With a high-stress
environment caused by the pandemic, the US presidential election and a world constantly evolving with debates and quarantine rules, it's no wonder why many people are suffering from insomnia.
The definition of insomnia is "persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality," according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
. I know this battle all too well. Prior to becoming a certified yoga instructor and health coach, I had my own struggles with insomnia
and was on sleep medication.
Determined to change my habits and improve my sleep, I took up a yoga class on a whim after a recommendation from a friend. It was a weekly class that focused on slow, deep breathing; self-acceptance; and connecting breath with movement.
After two months of doing the class, I no longer needed my sleeping medication to fall asleep. It was as if my insomnia was cured, so to speak. It has been almost 20 years since I started my yoga practice. Insomnia, however, has crept its way back at different points in my life. This reminds me to recommit to my yoga practice and deep breathing, as I had experienced its transformative results firsthand.
In fact, a regular yoga routine helps with not only insomnia but also improved total sleep time and sleep efficiency, according to research
Perhaps you're a skeptic on yoga, or you don't know where to begin. I designed this insomnia yoga routine just for you to focus on poses that bring inward calm to your nervous system and allow your body to relax. Whether you do this routine right before bed, during the day or in the morning, a regular practice is what's most important in order to help with insomnia.
Breathwork and mindfulness is also a major part of this yoga routine. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose helps calm the nervous system. As you hold each yoga pose, think of breathing in and filling your body up with air, and breathing out to release deeper into the pose. This mindful attention to your body and to your breath, studies
have shown, helps improve sleep, too.
This pose allows you to start by feeling grounded and centered with the breath. It connects you to the Earth, aligns your spine and allows your body to ease into the start of the yoga practice.
Standing with your feet as wide as your hips, press down evenly through all 10 toes and squeeze your quadriceps (the large muscle at the front of each thigh) to engage your legs. Pull your naval in toward your spine. Roll your shoulders back, and allow the arms to dangle down by your sides with the shoulders externally rotated. Open the palms to face forward.
Bring the chin back so that the upper back is straight. Relax the shoulders. Take five slow, deep breaths breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. Fill up the belly and then the chest as you inhale, and release the chest then the belly as you exhale.
Forward fold clasping opposite elbows
This pose has a calming effect on the nervous system because it places your body in a position that is inward-focused. Holding on to opposite elbows also provides traction for your shoulders and neck to help relieve tension in the upper body.
Stand with your feet as wide as your hips, place your hands on your hips and slowly hinge forward at your waist. Allow your arms to dangle down, and then hold on to opposite elbows with your head in the center.