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and IIT Delhi used the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI) technique to understand the effects of Yog Nidra on the brain and discovered that it brings about a state of "deep relaxation and increased awareness". The scans also show that more significant brain changes occur during Yog Nidra practice in individuals who have more experience in yoga or meditation. 

Yog Nidra is performed while lying down in what is called the 'Shava Asana' or the supine pose and guided audio is used to help the person attain a state where the only external signal the person gets is the audio and all the other senses of the person are looking inwards. For the study, the researchers used a module developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  

The research was supported by the Department of Science and Technology, India, under the Science and Technology for Yoga and Meditation (SATYAM) program and the f-MRIs were done at the Mahajan Imaging Centre.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study says practising Yog Nidra, often referred to as 'non-sleep deep rest (NSDR)' induces a state of deep relaxation while maintaining heightened awareness. Practitioners use it to deepen their meditative states and several research studies have demonstrated its significant benefits for mental health. 

It has been hypothesised that Yog Nidra influences neural circuits involved in sleep, self-regulation, and mind-wandering. The study provides new insights into how Yog Nidra affects brain function in individuals experienced in meditation and yogic practices as well as novices. 

The study said, "The more hours participants spent practising meditation and yoga, the more noticeable the changes in their brain activity during Yog Nidra. These results could potentially indicate that experienced meditators have reduced mind-wandering compared to novices."

Professor Garg said, "According to Yogic texts, Yog Nidra helps bring the "samskaras" (or thoughts) buried in deep subconscious minds to the surface and eventually helps release them, thereby promoting health. The activation of brain areas involved in processing emotions is a very interesting finding in this context". 

How It Works

In the detailed 14-page scientific paper, the researchers say the practice of Yog Nidra employs audio-guided instructions which systematically guide the awareness of the participant to different parts of the body, breathing, or mantras that aim to induce a deeply relaxed state, mirroring the serenity experienced during deep sleep but with conscious awareness in contrast to the self-regulated focus typically associated with meditations that have a focused attention style. 

The practitioner remains in a state of light withdrawal of the five senses (pratyahara) with four of their senses internalised and only hearing still tuned in to the instructions. The exceptional allure of this technique stems not merely from the deep relaxation and mindful awareness it provides, but also as a method to progressively master entering the most profound states of meditation (samadhi). 

Professor Garg said it took him well over six years to complete this first-of-a-kind study. He practises Yog Nidra and asserted that "it is deeply relaxing and certainly helps bring stress levels down".