Yoga For Insomnia
by Carolyn Weatherson
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Yoga is a wonderful
tool to help you ready your mind and body for sleep. There are specific
postures, breathing techniques and relaxation techniques that can make an
enormous difference in your ability to get a refreshing night's sleep.
Whether you have difficulty falling asleep or you awaken too early and can't get
back to sleep yoga can help. If you suspect you have an underlying
physical problem such as asthma, sleep apnea, or depression your physician can
help you further.
Here are a few things
to keep in mind before you begin:
1. Your brain produces a chemical called
melatonin which helps to induce sleep. Exposure to sunlight or artificial
light as early as possible within awakening will help set your body clock and
decrease your brain's melatonin levels early in the day. In the evening
keep the room lights low to increase your melatonin levels and help prepare your
body for sleep. Avoid using the computer and watching television as these
are bright light sources and will confuse your body clock by releasing chemicals
in an attempt to keep you alert.
2. Avoid stimulating drugs, including
caffeine and nicotine during the second half of your day. Stimulants can
be hiding in pain medication, asthma inhalers and many other medications.
You may need to speak to your doctor about this.
3. Many people make the mistake of
using alcohol or marijuana as a means of helping to induce sleep. This
will absolutely make things worse. While you may get sleepy you will only
achieve a shallow non-restorative sleep that includes suppression of your normal
dream sleep. About every 90 minutes we go through a full sleep cycle,
approximately 25% of your total sleep time should be REM (dream sleep) and 20%
in deep sleep (stage 3 and 4) in order to achieve a refreshing night's sleep.
Lack of these vital sleep stages may lead to fatigue and depression creating a
4. Your body temperature declines
slightly (about 1.5 degrees F) as a cue to start sleep. This means you
want to avoid activities that will cause your body to heat up such as a hot bath
or vigorous exercise just before bed. Keep the temperature of your room
cool with fresh air circulating whenever possible.
5. At least 30 minutes of exercise 5
days a week has been proven to make a solid difference in one's ability to
achieve a good night's sleep. Yoga's invigorating and strengthening
postures, or whatever your favourite form of exercise is, should be done
sometime during the day or early evening (at least 3 hours before bedtime).
A regular exercise program has been proven to be one of the most important aids
to help you sleep and feel more vigorous during the day.
Okay, now let's get to some postures and
techniques to help you!
First you need to quiet your active mind by
deliberately shutting out all the thoughts of your busy day and your busy life.
Painful memories, concerns for the future and all the things you need to do must
be gently set aside. Easier said than done right! You begin by
closing your eyes and focusing on your breath with singular concentration.
Begin with the 3 Part Yogic Breath for several minutes then move into
Diaphragmatic Breathing. Often in my classes we practice Ujjayi breathing
(an invigorating style) which would not be the best way to settle yourself for
A short and gentle routine which includes
properly performed Forward Bends, Twists and Quadriceps stretches ending with
legs up the wall pose, or shoulderstand for more advanced students, will help
prepare you for sleep.
Finish in your bed with the tense and release
method. If your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back again and
again to your breathing. You may find it helpful to silently say to
yourself "peace" as you inhale and "calm" as you exhale.
I would be happy to design a routine for you
during a private session or you can look for my special insomnia workshops
at Performance Dance Academy.
All the best, Carolyn Weatherson