Many people suffering from brain injuries struggle to find reliable treatments and therapies. Yoga Nidra, an ancient form of meditation that has been used for centuries, may provide a welcome solution.
Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, typically induced by a guided meditation. It focuses on physical and mental relaxation, and is the perfect method to manage stress, improve focus and concentration, promote better sleep quality and reduce pain levels – all components in helping those managing the effects of traumatic brain injuries.
Yoga Nidra was developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 1976 as an easy-to-learn meditation.
The heart of Yoga Nidra meditation is a personal resolution that addresses a topic important to the person and that affects them in a positive way. This intention is put into a simple, short and positive sentence which will be repeated in the beginning and end of the meditation (e.g., “I am calm and relaxed” or “I am successful”). The purpose of this resolution is to train the unconscious to sustainably achieve the desired state through regular mental repetition. These mental repetitions stimulate the cognitive restructuring processes.
Relaxation is crucial for the body and mind to resolve any tension, which is why Yoga Nidra contains a systematic sequence of body awareness and breathing exercises that activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
One study has also found that dopamine is released when practicing Yoga Nidra. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It is a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.
Regular practice of Yoga Nidra can have a positive effect on physiological and psychological criteria such as insomnia, pain therapy, asthma, addictive behavior, chronic sleep disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can also reduce stress and manage symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, apathy, post-concussion headaches, depression, anxiety and other changes in mood or behavior associated with brain trauma. It may even help restore the ability to think clearly and creatively, enhancing the recovery process.
There are 10 stages of a Yoga Nidra practice, as outlined by Richard Miller in his “10 Stages of Yoga Nidra.”
- Connect to your heart’s deepest desire. Focus on a lifelong goal or something that relates to your health. Visualize reaching this goal and feel the joy that comes with accomplishing it.
- Set an intention. Think about why you are practicing — to get centered, to put some self-care on the schedule — whatever the reason, keep it at the forefront of the Yoga Nidra practice.
- Find your inner resource. This involves tapping into a safe space within the body so you can feel secure and at ease while you practice.
- Scan your body. During a body scan, you will be asked to focus on certain parts or sensations throughout the body. The goal of this is to help reduce tension so you can relax.
- Become aware of your breath. Pay attention to how air is flowing in and out of your body. Take note of how it comes in your nostrils and how your abdomen rises and falls. This can help you slow down and breathe evenly.
- Welcome your feelings. If you had a rough day, embrace it. You do not have to ignore the tough stuff, but in recognizing it, you can also think about the opposite of whatever emotion you are feeling to balance things out.
- Witness your thoughts. Similar to step six, you want to observe your thoughts in the moment without judging or trying to block them out. Should any negative thoughts about yourself surface, think about the positive side of things to ease tension.
- Experience joy. If you start to feel blissed out, embrace it and let it wrap around your body.
- Observe your “self.” Be aware of your personality and how you might be feeling. In other words, your sense of “I-ness.” Then, consider yourself an observing witness. This will help you wake up more aware and in tune with your feelings.
- Reflect on your practice. When you finish, think about how you feel and what you were able to tap into during your session. Then, think about how you can bring the peace or joy you might be feeling into daily life whether times are good or bad. Do not rush out of your practice. Take a few minutes to transition back into the waking state of life.
Yoga Nidra is becoming increasingly popular among individuals living with brain injuries due to its ability to help promote physical healing while also providing emotional support during recovery periods.
By customizing practices according to individual needs and working with an experienced instructor who understands how best to work around any existing physical restrictions caused by the injury itself, those affected by TBIs can experience significant improvements in both their levels of comfort and quality of life over time through regular Yoga Nidra sessions.
It is important to note that any form of exercise should always be cleared by your doctor before starting so make sure you check in with them before beginning this practice if you have had a recent brain injury or are experiencing any symptoms related to one.
Christine Weaver, founder/CEO of Neuropraxis and Dr. Krista Augius, DPT, co-hosted a webinar on meditation and Yoga Nidra for Brain Injury Awareness Month.
For more information, visit neuropraxisrehab.com.