November 4, 2022

Relieving fatigue with short breaks: The science of yoga nidra

Relieving fatigue with short breaks: The science of yoga nidra
Brandon Hauer, PhD
Time Read
8
min

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.

 

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 meetings, or being in front of 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 above activities. Ocular fatigue also compromises your ability to focus and feel comfortable.

 

Fatigue Relief, As Needed

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 strengthen your eye muscles, and can be considered a therapeutic, non-drug approach to improve 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 be used to treat chronic insomnia following 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.

 

Prioritize Your Daily Breaks

These types of intentional breaks work for a few reasons. Perhaps most notably, you’re making time for yourself, and time for a habit you know will improve your wellbeing at that.

Disengaging from screens or intense focus if only for a few minutes is also of course beneficial for strain and fatigue.

Critically, these types of yoga nidra practices also promote breath awareness: a means of focusing on, and slowing down your breathing. This can increase the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps with “rest and digest” functions.

This increased parasympathetic activity helps you to feel relaxed, and better equips your body to respond to stress. Daily, mindful breaks (like yoga nidra) are an excellent way to get into this habit and reap these benefits. 

Yoga nidra is typically practiced using an audio recording as a guide (just search YouTube for “yoga nidra script” and you’ll see countless great options), or in a class. REST was designed based on traditional practices like these, giving users a physical tool to aid in their wellness habit journey. Something they can physically touch, feel, and connect with, to help them disconnect.

Even the intentional rest pose – lying down – is one of the central motivations behind REST’s design. We want users to truly disengage, intentionally taking a moment for themselves free of distractions, either reclined (for example, in a chair in-clinic) or fully lying down.

The next time you’re feeling fatigue or strain start to set in, try the 9- or 12-minute built in Rest session. Hopefully after reading this blog, you won’t be as surprised at just how restored you feel afterwards.