Do you lay awake at night, counting sheep and desperately willing sleep to come your way? Then chances are that you suffer from mild to acute insomnia. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night. It is an unpleasant condition triggered by psychological or biological factors. While there are many medications that you can take to induce sleep, these can have harsh side effects including a lifelong dependency on them to get to sleep. So instead of going to such extreme measures, how about we turn to yoga to rescue us from the insomnia demon.
There are specific yoga poses that you can practice regularly to overcome insomnia. These poses are geared towards helping both your body and mind relax enough to fall asleep.
1. Balasana. Also known as the child’s pose, the Balasana involves folding your torso over legs that are bent. Your arms either rest at the sides or are extended in front of you. This pose is aimed at relaxing the body and calming the mind. Try to take deep breaths and relax your body.
2. Ardha Matsyendrasana. The Ardha Matsyendrasana or the half spinal twist pose as it is commonly called twists the spine and the abdomen. It is traditionally done to help with menstrual disorders, constipation, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. This position opens up the chest and improves oxygen supply to the lungs. It also relieves any stiffness, back pains, and tones the spinal nerves. When you relieve the tension and strengthen your spine, your body is better prepared to fall asleep.
3. Surya Bhedana. The Surya Bhedana is a breathing technique in which one breathes in through the right nostril and breathes out through the left nostril. Sit in a cross-legged position and exhale all the air from your lungs. Then breathe in through your right nostril and gently breathe out through your left nostril. Try to hold the breath for a few seconds before you breathe out. Don’t push yourself too hard. Recognize how your body responds and work correspondingly. Try to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. This technique has been known to induce sleep in people suffering from chronic insomnia.
4. Viparita Karani. More commonly known as the legs-up-the-wall pose, the Viparita karani pose has a number of health benefits. Lie near a wall and take deep calming breaths. Exhale slowly and move your legs onto the wall. This pose regulates blood circulation, relieves swollen feet, provides relief from migraines, calms your mind, and helps relieve insomnia and depression. Just make sure you are comfortable in the position. If your neck or hip hurts, provide them with support in the form of a firm blanket. The idea is to get into position and then completely relax your body and in order to do that, one must be comfortable.
5. Adho Mukha Svanasana. This pose literally translates into “downward facing dog pose”. It involves stretching your body on all fours just like how dogs do, hence the name. This is a relatively easy pose that can be done by pretty much everybody. This pose increases lung capacity, lengthens the spine, and helps relieve insomnia and headaches.
6. Paschimottonasana. The Paschimottosana is the seated-forward-bend that helps stretch your body completely from head to toes. It invigorates the nervous system, helps with digestive disorders, improves concentration, and calms the mind. This asana can be quite difficult for a beginner, but as you practice, your body will become more flexible and you will be able to do it with ease.To do this pose sit down straight with your legs stretched out in front of you. Raise your arms straight up over your head; keep your head, neck, and spine erect. Slowly lower your arms, placing your palms on your knees. Now bend forward to clutch you big toe with your fingers. Do not bend your knees at any point. Take a deep breath and then try to touch your knees with your head. Bend your arms so that your elbows are touching the ground. Exhale slowly and retain the position for a few seconds and then slowly return back to the sitting position. Repeat the whole process again; do it a total of five times.
While yoga is a great alternative to sleeping pills and other such drugs to fight insomnia, always proceed with caution. These poses have been explained here to help guide you. Make sure you check with an instructor to ensure that the poses can be done by you. If you have any pre-existing physical conditions, mention this to the instructor so that he or she knows your body and what it should and should not do.