First-ever brain imaging study by IIT, AIIMS scientists finds changes in brain functional connectivity during yoga nidra, ET HealthWorld

First-ever brain imaging study by IIT, AIIMS scientists finds changes in brain functional connectivity during yoga nidra, ET HealthWorld


New Delhi: You must have heard the term Yoga Nidra. It means yogic sleep or deep relaxation without sleep and it induces a state of deep relaxation while maintaining awareness.

Yoga nidra has been found to be effective in treating anxiety. Yoga nidra practice produces several changes in brain activity, including areas that control emotions, mind wandering, and sleep.

Researchers from IIT Delhi and AIIMS Delhi have conducted the first functional MRI (fMRI) study exploring the underlying neural mechanisms of yoga nidra. The study, titled “Changes in functional connectivity in meditators and novices during yoga nidra practice”, has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study found that the more hours the participants practiced meditation and yoga, the greater the changes in their brain activity during yoga nidra. The study observed 30 meditators (householders with an average of 3000 hours of experience in meditation and/or yogic practice) and 31 matched novice controls.

Professor Rahul Garg from IIT Delhi said, “According to yogic texts, Yoga Nidra helps to surface the “samskaras” buried deep in the subconscious mind and eventually helps to release them, thereby promoting health. The activation of brain regions involved in processing emotions is a very interesting finding in this context”.

The study provides new information about how yoga nidra affects brain function in experienced individuals and novices in meditation and yogic practices. The researchers found that meditators and novices responded differently to yoga nidra; meditators had reduced mental chatter during the practice. “The reduction in mental chatter was related to the hours of yoga/meditation practice,” the researchers said.

They found that the DMN or default mode network behaves differently in meditators and novices; the DMN is a group of interconnected brain regions that are active when we are not focusing on the outside world. The researchers explained that “It is like the brain's “background mode” that operates when we are daydreaming, thinking about ourselves, or letting our minds wander. DMN connectivity refers to how well these brain regions communicate and work together.”

How to practice Yoga Nidra?
Practitioners lie down in a comfortable position, following verbal instructions that lead them through various stages of relaxation, breath awareness, and visualization. This systematic approach relaxes the body and mind, promoting deep healing and stress reduction. It is known to reduce insomnia, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.

This practice allows one to reach a state of deep relaxation similar to sleep, yet with a heightened awareness that facilitates mental clarity and emotional balance. Regular practice can refresh the mind and enhance overall well-being.

  • Published on June 20, 2024 at 02:15 PM IST

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