This practice can help calm your brain to get you relaxed and prepared to sleep.
If it feels like you’re unable to get a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Tennessee ranks 36 out of 50 states for insufficient sleep, with 36.7 percent of adults reporting sleeping less than 7 hours in a 24-hour period.
But worry not, because we may have some help for you. A practice for sleeping well and the breathing that accompanies it can help you to relax and get a restful night’s sleep.
The thing to remember with yoga practice is the importance of breathing. Amanda Wentworth, a yoga instructor at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, only recommends practicing poses with specific breathing patterns. “Positioning the body in a physical ‘asana’ or pose alone (without the breath) doesn’t have near the effect on the nervous system that combining it with the breath does,” Wentworth explained.
Wentworth recommends the following five poses to help with sleep, which she recommends doing right before bed or in the middle of the night if you wake up.
- Chakravākāsana: Brings gentle extension and flexion to the spine, as well as bringing attention to the feeling the breath moving in the torso.
- Jaṭhara Parivṛtti: A supine twisting posture that has the body move only during exhales, the passive & relaxing component of the breath.
- Apānāsana: A supine releasing posture that has the back of the body relaxing into the ground.
- Śavāsana with Prānāyāmā (Breath): Brings attention to the feeling of the breath in the body and sequences it in a specific way that is best for easy and full breath; then the exhale is extended so that more time is spent with the passive and relaxing component of breath. Start with 4-second inhales and 4-second exhales, then add one second to the exhale until you reach 8 seconds.
- Sāvasana with Bhāvana (Meditation): The mind reflects on a specific comforting piece of earth, any type of earth works such as soft grass or a warm bed; feel its support and allow the body to completely relax into it.
Reminder from Wentworth: These poses are to be practiced in a way that is comfortable and easy. Never force the body or the breath, but move within a range that feels good. All breath and movement should be steady and easy.
New to yoga? Not a problem.
“Just start by trying 5 minutes of simple movement and breathing a day, or even just a deep breath in the car while waiting at a traffic light,” Wentworth says. “Take little steps, and with repetition over time positive shifts in daily life will occur.”
Interested in the importance of sleep? Read more about the health consequences if you skimp on sleep.
The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt offers healthcare designed around your whole health: mind, body and spirit. Integrative medicine uses proven, research-based therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, mind-body counseling and massage that work with traditional medicine to help you achieve better health. Learn more about Osher’s offerings here.