Along with diet and exercise, sleep is one of the pillars of strong mental and physical wellbeing. Despite this, the global sleep average has steadily decreased since 1942, from 8 hours a night to just 6.8. This may be explained by an increasing consumerist culture, pushing us to work more hours, leaving less time for adequate sleep. Luckily, the ancient art of Zen yoga is here to help you unlearn societal pressures and reintroduce healthy sleep patterns, thereby allowing you to utilize yoga for a perfect night’s sleep.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, making it essential for physical health. It also aids cognition, by increasing concentration during waking hours and consolidating memories as you sleep.
There is an often overlooked spiritual and emotional side to getting enough sleep. Sleep deficiency can decrease your ability to make decisions and problem solve, making day to day life more stressful. It also decreases mood levels and thus has been linked to depression and even suicide.
How Yoga Aids Sleep
Yoga has been shown to increase how quickly you fall asleep, reducing feelings of daytime fatigue, and the need to take sleep medication. This may be due to its stress lowering effects, which can also improve heart health, since both cardiovascular problems and high stress are linked to insomnia. It is also suggested that moderate exercise close to bedtime increases body temperature. As this temperature falls, the body will naturally relax. This way we can utilize yoga for a perfect night’s sleep.
Following a yoga practice, use natural sleep inducing drink remedies, like milk, teas and fruit juices, which restore the minerals that have been lost through exercise. They will also re-hydrate you, while allowing the body to relax deeply.
Best Yoga Poses
Avoid vigorous forms of yoga before sleep, and instead find a relaxing spot near Lake Atitlán to engage in more moderate exercises. Lying down exercises that focus on breathing can lead to a state of tranquility.
Try lying with your legs against the wall so that you form an L shape. This will provide some strain and boost your mood without being too strenuous. The exercise itself will lead to loss in weight and stress, both of which contribute to a better-quality sleep.
However, this aspect of yoga should focus more on breathing than stretching. So hold one hand on your belly and watch it inflate like a balloon as you inhale deeply. This can also be done while standing up, with your spine straight to allow maximum airflow to the lungs.
Alternatively, the reclining bound angle, or butterfly pose has a similar effect. Lie flat on the floor with the bottoms of your feet together and your knees either side in the shape of a butterfly. This can be followed by the corpse pose (savasana). Lie on your back with arms straight by your sides, legs stretched out and palms facing upwards. This helps you to achieve a Zen like state by focusing in inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.
Yoga is a varied and diverse form of exercise. It can be used to improve physical health, build strength, and achieve transcendent states of consciousness. First thing in the morning, it can replace a cup of coffee, while at night it can replace sleeping pills. Engage in moderate exercise close to bedtime to improve mental and physical wellbeing through high quality sleep.
Thank you for reading! For the ultimate relaxation we welcome you to come practice yoga with us in the beautiful village of Tzununá, Guatemala at the Doron Yoga and Zen Center.
Post written by: Sally Writes