Yoga is the art of balance and harmony. Balance in how we interact with ourselves and others, balance in what we eat, think and do and ultimately balance in how much we sleep as opposed to how much we wake. The Bhagavad Gita offers, Yoga is harmony. Not for him who eats too much or for him who eats too little; not for him who sleeps too little or for him who sleeps too much.
The ancient yogi seers classified sleep as one of the four fountains for survival (sleep, sex, food and self preservation) and if sleep is out of balance we tend to over compensate with one of the other fountains E.G. we may overeat. Interestingly it was found that if you got less than 5 hours sleep a night on a regular basis you were more likely to be heavier than those who ate more and slept more.
The practice of yoga is also the practice of mastery of the mind in that if thoughts are keeping us awake at night with mental gymnastics we need to develop a practice to address these issues. Roger Cole in the book ‘Yoga as Medicine’ says, research indicates that people who have difficulty with sleep maintenance ( i.e. they go to sleep and then wake up) do not have more stressful lives than others but they perceive their life as more stressful. This perception puts their nervous system into a state of sympathetic arousal.
So, to go to sleep we need to relax first as opposed to sleeping to relax. Yoga asana helps by relaxing the muscles in the body. Slow deep breathing increases the CO2 in the body which is a natural sedative.Meditation has also been shown to increase the relaxation response in a number of studies.
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, says that all problems are due to some form of indigestion. Physical (undigested food), mental ( undigested thoughts) or emotional (undigested emotions). If something has not been digested properly then it will rise to the surface when we least expect us, keeping us awake at night.
Focus on Forward folds, inversions and supported poses. Hold each pose from 5-20 minutes or just do one pose plus the pranayama or mediation. When you do it choose a time where it relaxes you, after work is good.Yoga Nidra is good for the pm slump.
Double ratio breathing:
Slow breathing with an emphasis on increasing the exhale; Breath in for four, out for four ( x2) Breath in for 4 out for 6, breath in for four out for 8. What you are trying to do is increase the length of the exhale to double that of the inhale without strain.
Double ratio breathing in bed:
Establish a steady 1:2 ratio of inhale and exhale. eg inhale for the count of 3 exhale for the count of 6
Then take 8 cycles lying on your back
16 cycles lying on your right side
32 cycles lying on your left side.
Left Nostril Breathing.
Breath only through your left nostril for ten rounds. The left side is our yin, or calming side. It is also thought that lying on your right side in bed will naturally activate left nostril breathing.
Yoga Nidra. Nidra pronounced NID- Ra, is a 2000 year old practice known to calm the nervous system. It takes the person into a state between consciousness and sleep. Nidra means to ride on yoga. 20 minutes of yoga nidra is said to be work 2 hours of deep restful sleep.
My favourite Nidra mediations are; Rod Stryker: Yoga Nidra on Yoga Glo. This is chanel you can subscribe to. Gaia TV is another you could look at also. Yogaglo.com Rod does a combination of 31/61 points of light meditation with Nidra. His voice is very soporific.
61 Point mediation: Similar to Nidra in that it is a progressive relaxation technique following the points of the body. Here is a reference to the points. 61 Point Reference Chart.
Insight Timer Light: This app has lots of mediations on it. There is a great one by Jennifer Percy, Yoga Nidra for Sleep
The Sleepless Ones*
What if all the people
who could not sleep at two or three or four in the morning
left their houses and went to the parks
what if hundreds, thousands,millions
went in solitude
like a stream and each told their story
what if there were old women fearful if they slept they would die
and young women unable to conceive
and husbands, wives having affairs
and children fearful of failing
and fathers, mothers worried about paying bills
and men, women having business troubles
and both unlucky in love
and those that were in physical pain
and those who were guilty
what if they all left their homes
like a stream
and the moon illuminated their way and
they came, each one to tell their stories
would these be the more troubled of humanity
or would these be the more passionate of this world
or those who need to create to live
or would these be the lonely ones
and I ask you
if they all came to parks at night
and told their stories
would the sun on rising be more radiant and
again I ask you
would they embrace?
~ Lawrence Tirnauer
references;Yoga International, Light on Yoga BKS Iyengar, Yoga as Medicine Timothy Mcall.