Knowing how to teach yoga nidra effectively is crucial if you’re hoping to attract students, build up a loyal client base, and create a good reputation for yourself as an instructor. To help you make your classes as accommodating, comfortable, and relaxing as possible for students this article will cover:

If you have a passion for yoga and would like to develop a deeper understanding, be sure to enrol on a Level 3 Yoga Teacher Training Diploma. Whilst enrolled on this qualification, you can learn a variety of techniques suitable for varying yoga styles. 

You can also download our full free course prospectus for more information and details of the courses!

The Purpose and History of Yoga Nidra

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If you want to know how to teach yoga nidra, you should know a little about its origins and how it’s gaining traction around the world!

Some people credit Indian yoga teacher and guru Swami Satyananda Saraswati with its invention in the 60s, but some people disagree saying he simply adopted and spread the method.

It’s a form of “conscious relaxation” where the body is in between wakefulness and sleep in a deep form of meditation, also known as “yogic sleep”.

Participants reach this deep state of relaxation through a guided meditation, which encourages Pratyahara, sense withdrawal from the world around them.

Although this makes it somewhat of an unconventional style of yoga, it has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to help practitioners truly relax, unwind, and connect with a deeper sense of their true selves.

Understanding what Makes a Good Yoga Nidra Sequence

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Known as the five koshas, yoga nidra is about accessing energetic layers of the body that surround the soul, sometimes also called ‘sheaths’, include:

  • AnnamayaThe physical sheath that composes the outer layer of the body, reflected in feeling the body’s weight, size, or singling out particular areas during a body scan
  • PranamayaTranslated to breath, this is the vital energy, or life force sheath. Awareness of this layer allows participants to move stagnant energy and feel a greater connection to themselves, others, and nature
  • ManomayaThis is a mental sheath, representing the mind, emotions, and inner world of participants. Bringing experiences and sensations from the outer world into the intuitive body, it acts as a messenger, and includes mental activity, as well as awareness of thoughts
  • VijnanamayaKnown as the awareness or wisdom sheath, this is essentially our ‘gut feeling’ or subconscious understanding. In yoga nidra this is usually focused on through visualisation or a story
  • AnandamayaReferred to as the bliss body, this is the deepest and subtlest of all layers, relating to the essence of the true self. Reaching this layer is said to be pure bliss or joy

During everyday life, most people are only able to access the first two, or outermost koshas.

However, yoga nidra teaching gives participants the opportunity to gain access to the deepest layers, allowing them to understand themselves more deeply.

That’s why if you want to know how to teach yoga nidra you’ll have to learn how to guide students through 8 stages which correspond with the five koshas.

Completing each of these stages allows the mind and body to gradually become more and more relaxed, until participants reach the in-between state that is essential for introspection.

Learning how to teach yoga nidra will mean helping students achieve the following benefits of the practice:

  • Boosted dopamine levels
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved sleep (this is the biggest benefit of nidra, even more so than other yoga styles)

Stages of a Yoga Nidra Sequence

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Stage 1- Initial Relaxation and Internalisation

The aim of the first stage is to allow participants to begin to withdraw inwards and become aware of their internal selves. 

They will therefore perform some breathing exercises to release tension and relax. This will usually involve being in Savasana and starting to draw attention to the breath.

Stage 2- Setting a Sankalpa

Participants will then be asked to set an intention, a short statement of something that they wish to manifest. 

Examples include: 

  • I am strong
  • I empower others
  • I can change my life

Stage 3- Body Rotation

During this stage, the teacher will bring students’ awareness to parts of the body, often starting from the toes and ending with the face. 

The aim here is to create pratyahara, sense withdrawal, and to systematically relax every part of the body.

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Stage 4- Awareness of the Breath

The instructor now begins to bring awareness to the breath, with a focus on keeping it steady.

This continues creating Pratyahara, and allows participants to enter an even deeper state of relaxation.

For instance, instructors may use the 4-7-8 breathing technique, where students will be asked to:

  • Inhale to the count of 4
  • Pause for 7 counts
  • Exhale slowly for 8 counts

Stage 5- Noticing Sensations

This stage involves observing feelings within the body without giving meaning to them, practising non-attachment to the sensations. 

Participants are encouraged to be aware of opposing sensations, such as hot and cold, or pain and pleasure. 

A great technique for how to teach this yoga nidra class moment is doing a body scan, getting class members to move down the body and just notice sensations without judging them.

Stage 6- Visualisation

Participants are asked to visualise a series of images, which are usually stored as archetypes or Samskaras (impressions) in the unconscious mind. 

This can help to unlock repressed feelings or memories, allowing participants to view them differently whilst relaxed, and therefore begin to understand them.

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Stage 7- Re-visiting the Sankalpa

At this stage, participants will be in a deep state of relaxation, so will re-visit the Sankalpa set at the start of the session. 

This helps to imbed the intention into their subconscious, making it easier for them to manifest and achieve in everyday life.

Stage 8- Externalisation and Ending the Practice

The teacher will guide students out of this state into full consciousness, ensuring that they become aware of the breath, the body, and then their surroundings, drawing them back out through the koshas.

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7 Effective Tips on Teaching Yoga Nidra

From gaining the right qualifications to scheduling your class timetable, these will help you ensure your students are sufficiently relaxed and keep coming back to your class!

If you’d like a more general step-by-step guide, be sure to check out our article ‘How to Become a Yoga Instructor‘.

#1 Complete an Accredited Qualification to Learn How to Teach Yoga Nidra Effectively

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If you’re wondering how to teach yoga nidra, one of the most important tips that we can give you is to gain an accredited qualification in instructing yoga.

This is essential, as you’ll be required to have an accredited yoga certification under your belt in order to apply for yoga instructor roles, as illustrated by the Virgin Active job advert below:

Not only is an accredited qualification required to obtain a suitable role, but it’s also important for helping you to gain all of the skills and knowledge needed to teach yoga nidra classes effectively.

You should start with a Level 3 diploma in teaching yoga which will lay the groundwork with an understanding of the human body and kinesiology of asanas.

As you can see, the job position above asks for the prospective applicant to have completed a ‘200hour’ yoga course:

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This Level 3 is 400 hours of guided learning, going above and beyond what all positions will ask for from their prospective employees.

Knowledge of how the physical body works is hence particularly important for those wanting to teach yoga nidra, as this makes up the first kosha, known as Annamaya.

You’ll also learn the key skills for designing a yoga class plan which will help you structure your yoga nidra class from start to finish. 

This will help you to give effective instructions that are tailored to the needs of every student during guided meditation, such as providing the best yoga cues for each stage of the class.

The knowledge that you’ll gain through completing the qualification will allow you to help every student to relax, practice safely, and reap all of the benefits that yoga nidra offers.

#2 Create a Relaxing Atmosphere Within Your Studio When Teaching Yoga Nidra

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Another important aspect of how to teach a yoga nidra class is related to the environment you create. 

As we mentioned earlier, the practice of yoga nidra is known to reduce stress and anxiety.

In order for it to be effective, it’s crucial that students are able to fully relax and let go during their sessions, which starts with you creating an atmosphere that they feel fully comfortable in.

To do this, prepare the space for the class if you’re teaching in person or, if you’re teaching yoga online, give students directions on how they should set up their space for maximum comfort.

Firstly, be sure to minimise any possible distractions, which could prevent students from relaxing. This includes:

  • Outside noise
  • Temperatures that are too cold or hot
  • Phones 

We’d also suggest practising in a dark space that is dimly lit with ambient lighting. However, it shouldn’t be so dark that students are tempted to fall asleep.

Remember, your aim should be to induce a state of conscious relaxation, rather than sleep!

If you want to use music, make sure you choose quiet, meditative sounds, such as ocean waves, light rain, or a low gong sound.

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Whereas stimulating music can be counterproductive to creating a calm inner environment for students, these types of sounds provide a soothing backdrop to your yoga nidra sequence.

The music that you choose should also have no lyrics, to ensure that students are able to focus inwards on their own mind and body.

Your instructions are vitally important in guiding them towards a state of conscious relaxation, but you should avoid startling students and disrupting their individual journeys to inner peace.

Therefore, when you do begin teaching, be sure to guide students using a quiet, gentle voice.

#3 Encourage Students to Set and Maintain Specific Intentions for the Yoga Nidra Sequence

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Known as a resolve or intention, setting a Sankalpa is one of the most important steps for how to teach a yoga nidra class.

This is a short and clear phase or sentence which is used to manifest positive change in the student’s life.

Setting a Sankalpa is based on the premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfil your life’s intention.

Class members are encouraged through this practice to focus their mind and connect to their inner selves to tap into their needs and contentment on a deeper level.

You can advise students to set a more general Sankalpa, such as ‘I am strong’ or ‘I am accepting’.

However, students are likely to feel a deeper connection to the Sankalpa and focus their mind more clearly on it if it is more personal.

Therefore, knowing how to teach yoga nidra effectively involves asking students to focus on something that they can really manifest and relates to what they want to achieve for themselves and others around them.

As you guide them through the stages of yoga nidra, when you get to the point of setting an intention, ask them to set a Sankalpa which is specific to that goal.

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For instance, a student may come into your class wanting to improve their health. They may then set a Sankalpa such as ‘I show myself compassion by nourishing my body’.

Remind students to state that intention in the present tense, which will remind them that whatever is required to meet this goal is already deep within them. 

The most important part of setting a specific Sankalpa is re-visiting it later on in the practice. This is because when the Sankalpa is originally set, students are in a waking state.

However, by the mid to end point of yoga nidra practice, students are likely to be in a hypnagogic state, between rest and wakefulness, where the mind is more receptive as the body becomes more relaxed.

Once you’ve encouraged students to set and practice a Sankalpa that is specific to them, you should also encourage them to maintain this outside of class.

This involves helping them to strengthen their Sankalpa Shakti, which is the energy required to take action to help them meet their intention.

This can be taking actions related to it or turning their Sankalpa into an affirmation they repeat outside of class.

#4 Use Physical Reminders to Help Students Stay Awake During Yoga Nidra Teaching 

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If you want to know how to teach a yoga nidra class where your class members stay awake, this can be a difficult balance.

In order to get people as relaxed as they need to be to access their inner selves, it’s totally normal for them to fall asleep in the first few classes. 

However, it’s important you include a way of bringing back their attention should this happen.

Class members won’t benefit from improved sleep through the practice if they fall asleep during, rather than remaining in conscious relaxation.

Equally, the other benefits of tapping into oneself and moving through the koshas aren’t possible if somebody has fallen completely asleep.

If this does happen, guide them back to the practice right away once they wake up, making them firstly aware of their bodies, and then of their breath.

This is something to work on in future sessions, as they train their minds to focus and their bodies become more accustomed to resting.

To help students remain in a state of conscious relaxation rather than sleep, you could use affirmations at the beginning of the practice, such as ‘I am awake and aware’.

If students feel that they are drifting off, reminding themselves of this affirmation may be enough to ward off sleep.

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You could also use a physical reminder such as a timer, which acts as a gentle reminder for students to ask themselves if they are present during practice.

The timer should be played at a low enough volume so it doesn’t abruptly disturb your class, and set to the tune of bells, chimes, or gongs.

This will ensure that students aren’t startled, which can disrupt the conscious relaxation state.

We’d therefore recommend setting a gentle timer that goes off approximately every 5 minutes or so.

If you’re finding this article helpful, why not read some of our other yoga focused ones below?

#5 Allow Students to Choose Which Position to Practise in

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Another important thing to remember for how to teach yoga nidra is allowing your students to practise in an appropriate position.

Lying in an uncomfortable position could either stop them from relaxing or make it too easy to fall asleep, so you need to make sure you allow a variety of different poses.

Some students may experience pain or discomfort in their lower back when lying down in Savasana, or Corpse pose.

If they’re in pain, not only do they increase the risk of causing injury to the lower back, but this also acts as a distraction to the practice.

You could advise them to use a bolster or pillow to raise their knees above waist level. This will help to relax the spine, taking pressure off this area and allowing them to lie in comfort.

If class members find themselves feeling tired, let them know that they don’t have to practise yoga nidra in Savasana. 

Advise students that instead of Savasana, they can practise in a pose that is comfortable for them, but that allows them to maintain a state of conscious relaxation, rather than simply sleeping.

For instance, you can provide the following alternative:

  1. Asking students to lie on their right-hand side.
  2. The student should then bend one of their elbows so that their finger is pointing towards the sky. 
  3. In this position, the upper arm and shoulder should rest on the floor, and only the forearm and hand should be in the air.

If a student finds themselves falling asleep, their hand will fall towards the floor and awaken them.

If students are uncomfortable lying on the floor, you could also give them the option to practice yoga nidra seated on a chair.

Their feet should be placed firmly on the floor, or yoga blocks should be placed under the feet if they don’t comfortably meet the floor.

They should maintain a long spine, using any sort of prop under the knees that will help them maintain this position with as little physical effort as possible.

#6 Use Equipment When Teaching Yoga Nidra to Make Students More Comfortable

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We’re now going to run through how to teach yoga nidra using props and equipment to help your students feel more comfortable.

As we’ve just mentioned, this will help people to fully relax, avoid injury, and maintain the right level of consciousness to not fall asleep.

For example, you could provide yoga equipment. These will prevent light coming through and distracting class members but with a gentle pressure on the eyelids keeping them awake.

You should also encourage students to place a blanket over their bodies, as they’ll be lying in a still position, meaning that their body temperature is likely to drop. 

Props are also useful for making specific positions more comfortable. 

For instance, as we’ve already suggested, you could recommend placing a bolster or pillow underneath the knees if Savasana pose causes pain through the lower back.

If students are lying on their side, these pieces of equipment may be useful:

  • Blankets to place under their body, to create a softer surface which will support the hip bones. 
  • They may also want to place a folded blanket between the thighs or shins, as well as under the head and arms to support them whilst on their side.
  • A bolster to place behind the back, as it is no longer on the floor. This will provide a sense of grounding and comfort.

#7 How to Teach Yoga Nidra at the Right Time for Your Students

When it comes to teaching yoga nidra effectively, building up a loyal client base, and fully engaging your students, we’d recommend finding out the times that your target audience prefers practising.

For instance, if your target audience is office workers, your class timetable should work around their 9 to 5 work schedule, otherwise they are unlikely to attend.

It’s also important for students to practice when they feel most energised and alert, so they’re less prone to drowsiness and more likely to stay awake.

As we’ve discussed, yoga nidra relaxes both the mind and body to give practitioners a deeper, more peaceful night’s sleep.

Practising a yoga nidra sequence in the evening can help to deepen your students’ relationship to their Sankalpa, or intention.

We’d recommend avoiding lunch time classes. This is because practising straight after eating increases people’s chances of falling asleep. 

You should schedule your classes at the same time every week, creating a routine for you and your class members.

This is because repeatedly attending the same classes allows students to:

  • Become familiar with their surroundings
  • Meet other regular class members
  • Better track the results of the class on their physical and mental wellbeing

Before You Go!

We hope that this article has been useful in learning how to teach yoga nidra safely and effectively to your students. Implementing our tips will help you to create a relaxing atmosphere in the studio, lead a calming sequence, and allow students to get the most out of their yoga nidra practice.

Don’t forget you can deepen your knowledge and expertise by completing a Level 3 Diploma in Yoga Teaching

You can also find out more about this and all of our different courses by downloading our free course prospectus here!

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About the Author: Rebecca Felton

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Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a first-class degree in English, Rebecca’s combined passions for fitness and writing are what brought her to OriGym. Rebecca is a keen gym-goer and specifically enjoys lifting weights. Outside of fitness and writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, and watching the football.

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