Yoga Nidra and NSDR - Tradition or Trend?

Yoga Nidra and NSDR - Tradition or Trend?

Yoga Nidra and NSDR (Non-Sleep Deep Rest) are both mindful practices that bring about deep relaxation while maintaining awareness. They help rejuvenate mental health and create a sense of calm in stressed and anxious minds.

While Yoga Nidra, often referred to as “yogic sleep,” originates from ancient yogic traditions, NSDR has gained recent popularity from Dr. Andrew Huberman, who coined the term.

Are Yoga Nidra and NSDR the same? Is one of these techniques better than the other? We aim to answer these and other questions during our deep dive today.

What is Yoga Nidra?

First, we need to understand exactly what is Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is a practice stemming back to ancient times that was only recently introduced to the widespread public in the 1960s through the writings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. The goal of Yoga Nidra is full and complete relaxation, and has been linked to positive physiological changes and reduced depression and anxiety [1].

Performing Yoga Nidra involves lying down in a comfortable position, usually in savasana (corpse pose), while following verbal instructions from a trained practitioner or through recordings. It gently leads one into a state between waking and sleeping and uses guided meditation to induce comprehensive physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. In short, the body is at rest and the mind is calm yet alert.

Key Benefits of Yoga Nidra [2]

  1. Stress Reduction: Yoga Nidra is highly effective in reducing stress by activating the relaxation response in the body, thereby lowering cortisol levels and promoting a sense of calm.
  2. Improved Sleep Quality: Regular practice of Yoga Nidra has been shown to enhance sleep quality and aid in insomnia management.
  3. Enhanced Mental Clarity: By quieting the mind and promoting mindfulness, Yoga Nidra can improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity.
  4. Emotional Healing: This practice can help release emotional tensions stored in the body, leading to emotional healing and balance.
  5. Relief from Anxiety and Depression: Yoga Nidra can be a supportive tool in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression by fostering relaxation and promoting positive mental states.
“Relaxation does not mean sleep. Relaxation means to be blissfully happy; it has no end. I call bliss absolute relaxation; sleep is a different matter. Sleep only relaxes the mind and senses. Bliss relaxes the atma, the inner self; that is why, in tantra, Yoga Nidra is the doorway to the bliss of Samadhi.”
– Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Yoga Nidra vs. NSDR

Recently, Yoga Nidra has been rebranded for a “secular audience” by neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman. He labeled his modernized version as “NSDR” or Non-Sleep Deep Rest. His version is similar to Yoga Nidra in many ways:

  • Main goal is relaxation
  • Enhances sleep quality
  • Cultivates mind-body connection
  • Creates a non-focused awareness

However, NSDR has sparked criticism from practitioners and scholars in the yoga community for several reasons.

Cultural Appropriation and Misrepresentation

A main concern with rebranding Yoga Nidra for a “wider” audience is the misrepresentation and, ultimately, cultural appropriation of an ancient yogic practice. Yoga Nidra has deep roots in Indian philosophy, spirituality, and culture, so transforming it into a Westernized, secular concept dilutes its essence and severs ties to its cultural heritage.


One of the promoted draws of NSDR is that it simplifies the traditional practice of Yoga Nidra, focusing primarily on its physiological benefits such as nervous system regulation and stress reduction. This undermines the more full approach Yoga Nidra takes which encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions

Loss of Mindfulness and Awareness

NSDR tends to strip away the mindfulness and awareness aspects that are so integral to Yoga Nidra. By framing it only as a tool for physical rest, the depth of the practice and potential for self-discovery are overlooked.


Preserving the integrity of Yoga Nidra means honoring its origins, respecting its cultural significance, and practicing it with mindfulness and reverence. While there may certainly be some benefits to NSDR, repackaging and rebranding a broader cultural concept should be approached with caution and sensitivity.

At Potion, we approach every Ayurvedic practice with respect to its origins and do not deviate from our roots. What makes our values stand out above the rest?

We aim to bring the best of Eastern and Western medicine straight to your doorstep without diluting ancient wisdom. Get a glimpse of our vision for YOU and your HEALTH.