Yoga is known to promote better sleeping habits. Can it also help you combat insomnia? Read on to know what the experts say.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects your ability to fall asleep. But did you know that it can also lead to trouble staying asleep? Yes, insomnia can create all kinds of sleep related issues. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, and not being able to fall back to sleep. That’s insomnia for you.
There are three types of insomnia:
Acute insomnia: Lasts for a short period of time.
Transient insomnia: It is for a shorter period than acute insomnia and is due to other disorders or diseases.
Chronic insomnia: Lasts for a longer time (more than a month).
People who suffer from insomnia are called insomniacs. The causes of insomnia are psychological or physiological in nature. They include:
2. Anxiety disorder or depression
3. Hormonal imbalance
4. Unhealthy lifestyle or sleeping habits
5. Side effects of certain medication
6. Diseases such as cancer
7. Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease
8. Gastrointestinal issues
9. Chronic pain
10. Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
Yoga for better sleep
Insomnia can make you irritable, fatigued, anxious and depressed. It will also lead to memory problems and difficulty in concentration. While sleeping pills*, improved lifestyle, healthy eating and sleeping habits and cognitive behavioural therapy can help you get rid of insomnia, one of the best supportive activities that you can do is yoga. Yogic asanas and breathing exercises can make a marked difference in the quality of your sleep and will also help you fall asleep easily. We got Priya Chaphekar, QCI-certified Hatha Yoga Instructor, to recommend a few asanas and breathing techniques for better sleep.
Child’s pose or Vajrasana
Begin by sitting in Vajrasana. Spread the knees hip-width apart, reach your hands forward and extend your trunk between the knees. Feel yourself connected to the earth. Use folded blankets or pillows if the hips are lifting from the heels. You may use a block to support the centre of your forehead.
Standing forward fold or Uttanasana
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, inhale, and as you exhale, extend your trunk forward to elongate your spine. Make sure to relax your neck and shoulder region. If the back is rounding and you are unable to touch the floor with your palms, bend your knees and let the belly rest on your thighs. You can even place blocks under each palm for support.
Reclined bound angle or Supta Baddha Konasana
Sit in front of a vertical bolster or a couple of pillows placed vertically. Next, join the soles of your feet and allow the knees to descend down. You may even take pillows under the knees for more support. Then, lift the chest up and lie back on the bolster/ pillows. Make sure your head isn’t being thrown back. For tight hips, take additional height under the feet. Feel the gentle stretch in your groin and tune into your breath.
Legs up the wall or Vipareeta Karani
If your job involves staying on your feet for long hours, this has to be your go-to pose. Find an empty wall, and place your mat perpendicular to it. Sit down on the mat and stick your left or right hip to the wall as close as possible. Lying down on the mat, extend your legs up the wall. Relax your arms by your sides.
Pro tip: Add a rolled up mat or firm pillow under your tailbone for added support.
Lie down on the floor and stretch your body out completely, while keeping your tailbone connected to the earth. Rotate your awareness through the different parts of the body and look for any areas that might be holding tension. Remember that some areas might need some extra healing. Give the body the time it needs to heal.
Pro-tip: cover your eyes with a cool eye mask to cool the eyes
Watch your breath
The following breathing practices can help you sleep better:
Moon breath: Traditionally, the left nostril signifies the moon and its cooling energy. Placing your right thumb on the right nostril, focus on deep inhalations and long exhalations with the left nostril. This kind of breathing will not only take the mind away from stress, but also relax the brain.
Humming bee breath: A pranayama that has a tremendous therapeutic potential, humming bee is done by making a humming sound while exhaling. Start in a comfortable seated position and relax the breath. Inhale, and then, for the entire length of your exhalation, make a buzzing sound of a moderate volume. Perfect for those who suffer from anxiety and depression, the incessant buzzing will drown your thoughts. See how you can feel the vibrations to the deepest cellular level and the whole brain.
Pro tip: The addition of Shanmukhi mudra can really soothe the nervous system.
With regular and proper practice of yogic asanas and breathing techniques, you can combat insomnia and be free of the ‘insomniac’ tag for life. Add discipline to your lifestyle and think positive to effectively put on end to this sleeping disorder.