How is yoga nidra different from hypnotherapy?

Yoga Nidra is a sleep-based mindfulness meditation technique.  It doesn't require you to bend in unusual poses, break a sweat, empty your mind, or purchase fancy clothes or equipment.  It only requires that you be still.  It is the practice of conscious sleep, using body, breath, and imagination to clear the way for you to gently unfurl the layers between you and your soul - your deepest truest self - in whatever way and at whatever pace is most comfortable for you.
Hypnotherapy focuses on utilizing the often untapped strengths of the intuitive right-brain; you do not have to be relaxed for it to be effective as the hypnotherapist is guiding you through the process; your brain waves enter the theta state. The purpose is to see therapeutic shifts in the body & mind.
In yoga nidra while there is an increase in right-brain activity, there is also a clear movement between the left & right hemispheres of the brain; the benefits come from profound relaxation and from your own thoughts (intention) rather than a hypnotherapists suggestion; your brain enters the deepest recorded states of theta & delta waves. The purpose of yoga nidra is to understand the truth of who you are, and while shifts may occur as you come to understand that truth, the shifts are not the purpose.

What is an intention or sankalpa?

An intention is a heartfelt desire about who you want to be, or your true nature. It is a seed of desire within you. It is the North arrow on your inner compass - a direction not a destination. In yoga terms it is called a "sankalpa" and you can read more about it here.  

What are the benefits of yoga nidra?

Yoga Nidra triggers the relaxation response in a profound way - balancing the nervous system, restructuring the brain, and allowing the body to heal.  Just about any study you read which touts the benefits of mindfulness or meditation can be applied to yoga nidra as it is both of these things and more. Yoga Nidra improves function in the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus and if your session includes a focus on the "brow centre" then the pineal gland is also activated..  Yoga nidra meditation releases seratonin, dopamine, melatonin, and GABA.  What does all that mean?  It means you sleep better; are more alert, calm, and focused during the day; cope better with stress; and reduce the negative effects of stress, trauma, anxiety, & depression in your life. It is also said that 1 session of yoga nidra is the restful equivalent of 3-4 hours sleep - who doesn't want that?!

How long until I notice a difference?

From the very first moment you emerge from a yoga nidra session you will feel different.  Some report feeling calm, rested, alert, or focused, while others report that they feel like something within them has shifted.  Everyone responds in their own way. You are in complete control throughout the session so you need not fear that the experience will be overwhelming or unpleasant.  Because you are in control of the session you can trust that whatever the outcome is, it is what your truest self needed.

What if I hold strong religious beliefs?

Yoga nidra is not a religious practice in and of itself however it is part of the larger system of yoga which is rooted in Eastern Religions. Only you can decide if you are comfortable with that. In yoga nidra you step back and observe yourself; you gently unfurl the layers between you and your truest deepest self - your soul if you will. If that process would be assisted by calling on a spiritual source or higher power in your life then you are of course encouraged to do so.

Is yoga nidra a therapeutic intervention?

In short, no.  Yoga nidra is a tool for self healing. I do not perform any medical/clinical tasks, give medical or psychological advice, or offer treatment protocols or prescriptions. The services I provide are not a substitute for professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, or otherwise therapeutic interventions. Sessions are  not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure illness or disease. All information and suggestions are to be used at your own discretion and in consultation with trusted healthcare professionals as you deem appropriate.You are the expert on your own life, and I trust that you will use your own best judgment when making decisions about your well-being. I encourage you to consult with appropriate professionals and health care providers whenever you feel it is necessary.