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. Sadly, many people struggle with finding a solution to insomnia, which affects the quality of life, decision making, overall health, and job performance every day.
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 restful sleep? Additionally, Gentle Yoga before bed is a natural cool down to help your body and mind wind down from all the mental stimulation throughout the day.
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.
Options For Restful Sleep
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.
Strategies For Restful Sleep
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.
Yoga Poses Can be Practiced in Bed
There are many yoga asanas can be practiced in bed; just before or after a restful sleep. After all, what better place to and time to perform your daily asana practice than right before you go to sleep, while you sleep or when you wake up in bed? Performing yoga poses in the morning is one of the best times of the day to do so since it awakes your body and prepares you for a less-stressed day.
One great exercise to perform in bed is known as the “Happy Baby”. When performing this exercise you must be lying on your back. While on your back slowly bring your knees to your chest and extend your feet upwards towards the ceiling. Take hold of your feet and stay in this exact position for around five deep breaths. After five breaths, let go of your feet and unwind for 30 seconds before repeating the exercise. Repeat the exercise as many times as wanted or for how long you are allowed to before getting out of bed.
To engage the abdominals even more perform a Supine Reclining Big Toe Pose. While lying on your back slowly lift your right leg up and grab your big toe. When grabbing your toe move only the upper-part of your body where your shoulders are located. Once again hold the position for five long breaths. If more comfortable feel free to rest your torso on the bed and if you cannot reach your big toe you can grab your ankle or shin.
A more active posture is the Extended Bridge Pose. To perform this exercise lye on your back with your knees bent. Slowly raise your lower-spine from the bed and bring your right leg into a vertical position. Your right leg should be facing straight for the ceiling. After 5 slow breaths return to the beginning position with your knees bent.
The bed is one of the best places to perform these stretching exercises due to the comfort and convenience it produces. Yoga poses improve posture as well as overall body health. If you are a novice practitioner start off slow and do not strain yourself performing any of the exercise and be sure to always change positions slowly.
Yoga Nidra at Bedtime
While Yoga Nidra is uniquely different from many forms of meditation, it is really effective for encouraging sleep. If you fall asleep or you don’t fall asleep during a Yoga Nidra session, nobody cares. The goal is just to relax, observe, and notice your consciousness drift to the edge or into sleep. If you slip into restful sleep patterns – that’s fine. You could play a guided Yoga Nidra session and see what happens. Do not put any pressure on yourself and ride the brain waves to bliss.
With Yoga Nidra, you don’t have to focus. There is a script, but if you fall asleep during the script, I’m not keeping score and if somebody is keeping score, he or she needs to get a life. My point is: Yoga Nidra is so different from other forms of meditation that you don’t have to put any expectations or pressure on yourself. You have every sleep cycle to enjoy it and you improve with practice.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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