Yoga for Managing Insomnia
Insomnia is a huge problem in this fast-paced, sugar and caffeine addicted
country. But if we can first identify the habits we have that contribute to our
sleeplessness and slowly change them, and at the same time add more
relaxation and deep
breathing to our pre-sleep routine, we will sleep better.
Insomnia is one of the most common health complaints, afflicting people of
all ages and backgrounds. Difficulty in falling or staying asleep can hinder all
aspects of an individualís life. People with sleep problems often experience
irritability, tension, helplessness, and
depression as well. Unchecked, insomnia
can become a debilitating and self-perpetuating cycle. While there are many
causes of sleeplessness, anxiety, over work or personal problems is often a
If you suffer from insomnia, whether often or occasionally,
Yoga can help.
Through relaxing physical exercise, breathing techniques and complete
relaxation, you can promote more regular and restful sleeping patterns without
resorting to sleep-inducing drugs. Such drugs interfere with your bodyís natural
sleep cycle and can create psychological dependence and undesirable side effects
Before going to bed, you can do a few gentle
stretches to relieve tension and
help you relax. Happy baby (Ananda Balasana) is a good choice because it releases the lower back and
hips, leaving you feeling looser and more relaxed. Goddess pose (Supta Baddha Konasana), which opens the
groins, is another option. You can do both these poses while lying in bed.
Check out the following poses, you can try to facilitate the sleep process.
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
Type of pose: Supine
Benefits: Releases the low back, stretches the
Come to lie on the back.
Bend the knees into the chest.
Open the knees, bringing them towards the armpits.
Stack each ankle directly over the knee, so that the shins are perpendicular
to the floor.
Flex the feet.
Hold the outer edges of the feet at you draw the knees towards the floor.
This pose is appropriate for both beginners and advanced students.
Type of Pose: Supine, Restorative
Benefits: Opens the groin
From Cobbler's Pose - Baddha Konasana, lean backward, bringing your
elbows to the floor.
Lower the back all the way to the floor.
Stay here several minutes. To come out, roll over to your side and sit up,
using your hands to support you.
Beginners: If you are not comfortable reclining on the floor, you may
use a bolster or several folded blankets to support the spine. You may also want
to place a block under each knee for support.
Supported Forward Bend - Uttanasana
To do this yoga posture, stand directly in front of your bed. If you're very
stiff, place some pillows on the bed. Inhale. Exhale, then lean forward from the
hip. Don't over arch your back.
Gently and gradually move forward until your head is resting either on the stack
of pillows, or the bed itself. This may take some time, so don't get frustrated.
If your head won't reach the bed or the pillows, then rest your arms on the bed.
Lift your kneecaps up. This will help to release the hamstring muscle. Stay here
for as long as you can, to allow your hamstring muscles and
lower back to
Shoulderstand - Sarvangasana
If you're not familiar with Sarvangasana, or it makes you uncomfortable, you
should skip this yoga posture. Or you can use the wall as a support. However, if
you feel that you can balance, lie down on the floor.
Inhale. With a moderately sudden movement, push your body up in the air, so that
your shoulders are resting on the floor, but your legs are in the air. Support
your hips with your hands. At first, do only a half shoulderstand. To do this,
create a "jack-knife" with your body. Place your body at a 45 degree angle, and
your legs at the opposite 45 degree angle. Keep your back and legs as straight
as possible. Breathe.
Feel your shoulders and
back unwind. Stay here as long as possible. Pay close attention to the breath.
Watch your belly move up and down as you breathe. This is a more difficult pose
than it seems, so stay focused.
Plow - Halasana
You can move directly into
Coordinate your movement with the breath. Once you feel that the tightness in
your muscles has unwound sufficiently, allow your legs to go over your head and
to the floor behind you. Don't be concerned about "perfection" in this yoga
posture, but do try to get the form correct. Don't push yourself too far. Keep
your back as straight as possible. Breathe.
Stay here as long as you can. If you like, you can come down, rest for a minute,
then repeat the shoulderstand and plow sequence again.
Reclining Side Twist - Supta Matsyendrasana
Lying on the floor, inhale. Then pull your right knee into your chest. Leave the
other leg straight. Take the knee in the opposite hand. As you exhale, turn your
entire body to the left. Stretch your right arm out to the right and if
possible, look to the right. Breathe.
Repeat the yoga posture on the other side of the body.
Double Wind Releasing Pose -
This yoga posture is called the wind releasing pose because it helps to release
gas. However, in this case we're trying to release the lower back and shoulders.
Inhale, and draw your knees to your chest. Then as you exhale, lift your body up
toward your knees. Draw your shoulders down toward your feet. Breathe. Stay here
as long as you feel comfortable.
Seated Forward Bend - Sukhasana Variation
Sit in Sukhasana,
or easy pose. To do this yoga posture, assume a cross-legged position on the
floor, with both feet into the groin. Slowly, gradually move forward, using your
hands to walk you forward across the floor. If you're limber enough, you'll be
able to rest your body across your crossed legs. If not, use your hands to
support your body. Breathe. Stay here for at least thirty seconds.
Corpse Pose - Savasana
Savasana seems very simple on the outside. But this yoga posture can be very
difficult when the mind is racing. To do Savasana, lie down on your bed on your
back. Allow your arms and legs to splay outward. Turn your palms up. Relax your
body. Relax your mind. Breathe. Don't try to control your thoughts. Simply let
them flow, and observe them quietly.
Do these yoga postures whenever you feel you can't sleep. You can do them before
you go to bed every night.
Yoga-nidra is an efficient method of
inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation while
maintaining consciousness. In fact Yoga Nidra not only brings
physical and mental relaxation but also prepares the mind for
spiritual evolution. It is mainly associates with pratyahara
(withdrawing senses from sense-objects) and dharana (concentration).
In normal sleep consciousness is absent and
the unconscious is in charge. In Yoga Nidra the consciousness
directs the unconscious to relax. Yoga Nidra is a 'sleep' where all
stress, strain, anxiety are thrown off to attain more blissful
state of awareness, a relaxation much more intense than ordinary
sleep. Yoga Nidra is said to be the doorway to samadhi!'
Generally Yoga-nidra is practiced in
Shavasana or sitting position. It may last for 25 to 45 min. It is
important to remain awake and aware during the practice. Yoga nidra
is of great help to insomniacs it relaxes the tensions that
accumulate in the muscles, the emotions and the
the practitioner to rest deeply. Daily practice leads to a deeper
and more restful night's sleep.
There is no doubt that, yoga has beneficial effects on nervous
system, and the brain. Certain yoga asanas increases the blood supply to the
sleep center in the brain, it normalizes the sleep cycle. Yoga will make you fall asleep sooner
and improve the quality of your sleep so that you need less. You will have a
more restful sleep because of the relaxing aspect of yoga and the subsequent
relieving of stress, tension and fatigue. The practice of breathing allows for
more oxygen in the body providing clarity in the mind.