Ah, sleep. It is a joy that we take for granted until it no longer comes to us so easily. Unfortunately, even before this year’s pandemic, insomnia became a global epidemic. This year’s collective crisis has only exacerbated an already exacerbated problem. So what can we do YJ spoke to four veteran yoga therapists from our recent summit, Restore Your Sleep: Reclaim Deep Rest and Wake Up Energized, about the practices that can help.
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Sleep problem: you’ve been on your screen all day – now you’re too hyped to relax.
“Sometimes it is just not possible or even advisable to force calm in a chaotic world,” says Lisa Sanfilippo, psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of Sleep Recovery. “Our body is prepared to activate the stress response when our natural desire to act is immobilized.”
In other words, when things are out of your control, your body reacts with accumulated tension that can create anxiety and affect sleep. Lisa’s competent advice? Try to relieve tension during the day.
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“Stamp your feet in the ground, the ground, or even better, the ground. Then you can use yoga asana to pull even more tension out of the hotspots where stress is accumulating, ”says Sanfilippo. “For example, Eka Pada Supta Virasana (one-legged, reclined heroic posture) releases the line of tension from the quads – your thickest muscle group – through the hip flexors into the abdominal muscles and elongates the front of the torso, which creates more space for a calming breath. “
Sleep problem: You are lying awake – and increasingly worried about it.
Often times, the most stressful part of being unable to fall asleep is knowing that we can’t sleep, which makes us nervous – which makes the chances of us drifting even harder.
“If you can’t sleep, don’t panic,” says Dr. Gail Parker, psychologist, educator, and author of Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Racial Stress and Trauma. “Entering into a restorative yoga pose not only induces the relaxation response in our nervous system and clears restlessness, but it can also help us accept our current state. Even if you cannot sleep, you can always rest. “
Dr. Parker suggests that something as simple as a supported savasana (corpse pose), which you can do right in bed with an extra pillow under your knees, can help you find peace in frustrating circumstances.
These are the moments when you can also harness the power of breath, says Jillian Pransky, yoga therapist and author of Deep Listening: A healing practice to calm your body, clear your mind and open your heart.
“When we feel anxious or have stressful thoughts, we make ourselves more tense by breathing in longer than we exhale. Exhaling, which is related to the parasympathetic nervous system, affects our body’s ability to calm down. Research shows that exhaling longer Keep stimulating your vagus nerve (the direct switch to turn on our “rest and digest” ability) which can really help us relax and calm down, “says Pransky.
In fact, breathing out is twice as long as breathing in, a classic yogic tool, she says.
“I like to combine this breathing exercise with Yoga Nidra when I need extra help with falling asleep. I use a 4-count inhale and an 8-count exhale, but you can try 2 and 4 or 3 or 6 count – whatever cozy. ”
Start at your feet. As you inhale and count 4 bring awareness to your feet and imagine the breath melting any tension in that area. As you exhale, on a count of 8, imagine the fluid tension on your mattress releasing. The next time you breathe in, keep paying your attention to the next area, and so on.
- Lower leg
- Full leg length
- Seat / pelvis
- Lower back
- Middle back
- Upper back
- Upper arms / shoulders
- Full length of the arms
Sleep problem: falling asleep was not a problem. Now it’s two in the morning and you’re wide awake …
… and worry about Covid-19 … or think about your morning plan … or get irrationally irritated that your partner is dozing peacefully. So what can you do to save your calm? Yoga therapist Pamela Stokes Eggleston suggests a full-body breathing exercise that will help release tension and lull you back to sleep:
“Bring your attention to your breath. Inhale and exhale fully and deeply, still focusing on your breath. After a few mindful breaths, tense your feet and toes as you breathe in and release the tension in your feet and toes as you breathe out. Next, as you inhale, tense your legs; Release on the exhale. Keep moving upward: inhale, contract your glutes and hips, and exhale the hold; and so on. Once you have your head and face completed, you can contract your entire body, take a deep breath, and release the hold by exhaling slowly and fully. Then focus on your breath again. If you have to, go through it all over again, starting at your feet and toes. “
For more great tips, see the Restore your sleep yoga peak to access discussions and exercises. Join now!