Nidrâ yoga is an ancient yogic practice capable of inducing altered states of consciousness characterized by deep relaxation, strong concentration, acute self-awareness, and joy. In modern contemplative neuroscience language, it is known by the name yoga nidra, and few studies have investigated its phenomenological and psychophysiological effects. Six healthy volunteers (four females aged 31–74) performed 12 yoga nidra sessions guided by an expert during a 6-day retreat. Each session consisted of 10 minutes in a resting state (baseline) followed by 2 hours of yoga nidra. Psychometric data regarding dissociative experiences (Clinician Administered Dissociative States Scale) and the state of consciousness (Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory) were collected after baseline and yoga nidra, while high-density EEG was recorded during the entire session. During nidra sessions, no sleep hallmarks (i.e., K-complexes and sleep spindles) were detected by the EEG in any subject. Psychometric data we re analyzed using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test corrected with the false discovery rate approach for multiple comparisons. Compared to baseline, yoga nidra practice was related to: (1) increased dissociative effects (p = 0.022); (2) perception of being in an altered state of consciousness (p = 0.026); (3) alterations in perceived body image (p = 0.022); (4) increased “meaningfulness” attributed to the experience (p = 0.026); (5) reduced rational thinking (p = 0.029); and (6) reduced volitional thought control (p = 0.026). First-person experience is discussed in relation to descriptive EEG power spectral density analysis, which was performed in one subject because of severe EEG artifacts in the other recordings; that subject showed, compared to baseline: (1) early increase of alpha and beta power, followed by a progressive widespread reduction; (2) widespread early increase of theta power, followed by a progressive reduction; and (3) widespread increase of gamma power in the latest stages. The present preliminary results enrich the knowledge of yoga nidra, elucidating its phenomenology and suggesting some psychophysiological correlates that future studies may address.

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