If, like many women our age, you are having trouble sleeping at night, yoga for insomnia may be just the ticket! Not only can the breathing exercises help you to relax, but, the poses can remove many of the aches and pains that keep you awake at night.
Insomnia can wreak havoc with your entire life. Your ability to remain alert during the day, to have enjoyable social interactions, to accomplish work or chores at home, as well as your health can all be compromised as a result of chronic lack of sleep.
Fortunately, yoga offers some aids to help you get the rest you need. Here’s how to get started with yoga for insomnia.
Rather than fruitlessly trying to banish the thoughts that may interfere with sleep, use the powerful tool of your breath to help you move into a place of deep relaxation. Often, we enter a state of emotional, mental or physical imbalance without even realizing it. This style of breathing moves us back to a state of balance by alternating the breathing through the left and right nostrils.
This method of breathing requires access to both nostrils. If you can only breathe through one nostril due to a head cold, try practicing regular yoga deep breathing instead of this alternate nostril technique. Traditionally, yogis use the right hand to control the flow of breath between the nostrils.
If there is some reason your left hand is more convenient for you to use, such as an injury on the right side or more severe arthritis in the right hand, feel free to adapt these instructions. Also, if folding the fingers in the way described feels uncomfortable due to pain in the hands, it is fine to use your thumb and your whichever other finger feels comfortable.
Sit up in bed, letting the wall, your pillows or headboard support your back. Fold the first two fingers of the right hand down toward the palm. Use the third finger (ring finger) of your right hand to close off your left nostril. Inhale through your right nostril as you slowly count to three.
Then use your right thumb to close the right nostril. Hold your breath for a count of three. Then remove your finger from the left nostril and exhale through that side. Then inhale through the left side to a count of three. Close the left nostril and hold your breath to a count of three. Then move your thumb and exhale through the right nostril. Then inhale on the right side.
You will continue this pattern of first inhaling, then holding breath, switching sides in order to exhale and then inhaling the same side where you just exhaled. For beginners, try repeating this pattern for a total of five minutes. Gradually, as you become more accustomed to this method, you can increase the length of time for inhalations and exhalations. As you become more adept you can also begin to practice this alternate nostril breathing method for longer periods of time.
Lie on your back on your mattress. Bend both knees, bring them in toward your chest. Then turn your knees slightly outward and turn the soles of your feet toward the ceiling.
Use a belt or yoga strap to loop over the soles of your feet. Hold either end of the strap in your hands and gently pull downward as if trying to bring your thighs to the mattress.
If you can comfortably reach your hands to your feet without raising your shoulders off the mattress or arching your neck, you can dispense with the strap and use hands instead. Keeping the soles of the feet toward the ceiling, rock gently from left to right.
You can perform this on your bed if it is pressed up against a wall on one side. Alternately, you can do this on the floor of your bedroom, bringing a pillow to support your head.
Start by sitting with your side body pressed against the wall and your knees bent so they are close to your chest.
Pivot on your hips so that your feet turn toward the wall. As you do this, straighten your legs so the soles of your feet move toward the ceiling.
Wiggle a little bit to bring your pelvis in closer to the wall. As far as possible, you want your body to form an L-shape with the legs up the wall, torso resting flat on mattress or floor.
Position your pillow to cradle your head and neck. Close your eyes and rest in this position for ten breath cycles or longer. This pose, also known by its Sanskrit name of Viparita Karani, can help restore the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Have your say! Does insomnia affect you? Have you tried yoga for your insomnia? Have you tried yoga to help you fall asleep at night? What other non-drug remedies do you recommend for better sleep at night? Add your thoughts in the comments section below and remember to check out our gentle yoga video course that we filmed for you in beautiful Bali.