Yoga Nidra: Levels of Tension & the Art of Relaxation

Updated: Sep 13

Welcome to Rose-Minded, a mental health blog and self-care brand supporting others through their journey. We love to encourage journaling, practicing self-care, and sharing your story to promote healing and recovery. Continue reading for guest writer Nisha's in-depth look at the 3 levels of tension, an explanation of Yoga Nidra and its benefits, why Yoga Nidra is so powerful, and how you can practice it!

Tension, stress, anxiety... These words we hear and say often mean different parts of the same problem and we consider all of them as negative. Read more on the difference between stress and anxiety.



What is tension?


According to the American Psychological Association, tension is defined as a feeling of physical and psychological strain accompanied by discomfort, uneasiness, and pressure to seek relief through talk or action. It can be different from one person to the other. But, any activity you do, it causes some tension in an individual.


3 Levels of Tension


According to the yoga philosophy, tension is experienced throughout our lives and there are three levels of tensions faced by an individual. Tension gets built up in three areas.


1. Muscular tension


This includes all that is accumulated at the physical level. Tension is caught up in between the cells, muscles, and in the entire body. It can also involve the nervous system and hormonal imbalances. There are many sources for muscle tension- trauma, fall, accident, dehydration, acidity, pesticides, toxic substances, toxic gas, plastic, illness, tumor, virus, etc. This list is indefinite and can include anything that can threaten your body, including COVID-19.


2. Emotional tension


Humans are emotional beings. We might be the only species who can express emotions in different ways and have a wide range of facial expressions. But, from the process of childhood to adulthood, many times we get caught up in different emotional dilemmas and end up repressing many of our feelings and emotions. Some of us find it hard to express ourselves and some are forced to do so. All this causes emotional tensions to build up within us and we do not have a good source to vent our feelings causing different mental issues.


3. Mental Tension


Our mind is dealing with many processes from the time of birth. It deals with the internal and external activities. We have different thoughts, imaginations, delusions, dreams, confusion, etc happening every minute. Our mind is never switched off, it is active even when we sleep. Our surroundings and our daily life add new information to our mental plane. When the tensions in the mental plane are uncontrollable or not dealt with, they lead to abnormalities causing various illnesses. Psychosomatic illnesses like ulcers, hypertension, migraine, cancer are very common these days.


"Yoga Nidra is the yoga of aware sleep. In this lies the secret of self-healing. Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is relaxed.” - Satyananda Saraswati

According to yogic science and psychology, if the tensions in these three planes are not checked, they cause different ailments. All three levels are interconnected too. When mentally we feel stressed, our stomach can go for a toss, that can affect your blood circulation and even our emotions. So what you think as an "anger explosion" can be more than just anger.


The tensions within a person can affect others too and break relationships. A husband who is emotionally tensed may end up having problems in his marriage. Many times we think we should need a break and we go for a coffee or even take a vacation. But, these activities still cause tensions in one or the other area. For bringing a balance to all these planes, we have a solution- intense relaxation which we can meet through yoga.


When I talk about yoga, I know many of you will be thinking of different poses like handstand, headstand, or downward-facing dog. But yoga is not about just these poses, the concept of yoga is so deep that you could easily take a lifetime to learn about it. Yoga is a way of living and not just an exercise form.


Among different yoga practices, Yoga Nidra is one of the trending guided relaxation practices.

Even medical doctors worldwide started recognizing the importance of and recommending Yoga Nidra for relaxation.



What is Yoga Nidra?


Yoga Nidra simply means "yogic sleep." It is also called "psychic sleep." Yoga Nidra is a powerful technique in which a person relaxes on a deeper level. It is a state that looks like sleep but the person will be conscious of his internal experiences with the ability to listen to the instructions. In Yoga Nidra the relaxation takes place in all three levels: physical, emotional, and mental; thus ultimate relaxation is obtained.


Yoga Nidra is done by lying on a mat with eyes closed, while listening, and following the teacher's instructions. It is said that one hour of Yoga Nidra is equal to four hours of normal sleep. That is amazing! That might be the reason why great yogis have wonderful energy and always seem to be glowing.


Stages of Yoga Nidra


In Yoga Nidra practice, there are different stages that we have to cover. But depending on the time and situation there can be changes in this format. A general long version of a Yoga Nidra session contains:


  • Taking the position and relaxing.

  • Sankalpa (resolve)

  • Rotation of consciousness

  • Awareness of the breath

  • Feelings and sensations

  • Visualization

  • Ending the practice


Why is Yoga Nidra so Powerful?


Yoga Nidra has some astonishing properties that make it an effective practice for relaxation and rejuvenation.


1. Yoga Nidra is more than sleep


Even though it is called yogic sleep, it is more than that. Even though a person in practice looks like he/she is sleeping, the practitioner will be aware of the inward experiences. The person sleeps and dreams consciously in Yoga Nidra and this makes it unique and beneficial, which has been utilized by many great people in the past, including Napolean.



2. Deep relaxation


The person will travel through the physical, emotional, and mental planes during this process and that helps to relieve the tensions in the three levels. In the initial stages of Yoga Nidra, we slowly start to relax physically, then the mind follows and begins to relax. When we reach the stage of experiencing feelings and sensations, we relax emotionally too, clearing the threefold tensions. Using Yoga Nidra for healing the tensions caused in the different levels of mind and body is so important.


See more: 5 Mindful Meditations to Increase Self-Compassion



3. Between consciousness and subconsciousness


While doing Yoga Nidra the person has his/her awareness between their consciousness and subconsciousness/unconsciousness. He/she withdraws the sensory experience from outside the body to the inside and when that happens, the level of awareness automatically moves to the subconscious level. The subconscious mind is powerful and magnificent. We repeat Sankalpa when we interact with our subconscious stage in its receptive form and the seeds of Sankalpa get attached to our mind and help it manifest. After crossing the conscious mind, we go deep into the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has immense power and the whole body gets tuned according to our Sankalpa.



4. Source of creativity


When we relax, the brain waves slow down and there will be a dominance of alpha waves (which are the waves during the relaxed stage). In the stage of visualization, we picture and imagine as guided by the teacher. During this period we bring the subconscious mind to the surface using the imageries, this helps in stimulating our creativity. According to scientific studies, during visualization the right brain activity increases and the right brain is the source of creativity.



5. Pave the way to transformation


According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who is the creator of Yoga Nidra, each session has the power to transform a person. Old habits and tendencies can be destroyed to create new habits. Sankalpa which is sown in the subconscious can grow like a plant and bring major changes in a human being. Drug addiction and smoking can be altered through it. Yoga Nidra might sound like a hypnosis session, but it is different as the person who practices Yoga Nidra is in control during the whole situation. A teacher just guides during the process, once a person masters Yoga Nidra, he/she doesn't need a guide.



6. Healing illnesses


Studies are conducted on the impact of Yoga Nidra on physical and mental illnesses by doctors, psychologists, and scientists. Studies done so far demonstrate that Yoga Nidra has been very effective in the prevention or reduction of these illnesses. Stress-related diseases like hypertension, heart diseases, arthritis, and psychosomatic diseases like asthma, ulcer, migraine, skin diseases, etc. are benefitted and reduced by Yoga Nidra practice. Studies show anxiety and depression patients show real changes after Yoga Nidra sessions.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Cancer can be caused by trapped tensions in the physical and mental levels. Yoga Nidra and relaxation techniques along with regular and professional cancer treatment can bring amazing results.


Yoga Nidra is also good for the treatment of insomnia, gastric problems, hypertension, coronary problems (which is the deadliest disease in the world), high levels of cholesterol, chronic pain, drug addiction, etc. Yoga Nidra among children also is very impactful in learning, memory, ADHD treatment, menstrual problems, etc. The potential of yoga Nidra is immense!


“Word your Sankalpa briefly, sincerely, positively, and in the present tense.” ― Julie T. Lusk

How To Practice Yoga Nidra



The practice of Yoga Nidra for relaxation is so simple- anyone could practice it. Before the practice of Yoga Nidra, one should do some short physical exercises and stretches for reducing any tension in the muscles. After that, find a quiet room with ventilation, but close the windows and the door to reduce the external disturbances. Switch off all the electronic devices including your phone. The room should not be too cold or too hot and not too bright or dark. Switching on a dim light is the best option. If you want to make the area/experience more enjoyable, consider personalizing your yoga or meditation space!


Spread a mat or a blanket on the floor and lie in the Shavanasana position (dead man's pose) with feet slightly apart and arms away from the body so that the armpits can breathe. Wear loose clothes and remove anything tight, like watches, hair bands or anything else.


After this preparation, listen and follow the instructions by the teacher. If you have no option for yoga classes, you could use recorded sessions, that is the best option now!


The period of quarantine has extended and people started to adjust to the "new normal." But everyone is struggling emotionally, physically, and mentally because of the pandemic fear and lack of movement.


Practicing Yoga Nidra has never been so important. Yoga Nidra can help you to relieve the tension and aches in the different areas of our body and mind.



Here are guided Yoga Nidra sessions for you by Jennifer Piercy, Do Yoga With Me, so that you

can give it a try and find out by yourself how amazing this practice is and what changes it can bring to your body and mind.


Stay healthy and stay safe! To join the free 7-day yoga-meditation challenge:



About the Author

Nisha is a dancer and a psychology researcher who wanted to bring both her passions together and hence created Mind Body Affair. Mind Body Affair is a blog where you can find anything on mental health and

body wellness. Her blog was started during the time of lockdown to motivate and help people who are going through mental stress and tension. Dance psychology, dreams, and sleep are her research interests and anyone with similar interests can feel free to contact her.



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