By Faye Martins
Restful sleep is something many people take for granted, but not everyone falls asleep and stays asleep easily. Sleep is the foundation of every activity in our day to day lives and serves as the major source of restoration and vitality for the human body. Promoting proper sleep is essential for long term health and doing so naturally eliminates the risk of harmful and unpleasant side effects that often accompany the use of conventional, drug based sleep aids.
Initially, it might seem counter intuitive to exercise when you’re feeling dead on your feet and in need of rest, but this actually exactly what the body needs in order to get a full night’s sleep. In the great scheme of things, our mostly sedentary lifestyle is relatively new, with human beings having worked hard on a daily basis throughout history. As such, is it really so surprising that the body needs to exert energy everyday in order to maintain not only health and fitness but also states of relaxation and sleep?
Incorporating yoga into your schedule on a daily basis can work wonders on the amount and quality of sleep, but care must be taken not to exercise too vigorously before bedtime. The body naturally begins to cool itself down in preparation for bedtime and rest in the evening, so elevating the body’s temperature by even a small amount can signal the body that it’s time to stay awake. If possible, morning yoga is ideal. If it’s not, be sure to give the body a few hours for the warming effect of exercise to fade away. This is essential.
In addition to yoga, meditation is also an excellent tool for reaching mental states that promote peaceful rest. Unlike yoga, meditation may be done right before sleep and even in bed if so desired. Making a habit of meditating in a cool, dark room can make sleep come easier because it helps lower the body temperature and it also gives the mind a chance to be still and become unburdened from the concerns of the day. One of the worst things for those who suffer from sleeplessness and insomnia is the fact that their minds often use their extra waking time as an opportunity to worry about every little thing without the possibility of distraction. As if the effects of sleep deprivation itself weren’t bad enough!
Outside of the bed any type of meditation may be used, though high energy visualizations are discouraged since they are stimulating and interesting, prompting the mind to stay alert. In bed, one of the best meditations involves the Corpse Pose. Laying in the Corpse position, draw your fullest attention into each part of the body starting with the soles of the feet and working on up, observing as the tension is drawn out of each area and complete relaxation takes its place. Mindfully bringing the body into this restful state releases much of the hidden tension individuals carry around with them all day without realizing it and also serves to quiet the mind because complete attention is being turned towards the body itself. If sleep does not come after the first try then start the process all over again and see. Falling asleep in the middle of this meditation is exactly the result we want and that’s the benefit of performing it in the bed rather than somewhere else.
If sleep doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon, it’s important to leave the bed in favor of meditating or doing something else until the welcome heaviness of sleep comes again. Becoming accustomed to laying in bed awake rather than asleep is a bad connection for the mind to make. Beds are for sleeping, not tossing, turning, fretting or worrying.
It may take a week or two for yoga and meditation to have a strong impact on the level and quality of your sleep but the payoff more than justifies the effort in making these two things a habit. Both the yoga sessions and the meditation time need not be extremely long; only 20 minutes for each is more than sufficient as long as it’s done on a daily basis. By using your body and quieting your mind with yoga and meditation, you have the ability to promote restful sleep naturally.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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