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Yoga Lab: Switch off, relax and be at one with your breath

The final part of our Yoga Lab series with instructor Elena Romero opens us up to the practice of yoga nidra

Many of us are living in a heightened state of alert, threat and fear at the moment. To be able to switch off, relax and sleep might be very difficult to achieve.

Yoga nidra is a deep relaxation technique; a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, which generates a hypnagogic state - somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. In yoga nidra the body sleeps, but the mind remains alert and aware, following the instructions from the teacher.

Yoga nidra is an excellent tool to tackle anxiety, fatigue, sleep deprivation and many other stress-related afflictions and psychosomatic illnesses

In the fourth instalment of our Yoga Lab series, Elena Romero of Practice Yoga in Dublin takes us through a yoga nidra for beginners, with the practitioner switching off the body little by little in a systematic and organised way.

“The state of yoga nidra leads to a decrease in sympathetic nerve activity and an increase in the parasympathetic function, bringing an overall sense of calmness and relaxation to the whole body. Yoga nidra is an excellent tool to tackle anxiety, fatigue, sleep deprivation and many other stress-related afflictions and psychosomatic illnesses. It is an easy practice, accessible to most people; you can do it resting on a chair or on the floor, the latter being preferred. The hardest thing is to remain awake, and yes – ideally one should try and remain awake. It is common for practitioners to fall sleep and if that happens, it is not the end of the world and you still benefit from it,” Elena says.


Five tips for staying calm and positive throughout the day

1. Breath

It all starts with the breath. The simplicity of this tactic might turn some people off, but there is nothing more grounding, more reassuring than knowing you are still breathing. The breath is your best friend and your most sincere ally; it always tells you how you are. Let the chatter of the mind go on in the background, don’t fight it or try to silence it and move your attention to the feeling of the breath coming and going and stay focused on that – the chatter will go without you even noticing.

2. Practice positivity

We find ourselves talking negatively or having negative, sad, heavy thoughts. It is important we counteract those words and thoughts with positive ones. In yoga there is a practice called ‘Pratipaksha Bhavana’ which consists of cultivating positive thoughts every time a negative one enters the mind. So let’s say you thought or said something like, ‘this life sucks’, or, ‘I am so stressed’. With this practice you would think or say something like, ‘life is full of wonders’, and, ‘I am calm and able to cope with this situation’, soon after your negative statement.

3. Smile

Whether you have reasons to or not, do smile. The brain makes no distinction between a real smile and a fake one. Yet smiling activates the release of ‘feel good’ messengers (dopamine, endorphins and serotonin) that work towards fighting stress. Smiling is not only good for you, but it is infectious and brings out smiles around you.

4. Practice compassion

For yourself and others. We don’t all relate to the environment and situations in the same way. We need to be tolerant and compassionate towards others and understand that we are living in an unprecedented situation with no roadmap or ‘one size fits all’ solution.

5. Practice gratitude

This is an old classic, but it is a powerful one. At the end of the day find at least one thing you are grateful for. It might be a person, a pet, a thing, a feeling, an experience you had. Hold on to it and say thank you!

As with all exercise programs, when using our Yoga Lab videos, you need to use common sense. To reduce/avoid injury, please check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program. By performing any fitness exercises, you are performing them at your own risk.
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