With both sides of the stress response impaired in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, stress reduction is a good thing to do whether you’re fighting off a virus, can’t sleep, feel ‘wired and tired’ or just cannot wind down.
Many mind/body practices can reduce stress and produce feelings of relaxation and well-being but some meditative techniques can difficult for cognitively challenged ME/CFS and FM patients. Carol Lefelt tried many different meditative practices to no avail before finding a relaxation practice called Yoga nidra that helped her relax into a deep sleep; something she hadn’t experienced for years.
- Dig Deeper – Read about Carol’s experiences with yoga nidra
Yoga nidra or ‘yogi sleep’ refers to a sleep-like state yogi’s reach during their meditations. The practice of Yoga nidra aims at reaching a state of ‘lucid sleeping’ - one of the deepest states of relaxation possible while remaining conscious.
With several studies finding increased rates of autonomic nervous symptoms (ANS) in ME/CFS, Yoga nidra’s ability to reduce ANS symptoms such as headache, chest pain, palpitations, abdominal pain and anxiety is intriguing.
Dr. Deidre Rawlings, a fibromyalgia practitioner states yoga nidra can
- profound experiences of muscular, mental and emotional relaxation.
- Soothe the autonomic nervous system.
- Increases sleep quality f
- Enhances mental focus and attention span.
- Reduces chronic pain.
- Creates more ease and peace of mind in daily life.
The practice of systemic relaxation known as yoga nidra appears to have been developed through the study of trantric scriptures in the mid 20th century. Swami Satyananda Saraswati explained yoga nidra as “ as a state of mind between wakefulness and sleep that opened deep phases of the mind”. Another modern yoga, Anandmurti Gurumaa , describes yoga nidra as a state of conscious deep sleep.
Yoga nidra increased heart rate variability (HRV), reduced heart rates and increased parasympathetic nervous system activity in a small study of healthy people. (HRV is reduced and resting heart rates are increased in chronic fatigue syndrome.)
PTSD sufferers reported more peace, relaxation, well-being, etc. and reduced rage, anxiety and emotional reactivity after eight weeks of yoga nidra in one study. Blood glucose levels fell in people with diabetes after three months of yoga nidra in another.
Pain symptoms (P<0.006), gastrointestinal symptoms (P<0.04), cardiovascular symptoms (P<0.02) and urogenital symptoms (P<0.005) improved significantly in a large six-month yoga nidra study of women with menstrual disorders.
A Yoga Nidra Meditation
Yoga nidra uses practices of progressive relaxation similar to those used in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction practices developed by John Kabat-Zinn. Carol found success with a voice guided and music based approach she found in a CD called “Yoga Nidra: Dreams of Ancient Yogis” Using a voice guided meditation guide may be the best way to go for people with ME/CFS/FM.
Yoga Nidra Meditation Guides
Several meditation guides are available on Amazon.com. (Health Rising receives 4-8% of the purchase price of Amazon.com products purchased on our pages)