Improve Mental Health with Yoga Nidra and Meditation

Improve Mental Health with Yoga Nidra and Meditation


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Yoga nidra promotes deep rest and relaxation that isn’t found in your average meditation practice. The stages of body scan and breath awareness alone can be practiced to calm the nervous system, leading to less stress and better health.” – Allison Ray Jeraci


Meditation leads to concentration, concentration leads to understanding, and understanding leads to happiness” – This wonderful quote from the modern-day sage Thich Nhat Hahn is a beautiful pithy description of the benefits of meditation practice. Meditation allows us to view our experience and not put labels on it, not make assumptions about it, not relate it to past experiences, and not project it into the future. Rather meditation lets us experience everything around and within us exactly as it is arising and falling away from moment to moment.


Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. Meditation techniques have common properties of restful attention on the present moment, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation technique where the practitioner lies on the back in a “corpse pose” and is guided through body scan and imagery into a deeply relaxed state. Meditation involves a more active and concentrated process on the part of the practitioner but also leads to relaxation. It is not known if these two different contemplative techniques have different effects on psychological health.


In today’s Research News article “The Impact of Yoga Nidra and Seated Meditation on the Mental Health of College Professors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Ferreira-Vorkapic and colleagues recruited healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either practice Yoga Nidra of meditation for 3 months, once a week for 45 minutes, or to a wait-list control. They were measured before and after training for anxiety, depression, fear, and perceived stress.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the participants who practiced either Yoga Nidra or meditation had significant reductions in anxiety, depression, fear, and perceived stress. There were no significant differences between the contemplative techniques on any of the measure of psychological health. Hence, the techniques would appear to be equally effective in improving the psychological state of the participants.


It should be mentioned that since the control condition did not receive any treatment and both treated groups had significant effects, that a subject expectancy (placebo effect), attention, of experimenter bias effects may account for the improvements. It is also possible that the techniques may produce different effects on variable that were not measured, as only negative mood states were measured and a variety of contemplative techniques have been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, fear, and perceived stress. Regardless, the present study demonstrates that the contemplative techniques of Yoga Nidra and meditation are effective in improving the psychological states of the practitioners.


So, improve mental health with Yoga Nidra and meditation.


“As you can imagine, feeling well rested is life changing, but yoga nidra also improves your overall health. A 2013 study showed that practicing yoga nidra improved anxiety, depression, and overall well-being.” – Karen Brody


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Ferreira-Vorkapic, C., Borba-Pinheiro, C. J., Marchioro, M., & Santana, D. (2018). The Impact of Yoga Nidra and Seated Meditation on the Mental Health of College Professors. International journal of yoga, 11(3), 215-223.




World statistics for the prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders shows that a great number of individuals will experience some type of anxiety or mood disorder at some point in their lifetime. Mind–body interventions such as Hatha Yoga and seated meditation have been used as a form of self-help therapy and it is especially useful for challenging occupations such as teachers and professors.


In this investigation, we aimed at observing the impact of Yoga Nidra and seated meditation on the anxiety and depression levels of college professors.

Materials and Methods:

Sixty college professors, men and women, aged between 30 and 55 years were randomly allocated in one of the three experimental groups: Yoga Nidra, seated meditation, and control group. Professors were evaluated two times throughout the 3-month study period. Psychological variables included anxiety, stress, and depression.


Data analysis showed that the relaxation group presented better intragroup results in the anxiety levels. Meditation group presented better intragroup results only in the anxiety variable (physical component). Intergroup analysis showed that, except for the depression levels, both intervention groups presented better results than the control group in all other variables.


Prepost results indicate that both interventions represent an effective therapeutic approach in reducing anxiety and stress levels. However, there was a tendency toward a greater effectiveness of the Yoga Nidraintervention regarding anxiety, which might represent an effective tool in reducing both cognitive and physiological symptoms of anxiety.


Improve Neuroticism with Mindfulness

Mindfulness Neuroticism2 Armstrong

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor. In truth, the negatively biased are more prone to depression, anxiety, self-consciousness and hypochondria, to name just a few behavioral tripwires. Neuroticism is no fun for anyone.” – Psychology Today


We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.


Neuroticism, however, is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. This is potentially important and deserves further investigation.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study.” See:

or below

Armstrong and Rimes examined the ability of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat individuals high in neuroticism. They randomly assigned participants with high neuroticism to either an 8-week, once a week for 2-hours, MBCT treatment group or and on-line self-help treatment control group. Measures were taken before and 4-weeks after treatment of mindfulness, neuroticism, impairment in everyday functioning, anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-compassion, beliefs about emotions, rumination, and decentering.


They found that after treatment in comparisons to the control group the MBCT group had significantly lower neuroticism scores, and rumination, and a trend toward lower functional impairment due to stress. In addition, the MBCT group had significantly higher self-compassion and decentering and trends toward lessened unhelpful beliefs and emotions and higher mindfulness. Surprisingly, since MBCT was developed specifically to treat depression, there were no significant differences in anxiety or depression.


These results are interesting and potentially important. This, however, was a pilot study that had relatively small group sizes (17). The fact that significant differences were detected nonetheless indicates that the effects were fairly strong. The results clearly indicate that a larger randomized controlled trial is called for.


Mindfulness may affect neuroticism in a number of ways. By focusing the individual on the present moment, mindfulness should lessen the neuroticism characteristics of rumination about the past and worry about the future. Mindfulness is also known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and stress is known to contribute to neuroticism. Finally, mindfulness has been shown to produce heightened emotion regulation. So, the mindful individual feels and appreciates their emotions but responds appropriately and adaptively. This should lessen the moodiness, negative feelings, and loneliness characteristic of neuroticism. So, it is not surprising the mindfulness based treatments would be effective in lowering neuroticism. This is a hopeful development, as people high in neuroticism are very unhappy people. Mindfulness may provide some relief and help them toward a happier life.


So, improve neuroticism with mindfulness.


“Being in the moment with those thoughts and recognizing them for what they are has really helped me to kind of shove them aside, or to kind of diffuse them,” she says. “I think it’s really helped me become a more aware person of what other people might be feeling.” – JoSelle Vanderhooft


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available  on Google+


Study Summary

Armstrong L, Rimes KA. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study. Behav Ther. 2016 May;47(3):287-98. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005. Epub 2016 Jan 5. PMID: 27157024. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005



  • A new MBCT intervention for neuroticism versus online general self-help is examined
  • Compared with self-help, MBCT results in significantly lower levels of neuroticism
  • Rumination and self-compassion improved more in the MBCT group than the control group
  • MBCT is an acceptable and feasible intervention for neuroticism
  • Neuroticism may be amenable to change through psychological intervention


Objective: Neuroticism, a characteristic associated with increased stress vulnerability and the tendency to experience distress, is strongly linked to risk of different forms of psychopathology. However, there are few evidence-based interventions to target neuroticism. This pilot study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) compared with an online self-help intervention for individuals with high levels of neuroticism. The MBCT was modified to address psychological processes that are characteristic of neuroticism. Method: Participants with high levels of neuroticism were randomized to MBCT (n = 17) or an online self-help intervention (n = 17). Self-report questionnaires were administered preintervention and again at 4 weeks postintervention. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses found that MBCT participants had significantly lower levels of neuroticism postintervention than the control group. Compared with the control group, the MBCT group also experienced significant reductions in rumination and increases in self-compassion and decentering, of which the latter two were correlated with reductions in neuroticism within the MBCT group. Low drop-out rates, high levels of adherence to home practice, and positive feedback from MBCT participants provide indications that this intervention may be an acceptable form of treatment for individuals who are vulnerable to becoming easily stressed. Conclusions: MBCT specifically modified to target neuroticism-related processes is a promising intervention for reducing neuroticism. Results support evidence suggesting neuroticism is malleable and amenable to psychological intervention. MBCT for neuroticism warrants further investigation in a larger study.


Don’t be afraid!

Fear is a worry that something dreadful will occur in the future. In the case of recovery from dire health conditions, it is the fear of reoccurrence. That worry isn’t unreasonable, but often it is excessive relative to the real danger.

When this occurs, it stresses the individual and makes them anxious. This in turn, produces physiological reactions similar to those that occur when something is truly wrong that requires a response. But nothing is really wrong. The unneeded pro-inflammatory responses when nothing is actually wrong can itself induce damage. This, to some extent makes the fears come true. This can create a self-fulfilling fear cycle.

Mindfulness shifts perspective from the future to now where everything actually is well. When we’re mindful in the present moment we are not fearing the future, we’re not ruminating about the past, instead we’re focused on how we’re feeling and what we’re experience right now. Since everything is fine at this present time, we can relax and distress.

In today’s Research News “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR(BC)) in Breast Cancer: Evaluating Fear of Recurrence (FOR) as a Mediator of Psychological and Physical Symptoms in a Randomized Control Trial (RCT)”

it is demonstrated that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction reduces  the fear of reoccurrence in breast cancer survivors and this, in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. This mindfulness induced reduction in the fear, stress and anxiety produces improved physical functioning.

Mind and body are amazingly interconnected. Today’s study shows how altering the mind by focusing it in the present moment with MBSR can result in favorable physical functioning. This is one of the many ways that mindfulness improves both physical and psychological health.