Get the energy from yoga for restful sleep
Tips for good night’s sleep from a yoga teacher Heike Sommer who has a rich experience as a head of a yoga school.
Yoga teaches techniques that create a place of retreat for your mind. It all begins with teaching your mind to be observant, rather than going around in a merry-go-round of thoughts. Breathing can help. Those who watch their breathing are in the ‘here and now’, rather than in the ‘yesterday and tomorrow.’
Focusing your mind
‘Yoga has always been about teaching the mind, and teaches you how the mind works,’
‘First you will need to focus and calm your mind. If you assume that sleep works primarily to regenerate the brain, and that sleep problems stop the mind from switching off, then yoga is a remedy,’ explains the experienced yoga teacher.
‘If you find it difficult to calm your mind, then you can watch your breathing together with gentle movement,’ advises Heike Sommer.
The next step is to observe your thoughts. It’s totally different to mulling over ideas, which wears you down and disturbs sleep. Sitting still, with your eyes closed – exploring thoughts such as: where is my mind? Is it still or moving? In the future, or in the past? This can be a crucial experience.
Creating beautiful images in your mind
Instead of offering distraction for your mind, yoga aims to create a sort of ‘quiet room’ – right at the centre of your mind. Images are helpful, for example one of a small cave, hammocks, bathtubs, something pleasant, that will help your body to relax.
Breathing together with the moon
Before you go to bed, try the calming “moon breathing” exercise for five minutes. Inhale with your left nostril and then exhale with your right. You can cover the other nostril with your thumb or your finger. The three other fingers should be clenched together. Then for thirty seconds you should breathe extremely heavily. Breathe deeply and heavily through your nose, as if you were playing the bagpipes – using all of your lungs capacity. This is followed by a minute of meditation. You can continue this simple breathing exercise until you have got rid of your anxiety. If you jolt out of bed in the middle of the night, it’s important that you don’t just lay there and brood over your thoughts.
Its even better if you introduce an evening ritual into your daily routine, and practice a few yoga exercises. But first of all think about you feel: are you hyper, or more tired?
If you’re feeling restless, ten minutes of twists and doing forward bends are recommended to burn excess energy from the day.
However if you are tired, regenerating yoga positions or breathing exercises are better for going to bed feeling more refreshed and relaxed. Even if you may not believe it, it’s possible to be too tired to sleep. The following exercises help to gain some energy for a restful night and to soothe your mind.
- Standing forward bending – together with a stool and a blanket. This is how you relax your nervous system. Fold the blanket and place it on the seat. Bring your arms over your head whilst inhaling, stretching out your spine. Whilst breathing out, bend forward. Rest your forehead on the blanket. Your arms and elbows can then be placed to the side. Hold the position for about three to five minutes. Then straighten up whilst breathing in.
- Half shoulder stand – roll up a blanket and place it 15 cm away from the wall. Sit sideways with your right side facing the wall. Whilst breathing out, turn right, letting your shoulders fall to the floor, swinging your legs up to the wall. Then place your arms over your head. It is important that there is lots of room for your chest. Keep your face and your jaw relaxed. You can keep this going for 5 to 15 minutes. But don’t fall asleep! Move out of the position gently if you slide away from the blanket or turn to the side. Remain like this for a few more breaths. Sit up. This exercise helps you before going to bed, if you need to relax earlier in the evening or to get you back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Sleeping on your side – maybe supported by a pillow – this is the sleeping position that keeps the spine in place and can stop snoring.
Seek advice from an expert
Other positions, exercises or types of meditation best suited to moonlight yoga, for example the “lying down butterfly”, “happy baby pose” or the “deaf man’s pose” – all of these contribute to getting ready for a healthy and peaceful night’s sleep. It’s best to be shown and explained by an experienced yoga teacher.
Thinking of the yoga enthusiasts, we have updated our SpaDreams Yoga Guide, which is available to download for free.