Is It Okay To Fall Asleep During Yoga Nidra, Jennifer Piercy?

“It’s a fascinating challenge as we work within the confines of language to try to describe something that is beyond the mind and categorizations, and can only be directly experienced,” says Jennifer Piercy, known Yogic Sleep Educator and whose voice has guided many people worldwide through Yoga Nidra. We asked her about the seeming conflict between practicing Yoga Nidra and trying not to fall asleep. Her answers offer true insights into the exploration of awareness.
Jennifer is a Yogic Sleep Educator and Mentor.
Jennifer is a Yogic Sleep Educator and Mentor.

Personally, I would never tell someone they ‘should not’ necessarily fall asleep in Yoga Nidra, for multiple reasons…

Reason # 1: Embrace Rather Than Avoid

While it’s true that one does not ‘have’ to, and might not fall asleep during Yoga Nidra…part of my unique calling in this life is to help people deepen their relationship to sleep—and a big part of that is deepening the inquiry around ‘What IS sleep?

So, the kind of Yoga Nidra I share is deliberately crafted to fully embrace rather than try to fight or avoid sleep. Not all teachers, however, take this approach.

Before reading on you might want to practice Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Piercy. This playlist combines her most popular guided practices:

  1. Yoga Nidra For Sleep Jennifer Piercy 22:21
  2. Bone Deep Sleep Jennifer Piercy 15:07
  3. Yoga Nidra: Freedom Nature Jennifer Piercy 30:14
  4. Yoga Nidra: Melatonin Magic Jennifer Piercy 19:44

Reason # 2: The Problem With Waking Centricity

Just as there is more than one kind of yoga, there is more than one kind of sleep. There are layers and levels to this thing we call sleep…micro and macro, biologically, personally, culturally.

Sleep isn’t ‘just losing consciousness’ – sleep is PART of consciousness.

When people say Yoga Nidra isn’t ‘just ordinary sleep’, I see it not as a blanket rejection of sleep itself within the practice, but rather the culture’s myopic view of sleep, which tends to be shallow, mechanical and generally problematic, contributing to the rise of sleep challenges rather than helping ease them.

The idea that sleep should be avoided comes from a misperception of what sleep actually is and marginalization of ‘down’ states in a wakist culture. Waking centricity tends to de-value any state that appears to be other than the so-called ‘awake’.

Yoga Nidra is about awareness—not clinging to waking. True Yoga Nidra doesn’t require that ‘I’ be ‘awake’ in the usual way of perceiving wakefulness. It’s an exploration of Awareness, which is the backdrop in which all other possible waves of consciousness swim, and is unbreakable, always present.

Reason # 3: What Is Nidra?

Nidra, the Sanskrit word for sleep, has many possible meanings. Its roots are Ni—which means nothing-ness, empty, void, dissolution—and Dru—which means to draw forth from within. So, we could say Nidra means ‘to draw emptiness forth from within.’

Nidra has also been used to describe the act of sleeping or falling asleep. It has also been used to represent the disappearing of ‘the mind’, or all ‘attention’. It’s been used to refer to sleep with or without dreams, as well as total awareness in deep sleep, the dream state OR in wakefulness.

So…it’s not limited to one expression.

What kind of sleep should we try to avoid anyway? The Sleep of Ignorance… Which can happen just as easily in the state we call ‘waking’.

When all that the roots of this thing called Yoga represent (Yung Ung Gung Aha) are applied to the states that can be Nidra—we have Yoga Nidra.

Reason # 4: Laying Our Burdens Down

Human beings (and Mama Earth) are exhausted. In my experience, it’s not unusual for them to need rest and sleep more than they need meditation ‘ideals’ in many cases. They need to cultivate a baseline of relaxation in the nervous system and feel safe enough to let go into ‘the deep’.

They need the foundational ground of well-being around which rest and sleep revolve, and encouragement to dismantle toxic ideas of not-enoughness.

We must tend to our tired-ness to ‘progress’ in the experience and recognition of Yoga Nidra…so that something other than what we perceive as ‘just falling asleep’ becomes possible.

If we are burned out—the moment we are offered the opportunity to lay our burdens down, we will  ‘go there’, and rightfully so, because we NEED that replenishment.

Read more: Clinical Psychologist Dr. Lillian Nejad offers simple guidelines and advice when having trouble falling asleep.

So, from my humble perspective, sleep with wild abandon. We must allow ourselves to fall into the sweet arms of sleep to recognize what is ‘beyond’ it.

Tend to the soulful side of sleep with Jennifer Piercy’s Insight Timer course “Your Guide To Deeper Sleep.” Over 10 sessions you’ll investigate your own relationship with sleep and rest, as well as better understand how our habits and routines in modern life result in sleepless nights. If you want to reconsider your bedtime ritual straight away, you might want to read our article about establishing a healthy evening routine.

Meditation. Free.