How Yoga Can Help you Sleep Better

Ask the Medical Expert –  “Can yoga help with sleeplessness and struggling to fall asleep? What techniques would you recommend?”

Sleepless nights were a massive burden in my life in the past. Yoga has been an incredibly successful remedy for attending to my sleeping difficulties, it has perhaps liberated me from insomnia for life! This is a massive YES YOGA CAN HELP! Here’s why, and how to apply it yourself:

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Poses to practice before bedtime: Fetal position.

Relaxation of the Central Nervous System

Let’s start with the big old brain. This thing is a busy-body at heart, and is often over-stimulated on a daily basis thanks to technological advances and an increase on our day to day demands (which tend to be less physical). The brain’s circuits are not fixed. Its plasticity is being better understood today than ever before, and it is important for us to realise how it needs to be exercised just as much as any gluteus maximus muscle. If your brain constantly exercises too many circuits at a time, circuits that breed stress or anxiety, or circuits that stimulate a lot of excitement, then these pathways will dominate almost automatically and could be causing your sleeping problems.

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Poses to practice before bedtime: Shavasana (corpse pose).

Yogic practice encourages inner awareness. A good exercise is to start noticing your frequent thought patterns. In my opinion too much of anything is never a good thing. Thoughts that over stimulate you – let them come and then let them go, bring your focus to the present. Meditation is the most inherent way to practice this. Meditation is less passive than you may think, especially in the beginning. Calming your brain takes training.

Poses to practice before bedtime: Viparita Karani.

Relaxation of the Peripheral Nervous System

All asanas help to stimulate and stretch the nerves and muscles in your body. Having difficulty falling asleep can be due to muscular/nervous tension. If you have areas that you know ache by the end of the day, you need to start focusing on whatever asana isolates that area. This release occurs in layers from the outside in, superficial muscle to deep muscle and tissues to nerves. The nerves are all connected to that big ol’ brain and with focused thought you are able to send electrical signals to every single part of your body, especially places in need. The more you practice, the more you will notice where you are holding onto tension and how you can actually target areas and help them to relax. Again, this can be more active than you think it should be. Relaxation takes practice!

Poses to practice before bedtime: Fetal position.

Before Bed

A good sleep-wake routine also helps. Waking up earlier than usual will help you get to bed earlier too. Avoid sleeping pills at all cost. Don’t ingest caffeine/ large/ high energy meals around dinnertime. Before bed, do some relaxation postures in a yin style (holding each posture for about 10 minutes each, feel free to support yourself with a large pillow to enhance relaxation in the posture). Remember to focus on deep breathing. Add candles and some aromatherapy (lavender and frankincense are excellent calming aromas) to create a sleepy ambiance. The following postures are my favourite examples to practice relaxation:

• Savasana (Corpse pose)
• Viparita Karani (Inverted lake pose)
• Makarasana (Crocodile pose)
• Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined bound angle pose)
• Fetal pose

There is a light at the end of this tunnel – it is dark and dreamy!

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Poses to practice before bedtime: Makarasana (Crocodile pose).

Zoelle Horowitz

Zoelle Horowitz

Yoga was introduced to Zoelle Horowitz as a teenager during dance training. It was then forgotten about during strenuous years at medical school. The life of a young doctor was emotionally and physically taxing and caused Zoelle a lot of strain. She began to battle with stress levels and was horrified at how her body was deteriorating. Yoga found Zoelle again at an important juncture and reminded her that she needed to take care of herself to be able to help others. Zoelle is inspired by the synergistic relationship of yogic life and health, and incorporates yoga into every adventure that she embarks on.

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