Yoga Nidra For Trauma

Helping individuals who have been through traumatic events can be a challenge. In this video, Brandt discusses some of the benefits of Yoga Nidra as an intervention versus Pranayama or meditation.

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Video Transcription

Someone asked me about trauma and different practices for trauma which is obviously a big subject but this is not acute trauma but the results of traumatic events, PTSD, and trauma-based issues. Anyway, they were asking about Yoga Nidra vs other kinds of contemplative practices, asking me whether Yoga Nidra would be a good intervention because there have been so many studies on PTSD with the iRest things, and we’re actually talking about that at the retreat so it’s on my mind. But the basic thing is that with trauma, many things can happen but you get dysregulated and so your responses, you know, your nervous system response is different, fight or flight is different, and I thought I would just give a two-minute explanation of the Yoga Nidra rationale. 

So, Yoga Nidra can go either way depending on how you apply it. If you can keep the person safe, iRest has a pretty nice protocol for, they have something called the inner resource, but basically finding your safe space, a safe set of images being in an environment also that feels safe to you or as safe as it can. 

The rationale with the Yoga Nidra practices from a scientific point of view, is that it changes brain wave states and so you can imagine someone with trauma has become dysregulated and they’re not going through the brain without –  I could talk about brain waves for the next half-hour, which I could – but the brain wave states get shifted and so Yoga Nidra reregulates them and furthermore sort of promotes certain types of brain wave states that have people be more calm but more importantly allow them to think more broadly so often these brain wave states are associated with creative endeavors. 

But when it comes to trauma it sort of similar in that, or applicable I should say, in that you would need those brain waves states in order to think outside your current situation which is responding to the trauma, another way to look at it is it allows you to be more in the present but I think maybe a better way to think of it for us, would be to have somebody who is constantly getting input from memory the trigger memory and then what you would want is for their brain to be more malleable so Yoga Nidra would do that. It’s not really different than meditation for that, both of them, you could argue that they’re the same. 

I think what’s interesting about the Yoga Nidra protocols, which are all guided, often lying down, and you use the body’s natural ability to go to sleep but you’re sort of sleeping while awake so when you’re sleeping you get all these beneficial brain wave states but when you’re awake, you get them but you can sort of guide your experience and so instead of just sleeping and dreaming, etc, you can promote these brain wave states that would make you more likely to see things from a broader perspective, be less triggered by things around you and therefore change your response to the traumatic event. 

So Yoga Nidra, to answer the question, is this good vs mindfulness mediation? I don’t know that I want to go on the record and say that one is better than the other because there are plenty of reasons by meditation is a good idea, plenty of reasons why Yoga Nidra is a good idea, plenty of reasons why pranayama is a good idea, but Yoga Nidra is particularly good at getting people who don’t have a high skill level into these states so that’s why it’s a particularly good intervention. 

You’ll hear me on the Q&A’s and talking about cases, recommending Yoga Nidra over and over again and that is because you would need to be personally less skilled to go into deeper states whereas with meditation you would need a lot more training. 

Most people find that it might take them 12 weeks or 16 weeks to get their meditation mindfulness practice together where their brain’s really changing whereas with Yoga Nidra in just a few sessions you can gain a lot of skill so that’s the advantage. 

On the other side, there isn’t really an advantage because I think once you do have the skills, I’m not sure one’s better than the other, they’re different in their nature. That’s another point I guess we could talk about all the different ways they’re different but if you have someone off the street, “I have these responses that I don’t like to past trauma”, “someone said you could help me”, “I’m super agitated all the time”, Yoga Nidra would be a go-to because you could say to yourself, ok one session or maybe two sessions or maybe three sessions I can get this person to experience these states and that’s the, for lack of a better word, that’s the sell of the whole thing because you need to have an experience in order to want to do it again. 

People can only go on faith for so long so Yoga Nidra gives you that quickly. And now there’s some great research verifying all this, so that’s good, but even that research is still in its infancy so just to answer that question, Yoga Nidra is particularly good for trauma, the only caveat is that it has to be done correctly it has to be done with somebody in a very safe space, so they need to have some sort of out or technique when difficult emotions and feelings arise, you can’t just tell them to ride it out, because if they’ve experienced strong trauma then there would be very difficult for them so that would be the skill.

Woman doing Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra

For more information, read our supporting blog post on yoga therapy and trauma.

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