Need Help Falling Asleep? Try This Yoga Practice

VIDEO | 13:43

Yoga instructor Clare Patterson shares a yoga method designed to bring on a deep state of rest between consciousness and sleep.

Show transcript

Hi, my name is Clare Patterson. I'm a Yoga Instructor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Integrative Medicine Services and MSK Kids. Welcome to yoga nidra. Now this practice is designed to bring you into a deep state of rest between consciousness and sleep. So, if you haven't been able to fall asleep at night, try it in the evening or any time you wake up in the middle of the night. If you had a rough night and didn't get enough sleep, yoga nidra can be done any time during the day to help you feel rested and at ease. You should also know that yoga nidra is a listening practice only and does not involve any movement. It can be done lying down or seated in a chair.

Know that your experience will be different each time you practice. If you fall asleep, that's okay.  Let yourself continue to sleep and if you don't fall asleep, that's okay too. If you have to get on with the rest of your day, have a glass of water, a light snack and also feel free to write down anything that came up in a notebook or a journal. I hope that this practice brings you rest and ease. To begin, please find a comfortable position either lying down or seated in a chair. Support your spine by placing a pillow or rolled up blanket under the head, a rolled-up blanket or pillow under your knees to support the low back and a blanket on top of the body for grounding and warmth.

The body has a tendency to cool down during this practice. Go ahead and make all necessary adjustments so that your body is as comfortable as possible. Now begins our practice of yoga nidra. Take a deep breath and as you breathe in, feel coolness, calmness spreading throughout the body. As you breathe out, let your cares and worries flowing out of you, dropping away. Become aware of your body and relax completely, making yourself calm and steady. Allow the legs to relax, the torso, head, the arms and hands. Begin to develop awareness of your body from the crown of the head down to the tip of the toes. Become aware of your body as a whole, allowing yourself to relax as best you can.

Now become aware of your breath, let the breath flow naturally and with ease. Sense your breath at the nostrils, cool air entering the nostrils, warm air leaving the nostrils. Now, bring your awareness to sound. Let your ears reach far away like radar beams, picking up sounds from far, far away. Listen to each sound just for a few seconds and then let go. Now, bring your awareness to sounds just outside your room or home. Sounds outside the window, upstairs, downstairs, in the hallway. Listen to each sound for a few seconds and let go.

Now, bring your awareness to sounds within your immediate surroundings, the space you are in. Listen to each sound for a few seconds and then let go. Now, we'll take the sounds one layer deeper, hearing sounds from within between your two ears, perhaps the breath. Now distant sounds are still there, but muted. Focus your sense of hearing inward. Now is a time to make our resolve or wish. Bring to mind something you wish to have in your life or something you wish to do, visualize your wish in your mind's eye, in the present tense, as if it's happening right now. See it happening fully in your mind's eye.

Repeat to yourself three times now. I am present, I am present, I am present. Now, sense your body as a whole, the front, back, right side, left side, you might notice what parts of your body or in contact with the floor or your chair and sensing your body as one whole entity in space. Now bring your attention back to the breath, sense where in your body you feel the breath with the most ease, perhaps at the nostrils, in the chest or in the belly. Choose one of these locations to sense the breath, letting it be natural and effortless. Breathing in, breathing out with ease. Follow the breath as it comes, follow the breath as it goes.

Now, we'll count the breath backwards from 27 to one. If you lose count, begin again from 27. If you make it to one, begin again from 27. Continue to silently count backwards. Letting go of the counting of breath wherever you are in your count, now bring your attention to your mind's eye, space between the eyebrows behind the eyelids and notice what shapes, colors images arise. Just observing what comes up and allow them to pass by like clouds in the sky, letting go. Now let your mind's eye be a blank slate as we begin our visualization practice.

Now imagine that it is very early morning, still dark, and you are walking through the hills, climbing towards a mountain, you are alone. As you look back towards the sky, you see a crescent shaped moon hanging low in the sky. Soon the sun will rise over the mountain ahead of you. As you look to the side of the path, you see a village below in the valley, the lights of a small-town twinkling in the early morning mist. As you continue to walk up the mountains, the path twists and turns between large boulders and over bridges suspended across chasms in the mountain. A gap between two hills gives a glimpse of a snow-covered mountain ahead. The pale light behind it signals the dawn.

As you climb through the snow, it makes a crunching sound under your feet. A glacier lies in your path. There are creaks and groans of ice as you move quickly across. Near the top of the mountain, it becomes very cold, and winds howl around you. You finally reach the top and the magnificent scene reveals itself before your eyes. You see the sun rise like a golden ball in the east, dazzling light on the snow and warming the top of the mountain. You take a seat on the mountain and observe this dawn of a new day. After some time, you close your eyes and rest. Slowly bring your awareness back to your mind's eye, space between the eyebrows and the eyelids, letting go of any imagery of the mountain, let your mind's eye be a blank slate.

Return here to the wish we set earlier and see it again unfolding in your mind's eye, in the present, something you wish with all your heart. Now letting it go, say to yourself three times silently, “I am present, I am present, I am present.” Bring your attention back to your breath, let the breath be natural, let your body continue to relax. Sense your body as a hole in space, front, back, right and left. Notice what parts of your body are touching the floor or pillows or blankets. Without opening your eyes, visualize the surrounding room. Now slowly begin to wiggle fingers, toes, bringing small movements back into your body, taking three complete breaths in and out before making any large movements.

Taking your time, you can rest longer if you need to, when you're ready, you'll open your eyes and come have a seat. This has concluded our yoga nidra practice. I recommend you take a few moments to reorient yourself to your surroundings, take a glass of water, a light snack, feel free to write down anything that came up today in a notebook or journal.