Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night? Perhaps yoga can help.
Although insomnia can be caused by a wide variety things, including both lifestyle habits and physical conditions, yoga may be a gentle, natural aid for restoring mental, emotional, and physical health in ways that promote better sleep. Best of all, almost anyone can practice yoga for this very purpose.
Here’s what researchers found when they examined yoga’s influence on people’s sleep quality.
The Effects of Yoga on Chronic Insomnia
In a 2004 study, a small group of subjects with chronic insomnia spent two weeks participating in a two-week baseline intervention followed by an eight-week yoga program. For the first two weeks, the subjects kept a diary where they reported on their sleep and daytime experiences before moving on to start the yoga part of the experiment. The yoga program included single, in-person training sessions plus subsequent followups in person or by phone.
Subjects practiced Kundalini yoga, which is a style of yoga that places a large emphasis on meditation and breathing techniques in addition to simple postures. All postures were seated postures to promote relaxation, and the participants followed the exact same set every day over the eight-week yoga treatment period.
By the end of the yoga program, statistically significant improvements were observed in sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency, and wake time after sleep onset when compared to baseline/pretreatment values.
The Kundalini Yoga Sequence That Promotes Sleep
Curious to know what type of yoga sequence the subjects in this study followed to get the sleep results that they did? The following bullet point list outlines the postures and meditation styles that were performed for a total of about 30 minutes a day.
- Start with long, slow, abdominal breathing with meditation for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Extend the arms upward at a 60-degree angle with flat palms facing upwards combined with meditation on the breath for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Extend the arms horizontally out to the sides with upward bent wrists and palms facing away combined with meditation on the breath for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Bring the hands together in prayer at the chest with meditation on the breath for 1 to 3 minutes.
- End with a breathing meditation called “Shabad Kriya.” This involves resting upward facing palms in the lap with the right one over the left while thumbs are touching. Eyes are slightly open with a downward facing gaze. An inhale is taken in four quick bursts or “sniffs” while silently saying the mantra “Sa, Ta, Na, Ma.” This is followed by holding the breath for 16 counts again saying the mantra before exhaling in two bursts and saying a different mantra, “Wahe Guru.” The breathing meditation can be done comfortably at any speed as long as the ratio of inhale to hold to exhale is 4:16:2. This can be repeated for up to 11 minutes.
The participants were encouraged to practice this yoga sequence in the evening, preferably before going to bed. If they couldn’t do it in the evening, then they were instructed to practice it at a more convenient time of the day that worked for them.
So instead of watching Netflix, staring at your phone, or worrying about tomorrow’s agenda, take 30 minutes before bed to try this yoga sequence. If you keep it up for a few days, you might just see a pretty significant improvement in your sleep.
Imaged (edited) via Loren Kerns