Question: How can a person integrate this practice into their lives?

Answer: Generally a person will practice yoga nidra (Deep Relaxation) either during the day in order to get quick rest and rejuvenation, or at night in bed, just before falling asleep. There are some differences in how these two should be performed.

First, as the practice during the day is meant for quick rejuvenation, it’s best if you can stay awake throughout the practice. But at night, as you close your eyes and prepare for sleep in your bed, you don’t need to worry about falling asleep. Just follow the guided directions to relax until sleep naturally takes over. You will wake up in the morning feeling very refreshed.

Deep relaxation is very useful during the day when you feel stressed or when your energy begins to lag. If you can take just a fifteen-minute time out to do it, whether sitting at your desk, at home, in a park, or lying down, you’ll come out of it feeling more calm and refreshed and with a clearer mind. It will actually make you more productive than pushing through the fatigue.

Question: Why do you recommend guided relaxation? Isn’t it enough that we sleep 6 to 7 hours a night?

Answer: The trouble is that even during sleep, we often hold onto tensions in our body that are chronic. More so than ever before, people are living sedentary lifestyles. We sit to eat, we sit to drive, we sit at work, and after coming home at night, most people sit and watch TV to so-called relax. But our hips, back, neck, and shoulders can get chronically tight from all that sitting and then we go to bed with that tension still in the body.

When we practice this guided relaxation, however, first of all we’re bringing awareness to different parts of the body that we may not normally even think about. You’re urged to relax them, to consciously let go of tension. As you practice—during your very first session and increasingly the more you practice—you begin to get used to the feeling of letting go. Knowing how to let go is a valuable skill. It helps you recognize when muscular tension is building up and to release it before it becomes chronic. This leads to a more relaxed body overall and better sleep.

Guided relaxation is a great help when practiced at bedtime, releasing tension in the body and letting you fall into a deep and relaxed sleep. So often, it’s the mind that keeps you from sleeping as it jumps from one thing to another. But when following the guided relaxation, your mind becomes focused, so not only are you calming and relaxing your body, but you’re also giving your mind something to do that is dovetailed with your desire for relaxation. You, your body and your mind are all working toward the same goal. This in itself creates harmony for you, the living being.

Question: I noticed that toward the end of the relaxation technique, there is repetition of a mantra. Why?

Answer: The mantra brings a spiritual aspect into a physical practice. While we can calm both the body and mind using this relaxation technique, the deepest rest for the soul comes from connecting up with the spiritual energy. A mantra is a transcendental sound vibration and listening to such a sound is the easiest way for each of us to make that deepest and most essential spiritual connection. It not only relaxes the mind but soothes the heart and soul as well.