Having trouble falling asleep? You’re not alone. Every year, more than 60 million Americans report difficulties with falling asleep.

Most people think of yoga as either a form of stretching, a low-intensity cardio and abs workout, or some kind of spiritual mumbo-jumbo that they’d never be caught dead doing. Either way, most people recognize that it can be helpful in improving flexibility, strength, breathing and focus.

So when research from the Harvard Medical School shows that it is beneficial in helping us sleep, a lot of us are at least a little surprised. The study was conducted over an eight week period during which subjects reported significant improvements in sleep efficiency, sleeping time and the time taken to fall asleep. Similar effects have been found in the past among cancer survivors and post-menopausal women suffering from insomnia.

There are a number of reasons why yoga might be having these positive benefits on sleep disorders like insomnia:

1. Yoga helps your body maintain homeostasis by reducing cortisol levels and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that you recover more quickly from stressful situations, digest your food faster and are able to “calm down” quicker.

2. Yoga regulates your breathing and circulation, thereby increasing blood flow throughout your body. As a result, your body is more efficiently oxygenated and this makes it much easier to sleep.

3. Yoga focuses the mind and reduces mental chatter. By requiring you to focus your attention on poses (especially challenging ones like headstands), yoga builds a similar kind of muscle as meditation does. Your mind becomes less susceptible to distractions and finds it easier to transition into sleep.

Our two favorite poses for helping induce sleep are:

1. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani )

  • Sit down sideways next to a wall.
  • Turn towards the wall climbing your legs up it as you lie down and place your upper body on the ground.
  • Relax your arms by your sides.

2. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

  • Turn the lights off.
  • Lie down flat on your back on a mat or on the ground.
  • Allow your legs to fall naturally to the sides a little, feet about hips width apart.
  • Stretch your arms out gently, palms up.
  • Make sure that your back is soft and at ease.
  • Relax your shoulders towards the ground.

The impact on our daily lives of not getting regular sleep can be highly distressing. While there is medication out there that certainly can help, we are firm believers that lifestyle changes can go a long way and should be tried first as they are more systemic, longer lasting and healthier for the body. So give it a shot!

Check out the yoga classes on Vivo!

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