Yoga Nidra vs. Meditation: Everything You Need to Know

Yoga Nidra is quickly becoming a very popular meditative practice. And for good reason! Explore the special qualities of yoga nidra that distinguish it from practicing meditation for present moment awareness.
Caroline is a transformation coach and meditation teacher.
what is the difference between yoga nidra and meditation
Caroline is a transformation coach and meditation teacher.

In the quest for tranquility and self-discovery, two ancient practices stand out: yoga nidra and meditation. Each offers a unique path to peace and well-being, but how do they differ, and which is right for you? Let’s embark on a journey to explore these profound practices. 

Key takeaways

  • Yoga nidra, often referred to as yogic sleep, provides deep relaxation and a unique state of consciousness, bridging the gap between wakefulness and sleep.
  • Meditation focuses on cultivating mindfulness, enhancing mental clarity, and promoting a sense of calm.
  • Insight Timer offers extensive resources on both practices, helping you find the perfect fit for your wellness journey.

What is meditation?

Put simply, meditation is a practice of focused attention, bringing the mind to the present moment without judgment. Through various techniques, including mindfulness and concentration, meditation helps reduce stress, improve concentration, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Meditation is a broad term and refers to multiple meditation techniques, but they all share the same goal: bringing our mind to the present.

This quality of presence opens us up to an awareness of the reality of our experience — right here, right now. Ultimately, we drop into the deep Now. And as Eckhart Tolle puts it, the Now is our only true reality and the place where our attention is most needed:

Realise deeply that the present moment is all that you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.

What is yoga nidra?

Yoga nidra is quickly becoming a very popular meditative practice. And for good reason! Yoga nidra offers unique insight through mental visualization into our multi-layer, multi-dimensional Self. The practice also provides deep relaxation and an opportunity for reworking belief patterns that are limiting.

The wisdom teaching of yoga nidra is a guided meditation practice that leads us on a journey of expanded consciousness, through the five sheaths/koshas of Self — physical, energetic/subtle, mental, wisdom, and bliss. Rather than focusing on the development of just one, the practice of yoga nidra provides us with a direct experience with all layers of Self.

Yoga nidra involves:

  • Connection with Self through a body scan, where we gently become aware of each of our body parts
  • Guided visualizations and the resting state slows our brain waves so we interact with the other layers of Self

The deep relaxation offered by yoga nidra creates a quiet and receptive brain state, which is fertile ground for revealing and releasing deeply held limiting beliefs (samskaras). Through the use of a Sankalpa, or personal resolve, the practice provides space to rework the inner programming we create through our lives. The Sankapla is typically linked to a limiting belief that we are reworking. A limiting belief is a belief that we hold that is no longer benefiting us. Through yoga nidra, when we see that we hold limiting beliefs, we can offer them up for change so that we operate from a more open and honest way of being.

Read more: We’ve asked internationally known Yogic sleep expert, Jennifer Piercy, if it is okay to fall asleep during yoga nidra. Her answers will give you inspiring insights into the practice.


Young Asian woman laying down meditating


Goals and benefits of yoga nidra

Yoga nidra is one of the best ways to achieve deep rest, helping us unwind physically and mentally. It guides us through steps that encourage our body to let go of tension while our mind stays gently focused. This practice is like hitting the reset button after a long day, relaxing your nervous system, letting go of stress, and diving into the quieter parts of your mind. Allowing us to start healing from old patterns or stresses, leading to better sleep, less stress, and a more balanced emotional state. It’s all about finding a deep sense of calm and well-being, giving you insights into yourself, and promoting growth.

Here are some of the key benefits of yoga nidra:

  • Better sleep: Early studies indicate that it helps you fall asleep easier and enjoy a more restful night, addressing issues like insomnia.
  • Less stress and anxiety: Evidence suggests that by calming the body’s stress response, it lowers feelings of anxiety, making you feel more at peace.
  • Improved focus and awareness: Regular practice makes you more mindful and sharp, helping with concentration in your daily tasks.
  • Emotional release: It offers a safe space to let go of emotional baggage, leading to greater emotional stability. There is support particularly for dealing with anger and other strong emotions. 
  • Supports immunity, lipid status, and blood glucose status: By reducing stress, it can aid your body’s natural healing processes, especially if you’re recovering from illness or dealing with chronic conditions. Additionally, research shows that it can even improve lipid profiles and blood glucose regulation.

Adding yoga nidra to your routine shows just how powerful taking a moment to deeply relax can be, helping you lead a more balanced and mindful life. 

To see if yoga nidra is a good fit for you, start with this guided meditation by Zoe Kanat.

Goals and benefits of enlightenment and meditation

Meditation takes us on a journey to enlightenment that’s all about changing from the inside out. It helps us become more mindful, aware of ourselves, and in tune with the deeper aspects of who we are and how we connect with the universe. This practice isn’t just about sitting quietly — it’s a path to clearer thinking, emotional balance, and feeling a deep bond with everyone and everything around you. It guides us towards a peaceful mind and a higher state of being.

Here’s what we can gain from meditation:

  • Mindfulness: You learn to live in the moment, fully experiencing life without judgment or distraction.
  • Self-awareness: It deepens your understanding of yourself, helping you recognize your strengths, weaknesses, and innermost thoughts.
  • Mental clarity: Initial studies highlight that various meditation approaches improve short-term memory, cognitive function, and overall well being. Meditation clears the mind, making it easier to focus and think clearly.
  • Emotional balance: It helps manage emotions, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. According to data in American Holistic Nurses Association journal, mindfulness meditation supports emotional management in high-stress situations and careers. 
  • Connection: You’ll feel a stronger sense of unity with others, fostering empathy and compassion.

By integrating meditation into your life, you’re signing up for a profound transformation. It’s a commitment to understanding yourself and the world in a more meaningful way, leading to a peaceful and enlightened existence.

The goal of meditation is to achieve samadhi, a complete awareness of self and the universe.

Start your meditation journey now with these practices guided by Caroline Stewart.

  1. Yoga Nidra - Embracing Emotions Caroline Stewart 48:04
  2. Yoga Nidra Deep Relaxation: Gifts of the Shadow Caroline Stewart 29:44
  3. Who Am I? Why Am I Here? Caroline Stewart 12:01

Is yoga nidra the same as meditation? What are the key differences?

Yoga nidra and meditation are both practices aimed at achieving mental clarity, inner peace, and a deeper connection with oneself. They share the goal of guiding practitioners to a state of mindfulness, where stress and daily distractions melt away to reveal a calm, centered presence. Each practice, in its own unique way, helps individuals navigate the complexities of the mind and emotions, promoting overall wellness and a sense of harmony.

While they share similar outcomes, yoga nidra and meditation differ significantly in approach, posture, and focus. 

Yoga nidra is typically performed in savasana or corpse pose — lying down on your back. This facilitates a deep state of relaxation while maintaining awareness, and makes it highly accessible for all. In contrast, meditation often involves sitting upright or various yoga poses, which promotes alertness and concentration. 

The guided nature of yoga nidra, with a voice leading you through relaxation and into the subconscious, contrasts with meditation’s emphasis on self-guided focus, whether on breath, a mantra, or silent observation. 

Additionally, the experiences of time and awareness in each practice vary; yoga nidra can lead to a timeless sensation due to its deep relaxation, whereas meditation cultivates an acute awareness of the present, often making yogis more mindful of time’s passage. 

Some believe that yoga nidra is the final step from meditation to samadhi, and that the state of consciousness which yoga nidra meditation provides helps achieve complete awareness. If you do not feel ready for yoga nidra, it could be that you should start with other types of meditation and work your way towards yoga nidra.

These differences highlight the unique ways each practice helps you in your journey toward wellness and self-discovery.

Looking for a way to calm your mind and recharge your batteries in the middle of the day? Yoga Nidra for Relaxation, a 4.8-star meditation by The StillPoint has you covered.

Is it better to meditate seated or lying down?

The choice between seated and lying down meditation depends on personal preference, goals, and physical comfort. Seated meditation enhances alertness and focus, while lying down, as in yoga nidra, promotes deep relaxation. Explore both to figure out which aligns best with your practice and goals.

Try this 3-minute standing meditation or this 5-minute sitting meditation to see which is right for you.  

Adapt yoga nidra and meditation to suit your needs

Tailoring yoga nidra and meditation practices to individual experience levels enhances personal growth and well-being. 

Beginners often appreciate guided sessions that introduce fundamental concepts and techniques, while more experienced yogis might explore deeper meditation states or extended yoga nidra sessions. Listen to your body and mind. Adjust practices accordingly — the journey is just as important as the destination, and this ensures a fulfilling and enriching journey.

Solo or guided practices?

Choosing between solo or guided practices in yoga nidra and meditation is like picking between a self-guided adventure or having a personal guide — each has their own benefits. 

  • Solo sessions offer you the freedom to explore at your own pace, tapping into your inner wisdom. 
  • Guided practices with a yoga teacher, on the other hand, are like having a friend who knows the way, offering insights and directions to deepen your journey. 

Both paths have their value, helping you discover what resonates with your soul. It’s all about what feels right for you in the moment.


Group of young people meditating


Active vs. passive meditation approaches

In the realm of yoga nidra and meditation, think of active approaches as engaging with intention, where you’re fully participating in the experience. Passive approaches let you ride the waves of your consciousness, surrendering to the journey. 

Whether you’re in the mood for a dynamic meditation session or a gentle yoga nidra experience, Insight Timer offers a collection that caters to both active and passive preferences. Dive in and discover what brings you closer to your inner peace.

Find inner peace practicing yoga nidra with Insight Timer

Yoga nidra and meditation are both keys to unlocking your personal sanctuary of peace. At Insight Timer, we believe in the power of both practices to transform lives, offering a sanctuary where you can explore a wide array of sessions tailored to your unique journey. Whether you’re searching for a moment of calm or a profound transformation, our platform is a treasure trove of resources waiting to be discovered. Embark on your journey with Insight Timer and find the practice that speaks to your heart, ensuring your path to inner peace is as rich and varied as life itself.

Read more: Many people like to practice yoga nidra at the end of the day. Learn about the importance of a healthy evening routine for health and happiness.

Yoga nidra vs. meditation FAQs

What is the impact of yoga nidra?

Yoga nidra is a highly beneficial practice with few downsides. However, individuals with severe or overwhelming mental health issues should approach it cautiously and under guidance, as deeply relaxing states can sometimes surface unresolved emotions or memories.

Who should not do yoga nidra?

While yoga nidra is suitable for most, those experiencing severe depression, trauma, or psychosis should consult a healthcare provider or a qualified yoga therapist before starting the practice. It’s crucial to approach such powerful practices with care, especially when dealing with significant mental health challenges.

Why is yoga nidra so powerful?

Yoga nidra’s power lies in its ability to induce a deeply relaxed state while maintaining consciousness. This unique state allows for the release of stress, deep-seated tensions, and promotes significant healing and personal insight, touching on the physical, emotional, and mental layers of the self.

When should you not do yoga nidra?

Avoid yoga nidra immediately after eating or when you’re feeling extremely tired and are likely to fall asleep. While falling asleep isn’t a failure, staying awake allows for a deeper exploration of the subconscious and a fuller experience of the practice’s benefits.

What happens if you fall asleep during yoga nidra?

Falling asleep during yoga nidra is common and generally harmless. You’ll still receive some benefits, such as physical rest, but staying awake allows you to fully engage with the practice and achieve the deeper transformation it offers.

Can you do too much yoga nidra?

Moderation is key in any practice, including yoga nidra. While it’s generally safe, excessive practice without balance can potentially lead to an overly introspective state, detaching you from daily responsibilities and interactions. Listen to your body and mind, and find a balanced practice schedule.

Should you do yoga nidra in bed?

Practicing yoga nidra in bed is perfectly fine, especially if it helps you relax. However, if you find that you consistently fall asleep and miss the practice’s deeper aspects, you might try a firmer surface or a different time of day.

How much sleep is yoga nidra equivalent to?

It’s often said that 30 minutes of yoga nidra can be equivalent to 2-4 hours of sleep. This is due to the profound rest the body and mind enter, though this can vary between individuals. It’s not a replacement for nightly sleep but can significantly reduce stress and improve overall sleep quality.



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 Nayak, K., & Verma, K. (2023). Yoga-Nidra as a mental health booster: A narrative review. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 14(6), 100842. 

Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Spence, D. W., Srivastava, N., Kanchibhotla, D., Kumar, K., Sharma, G. S., Gupta, R., & Batmanabane, G. (2022). The Origin and Clinical Relevance of Yoga Nidra. Sleep and vigilance, 6(1), 61–84. 

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