TL;DR: Mitigate fatigue with yoga nidra! Regular daily breaks such as a 10-minute, lying down yoga nidra session can help you enjoy wellness benefits for your eyes, sleep, and overall health without having to take a nap or get another coffee.
This week, we’re diving into a topic that surprised me with its scientific depth and backing.
I’ve had many people extol the virtues of yoga to me over the years, and have certainly enjoyed my (admittedly infrequent) sessions. But I kept hearing about “yoga nidra,” a form of the practice I didn’t know anything about. I’d heard how restorative it could be, and how it was the perfect mid-day break as opposed to, say, another coffee or a hopefully-not-so-long-that-I-wake-up-more-exhausted nap.
I think the beauty of it is that yoga nidra looks like sleep.
Yoga nidra is the ability to enter a very deep, non-REM sleep stage, but yet still maintain awareness both internally and of the surrounding environment.
This incredible result is one of the main distinctions of yoga nidra from traditional meditation. Nidra is practiced lying down, fully awake, but in the state of being between sleep and consciousness.
The more I read, the more I realized it’s all about fatigue. The kind of fatigue that might set in after a long day of seeing patients, or being in front of digital screens, or an extended commute, where your attention behind the wheel can’t afford to wander.
Fatigue, of course, affects your ability to rest, to relax, or to sleep. Similarly, ocular fatigue sets in after maintaining focus for so long in all of the aforementioned activities, and this also compromises you and your patients’ abilities to focus and feel comfortable.
Yogic eye exercises have been shown to improve eye fatigue when repeated several times a week. These exercises include palming, blinking, rotational viewing, near and distant gazing, among others.
These types of practices increase the efficiency of extraocular muscles, indicating that regular yogic practices could be considered a non-pharmacologic and therapeutic intervention for improving eye fatigue.
Researchers, aware of how difficult it can be to take a restful mid-day break, have also turned their attention to short yoga nidra sessions.
An 11-minute session, designed to be integrated into busy schedules and performed several times per week, lowered stress, increased well-being, and improved sleep quality. Perhaps equally exciting, these results were stable even after 6 weeks.
Regular, daily yoga nidra practice can improve deep sleep, sleep quality, and can even be used to treat chronic insomnia after supervised training sessions. Similar benefits can be seen in people with hypertension: regular yoga nidra practice can reduce depression, anxiety, and stress, while improving sleep quality and autonomic functions.
Hopefully this highlights how important regular daily breaks are, and how profound the quality of life improvements can be from just a few minutes of practice each week