A Yoga Approach to Better Sleep
by Angie Newson
A Yoga and Pilates Expert
If you habitually take a long time to fall asleep, or you tend to snooze off straight away, only to wake a few hours later and have difficulty returning to slumber land - you could benefit from a review of your workout and training schedule. Interrupted sleep patterns, insomnia and other sleep disorders can often be the result of overtraining and/or the stresses and tensions of our fast-paced lives in the ever-increasing and expanding world we live in. By incorporating yoga into your weekly fitness programme you will learn to calm the mind, become more balanced, less anxious and learn vital breathing techniques to aid relaxation.
Consider also the time of day you normally workout - maybe you are participating in a combat class too late in the evening? Or are you spinning four times a week along with two running workouts on the treadmill leaving you constantly in overdrive and although physically tired, still on green alert and jumpy? A suggestion is to reduce to two or three cardio sessions, add two strength classes and two yoga classes. And remember you don't have to become a member of a gym to do any of these; cardio can include brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming, you can use your own body weight for strength training and yoga can be practiced at home. Balance is the key - and this includes a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Attending a Restorative Yoga class will teach you postures to lower the heart rate, calm the mind and with the use of props - bolsters, pillows, blankets etc. - the muscles are supported in order for the body to completely release and relax, and you will become aware that your breathing softens and slows down.
One of my favourite restorative yoga poses is Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose), a surrendering posture that is also great for pregnant yogis.
||Place a bolster lengthways along your mat and have a neatly folded blanket at the top of the bolster for your head. Sit upright in front of the bolster and bring the soles of the feet together so the knees are descending to the sides (cobblers pose). If your knees do not touch the floor, place some blankets underneath the thighs to support the legs. Draw your shoulders back and down to open the chest and broaden the collarbones. Then, mindfully lay back, lengthening the spine over the bolster, keeping the chest open and using your hands and elbows to help you lay down. Ensure you are long in the lower back and not hyper-extending, so send the tailbone towards the heels so the pubic bone lifts a little. Breathe steadily, evenly and comfortably.|
Place an eye pad over your closed eyes and let your arms rest by your sides a little away from the body, palms turned up. Each time you exhale allow yourself to sink deeper into the mat, spreading the back of the body over the bolster. Whatever thoughts come into your mind, allow them to flow away along an imaginary stream. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes. To come out of the pose, draw the knees together and roll slowly on to your right side and carefully bring yourself up.
By regularly practicing yoga, particularly Restorative Yoga, your ability to relax more easily will improve, you will become more aware of your breathing and when it comes to bedtime, you'll be effortlessly in the land of nod until the alarm brightly rings to waken you delightfully afresh the next morning!