Life is busy.
From the time the alarm sounds in the morning to the time our head hits the pillow, we race from one thing to another. We sacrifice sleep to cram even more in. Yet, the more we do, the worse we sleep, which is why I am deeply passionate about helping people create space and time to relax and rejuvenate.
Keep reading to find out how and why yoga can help you sleep better.
Good sleep is a prerequisite for good health
Australia has a serious sleep deprivation problem. According to Australian Sleep Health Foundation, 18 percent of Australian adults regularly sleep less than six hours per night and a significant proportion:
- have difficulty falling asleep
- wake up feeling unrefreshed
- experience fatigue and exhaustion that interferes with daily activities
- feel irritable and moody due to inadequate or ineffective sleep.
Different people require different amounts of sleep (Margaret Thatcher reputedly got by on four hours) but most adults need 7-9 hours per night to feel refreshed and function at their best the next day. High-profile political and business figures are speaking out about the link between sleep deprivation and burnout. In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington repositions sleep as critical to success:
Scientists are resoundingly confirming what our ancestors knew instinctively: that our sleep is not empty time. Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity—a rich time of renewal, memory consolidation, brain and neurochemical cleansing, and cognitive maintenance. Properly appraised, our sleeping time is as valuable a commodity as the time we are awake. In fact, getting the right amount of sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open.
Getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes be a challenge. If you don’t get sufficient, good-quality sleep each night, read on to find out how yoga and meditation can help.
Do less. Achieve more.
There was a time when I preferred my yoga fast-flowing and intense. I loved seeing sweat slide down my nose onto the mat and my ego got a kick out of arm balances. But even then, my fatigued muscles understood the sweet surrender of savasana.
In contrast to a sweaty power yoga session, styles such as slow flow, yin and restorative yoga embrace and encourage slowness. And the benefits prove slow is sexy. These styles help the body and mind transition from the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ operating system to a more restful and, ultimately, more sustainable way of being. And if that’s not reason enough to slow the F**K down, consider your sleep deficit. When was the last time you had a 5-star sleep experience? Slower yoga practices prime your body and mind for a good night’s sleep.
Aim to take a little time at the end of each day to cultivate a conscious connection between breath, body and mind. Even 10 minutes before bed will make a difference.
1. Viparita karani / Legs up the wall
My favourite restorative pose doesn’t even require a mat!
Step 1: Sit side on to a wall, with one hip touching the wall. Place the elbow furthest away from the wall onto the floor.
Step 2: In one smooth motion, swing the legs up onto the wall, with your back resting on the floor. Shuffle your hips closer to the wall if there is a gap.
Hold for 5-15 minutes. If you experience pins and needles, move the feet a little to restore blood flow.
Don’t have a wall? Simply swing your legs over the edge of the bed or couch.
2. Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is another favourite bedtime ritual. This body-centred meditation will guide you effortlessly into the semi-hypnotic state of ‘yogic sleep’ (somewhere between awake and asleep), which practitioners claim has the rejuvenating effects of several hours sleep!
Practised regularly, Yoga Nidra can help:
- release physical tension
- slow down your heartbeat and breathing
- enable your vital organs and systems to function more effectively
- quiet your mind, promoting clarity and calm
- improve your productivity and ability to concentrate
- stimulate melatonin, the sleep chemical
- balance and enhance the flow of energy in your body.
Experience the profound physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of Yoga Nidra for yourself. Listen now.