CHENNAI: Yoga and meditation are ancient restorative sciences that promote holistic healing of the mind, soul and body. To restore the body to fitness and recuperate the mind nothing works better than these divine practices. No wonder they’re gaining an increasing following the world over.
Even during the pandemic, many people either got introduced to or resumed the practices of yoga and meditation to find peace within. And being at peace brings about many positive changes, including restful sleep. Therefore, people living with sleep disorders and insomnia can really benefit from the practice of yoga and meditation.
What are sleep disorders and why do they happen?
Sleep is a necessary part of human functioning, and conditions that disrupt it impair quality of life and pose several health issues. Sleep disorders do that by either weakening the quality of sleep or preventing restful sleep. While over 50-70 per cent of Americans are plagued by it, the burden for sleep disorders is huge in the Indian population as well, with over 93 per cent of our population affected by sleep deprivation or disorders. Some of the commonly found sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, and shift work disorder.
Most cases of insomnia are related to anxiety, depression, lack of exercise, poor sleeping habits, chronic illnesses or medication. Not getting adequate amounts of sleep can cause you to feel tremendously tired and irritable, and can interfere with cognitive functions, memory, and performance, and place insomniacs at increased risk from mobile and other accidents. While various kinds of treatment for insomnia and sleep disorders are present, such as behaviour therapy, sleeping drugs, etc., nothing has shown as much promise as yoga and meditation.
How can yoga and meditation help in curing insomnia?
Yoga is an extremely restorative practice that can induce rest and, hence, sleep when practised ahead of one’s bedtime. It’s a foolproof way to channel peace of mind and let go of all that has been going on physically and emotionally during the day, before falling into a deep, restful sleep. Meditation has a balm-like effect on the mind thus banishing the stressors. For people living with insomnia, yoga and meditation are beneficial as they give results without side-effects.
The magic of yoga and meditation is that they work on easing out the root causes — stress, anxiety and depression — that cause the issues. These ancient practices work as relaxation tools to quieten the mind while calming the body, before getting them in touch with inner peace.
Hence, when you practise yoga and meditation ahead of your bedtime, you work directly on the root causes of your sleep issues, thus promoting calmness and reducing insomnia symptoms. In fact, one study reported that 55 per cent of yoga practitioners saw enhanced sleep with more than 85 per cent experiencing decreased stress levels, and there are several studies demonstrating the positive effects of yoga on sleep for diverse populations.
Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclined Butterfly
- While being in a seated position, press the soles of your feet together while opening up your knees to the sides.
- Gradually, lie down on your back, while letting your arms rest in a comfortable position.
- Hold this pose for five minutes.
Shavasana or Corpse Pose
- Lie down straight on the mat with the feet apart.
- Focus on your breath as you release all the tension your body is holding.
- Stay in this position for 15 minutes.
- Yoga Nidra is one kind of guided meditation that’s part of the yogic practice. It decreases anxiety and stress, improves sleep quality, and promotes relaxation. Having a regular, predictable night-time routine is a healthy sleep habit. You should avoid doing anything heavy before the bedtime, avoid screen time and office related work before the bedtime. Although practising yoga can help signal your body that it is time to rest. Before you climb into bed, consider spending a little time doing a few of these poses.
- If sleep is on your mind but not in your eyes, you must incorporate yoga and meditation in your everyday routine, especially prior to sleep time. They’re valuable tools for fighting stress and anxiety, and beckoning your missing sleep back to you.
(The writer is the founder of Divine Soul Yoga)
Viparita Karani or Legs-up-the-Wall
- Sit with one side along a wall, and swing up your legs against it as you lie on your back.
- Place your hips against the wall while your arms rest in a comfortable position; feel free to add a cushion under the hips.
- Focus on your breathing and the tension in your body, while slowly releasing the latter with every exhale.
- Stay in this asana for five minutes.
Balasana or Child’s Pose
- Assume a tabletop position on your fours, followed by sinking your hips back toward your heels.
- Then, relax the chest, allowing it to rest on the thighs.
- Stay in this pose for up to five minutes.