Yoga Nidra vs. meditation – what’s the difference?

The incredible restorative power of Yoga Nidra (or yogic sleep) hasn’t got special attention in recent years.

With the Covid-19 pandemic causing untold sleepless nights for individuals people around the world, Yoga Nidra has become the backbone of so many people’s days.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra are pretty impressive, but it’s the claim that one hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful as a few hours’ sleep that’s the real selling point. At the same time, the use of meditation apps has exploded.

Recent research revealed that the number of online searches for yoga and meditation apps has grown exponentially – by 65% year-on-year to be exact.

In 2019 alone, 52 million users downloaded a top 10 meditation app. But how does Yoga Nidra compare? Or are they one of the same thing?

Are Yoga Nidra and meditation the same?

In short, no. While meditation is very difficult to define – it can be practised in many different ways – Yoga Nidra is so much more than meditation.

The technique may be a powerful form of meditation but it uses guided meditation, pratyahara (‘withdrawal of the senses’), the breathing techniques of pranayama, and concentration-boosting dharana to unlock so many more benefits for the mind, body, and soul.

Yoga Nidra is known as conscious sleep. When practising Yoga Nidra you’re not sleeping, nor are you awake, instead you use your awareness to guide your body through the five koshas. Ambuja Yoga offers further insight into the koshas and their importance in Yoga Nidra:

“Unlike the layers of an onion that can be completely peeled away from one another the koshas are intertwined, inseparable with each kosha influencing the state of the others… We can look at these sheaths, improve our awareness and explore our inner landscape as we begin to answer life’s big questions like, ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What is the meaning of life?’ We also work with the sheaths in yoga nidra, working through the layers methodically and patiently in hopes that we will one day be fully aware of our true self.”

By working through the koshas both consciously and subconsciously, Yoga Nidra helps make the mind quiet and relaxed yet entirely receptive.

With this, you lay the foundations for better sleep, reduced anxiety, lower stress, improved clarity and focus, and ultimately enhanced self-awareness.

Yoga Nidra relaxes and rejuvenates the body too, and has been proven to have a direct impact on physical health. It soothes the nervous system, lowers high cholesterol, controls blood pressure levels, strengthens the immune system, and provides vital pain relief.

The key differences between Yoga Nidra and meditation

Whilst the basic goal of meditation and Yoga Nidra are similar – both techniques work to develop a heightened sense of awareness – there are a number of key differences between the two.

How Yoga Nidra is practised differs from meditation. Traditionally you meditate in a seated position, whilst Yoga Nidra is always practised laying down. Yoga Nidra is also delivered in the opposite way to meditation.

Meditation is usually self-guided, with less direction, more silence, and much emphasis on the individual to manoeuvre themselves through and re-anchor when they lose focus.

Yoga Nidra is entirely guided, which is particularly beneficial if you’re unfamiliar with meditation, have anxiety or a particularly busy mind, or want to embrace an entirely new technique.

The exploration of the koshas we mentioned earlier is another key difference. While traditional meditation puts all awareness on a single focus, Yoga Nidra guides you through entire layers to reach your Atman or true self.

By working through each kosha, you can descend deeper, and this depth simply cannot be achieved in meditation’s waking state.

Unlocking the meditative power of Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra uses powerful meditative techniques to offer a unique insight into your very multi-dimensional, multi-layered self. This deep exploration to these innermost layers enables your entire being to find complete calmness and clarity.

The intensely purifying feeling that Yoga Nidra unlocks is difficult to put into words, but by joining us for our 4-week Yoga Nidra programme throughout March you can experience this innate state of deep blissful awareness for yourself. Book your tickets today.