What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?

What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?

When we look at relaxing ways to end a yoga session or a quick 20-minutes practice to relax the mind and body, Yoga Nidra and meditation both come to mind. They are both known to relax the mind and body, induce a sense of peace and calm, and bring you back to the present. However, they are both vastly different as well.

For anyone looking to take up the Yoga Nidra online teacher training program, it is important to know how the two are different. While there are different types of meditation, the practice brings you to the present by teaching you to observe your thoughts as if you were a spectator. This is done by either focusing on the breath, a symbol or listening to a teacher or recording. Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, is a multi-step process that takes you through body-mind awareness, a resolve, and a visualization process, among others. It is the process of scanning the body from the feet to the top of the head.

Understanding what is Yoga Nidra

what is Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogic Sleep, is like taking a power nap. Twenty minutes of the practice infuses the body with energy and calmness. It gives practitioners a deeper sense of awareness of the self, while also working on the subconscious mind. Because of its strong positive impact on the subconscious it is beneficial in rewriting beliefs, perceptions and fears that help an individual overcome mental conditions like depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, etc. It enables the practitioner to experience all the five sheaths or koshas of the self – physical, subtle, mental, wisdom and bliss.

Yoga Nidra can only be practiced under the guidance of a teacher or a recording. The attention, awareness and deep relaxation come together to create a calm yet receptive state of the mind where deep, limiting belief patterns (called samskaras) and fears are held. That’s where the resolve or Sankalpa comes in. Normally connected to a belief or fear, it gives the practitioner the strength and ability to rework these beliefs and remove those that are not positive or benefitting in any way.

Yoga Nidra also takes us to the fifth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, Pratyahara or withdrawal. By creating this inward attention and awareness, the practitioner withdraws from external senses. It takes one away from the need to constantly ‘do this’ and ‘do that’. This helps one disengage parts of the brain that are linked to sense perceptions. Only the auditory channel remains open to continue listening to the guidance.

The practice slows down the brain waves and creates a space for deep rest. From a psychological and physiological perspective, one experiences benefits such as improved state of awareness, deep, restful sleep, reduced stress, decrease in anxiety and depression, better focus and better productivity. When practiced after an asana session, it is extremely helpful in relieving aches and pains one might have from intense stretching. Furthermore, it improves well-being and quality of life as it induces a mind-body connection and enables one to understand their true potential and purpose, leading to a heightened spiritual understanding of the self. An online yoga nidra teacher training equips teachers to go deeper and understand this relaxation technique.

Understanding how meditation and Yoga Nidra are different

yoga nidra vs meditation

In a way, once you have withdrawn from your senses during Yoga Nidra, you are ready for Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation). These are the sixth and seventh limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga. So, it is safe to say – Yoga Nidra prepares you for meditation. In meditation, a practitioner starts with letting go of all efforts and simply becomes an observer. Over time, one learns to connect with their true self, the higher self. When one reaches Dhyana, the state of meditative absorption, it becomes possible to truly let go and just be.

In other words, meditation brings the mind, body and soul to one place at the same time. There are different ways to reach here. It could be by focusing on your breath, a guided practice, focusing on a mantra or symbol, and many more.


  1. Yoga Nidra is practiced lying down: Normally meditation is done in a seated position to ensure you do not fall asleep. Yoga Nidra is practiced in Savasana with the body completely relaxed. This enables one to stay in stillness while easily taking the attention to different body parts.
  2. Yoga Nidra is a multi-step process: Yoga Nidra consists of multiple steps such as body-scan or body awareness, Sankalpa or resolve, visualization, breath focus, etc. Meditation on the other hand has different types such as guided meditation, transcendental, breath meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness, loving-kindness, among others.
  3. Guided vs. self-practice: Yoga Nidra is a fully guided practice led by teachers or recordings of teachers. Sometimes, when a practitioner is very experienced one can try to do it on their own. Meditation can be guided or a self-practice. For example, breath meditation can be done without guidance. Meditation also involves more silence compared to Yoga Nidra.
  4. A journey through the layers: Yoga Nidra takes you through the multiple layers or sheaths (Koshas) that help you reach your inner self. Meditation focuses on one single aspect. By focusing on the Koshas, one can do deeper within.
  5. Multiple lineages and tradition: Meditation spans multiple traditions, lineages and cultures. For example, transcendental meditation has been practiced for decades and has evolved. Or, take mindfulness meditation which has become popular only in recent years. Yoga Nidra has always been one, singular practice that has been done by yogis for hundreds of years ago, and is still done today. All that changes is the sankalpa or resolve.

In many ways the two practices are looked at as relaxation techniques. However, a focused yoga nidra online certification program will equip you as a teacher with the expertise to lead practitioners through this deeply relaxing practice. Taking up the yoga nidra online course is also a great way to continue your yoga education.