How Yoga Nidra Can Support Deep Relaxation and Better Sleep

April 12, 2020

by Cindy Yaple

In looking back on my life, I think anxiety has always walked side by side with me. I was always trying to push it away or hide it, the way you might put an old pair of shoes into the back of the closet, until one day it reached out and grabbed me, full force.

My husband had been in the military for years, but when he deployed to Afghanistan for an entire year, worrying and anxiety became my constant companion. All of a sudden, I was not sleeping, not even a little bit. My mind would simply not shut off.

My husband’s deployment was not the only worry for me at the time. My stepfather was in the hospital battling cancer, and I wanted to be there for him and my mother. Our teenage son had health issues that were so serious that he was unable to attend school and had to be homeschooled. 

Eventually, my lack of sleep became so intense that my body began to break down completely. I was losing weight at an alarming rate, to the point where I was going to the doctor’s office for IV fluids every few days because I couldn’t keep anything down. I would sometimes black out from the dizziness due to exhaustion. Sleep medications didn’t work. I was hospitalized three different times, the last time for over a month. 

At first, the doctors were baffled. They ran every test imaginable to see why this was happening. One day, my doctor told me that if I couldn’t find a way to deal with the stress, my situation was going to continue to deteriorate. Then he suggested that I give yoga a try. It was the first time someone had told me I was experiencing anxiety and depression, and had mentioned the mind-body connection. I decided to give it a try.

That day, I called a few yoga studios and found a Kripalu-trained teacher near me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but during my very first class, I could feel the tension releasing from my body. I finally felt like I could breathe again. I started to attend classes once a week, then twice a week, then three times. I began to sleep a bit better, although there were still times where my monkey mind would keep me awake at night. I wanted to learn more about yoga, so I enrolled in a teacher training program. 

On the recommendation of a friend, I tried Jennifer Reis’ guided meditation practice of Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra, using one of her CDs. The practice does not involve movement. Lying down or seated, you are led through a step-by-step guided meditation that brings the body into the relaxation response, or rest-and-digest mode, where healing takes place. 

Yoga nidra was the last piece of the puzzle for my sleep and overall health. I began to sleep through the night, my energy returned, and I was able to deal with difficult situations with greater skill and ease. Again, I found myself wanting to learn more, so I enrolled in Jennifer’s Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra Teacher Training at Kripalu.

Since then, I have been able to share these practices with medical students and doctors, and with soldiers at a local veteran’s center, who told me they’d never been so relaxed in their lives. A decade later, I guide this practice with guests at Kripalu. 

If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping, as many of us are right now, the gift of yoga nidra can help you access a place of peace and relaxation. 

Cindy Yaple is a 1000-hour Kripalu Yoga teacher and a Kripalu R&R faculty member.