What is yoga nidra and how does it help? An interview with Sara Johnson
Can you tell us a bit about what yoga nidra is and how it helps mums?
Yoga Nidra is such a tonic; it promotes the deepest kind of rest and relaxation and offers healing and transformation. Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness found in the sweet spot between waking and sleeping. It is a simple yet potent meditative practice that supports all the systems of the body - it replenishes the stores, offers deep rest and inner peace, alleviates stress, anxiety and symptoms of insomnia, improves memory and creativity as well as generally restores a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Yoga Nidra offers profound restoration for exhausted mothers - helping mums to transition from the busy monkey mind of constant doing, planning and organising, to a more peaceful, reflective and anchored state. As you move through the meditative practice brain waves gradually slow down, enabling you to experience a sense of inner calm, until you eventually reach the slowest brainwaves (delta) normally generated in a deep dreamless sleep which is where transformation & healing can occur.
Yoga Nidra is such powerful medicine for mothers. There are so many benefits for mums, but these would be my top 3:
Helps you to navigate the ups and downs of motherhood so you can approach life in a more balanced way. I am definitely a calmer mummy when I have practiced regular Yoga Nidra.
Helps to replenish your energy levels, especially when you’re exhausted and experiencing a sleep deficit.
Helps manage those feelings of overwhelm. We are often pulled in so many directions as a mum, life can easily become overwhelming and we can forget ourselves. By resting with Yoga Nidra we can reconnect with what is important and access that inner sparkle!
What was your personal experience with yoga nidra? How has it helped you?
I was first introduced to Yoga Nidra during a period of chronic ill health in my early thirties when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called psoriatic arthritis. I was a mum of one at the time, and had experienced a traumatic miscarriage between my first and second child. What then followed was what we now understand as a huge arthritic flare. I suffered with intense pain and swelling, fatigue and depression; was unable to move freely and take part in normal daily activities let alone my usual sporting interests. A Health Coach I was working with at the time suggested I introduce gentle nurturing practices that would soothe and calm the physical sensations in my body but also support my mental wellbeing. Meditation was completely new to me, however I fell in love with it straight away! It was during this time that I found the transformative practice of Yoga Nidra. And as the saying goes…the rest is history!
To find this restorative healing practice at such a challenging time in my life has quite literally been life changing. As I was unable to move or sit easily, I enjoyed the aspect of lying down and resting; my body being held in comfort and ease. When you experience intense pain, it is such a gift to be able to escape from that pain for a little while. Yoga Nidra enabled me to access an effortless, safe and held space and became a wonderful way to give myself a break from living with chronic pain. It had such a profound effect on my health, that I trained to teach Yoga Nidra so that I can continue sharing this beautiful therapeutic and transformative practice with as many people as I can.
I still practice daily, almost 10 years on from my arthritis diagnosis which I am now in remission from. It is a lifeline for me as a busy mum of 3, helping to restore my energy levels and give me a daily reset. It is a fundamental part of my life that continues to support me as I navigate motherhood and other life transitions.
What are your tips/advice for mums who are interested to try yoga nidra and might be coming to it for the first time?
Yoga Nidra is such a beautifully effortless practice to do, as there is really nothing to do, apart from listening, to an inner voice and the outer voice. It is mainly practiced lying down, although you can sit with supports if you would prefer.
My top tips would be:
1) find somewhere quiet and comfortable to create your Nidra Nest. Comfort is key! Make sure you are warm enough and that every part of your body is held - consider a pillow under the head, cushion under the knees if you have a lower back niggles. An eye pillow is a really lovely addition to your comfort. This is the most important part of the practice - you will be able to relax much easier if you are warm and comfortable.
2) Perhaps let family members know you are resting and ask not to be disturbed for a little while if that is possible! And if not, invite your family to join you for a little lie down.
3) Be so kind to your mind. As this is a sleep based practice, you may drift in and out of hearing the words. Please know that this is all fine and trust that you will hear what you need to. If you do happen to fall asleep, please be reassured that this is also OK. You needed the rest and your body received what it was seeking.
4) Be excessively gentle with yourself and have no expectations. Each time you lie down and practice is so very different. The beauty off Yoga Nidra is there is no way of doing it wrong. Perhaps set an alarm to wake you up, just incase you do drift off into a sleep state!
5) And most of all enjoy. Enjoy the lie down, the rest and the pause.
What does self-care look like for you? How do you find time to practice as a busy mum?
It’s so easy to push yourself down to the bottom of the to do list as a mum, but I have learnt that by prioritising my own self care needs, I am able to stay well and healthy in addition to being better able to cope with the day to day demands of motherhood and the stresses of life in general.
Time is my biggest challenge and so finding innovative ways to slip in some micro moments of nourishment is important. I fit my Yoga Nidra practice in first thing in the morning when I wake up (if the children aren’t awake yet) and then as part of my bedtime routine.This is a lovely way to transition into sleep and helps my mind to slow down ready for sleep.
My self care kit has many different resources that I utilise daily. I love being in nature, and so walking outside features highly, but often if I can’t get out I just stand or sit on the grass in my garden and feel the earth beneath my feet. I find nature really soothing, and love just spending time in my garden, breathing in the fresh air. I also love yoga and some higher energy activities such as running or swimming. But, often, when the days are busy, full and loud, slowing down and embracing stillness and quiet can be the kindest offering to myself. This is when my cup truly fills up.
What else inspires, excites, motivates you?
Nature has to be my biggest inspiration and is often the creativity behind my Yoga Nidra practices. I feel in awe and wonder of it all - the sunsets, the ocean wave, the vastness of the skies to the intricate detail of a flower or leaf - it all amazes me. It’s the most precious gift that keeps on giving. Every time I step into nature, I am instantly soothed. This is powerful medicine. Remembering that when my world moves too fast and I feel as though I am losing myself in the chaos, if I reacquaint myself with the earth beneath my feet or the colour of the sunrise, and I am transported back to a place of inner peace.
I also love music - sound can move you in so many ways and I love to share music with my live Yoga Nidra sessions. Sound has this incredible ability to shift mood and emotions. If I’m feeling low and down, a good dance usually helps me to alter my mood state, and it’s so fun to do with the kids.
About the author
Sara is a Yoga Nidra Teacher, Mindful Meditation Teacher and Reiki Therapist. She is a huge advocate of constructive rest and its crucial role for survival in this modern age. She is passionate about sharing relaxing, healing and meditative practices that help calm both the body and mind. As a mum of 3, Sara understands the importance of being well rested and shares Yoga Nidra as a transformative opportunity for parents to replenish and restore depleted energy stores.
You can find Sara at: