Charles M. Shulz once said, “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.'”
If you gave at least a little chuckle after reading this quote, then you may be interested in some yoga techniques for managing insomnia. If you didn’t give a chuckle, then you may not have any trouble sleeping, but you could probably benefit from some yoga (or a better sense of humour!).
Here is a very simple activity that you can do about 30-minutes before you’d like to be asleep:
1) Do a very slow-paced sun salutation holding each pose for a minimum of five full breaths (one in-breath and one out-breath equal a full breath).
2) Come into a wide knee child’s pose (3-5 minutes)
3) Come into a seated forward bend: take the flesh out from underneath your sitting bones and keep a pillow under your knees for comfort and so you can rest your belly on your thighs. Do minimal work, but stretch the tension of the day from the strong muscles in the backs of your legs. (3-5 minutes)
4) Take your legs up the wall or just lie on your back with your legs up on a chair or couch (knees are bent and your calf muscles and feet are supported by the chair) (3-5 minutes)
Finally, lie in bed on your back with your arms by your sides and your palms facing up. Let your toes and feet relax out to the side. Starting with your toes, relax your entire body part by part. You can get fancy and include your organs, or you can just stick with the basics. No matter what, go slow and really bring your mind’s eye into each part of the body as you feel it get heavier and completely relaxed.
If you are still awake, then you may want to just lie there, not trying to fall asleep, but watching your breath move through your body. Instead of thinking about the day, tasks ahead, deadlines, forgotten things—just watch your breath and see your body moving.
Still awake? You may need an insomnia book. An insomnia book is one that you really want to read, but it’s dense and allows you to get sleepy as you immerse yourself in the rich description, theoretical ramblings or deep narrative. Here’s my personal favorite: Ian Baker, The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise. 2004: Penguin Books. Seriously, this is a beautiful and amazing book and one that I have not been able to complete in about 4-years of trying. I get lost in the fantasy, the possibilities, the mountains and all of a sudden it is all I can do to keep my heavy eyelids open long enough to find the light switch. Mr. Baker, if you read this, please accept the compliment! Your lovely book puts me to sleep—in a GOOD way.
Good night Pittsburgh Yogis! Sweet dreams.
Written by Sharon Rudyk
Owner and Director of Yoga Matrika
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania