Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I recently attended a yoga workshop about yoga and having a good night’s sleep. I went because I know so many people who have trouble falling asleep and or staying asleep. Sleep is one of nature’s greatest gifts to our body because it allows us to restore and renew at such a deep level and then we are re-charged and ready to go back into our beautiful lives and give in the way that we want to give. In our society our nervous systems are so busy and so stressed that we think we need to sleep in order to relax. The workshop leader said to us “sleep is not relaxation, we need to relax in order to sleep.” Sleep is actually a soothing dimension of being and that in order to get the full benefit of it we need to relax before we go to sleep. We need to cue our parasympathetic nervous system that it is time to relax and then once we are relaxed, move into sleep. There are several ways that we can teach our body to relax before bedtime. The way that we breathe at the end of the day can send a message to our parasympathetic nervous system to start to slow down. The simple act of lengthening the exhale will cue the body to start to begin to relax. The yogi’s discovered that the energy that allows us to become still and quiet and calm is centred around our abdominal area. Using diaphragmatic breathing encourages your focus into the belly and connects you to the deep calm stillness within. I often think of the ocean and how at the surface the waves are rough and choppy and the deeper you go to the bottom, the calmer it gets. The same is true for the body – the deeper in we go the calmer we will be. Twists are also excellent for accessing the abdominal area of the body. In the workshop we did a lovely series of simple poses using a long exhale with diaphragmatic breathing and added in simple twists and forward bends. Throughout we were encouraged to ease our body into the shapes, to soften and to let the rhythm of our breathing shape the rhythm of our mind. As we consciously focused on lengthening our exhales from 4 – 6 – 8 – 10 we did it in a way that was respectful and created no strain or stress. The key to the end of day yoga practice is to avoid any stimulation like tv or loud conversations or bright lights once you are done the relaxing practice. The more often you do the practice, the better you will get at connecting with this feeling of being effortless and moving into deep sleep. There are at least 15 yoga teachers in Haliburton County offering classes this summer. If you are someone who wants to improve their ability to sleep deeply I highly recommend attending a class and learning some basic breathing techniques and simple postures. A good night’s sleep is a wonderful benefit from a little dedication and focus on relaxing at the end of the day.