If you have insomnia, you can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, on an ongoing basis. Insomnia can have consequences on your health, your work, your driving, your mood and your overall quality of life. Plus, many drugs used for insomnia have problems of their own. Yoga on the other hand, is a natural option that can have great benefits for sleep troubles.
Yoga can help you sleep for a variety of reasons. Yoga can benefit pain, stiff muscles and other physical problems that might be keeping you awake or causing you to wake up during the night. For instance, if you wake during the night with a stiff back or a clenched jaw, you might benefit from the stress-relieving and muscle-releasing benefits of yoga.
Yoga can also relieve stress and help you focus and calm your mind. This can be effective since many people can’t sleep because of thoughts running through their heads. With a yoga class, you learn to let go of those nagging thoughts and to let go of the expectation of falling asleep. If you can become calmer about the whole sleep process and not become stressed out when you have trouble falling asleep, you’ll be more likely to fall asleep.
Stay away from energizing yoga before bedtime (like Sun Salutations). Instead, there are many restorative yoga poses and yoga techniques you can use that are calming to the body and the nervous system. Deep breathing can help you calm down and let go of stress and tension. Try breathing in normally and performing an extended exhalation as one technique. You can also work on performing a deep three-part breath into your diaphragm, your chest and your upper chest/back and exhaling all the way out. Also, try poses like Supported Downward Facing Dog, Supported Legs-Up-The-Wall pose (Viparita Karani), forward bends and supported or simple inversions. As always, only do the poses that work for your body or choose modifications that work for you. A yoga instructor can help you with that if you are unsure. Also, make your before-bed practice a calming one where you don’t push your body too hard.
Guided relaxation can also help you sleep, and this is something you can perform while lying in bed. Take a few deep breaths and then focus on slowly releasing the tension in each area of your body, starting at your feet and moving up one area at a time. Breathe in and as you exhale, let go of the tension. This practice helps you identify the muscles that are tensing up in your body and let that tension go. You might not even realize that your jaw is clenched and your brow is furrowed, but this kind of exercise will make you more aware on a daily basis. When you’ve gone through your entire body, focus on letting your thoughts go. When a thought comes to you, let it drift away. Give yourself permission to rest and remember that you can think again tomorrow.
Another option is to just focus on your breathing while using a mantra internally. “Inhale with the good, exhale the bad.” Using a simple mental mantra like that can also help the mind from getting cluttered with unnecessary thoughts!
Hopefully, while you’re letting go, you’ll drift off into a restful sleep. Good night!