Combine Three Simple Techniques for Better Sleep – Common sense, plain language yoga from Yogapilots!
Sometimes, we all have trouble sleeping. The following are three yogic techniques that can help you get to sleep or, help you get back to sleep if you wake in the middle of the night.
These techniques can be done individually or as I like to do, combine all three for a triple whammy of “yogadoze.”
Forward bends – A simple forward bend stretches the hamstrings in your legs. A hamstring stretch triggers a biomechanical response that sends signals up the spinal cord urging your parasympathetic nervous system into a rest and digest mode. While lying in bed, try a simple seated forward bend. Start sitting up with your legs extended, exhale and reach toward your toes or the back of your calves. You may need to experiment with the bend in your knees until you can feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Hold this and breathe deeply emphasizing exhales.
Simple Inversions – A gentle inversion, such as lying on your back with your legs up a wall, can trigger a biomechanical response to relax. An inversion causes increased blood volume to the heart chambers, largely due to the effect of gravity. In response to the increased blood volume, the heart releases a hormone called the atrial natriuretic hormone that decreases blood pressure, resulting in the corresponding relaxing effect. Five minutes of a gentle inversion before bedtime can lower your blood pressure.
Yogic Breathing for Sleep –. Your heartbeat naturally speeds up a little when you inhale and slows when you exhale. (This phenomenon is called sinus arrhythmia). Yogic breathing can trigger this biomechanical response and make you sleepy!
A very simple technique is to exhale twice as long as you inhale. Try this in bed in the middle of the night when you want to go back to sleep. Just count your inhale, and double the count on the exhale. Do this ten times. Breathe normally for a few breaths. Then repeat the sequence twice more.
Another way to do this yogic breathing is to exhale in three parts. So to start… breath in all the way and exhale part of the way and pause, exhale again and pause – then exhale all the way. Inhale and repeat.
There is no count in this breathing exercise, so go with the flow of your breath. Do this staggered exhale breathing pattern three times, then breathe normally for a few breaths and repeat, for a total of three times. Chances are you will feel more relaxed after three times and possibly start to drift off to sleep.
Combine all three yogic techniques for a Triple Whammy Yogadoze to help you sleep. I often wake up at 3am and have trouble getting back to sleep. I combine all three of these yoga techniques. To start, lay on your back. Position yourself with your legs up the wall as in the side picture. Or, what I do, so not to move around and wake up more, is, put both legs up in the air and grab the big toe of my right foot. Then hold my left leg in the air from the back of the left thigh. Keeping shoulder blades on the mattress pull down and stretch your hamstrings on the right side. If you can’t reach your big toe, use an old tie and loop it around the ball of your foot. Either way pull down so that you are feeling a stretch in your hamstring. Your head and neck should be resting flat or on a pillow. While stretching your hamstrings breathe deep and slow such that your exhale is twice as long as your inhale (Emphasize the Exhale). Do this for five minutes, alternating each leg stretch after five breaths.
In fact, when I do this, I almost always begin to yawn deeply after the first stretch. I often go back to sleep quickly. Even when I don’t fall asleep immediately when I wake the next morning the sleep has felt refreshing.
Sleep well. Please tell us how it works for you!