Published in Senior Living Magazine, February 2017. p.26
YOGA FOR SLEEP
We all know a good night’s sleep is important for body and mind, but achieving that sleep may be easier said than done. If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, I invite you to try this sequence of sleep tips from the practice of Yoga.
Feet Above Heart: Lying on your back in bed, before getting under the covers, lift and straighten your legs, heels toward the ceiling. Resting arms by your sides, palms up and open. Begin taking slow, complete breaths through the nostrils. Pause the breath at the top of the inhale and bottom of the exhale. Bring all of your focus and awareness to the tips of the nostrils, noticing the breath is cool on the inhale, and warmed by the body on the exhale. Notice which nostril may be more open than the other.
Hug and Rock: Bring your knees into the chest, wrapping arms around the skins to give yourself a big hug. Breathe. While hugging knees to chest, begin gently rocking from side to side, eventually rolling to the side with the more open nostril. When both nostrils feel equally clear, roll to your back and release the legs to a reclining position. Prepare your bed covers and pillow, elevating forehead slightly higher than chin.
Savasana (Recline/Relax): Lying on your back, legs extended, arms resting to the sides with palms up, inhale deeply and engage every muscle that comes to mind. Exhale and release, relaxing the muscles and letting the toes fall out to the sides. Connect with the slow, complete breaths and pauses. When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, place them to the side, and return to the breath. Begin to relax the entire body by focusing on each part of the body, moving slowly from toes to crown. Allow the tongue to fall away from the roof of the mouth. Breathe.
Breath Connection: While in Savasana, try one of the following methods to connect with your breath. Remember to breathe slowly, and through the nostrils. a) Counting with the breath to keep the breaths slow and steady, counting a little higher on each exhale; b) 4 7 8 Breath: Complete inhale for the count of 4; Hold breath for count of 7; Exhale for count of 8; c) Bring tongue to roof of mouth for entire length of inhale; relax it away for entire length of exhale; d) Give the breath color, and visualize it traveling through the body. Return to your chosen breathing method whenever mind clutter interrupts your sleep.
A final note about sleep position. Sleeping on your back may cause oral breathing when the jaw relaxes, leading to dry mouth and/or snoring. If you can comfortably roll to either side to sleep, practice body awareness when choosing which side. The breath is more free and complete when lying on your Right side, as the lung on your left side has an extra airway. To aid digestion, sleep on your Left side where the spleen of the lymphatic system is located.
“May sleep envelop you as a bed sheet floating down, tickling your skin and removing every worry. Reminding you to consider only this moment.” [Jeb Dickerson]
Julie Hunt-Juneau, RYT 200
Yoga By Water