You’re probably reading this because counting sheep has failed you yet again. (Really though, did that technique ever help anyone? Comment below if it did!)
Maybe you’ve tried other methods but continue to struggle here and there with insomnia. If that’s your situation then know that numerous studies around the world have proved that yoga helps with sleep, especially amongst insomniacs. For example, a study conducted by Harvard over eight weeks showed noticeable improvements in overall sleeping conditions, so remember that if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. Read on to learn more about how the ancient practice of yoga can help alleviate your insomnia.
Pranayama: Utilising the Breath
Did you know that every 60 to 90 minutes your breathing changes? Throughout your day, you are subconsciously alternating your breathing between the right nostril, left nostril, or both nostrils. In fact, your sleep is affected by your breathing style, as yogic principles state that the right nostril corresponds to an extroverted mind, useful for physical work, whereas the left nostril corresponds to an introverted mind, useful for mental work.
So if you’re falling asleep breathing predominantly through the right nostril then there’s a high chance for your sleep to be restless. However, if you’re falling asleep breathing predominantly through the left nostril then those chances decrease significantly. A simple pranayama (breathwork) for sleep would be to cover the right nostril with the right thumb, or finger of choice, and to inhale slowly then exhale deeply – perform this technique for at least ten rounds before resuming normal breathing.
If the above technique doesn’t suffice then either of these pranayamas definitely will:
- Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath) is known to relieve cerebral tensions such as anxiety and insomnia, by inducing a meditative state which directs the awareness inwards. Simply stick both index fingers into both ears, respectively, then close the eyes and inhale as deeply as possible; close the mouth before exhaling and as you exhale, simultaneously hum (like a bee!) until the exhalation is complete. Perform five to 10 rounds, or for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on you and your needs.
- Ujjayi Pranayama (The Psychic Breath) is classified as tranquillising pranayama as it soothes the nervous system and slows down the heart rate, relieving insomnia. In order to really fall asleep, assume Shavasana (Corpse Pose) then bring the attention to your throat and as you inhale through the throat, contract the glottis; the sound created is similar to that of snores and once you can hear yourself snoring, you know you’re performing it correctly. Perform for 10 rounds, or for 10 to 20 minutes.
Meditation: Utilising the Mind
There’s a huge misconception about meditation and how it equates to a mind without thoughts – talk about pressure! Actually, meditation is about accepting each and every thought while also just observing those thoughts without judgement. So if you’re tossing and turning for what feels like forever, with a mind swivelling from here to there, just accept your situation and observe without judgement; because really, judging yourself for not sleeping in time creates stress which decreases your ability to relax and in turn, to sleep.
Granted, mindfulness is easier said than done, but trust the process - or at least the science, which has shown a reduction in cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Yoga: Utilising the BodyWhile an intense yoga practice may physically tire your body, your chances of falling asleep remain at 50/50. If you want a guaranteed sleep (or at least a higher chance of sleep) then practice specific yoga poses meant for relaxing the body; poses that increase the flow of blood to the brain and that stimulate glands responsible for releasing hormones essential to sleep. Here is PurelyBs top three yoga poses for sleep:
- Shashankasana (Rabbit Pose) regulates the adrenal glands, so if you find yourself frequently in “fight or flight mode” then this posture can definitely help you to relax. Bonus tip: rock the forehead gently side to side for a mini massage.
- Matsya Kridasana (Flapping Fish Pose) is an ideal posture for aiding sleep as many people actually sleep in this position due to how comforting it is. Bonus tip: place a pillow underneath the bent knee or the head for added comfort.
- Supta Udarakarshanasana (Sleeping Abdominal Stretch Pose) relieves the strain of office work by massaging the lower back while simultaneously stretching the abdominal muscles and organs as for the body to really physically unwind. Bonus tip: bring the knees closer to the chest with each turn as to move up the spinal column.